On Oct. 21, Technician published an Op-Ed by Wesley Coakley that argued Daniels Hall (named after Josephus Daniels) should be renamed. Coakley does an excellent job bringing awareness of the Daniels controversy and advocating for a name change. The short version of it is that Josephus Daniels, while a critical member of our university’s history, was a white supremacist and an immense bigot, who abused his position as editor of The News & Observer. He advocated for segregation and violence against people of color and, ultimately, helped inspire the Wilmington race riots.
Obviously, there are a lot more awful parts to his story, so read the Op-Ed for detail, but to avoid repetition, I want to talk about two big questions raised by the Op-Ed. Specifically, what moral obligation does NC State have when it comes to renaming a racist hall? And what precedent does a situation like this have?
To begin with the former, it’s pretty clear that NC State has a moral obligation to rename Daniels Hall. Daniels Hall has a name that simply does not reflect NC State’s commitment to diversity. If NC State really does value people from other cultures as they claim they do, they need not honor a man who wanted to keep the United States segregated and used his position to incite violence on people of color. Josephus Daniels is the antithesis of the diversity we stand for.
It’s pretty clear there is plenty enough reason for Daniels Hall to be renamed, but some still argue that it is too much of a hassle to rename a building. But this is simply untrue, NC State has renamed multiple buildings in the past.
In 2018, NC State renamed the University College Commons to Holmes Hall, named after Irwin Holmes, the first African American to graduate from NC State. If NC State can rename a building with an inoffensive name, then they can surely rename Daniels hall.
In addition, other universities have renamed buildings who were named after controversial figures. In 2014, Duke renamed one of their residence halls to East House. The residence hall was initially called Aycock Hall, named after former Governor Charles Aycock. Aycock was infamous for his efforts to keep North Carolina public schools segregated and diverted more resources to white schools than to black schools. Aycock also participated in the very same Wilmington race riots mentioned before.
Likewise, in April of this year, Duke covered the name of the Carr Building, named after Julian Carr, a Ku Klux Klan supporter who among other things once bragged about “horsewhipp[ing] a negro wench.”
Yet another example was seen in 2015 at UNC, when the Board of Trustees voted to rename Saunders Hall, named after a Ku Klux Klan leader to Carolina Hall, after outspoken student activism.
If Duke University and other colleges across North Carolina have renamed buildings, then NC State has a moral obligation to rename Daniels Hall to another person who deserves to be honored.
Now, some would argue that naming a building is simply remembering history, and that renaming Daniels Hall would erase the past. For that sentiment, people go to museums to remember history and learn the past. When one names a building after a particular person, they are honoring that person. So, when NC State names a building after Josephus Daniels, it is unintentionally endorsing the derogatory behavior Daniels promotes.
So if NC State decides to rename Daniels Hall, who should they name it after?
One suggestion is Sugishita Hall, named after the Teisaku Sugishita. He received a degree from civil engineering, and he was the first Asian student to receive an undergraduate degree from NC State. Since some civil engineering classes take place in Daniels Hall, it seems quite appropriate to name the building after him.
There are other famous NC State alumni that deserved to be memorialized, but Josephus Daniels is not one of them. Daniels should only be remembered in a museum, as a cautionary tale of what happens when someone uses their power to disenfranchise certain groups of people. NC State has a moral obligation to be inclusive and accommodate people from various backgrounds, and the first step to maintain their commitment is to rename Daniels Hall.