Dickinson College Renames Campus Spaces After Formerly Enslaved People

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Dickinson College, a private liberal arts institution in Pennsylvania, recently renamed a residence hall and a campus gate to recognize several formerly enslaved people who contributed to the school.

During a ceremony on Saturday, officials announced that Cooper Hall, named after former Dickinson professor and pro-slavery ideologue Thomas Cooper, would now be known as Spradley-Young Hall. The change honors Henry Spradley and Robert Young, two university employees who helped integrate the campus during the 1880s, according to a university press release.

In addition, East College Gate was renamed Pinkney Gate after Carrie and Noah Pinkney, an African American couple who sold food on campus during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The decision to rename the spaces stemmed from the Dickinson and Slavery project, a research initiative led by history professor Matthew Pinsker and his students that examined the college’s ties to slavery.

“These are not just names on a gate or a building. They are supposed to be stories that can inspire us. The people that we’re honoring today overcame great obstacles,” Pinsker said during the renaming ceremony. “And even after they were free, they faced even further obstacles, but they persevered.”

More than 50 descendants of the namesakes attended the ceremony.

“The recognition for all four of the individuals is long overdue and I find it amazing and I’m very blessed to know that I’m a descendent of somebody who contributed so much to Dickinson and to Carlisle, Pennsylvania,” Carol Rose, a descendent of Robert Young, told local news station ABC27.