UC Drops Enslaver McMicken's Name From College

Dec 17, 2019

The University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees voted unanimously to rename the College of Arts and Sciences Tuesday.

The university is dropping enslaver Charles McMicken's name from the college. Parts of his wealth came from the enslavement of African people and he used this wealth to become the main sponsor for the University of Cincinnati. In 1858, McMicken wrote that the institution should educate "white boys and girls."

A university-wide working group began examining McMicken's historical connection to the College of Arts and Sciences last year.

"You know sometimes we think students only care about getting their degree and getting a job," UC Archivist Kevin Grace says. "But it gladdens my heart to know that they take this issue to heart and that they're willing to fight for something."

From the 1800s to 1952, McMicken's name was inconsistently connected to the College of Arts and Sciences. In 1953, the university began consistently associating his surname with the college. African American students, faculty, staff and administrators began raising concerns about honoring McMicken in the 1970s.

Grace says if you consider everything, dropping McMicken's name is the first and easiest step. McMicken's name will continue to appear on buildings and statues throughout campus. The university will add digital displays to add historical context to these spaces where McMicken's name appears.

Universities throughout the nation have been reckoning with ties to slavery and how to move forward. Xavier Founder Bishop Edward Fenwick also enslaved people. Now Xavier is reconciling using three strategies.

UC historians found McMicken's only two children were with enslaved women he owned. A descendant of one of these children, Adeline, was found to be living in Cincinnati's Northside neighborhood as late as the 1940s.

A spokeswoman for the university says she's unsure if honoring the enslaved people will be included in the digital displays.