Colleges and Universities Named after Slaveowners

  1. Barnard College
  2. Baylor University
  3. Brown University
  4. Clemson University
  5. Franklin Pierce University
  6. Furman University
  7. George Mason University
  8. George Washington University
  9. Gordon State College
  10. James Madison University  
  11. Jefferson College
  12. Jefferson College of Health Sciences
  13. Johns Hopkins University
  14. Marshall University
  15. Mary-Hardin Baylor University
  16. McGill University
  17. Rice University
  18. Rutgers University
  19. Stockton University
  20. Thomas Jefferson University
  21. University of California Berkeley
  22. Washington College
  23. Washington University in St. Louis
  24. Washington & Jefferson College
  25. Washington & Lee University
  26. William Peace University
  27. Wingate University
  28. Yale University

Colleges and Universities Named after Slaveowners that Changed Their Name

Brightpoint Community College had been named John Tyler Community College (Virginia)

“The college, which opened in 1967, was named after Virginia native John Tyler, the tenth president of the United States. In July 2021, the Virginia State Board of Community Colleges changed names for local institutions named after people who owned slaves or advocated racist policies such as school segregation. The board allowed the college to change its name to Brightpoint Community College. Instead of venerating John Tyler, who was a slaveholder and Confederacy supporter, the new name “celebrates the heart and energy of [the] institution”.”

“John Tyler owned seventy slaves. His first wife, Letitia, expressed reservations about the growing abolitionist movement. His second wife, Julia, had few qualms about it. From all accounts, John Tyler was a decent slaveowner. He refused to allow overseers to whip his slaves or split up their families; privately squeamish about slavery, he never attended an auction. On one occasion, Tyler was forced to sell a favorite slave to finance a move to Washington, and he was deeply distressed when he did so. He was a compassionate master but an owner of other humans nonetheless.”

Laurel Ridge Community College had been named Lord Fairfax Community College (Virginia)

See rationale for the change in first paragraph below Brightpoint Community College and also note the comment that “Instead of venerating Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameronplantation owner, the new name honors laurel flower that has been associated with academic achievement.”

“Fairfax depended on hundreds of enslaved persons who worked among his 30 Virginia plantations. He was active in trading slaves and, at the age of 84, he participated in the “little talked about” activity called “bedding down with a negro wench,” for which Lord Fairfax would pay a fee to the person who supplied the “wench.””

Mountain Gateway Community College had been named Dabney Lancaster Community College (Virginia)

See rationale for the change in first paragraph below Brightpoint Community College.

“Dabney S. Lancaster, a long-time education across Virginia, served as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction of Virginia from Sept. 1, 1941 to June 15, 1946. After that, from 1946 to 1955 served as the 17th president of Longwood University. Following his tenure there, became the chair of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. 

Dabney S. Lancaster didn’t own slaves—he lived much too late—but he was a staunch segregationist. He was once quoted as saying, “We’ll fight it from the housetops, from the street corners, in every possible way. We are going to maintain our way of life.”

Colleges and Universities Named after Slaveowners (support for data)

Brown University (Rhode Island)

“In 2006, Brown University became the first university to publish a report detailing its ties to slavery. In 2006, a study commissioned by Brown’s first African American president, Ruth Simmons, found that the wealthy Brown family had owned slave ships and had ties to the Atlantic slave trade.”

Barnard College (New York)

“The namesake of Barnard College, Frederick A. P. Barnard enslaved an unknown number of people. Sometime after he began working at the University of Alabama, Barnard began enslaving people. Some of these slaves would work as research assistants in his labs, while others would serve as domestics in his home. During his time there, Barnard also allegedly sexually abused enslaved black women. Upon his return to the North during the Civil War, Barnard published an open letter to Abraham Lincoln in which he affirmed loyalty to the Union and defended past pro-slavery statements as necessary political strategy.”

Baylor University (Texas)

“Judge Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor, the university’s namesake, was a slaveholder in 1860. He owned 33 slaves. These slaves formed a significant portion of Judge Baylor’s wealth.”

Clemson University (South Carolina)

“Thomas Green Clemson (1807-1888), the University’s founder and namesake, was a Philadelphia-born, European-educated engineer who married John C. Calhoun’s daughter and settled at her family estate in South Carolina. Clemson was a diplomat, mining engineer and agriculturalist whose hobbies included music, art and the classics. He was also a Confederate officer and a plantation and slave owner.

Franklin Pierce University (New Hampshire)

“Franklin Pierce was able to grab the Presidential nomination as a compromise candidate who was seen as a pro-slavery Northerner. At his inauguration, President Pierce stated “I believe that involuntary servitude, as it exists in different States of this Confederacy, is recognized by the Constitution. I believe that it stands like any other admitted right, and that the States where it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the constitutional provisions,” he said. “I fervently hope that the question is at rest, and that no sectional or ambitious or fanatical excitement may again threaten the durability of our institutions or obscure the light of our prosperity.”

Furman University (South Carolina)

“The Furman family is referenced as having a slave and in 1890 this person was referred to as an “ex-slave.” The Furman University Board of Trustees voted to approve the report’s accuracy and commit to repair historical harms.”

George Mason University (Virginia)

“George Mason IV authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights, a precursor to the Declaration of Independence. And like many of America’s founding fathers, he proclaimed to yearn for freedom while enslaving Black people. Though he voiced opposition to the slave trade, he owned more than 100 enslaved people.”

George Washington University (Washington, D.C.)

