Meredith College renames campus building with racist ties

Meredith College is renaming Joyner Hall on campus after acknowledging the building is named for “an advocate for white supremacy and unequal funding for schools based on race.”

James Yadkin Joyner served as a trustee at the women’s liberal arts college in Raleigh for 55 years. The “racist ideas” he stood for are “antithetical to Meredith College’s mission, vision, and values,” Yvette Brown, chair of the Meredith College Board of Trustees, and President Jo Allen said in an announcement Wednesday.

Meredith’s removal of Joyner’s name follows similar actions taken by North Carolina colleges and universities that are reckoning with their complicated histories. Several campuses have removed statues, song lyrics and campus building names tied to racism, white supremacy and The Confederacy.

This decision came not simply because of Joyner’s advocacy for white supremacy and Jim Crow laws, but also because of the ongoing impact of his actions and ideas, Meredith officials said.

As superintendent of North Carolina’s public schools in the early 1900s, Joyner expanded the state’s education system but he developed that through legalized racial segregation and “separate but equal” policies. He also worked closely with former North Carolina governor and white supremacist Charles B. Aycock.

Joyner name at other schools

Campus buildings at UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina University are also named for Joyner.

Through that work, Joyner created “generational and lasting harm” to students who are Black, indigenous and people of color whose schools and teachers lacked adequate facilities, salaries, resources, and basic accommodations, according to Meredith.

“Therefore, part of our work is to recognize and account for that damage by ensuring our students and employees have equitable support and treatment from every aspect of the College,” Brown and Allen wrote.

The Meredith Board of Trustees voted to rename the academic building in March and it will be referred to as Lux Hall until the trustees pick a new name. Lux means “light” and is part of the schools’ motto.

Portrait removed

In addition to changing the building’s name, the college already removed the portrait of Joyner that hung in the hall to storage. The physical Joyner name will be removed in the coming months. The college will also install signage with QR code links on each campus building to provide historical context about all of the individuals for whom the buildings are currently named.

These changes are part of Meredith’s anti-racism initiative that launched in the summer of 2020. As part of that initiative, Meredith appointed its first full-time DEI coordinator and added more diversity, equity and inclusion training for faculty and staff. The college also said it is updating campus policies that enhance system racism and making traditions more equitable and inclusive.

Meredith published a FAQ to provide more detailed information about how these decisions are made and the progress the school is making on its anti-racism initiative.

This story was originally published April 6, 2022 2:05 PM.

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Kate Murphy covers higher education for The News & Observer. Previously, she covered higher education for the Cincinnati Enquirer on the investigative and enterprise team and USA Today Network. Her work has won state awards in Ohio and Kentucky and she was recently named a 2019 Education Writers Association finalist for digital storytelling.
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