WINGATE – Wingate University will be enlisting in a group of stakeholders to determine next steps after learning its namesake was connected to slavery.

The university wasn't aware of this until President Rhett Brown recently received information from Nathan Hatch, president of Wake Forest University.

“This truth hurts,” Brown said. “It casts a shadow over our university, my alma mater, and is not in keeping with who we are today, what we value and how we strive to be more inclusive for the students who study here and the people who work here.”

Washington Manly Wingate served as president of Wake Forest University when the institution sold 16 enslaved people to fund an endowment. Wingate University was named after the administrator 17 years after he passed away at the suggestion of the son of a trustee, who was teaching at Wake Forest.

Wingate issued a statement acknowledging its namesake's connection to slavery.

“Knowing that the stain of past transgressions can never be eliminated and that the debt to people of color can never be repaid, Wingate University officials do believe this deeply upsetting news can serve as an opportunity for reflection, reconciliation and growth,” according to the statement.

Wake Forest renamed Wingate Hall to May 7, 1860 Hall after the date the slaves were sold.

Since the death of George Floyd last year, many communities have renamed landmarks to severe ties with slavery.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools renamed Vance High School and Barringer Academic Center after prominent African Americans while Union County Public Schools eliminated the Rebels mascot at Parkwood High School.

“While we can’t erase history, we can learn from it,” said Joe Patterson, chairman of Wingate's board of trustees. “The board of trustees eagerly awaits the group’s recommendations on how to move forward.”

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