Admit This

Brown University Name Change?

Brown University has been in the news quite a bit recently. First, we saw the dramatic move they made when they killed "Columbus Day" and renamed it "Fall Weekend." Now a new movement is possibly stirring: a name change for the school.

In March, a commission — established by Brown, the city of Providence and the state of Rhode Island — tried to right another perceived historical wrong when it released a report that made six recommendations to acknowledge the university's ties to the slave trade.


Among other things, it recommended building a public memorial that recognizes links between slavery and the university's early benefactors.

Brown’s founder, the Rev. James Manning, was a slave owner who accepted donations from many slave owners and traders, including the Brown family. The four Brown brothers, a wealthy family from Providence, made their fortune in part by trading slaves.

John — the second born — was the college's treasurer and used slave laborers to construct campus buildings, including University Hall. Eldest brother Moses — supported by family money — freed his slaves and became an abolitionist, as did his nephew, Nicholas Jr., who became the university's namesake.

The commission also called on the university last month to re-examine how to teach this history at the 8,000-student institution. But those recommendations did not include the possibility of renaming Brown University, something critics blast as hypocritical.

Although the chances for a name change are apparently slim:

If Brown does eventually consider changing its name, one critic suggested a title with a familiar ring — "Columbus University."

Poetic justice, just desserts, or merely a start on reparations?

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