“George Washington became a slave owner at the early age of eleven, when his father died and left him the 280 acre farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia where the family was then living. In addition, Washington was willed ten slaves. As a young adult, Washington purchased at least eight slaves, Washington purchased more slaves in 1755, four other men, two women, and a child. It was after his marriage to Martha Dandridge Custis in January of 1759 that Washington’s slaveholdings increased dramatically. His young bride was the widow of a wealthy planter, Daniel Parke Custis, who died without a will in 1757; her share of the Custis estate brought another eighty-four slaves to Mount Vernon. In the sixteen years between his marriage and the beginning of the American Revolution, Washington acquired slightly more than 40 additional slaves through purchase.”

Gordon State College (Georgia)

Named after John Brown Gordon, a Confederate general in the Civil War, Gordon later served as governor and U.S. senator after Georgia rejoined the Union, becoming one of the most powerful politicians in a state Democratic Party devoted to white rule. Some historians have concluded he was the titular head of the post-Civil War Ku Klux Klan in Georgia.

James Madison University (Virginia)

“James Madison was, according to historian Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, a “garden-variety slaveholder.” He adhered to the established social norms of Virginia society when it came to the treatment and living conditions of his enslaved household. Enslaved people worked from dawn to dusk, six days a week, with the customary Sunday off. Madison maintained control, but avoided the kind of excessive cruelty that might have drawn judgment from his peers.”

Jefferson College (Missouri)

“Jefferson owned over 600 enslaved people during his lifetime, the most of any U.S. president. The enslaved individuals working for Thomas Jefferson accompanied him during each phase of his career, including his time at the White House.”

Jefferson College of Health Sciences – See Jefferson College (Virginia)

John Hopkins University (Maryland)

“In 2020, historians at Johns Hopkins University discovered that its founder, original benefactor and namesake, Johns Hopkins, claimed four men as property in the 1850 census. Hopkins had also used slaves as collateral for debt. Prior to the discovery, the university had held its founder was a “strong abolitionist,” based on the representation of Hopkins in a 1929 publication written by his grandniece and published by the school’s press. According to the university, “the current research… finds no evidence to substantiate [the] description of Johns Hopkins as an abolitionist.” In an open letter the university’s president, Ronald J. Daniels, stated the findings “complicate the understanding” of the school towards its founder.”

Marshall University (West Virginia)

“Marshall owned hundreds of slaves during his lifetime.… In 1830, five years before his death, he owned about 150 slaves.” As the Supreme Court Chief Justice, many of Marshall’s slave-related judicial decisions supported slavery. Of the 7 cases in which he wrote the opinion, among 14 the Supreme Court heard involving petitions for freedom by Black slaves, the slaves lost in every instance. Sadly, even in his will, instead of setting his slaves free, Marshall willed them to his relatives.”

Mary Hardin Baylor University – see Baylor University (Texas)

McGill University (Quebec)

“McGill was a Scottish businessman, philanthropist and fur trader who lived from 1744 to 1813 and at the time of his death, he was one of the richest men in Montreal — thanks, in part, to the fact that he owned both Black and Indigenous slaves.”

Rice University (Texas)

“William Marsh Rice was a merchant from Massachusetts who moved to Houston and quickly amassed his wealth in Texas. He endowed Rice University in 1891, explicitly for whites only, and his reputation was further marred by his ownership of 15 slaves.”

Rutgers University (New Jersey)

“The namesake of Rutgers was Henry Rutgers, a trustee of the institution. He was a third generation slave owner and as a real estate developer he used slave labour to build his own wealth.”

Stockton University (New Jersey)

“Stockton University, located in Galloway, N.J is named after Richard Stockton, who is known for his signature on the Declaration of Independence but who was also a slave owner.”

Thomas Jefferson University – see Jefferson College (Pennsylvania)

University of California Berkeley (California)

“Bishop George Berkeley, was a slave owner. When Berkeley came to America, he bought three slaves for his Rhode Island plantation and quartered them in the cellar of his home. Berkeley’s writings include advice to fellow slaveowners to baptize their slaves – as “slaves would only become betters slaves by being Christian.” Berkeley wrote a proposal to open a missionary school for the purpose of converting the “American heathen.” Among the “heathen” to be converted were the children of “savage Americans,” whom Berkeley proposed to kidnap if peaceful methods of separating them from their parents proved unsuccessful.”

Washington College (Maryland) – see George Washington University

Washington University in St. Louis – see George Washington University (Missouri)

Washington & Jefferson College – see George Washington Univ. or Jefferson College (Pennsylvania)

Washington & Lee University (Virginia)

“Robert E.  Lee personally owned slaves that he inherited upon the death of his mother in 1829. (His son, Robert E. Lee Jr., gave the number as three or four families.) Following the death of his father-in-law, George Washington Parke Custis, in 1857, Lee assumed command of 189 enslaved people.”

William Peace University (North Carolina)

“A university task force found that Peace owned more than 50 slaves, according to data from an 1860 census. William Peace was, for the 1850s, a generous philanthropist. His gift of $10,000 kicked off fundraising for the university. It was unusual for a man with means to direct that his funds go to women’s education. Peace enslaved 51 people as of the 1860 Census. In addition, enslaved people helped build the Main Building, a central building on the campus, which was previously used for a Confederate hospital and the Freedmen’s Bureau.”

Wingate University (North Carolina)

“Washington Manly Wingate was a two-time president of Wake Forest University, as part of research by Wake Forest University into its history, they learned that he enslaved human beings under him.”

Yale University (Connecticut)

“Yale University is named for slave-trader and merchant Elihu Yale. Yale also inherited a small slave plantation in Rhode Island that it used to fund its first graduate programs and its first scholarships… [the university] aggressively sought out opportunities to benefit from the slave economies of New England and the broader Atlantic world.”

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