Dear Wake Forest Community,
I write today to share that we have decided to pause the implementation of our plan to rename Wingate Hall as May 7, 1860 Hall.
On May 7, we made an announcement to the Wake Forest community sharing our intent to change the name of Wingate Hall to the date on which the university (then Wake Forest College) sold 16 enslaved people to help build its endowment. In selecting this name, we sought to memorialize them as vital contributors to the Wake Forest story. Additionally, we envisioned that choosing this date as the building’s name would invite the question: what happened on May 7th, 1860? In provoking this question, we would thereby remember those whose labor and lives were unwillingly sacrificed to benefit this institution. And, in doing so, we would enshrine accountability for future generations.
We appreciate those who have questioned our decision and have asked us to pause and reconsider the full impact of this name. We have heard the requests for consideration of a name that would recognize the contributions of a Black leader from the Wake Forest community. We have heard particularly from some Black students, for whom Wake Forest has felt unwelcoming, that the name “May 7, 1860” on a campus building would further alienate or traumatize them.
In response, we are pausing the process of implementing the new name. We are fully committed to listening and understanding, as well as seeking a solution that appropriately honors the enslaved and fulfills our ethical commitment to accountability. To that end, I have asked Vice President José Villalba and Trustee Donna Edwards (‘80) to chair an advisory committee focused on (1) clarifying the objectives in selecting a name for the former Wingate Hall; and (2) collecting and understanding our community’s concerns, reactions and suggestions regarding a new name. The committee will advise the President on its findings.
The committee will commence immediately and intends to complete its work by June 30.
Nathan O. Hatch