To: Members of the University Community
From: Robert J. Zimmer, President, and Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost
Subject: Removal of Stephen A. Douglas Plaque and Stone
Date: July 7, 2020
On June 26, we wrote a message to the campus community to express the University’s commitment toward building a stronger, more inclusive University of Chicago.
As one step in this ongoing effort, we directed the removal of a bronze plaque of Stephen A. Douglas in Hutchinson Commons and a stone from the “Old University of Chicago,” which had been mounted in the wall of the Classics Building. The plaque was a gift from the University of Chicago Class of 1901 to recognize the earlier university, which was built on land in Bronzeville donated by Douglas but failed and closed in 1886. The stone was donated to the University of Chicago in 1927.
As John Boyer, Dean of the College and author of The University of Chicago: A History, notes, Douglas died in 1861 and had no connection to the University of Chicago that was founded in 1890 as a new institution with a distinct mission. Douglas profited from his wife’s ownership of a Mississippi plantation where Black people were enslaved. While it is critical to understand and address the ongoing legacy of slavery and oppression in this country, Douglas does not deserve to be honored on our campus. Both the plaque and the stone are being relocated to the University’s Special Collections Research Center.
The University of Chicago denounces racism in all forms and is committed to making positive and sustainable change on issues of racial bias and inequities.