As is the case with many institutions of higher learning confronting their slave-tinged pasts and renaming their buildings, Yale University announced Saturday that it would change the name of the residential college of white supremacist John C. Calhoun to honor computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper.
The New York Times reports that the decision to rename the building after Hopper, also known as “Amazing Grace,” was a “stark reversal” of the university’s decision last spring to keep the name in an effort not to “erase history.”
“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Yale President Peter Salovey said. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”
Calhoun, the nation’s seventh vice president, attended Yale and was its valedictorian. Calhoun College, which opened in 1933, was decorated with depictions of slaves carrying bales of cotton, and derisively referred to as the “Calhoun Plantation.”
Over the summer, a black dishwasher in Calhoun smashed a stained glass windowpane that depicted slaves working on a plantation because he found the image degrading. He was offered another job at the university after students and faculty rallied around him.
Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale, died in 1992.
“Humans are allergic to change,” she once said. “They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that.”
Read more at the New York Times.