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Queens University Renames Building After Discovering Ties To Slavery

Queens University

Queens University’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to rename the main administration building whose namesake was linked to slavery.

Burwell Hall will now be known as Queens Hall.

When university staff discovered historic documents last year linking Margaret Anna Burwell and Rev. Robert Armistead Burwell to slavery, President Dan Lugo assembled a task force to research the university’s ties to slavery.

“Since we were made aware of the information, it has been a priority for our administration to obtain a complete and accurate understanding of the university’s historic ties to slavery and to reconcile that history with Queens’ mission and values,” Lugo said.

The building was named after Margaret Burwell in 1914. Her husband was the first head of the Charlotte Female Institute, which later became Queens University.

Documents show that the couple owned slaves, and that they led a movement to keep slaves from worshiping at a Presbyterian church in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

One of their former slaves, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, became a dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln while she was first lady. Keckley published a memoir describing life with the Burwells as brutal.

Queens University Board Chairman Michael Tarwater said in a statement that the unanimous vote to remove the Burwell name was in the university’s best interest.

“We determined that it was not appropriate for the Burwell name to remain on a Queens building,” he said.  

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