The message below was sent to the campus community on behalf of Meredith College President Jo Allen, ’80, and Trustee Chair Dr. Yvette Brown, ’90.
Dear Meredith Community,
As part of the Anti-Racism Initiative launched in the summer of 2020, Meredith College’s Board of Trustees has continued its thoughtful and thorough review of building names. In April, we announced that this process resulted in a change to the name of one of our academic buildings and in a plan to install QR code signage providing historical context about the individuals for whom our buildings are named.
The Board of Trustees recently expanded its review to include Thomas Meredith, for whom the College was named. Thomas Meredith, who died before the Civil War and decades before the College opened on Edenton Street in 1899, was both a man ahead of his time as a tireless advocate for women’s education and a product of his time as a slaveholder. At different points in his life, he argued both for slavery to be preserved, based on Biblical inclusions of slavery, and for its elimination, criticizing slavery as “scriptural but evil.” His actions, like his words, oftentimes reflected those inconsistencies.*
The Board’s decision-making process was guided by criteria established by the Taskforce on Historical Context and Naming. Using these criteria, the board voted unanimously to retain the Meredith College name.
This decision does not excuse slavery–it was and is an abhorrent practice that has contributed to the racism that still permeates our society. This decision also acknowledges that, over the last 130+ years, the Meredith College name has evolved to become synonymous with educating strong women and who we are today. To change the name of the institution would divert focus and resources from fulfilling our mission and would negatively impact the 24,000 graduates for whom the Meredith College name has opened doors.
Our work remains a calling to continuous improvement. On behalf of the board and the College’s administration, we appreciate your ongoing support.
Jo Allen, ’80, President
Yvette Brown, ’90, Chair, Board of Trustees
*The original message misused the term “abolition” instead of “elimination,” a critical distinction for historians. For clarity, in the future, we will use the word “criticize” in reference to Thomas Meredith’s position.