Wake Forest University announced today, May 7, 2021, it would rename a portion of its Wait Chapel from Wingate Hall to May 7, 1860 Hall. The date reflects when 16 enslaved people were sold to fund Wake’s initial endowment under the leadership of then-president Washington Manly Wingate. In light of this, Wingate University offers the following statement:
In 2018, Wingate University asked three employees to look into whether any buildings, monuments or statues around campus were named after anyone with egregious pasts. During a review of publicly available resources, nothing was uncovered that would reveal that any namesakes had ties to slavery. However, Wingate President Rhett Brown recently became aware of the slave-owning past of the school’s namesake during a phone call with Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch. Washington Manly Wingate was a two-time president of Wake Forest University, and, according to Wake Forest sociology professor Joseph Soares, it was found that “every president of Wake Forest until the Civil War had enslaved human beings under him.” That includes Manly Wingate.
Knowing that the stain of past transgressions can never be eliminated and that the debt to people of color can never be repaid, Wingate University officials do believe this deeply upsetting news can serve as an opportunity for reflection, reconciliation and growth.
“This truth hurts,” Brown said. “It casts a shadow over our university, my alma mater, and is not in keeping with who we are today, what we value and how we strive to be more inclusive for the students who study here and the people who work here.”
“Wingate” was suggested as the name of the school 17 years after Manly Wingate’s death by the son of an inaugural trustee, who was teaching at Wake Forest at the time.
In the coming weeks, a group of faculty, staff, students, alumni, trustees, town officials and other key individuals will be asked to come together to determine next steps. President Brown is committed to being transparent with the campus community about the group’s work.
“While we can’t erase history, we can learn from it,” said Dr. Joe Patterson, Board of Trustees chair. “The Board of Trustees eagerly awaits the group’s recommendations on how to move forward.”
The Wingate community is welcome to join a webinar at 5 p.m. today, hosted by Wake Forest, to honor enslaved people who worked for or were sold to benefit Wake Forest. The event is open to the public. To join, click here.
Please follow this page for more information as the work from the selected group members moves forward.
There will be a campus discussion, facilitated by Dr. Antonio Jefferson, on Wednesday, May 12 at 4 p.m.