Dickinson College renaming campus spaces to honor formerly enslaved people

Carlisle/West Shore

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — Dickinson College is renaming a residence hall and a campus gateway in honor of formerly enslaved people who were also employees of the college, according to a Nov. 3 press release from the school.

Cooper Hall is currently named after Thomas Cooper, a scientist and former Dickinson teacher who espoused pro-slavery ideology. It will be renamed Spradley-Young Hall to honor Henry Spradley and Robert Young.

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Spradley and Young were longtime employees of Dickinson College, and they helped integrate the campus in the 1800s, according to the press release.

What is currently the East College Gate will be renamed Pinkney Gate in honor of Carrie and Noah Pinkney, who were popular African American food sellers at the school in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Dickinson’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the name changes in May 2020. This came after a 2019 report initiated by the House Divided Project that investigated the college’s ties to slavery. The official renaming will take place during a ceremony on Nov. 20.

“When we started the Dickinson and Slavery initiative, we wanted to get the community talking about the college’s ties to both slavery and the anti-slavery movement,” Professor of History Matthew Pinsker, who is also the director of the House Divided Project and lead researcher of the Dickinson and Slavery initiative, said.

“This is an important step toward more accurately reflecting the history of the college and embracing the people who have contributed to it,” interim President John E. Jones III said.

The college has also opened a museum exhibit and developed a self-guided campus walking tour to highlight and share this history.

According to the press release, Dickinson is looking at additional name changes geared toward recognizing “more diverse historic contributions to the school and nation.”

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