by Max Brantley
"The decision to change a college’s name is not one we take lightly," Yale President Peter Salovey said in a statement about the residential college's name that has existed for 86 years.The news follows by a day the publication of an op-ed column in the New York Times by a black Yale graduate, Tobias Holden, urging a committee considering the issue anew to removethe name from the building. He participated in the student protests as a student and writes from the perspective of a native of South Carolina, like Calhoun. Then things got more complicated:
"Calhoun’s legacy as a white supremacist and a national leader who passionately promoted slavery as a ‘positive good’ fundamentally conflicts with Yale’s mission and values," he added.
While I was at school, my grandmother sent me a recently uncovered family tree and oral history. It was compiled by one of my great-uncles for a 1990 family reunion, and it stretches back to the early 1800s, to a great-great-great-great-grandmother known as Grandma Nancy. She was born near the Fort Hill Plantation — now preserved on the campus of Clemson University. Her mother was a Cherokee slave named Liza Lee. Her father was John C. Calhoun.He's visited the Calhoun plantation, now preserved at Clemson University.
I couldn’t make sense of it. I’d spent the past year and a half advocating the removal of my own ancestor’s legacy and I didn’t even know it.
My reflection looks different to me now. I know I shouldn’t be ashamed, but this knowledge definitely doesn’t make me proud. I am both a part of Calhoun’s family and a descendant of African-Americans he claimed as his property, and it blows my mind. My family has been running from slavery and its aftermath for at least five generations. I ran farthest, but ended up right where my ancestor was in 1804 when he graduated from Yale.