UNC to Change Plaques at Stadium After Discovery

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Copyright 2018 News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
All Rights Reserved

News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)


The University of North Carolina will change plaques inside Kenan Memorial Stadium that honor the donor's father, William Rand Kenan, whose involvement in a historic 19th-century race riot in Wilmington recently was brought to light.

The plaques, instead, will focus on his son, William Rand Kenan Jr., who made the donation for the stadium that was built in 1927.

"I am pleased to report that after talking with the family, the university has decided to change the plaques to remove the honorific reference to William R. Kenan Sr. to focus instead on the donor who made the gift, William R. Kenan Jr., and to tell the full and complete history," Carolina chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement released Wednesday night. "The History Task Force will undertake this project in the coming weeks.

"Here, too, we must acknowledge the realities of the present and the past," Folt said. "In the case of the Kenan family, their present impact has included helping Carolina build and retain a world-class faculty, a leading business school, a cutting-edge arts and music environment, as well as helping our university attract underrepresented populations into STEM fields and rural medicine, just to name a few. In fact, their generosity is not limited to Carolina, but has improved people's lives at other universities and in communities across the state. As we move forward, we will look just as carefully at all other names memorialized on our campus."

William Rand Kenan, according to research and a report by Craig Calcaterra in September, was the leader of a white supremacist paramilitary group that killed scores of black residents in Wilmington on Nov. 10, 1898.

"There are probably a couple of people on campus who know," UNC history Professor William Sturkey, who specializes in the history of Jim Crow and the New South, told Calcaterra. "I think a lot of people would be quite shocked. It's just something that's been buried and forgotten."

According to reporting by the (Raleigh) News & Observer in 2017, a group of about 2,000 men "burned down local black-owned businesses, killed dozens of black people and forced many more to leave town and abandon their homes. They then took over city government, forcing out the white mayor and the mixed-race town council, and installing (Alfred) Waddell (a former Confederate officer) as the new mayor without a legitimate election."

William Rand Kenan Jr., who discovered carbide and who teamed with oil magnate Henry Flagler to help develop transportation, energy and hotels in Florida, made the donation of $300,000 to build the stadium and a fieldhouse, which he intended as a memorial to his parents, William and Mary Hargrave Kenan, according to UNC's official athletics web site, goheels.com.

Kenan donated $1 million in the 1950s for construction of an upper deck. After his death in 1965, the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, which was established by his will, donated $1 million to enlarge and modernize Kenan Fieldhouse.

The Kenan Trust also made a $1 million donation for construction of a chancellor's box on the north side, and the Kenan Athletic Scholarship Endowment is valued at more than $1 million.

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October 4, 2018


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