Renaming Ceremony Honors 19th-Century Black Community Members

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More than 50 descendants and representatives of the Spradley, Young and Pinkney families from across the country, as well as members of the Dickinson community, attended the renaming ceremony. Photos by Dan Loh.

by Tony Moore

In November, Dickinson marked the renaming of Cooper Hall to Spradley-Young Hall and the East College Gate to Pinkney Gate. The renaming honors Henry W. Spradley and Robert C. Young, two longtime 19th-century Black employees and noted community leaders in Carlisle, and Carrie and Noah Pinkney, formerly enslaved food sellers who worked around campus in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In May 2020, Dickinson’s board of trustees unanimously approved the name changes, following recommendations from a 2019 report from the Dickinson & Slavery initiative. The initiative, a multiyear research project led by Professor of History Matthew Pinsker and his students and launched as part of the House Divided Project, examined the college’s complex ties to slavery. Three of the student interns who contributed to the project, Caroline Eagleton ’23, Charlotte Goodman ’23 and Jordyn Ney ’23, made remarks during the renaming ceremony.

“When we started the Dickinson & Slavery initiative, we wanted to get the community talking about the college’s ties to both slavery and the anti-slavery movement,” said Pinsker, also director of Dickinson’s House Divided Project. “In addition to publishing the report, we’ve opened a museum exhibit and created a self-guided campus walking tour to share this important history with our broader community.”

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More than 50 descendants and representatives of the Spradley, Young and Pinkney families from across the country attended the renaming ceremony.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Aliya Higginbotham, a descendant of Robert C. Young, who traveled to Carlisle from Fort Scott, Kansas, for the ceremony. “I came here to learn everything about my history and meet my family.”

“It was exciting first of all to hear that Dickinson had done such incredible work in going back and finding the important contributions that my great-great-granddad, Robert Young, made on campus,” said Al Gilbert, who flew in from San Francisco for the ceremony. “For me, it represents that my responsibility in life is to make sure I impact as many people as I can, considering what he was able to do 150 years ago.”

Moving forward, the college will explore other potential name changes for additional buildings with wide-ranging considerations related to recognizing more diverse historic contributions to the school and nation.

“This is an important step toward more accurately reflecting the history of the college and embracing the people who have contributed to it,” said interim President John E. Jones III ’77, P’11. “This effort involved input from people across the campus and is a testament to the thoughtfulness of our students, faculty and staff and the leadership and vision of the House Divided Project.”

Watch a video from the ceremony here.

Read more from the winter 2022 issue of Dickinson Magazine.


Published March 2, 2022