Rider will remove the slaver’s name from the house on campus
Rider University will remove the name “Van Cleve” from an 18th-century house on its campus after it was discovered that its namesake, Benjamin Van Cleve, supported slavery. The move follows the adoption of a resolution supporting the name change by Rider’s board of directors on October 20.
Van Cleve, a Revolutionary War veteran and statesman, held slaves as a private citizen and spoke out in favor of slavery and tightened restrictions on enslaved peoples as a New York lawmaker. Jersey at the turn of the 19th century. The house that traditionally bears his name was part of the property purchased by Rider in 1956 as he prepared to move his campus from Trenton to Lawrenceville.
The name change was recommended by the Rider and Slavery History Task Force. Formed in the summer of 2020, the task force was charged with investigating Rider’s historical relationship and connection to slavery and slaves and recommending how the University can recognize and educate around this history.
“Van Cleve’s support of slavery, both as a private citizen and as a legislator, makes it inappropriate for Rider to continue to have any of his buildings named after him,” President Gregory G. Dell said. ‘Omo, Ph.D., and John Guarino. ’82, chairman of Rider’s board of directors in a joint statement announcing the name change. “Van Cleve chose to defend the institution of slavery even as other citizens of New Jersey awakened to the cause of abolition and the horrors of human servitude. Judged by the standards of his time or ours, Van Cleve’s actions and attitudes have no place in the Rider community.
The house has been used in a variety of ways over the years, first as a student residence, then as an admissions building, and since 1993 as the location for the Rider’s alumni relations office. In the future, it will simply be called “Graduate House”.
A new temporary sign was erected in front of the house on Route 206 on October 21. Rider also plans to install materials near the house that educate around this history and commemorate those who were enslaved. Following Council’s adoption of the resolution supporting these recommendations, Rider also launched a new section of its website dedicated to sharing information about the task force and its findings.
“As an institution of higher learning, we have a valuable role to play in increasing our knowledge and understanding of the abominable institution of slavery,” Dell’Omo said. “And as a community committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, we have an obligation to act in ways that uphold those values. Implementing the task force recommendations helps Rider accomplish both of these things.
The task force was co-chaired by Dr. Evelyn McDowell, chair of Rider’s accounting department, and Dr. Brooke Hunter, associate dean of Rider’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where she is also an associate professor of history. Hunter is also the Lawrence Township Historian, and McDowell is a founding board member of the National Society of the Sons & Daughters of the United States Middle Passage, a lineage society that strives to preserve memory and history. history of slavery. The task force’s research has shed light on the story of a familiar but obscure name to many who have been associated with Rider over the years.
Research shows that Van Cleve simultaneously fought for the ideal of freedom while participating in and defending the cruelty of slavery and the degradation and dehumanization of black Americans.
In an article for Rider’s alumni magazine, Hunter said, “The story of Benjamin Van Cleve forces us to confront the paradox of freedom and slavery in American history.
He was born in Maidenhead, the ancestor of Lawrence Township, in 1739. He served in the Revolutionary War and in government in several capacities, including four times as Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly. As a representative, he voted for maintaining slavery as a racial system of perpetual servitude, passed down from mother to child, and for tightening restrictions on enslaved peoples. As a private citizen, records show he owned slaves.
Now that these facts have come to light, “we cannot continue to regard him, even tacitly, as worthy of honor or emulation,” Dell’Omo and Guarino said.