UC to examine slave-owning founder after student concerns

UC to examine slave-owning founder after student concerns
McMicken Hall houses the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. (Photo: Facebook)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The University of Cincinnati is taking a close look at the man who is considered their founder after students raised concerns about him being a slave owner.

UC’s Undergraduate Student Government voted last month to support the removal of Charles McMicken’s name from the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, according to UC’s independent, student-run newspaper and website The News Record.

That’s the iconic building with a tower on UC’s main campus.

On Monday, President Neville Pinto sent a message to students letting them know that the school is establishing a “special university-wide commission" to examine McMicken’s life and legacy and the use of his name at the school.

UC has been aware of his slave owner background for decades, according to their website.

McMicken was a Pennsylvania businessman who regularly traveled through Cincinnati and gave city officials nearly $1 million in real estate when he died in 1858 to found a university, according to UC’s website.

A few years before he died, he also donated $10,000 to College Hill’s Farmer’s College to found a chair in agricultural chemistry.

Charles McMicken (Photo: Facebook page of Archives & Rare Books Library, University of Cincinnati)
Charles McMicken (Photo: Facebook page of Archives & Rare Books Library, University of Cincinnati)

A 1995 article about McMicken’s legacy states “He was a slaveowner, yet provided land to free people of color. He also donated money for the resettlement of African-Americans in Liberia.”

In his will, McMicken said he “long cherished the desire to found an institution where white boys and girls might be taught....”

UC’s website acknowledges that but adds: “However, efforts by the City of Cincinnati and UC’s original board of directors resulted in a true university of higher education open to all, regardless of race or color."

He also is rumored to have fathered two black children with slave mothers, according to UC’s website.

When contacted for comment Wednesday, a UC spokeswoman released Pinto’s message to campus earlier this week:

We write to inform you that we are establishing a special university-wide commission to examine the life and legacy of Charles McMicken and the use of his name at the University of Cincinnati. The commission will devote the upcoming semester to studying this issue and engaging with the community, culminating in the submission of a formal report to the President for consideration.

Representing a broad cross-section of university constituents, the commission will be cochaired by Lou Bilionis and Janet Reid. Professor Bilionis, dean emeritus of the College of Law, is a highly accomplished scholar, teacher and administrator. In addition to cochairing the university’s Diversity Council for many years, Professor Bilionis has led several cross-college committees throughout his career. Dr. Reid is a nationally recognized and respected expert on equity and inclusion. She has worked with dozens of colleges and universities, in addition to having served as a trustee for The Ohio State University and Xavier University. We want to extend our admiration and appreciation to them for co-leading this critical endeavor.

McMicken Hall at the University of Cincinnati circa 1904. (Photo: Facebook page Old Photos of Cincinnati)
McMicken Hall at the University of Cincinnati circa 1904. (Photo: Facebook page Old Photos of Cincinnati)

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