RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Built in 1857, William Peace University has a lot of history. Until recently, its negative history was unknown to school officials and students

“I didn’t know none of that history with the statue,” said Ninevah Reddick, a William Peace University student.

A statue of William Peace once sat on a bench at the campus. It was recently removed after the university learned he owned 51 enslaved people.

“For those who do come, they would at least know that a change is at least happening,” said Reddick.

The finding was part of historical research undertaken by a new task force. The goal was to identify parts of the university’s history that may not be consistent with its current values.

“Like most colleges and universities in the south, there are certainly going to be ties that are problematic for intuitions. We took a courageous step forward,” said Dr. Brian Ralph, the university president.

The research also found the Main Building, which once served as a Confederate hospital and later a Freedmen’s Bureau, was built by slave labor.

Some of the university’s earlier yearbooks also contain racist imagery and slurs. The 1946 edition was dedicated to Josephus Daniels. Daniels was a well-known racist and white supremacist.

A statue of Daniels was removed from downtown Raleigh’s Nash Square in 2020.

“It’s important for us to fully understand our past in order to move forward. And. so acknowledging a more complete picture of our past is essential for our students, faculty and staff to feel welcomed,” Ralph said.

For Ralph, it’s an important part of moving forward.

“We recognize that some people may disagree with that decision but we felt in the grand scheme of things, it was in the best interest of the university,” Ralph said.

The school is planning a series of listening sessions to hear feedback on the next steps the community would like to see. Changing the name of the university isn’t out of the question.

“Should that arise as an area of interest, then the board of trustees and our leadership team will talk more about what that might look like,” Ralph said.

On Thursday, a Day of Acknowledgement will be held at the school to give students, faculty and staff time to reflect. Three places on campus will serve as quiet spaces. People may also share their thoughts or questions about the findings by clicking here.