An Unexpected Connection
At the Univerities Studying Slavery Conference We Learned that North Carolina's Guilford College is Closer Than You Might Think
You have splendid names which should be perpetuated. There is Archdale, your Quaker governor, and a man who should be held in remembrance. Francis T. King, quoted in Gilbert, Guilford: A Quaker College
We headed to the recent meeting of the Universities Studying Slavery (USS) consortium eager to learn about the work of others. We returned with valuable lessons about ourselves. At USS meetings, research teams like Hard Histories compare notes with colleagues across the country engaged in similar projects. In late March, Guilford College and Wake Forest University hosted a two-day-long deep dive into research underway in North Carolina and beyond.
Among Guilford College’s opening plenary speakers was Professor Sarah Thuesen who explained that today the school faces a dilemma over building names, especially that of Archdale Hall which honors the Carolina’s 17th century colonial governor. John Archdale was a Quaker and also oversaw the enactment of the Carolinas’ early and exceedingly harsh slave codes.1 Like at many institutions, some at Guilford College believe that Archdale’s name should be removed. (At Johns Hopkins, a Committee to Establish Principles on Naming issued a July 2021 report that took up this very sort of question.)
The story of Guilford College (early on called the New Garden Boarding School,) we learned, is much closer to that of Johns Hopkins University than we might think. And our deliberations over namings, old and new, are intertwined. As Professor Thuesen explained, the key proponent of naming Archdale Hall for the state’s one-time colonial governor was Johns Hopkins University’s own Francis T. King. King was a business associate to Johns Hopkins and personally chosen by Hopkins to serve as a founding trustee of our university. As librarian and Professor of English Dorothy Lloyd Gilbert reported, students at Guilford advocated naming the new building Phoenix Hall; it was erected literally out of the ashes after a fire destroyed the school’s meeting house. King, who headed the Baltimore Association to Advise and Assist Friends in the Southern States, saw things otherwise and managed to prevail. Named in the 1880s, Archdale Hall still stands today and is the oldest building on the Guilford College campus.2
Our research at Hard Histories always begins at home in Baltimore as an effort to bring our past out from the archives and to bear on understandings of the present and the future. Still, these are rarely small, local stories. Thank you to Professor Thuesen for introducing us how King, a leader here at Johns Hopkins, shaped North Carolina’s Guilford College. We join with our colleagues there in both understanding his legacy and facing the challenge of reckoning with it.
Image credit: Wikipedia
L.H.Roper, “The 1701 "Act for the Better Ordering of Slaves": Reconsidering the History of Slavery in Proprietary South Carolina,” The William and Mary Quarterly 64, No. 2 (April 2007): 395-418.
For more on Francis T. King’s influence at Guilford College, see Damon D. Hickey, “Pioneers of the New South: The Baltimore Association and North Carolina Friends in Reconstruction,” Quaker History 74, no. 1 (Spring 1975): 1-17.