Duke University Names Building After Black Woman for the First Time in School’s History

Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke (© Duke University)

Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke has now made history at least twice on Duke University’s campus in North Carolina.

She was one of the “First Five” undergraduate Black students to enroll at the university in 1963. As of Saturday, her name will be on an academic building, making her the first Black woman to have a campus building named for her, according to the university.

The building that will bear her name — the sociology-psychology building — is on Duke’s West Campus and will now be known as the Reuben-Cooke Building. The building actually predates campus integration by about 30 years, according to Duke President Vincent E. Price.

“When the building that now bears Professor Reuben-Cooke’s name first opened, she would not have been allowed to enter it as a student,” Price said in an email. “From this day forward, anyone who passes through its doors will carry on her legacy of accomplishment, engagement and lasting impact.”

The renaming comes at a time when the US is reckoning with current and historical racial tension. The repeated deaths of Black people at the hands of police have led to a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for police reform. It has also led many companies, brands and schools to reconsider the images and meaning behind their names or the names of their products.

In a statement, the university said the renaming of the sociology-psychology building “is part of a larger effort launched by Price to have the university engage with its history and identify opportunities to honor key contributors to the university who have been overlooked.”

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SOURCE: CNN, Amir Vera