Outside of chin-checking racists and forgetting what I look like with a haircut, one of my favorite pastimes is spending exorbitant amounts of time devouring Wikipedia pages. And a cursory glance at John Caldwell Calhoun’s page reveals that our former vice president is remembered for “strongly defending slavery,” marrying his cousin and inciting the Civil War.
My kinda guy!
Sadly, there are plenty of people who feel otherwise, and they’re currently petitioning Clemson University to remove his name from the school’s honors college, according to ESPN. Leading that charge are alums DeShaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, who’s so dismayed by Calhoun’s affiliation with Clemson that he outright refuses to mention the university’s name during his NFL game intros.
“As we watch everything happening in the world, I want to bring up something that has been bothering me for a long time in my community,” Hopkins wrote on Instagram. “Clemson University still honors the name of well-known slave owner and pro-slavery politician John C. Calhoun on its buildings, signs, and in the name of its honors program. I felt this oppressive figure during my time at Clemson and purposely do not mention the University’s name before NFL games because of it. I am joining the voices of the students and faculty who have restarted this petition to rename the Calhoun Honors College. I urge all Clemson students, football players, and alumni to join us, so the next generation of young Black leaders can be proud of the institution they graduate from. Now is the time for change.”
“Clemson University should not honor slave owner John C. Calhoun in any way,” Watson tweeted on Monday. “His name should be removed from all University property and programming. I am joining the students, faculty & DeAndre to restart this petition to rename the Calhoun Honors College.”
According to Clemson’s own website, the school campus was built on Calhoun’s Fort Hill Plantation, where he enslaved as many as 80 of our ancestors.
It also appears that Hopkins has Benjamin Tillman in his crosshairs too. Tillman was a politician and unrepentant white supremacist who was integral in establishing Clemson as a university. As such, his name is sprinkled all over campus as well.
“GOOGLE - Benjamin Tilman - Played big part in founding of Clemson university,” Hopkins tweeted. “On the floor of the U.S. Senate, he defended lynching, and frequently ridiculed black Americans in his speeches, boasting of having helped kill them. But buildings are named after him on Campus.”
It’s great that recent events have inspired millions to be much more proactive in combating racial inequality, but it’s equally disheartening that this awakening came at the cost of George Floyd’s life.
Those interested in supporting Watson and Hopkins’ efforts are encouraged to sign their petition here.