Politics & Government

Yale's name change renews calls about Clemson's Tillman Hall

gmelendez@thestate.com

Yale University has stripped the name of John C. Calhoun, the two-time vice president and 19th-century U.S. senator from South Carolina, from one of its residential colleges, a move that has reinvigorated some at Clemson University to push for the university to rename Tillman Hall.

Yale president Peter Salovey announced the change Saturday after years of debate at the Ivy League university. Calhoun was an 1804 graduate who fought to keep slavery alive in the United States and owned up to 80 slaves on his Fort Hill plantation, the land on which Clemson University is built.

The residential college at Yale was named for Calhoun when it was built in the 1930s. Protests over the building’s name began in the weeks after Dylann Roof murdered nine worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

At Clemson, the university’s board of trustees has declined to rename Tillman Hall, despite efforts by some students, faculty and community members.

The iconic red-brick building at the campus’ entrance is named for one of the university’s founding trustees, Benjamin Tillman. A S.C. governor and a U.S. senator, Tillman led the white supremacist movement, advocated for lynching and enacted many of the state’s Jim Crow laws.

Weeks after the Charleston massacre, the Clemson board passed a resolution that renounced Tillman’s words and actions as racist and repugnant. Trustees also established a History Task Force, which recommended more clearly portraying the university’s complete history.

Some in the Clemson community still want Tillman Hall renamed though, and they used Yale’s decision to revive the debate.

Chris Hairston, a Clemson graduate and offensive tackle from 2006-2010 who now plays for the Los Angeles Chargers, posted a message on Twitter Saturday that told Clemson to ask Yale about John C. Calhoun.

Chenjerai Kumanyika, a Clemson professor who has helped lead protests at the school and spent last week in a fast to protest the university's silence on President Donald Trump's travel ban, posted side-by-side photos with a headline announcing Yale's action next to a photo of Clemson celebrating the birthday Monday of Calhoun’s daughter.

Jonathan Beecher Field, an associate professor of English at Clemson, sent a tweet addressed to Clemson with a link to Yale's announcement and said, "Your turn."\

Clemson would face a challenge if it ever decides to rename Tillman Hall. The historic building likely would fall under the state's Heritage Act of 2000. That law requires a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature to approve any change to a "street, bridge, structure, park, preserve, reserve, or other public area of the State or any of its political subdivisions dedicated in memory of or named for any historic figure or historic event."

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