TOWSON, Md. (AP) — A group of Towson University students is calling on school officials to rename two campus buildings that honor prominent Maryland politicians who owned slaves.
The student group “Tigers for Justice” had collected nearly 3,000 signatures as of Thursday morning on its online petition advocating for the renaming of two dormitories, Paca House and Carroll Hall. Charles Carroll was one of Maryland’s first U.S. senators and William Paca served as the state’s third governor.
Former Maryland State Archivist Edward Papenfuse confirmed that the men, both signers of the Declaration of Independence, also were slaveholders.
The student petition says Carroll was one of the largest slave owners in Maryland during his life.
“Why would I, as a black person, why would I want to live under the name of someone who was a slave owner?” Jordan Smith, a member of the activist group, told The Baltimore Sun.
But Papenfuse said the legacy of Carroll and Paca is more complex, and that both men deserve to be honored for their achievements. He said Carroll, while never freeing his own slaves, notably advocated for the abolition of slavery while leading the Maryland Senate, and Paca was one of the fathers of the Bill of Rights.
The school hasn’t yet received any formal requests to rename the buildings, university spokesman Sean Welsh said Wednesday. He added that administrators “appreciate the concerns raised by this group of students.”
Maryland law states that public universities must go through the University System of Maryland Board of Regents to change campus building names, Mike Lurie, a spokesman for the university system told the newspaper. Towson would have to formally request the change, then pass a vote by the Board of Regents in order to finalize it, according to The Sun.