Queens University of Charlotte renames building that bore the name of slaveholders

Daniel Lugo, president of Queens University of Charlotte, appointed a task force to research...
Daniel Lugo, president of Queens University of Charlotte, appointed a task force to research the school’s ties to slavery after staff presented information about the Burwells in late 2019.(Charlotte Observer)
Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 3:55 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Charlotte Observer) - Queens University of Charlotte’s board of trustees have voted unanimously to rename Burwell Hall, which was named in 1914 after Margaret Anna Burwell. She and her husband, Robert Burwell, owned slaves.

Robert Burwell was the first head of Queens when it was founded in 1857 as the Charlotte Female Institute. Local historians have documented the Burwell family’s ties to slavery. There’s even a memoir from a woman who was one of their slaves from 1835 to 1842. The woman, Elizabeth Keckley, later bought her freedom and became dressmaker to President Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. In her 1868 memoir, “Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House,” Keckley recounted harsh treatment from the Burwell family.

Queens Vice President James Bullock sent an email to alumni Thursday announcing the decision to rename Burwell Hall.

“We take this decision very seriously and felt it critical to denounce the university’s historical ties that are in direct conflict with who we are today,” Bullock wrote.

The announcement comes as many schools across the country are also reviewing their building names and monuments that may have ties to Confederate figures and slaveowners. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board recently announced it would rename Vance High School and continue examining school names across the district.

Dan Lugo, president of Queens University of Charlotte, appointed a task force to research the school’s ties to slavery after staff presented information on Margaret and Robert Burwell in late 2019.

The task force’s recommendation to remove Burwell Hall’s name was unanimously approved by the trustees. According to the email sent by Bullock, Burwell Hall will now be called Queens Hall.