Posted on May 6, 2022

Emory Removes Names Honoring Racist Figures

Madi Olivier, Emory Wheel, April 21, 2022

Emory University is renaming the Yerkes National Primate Research Center to the Emory National Primate Research Center, and the Emory University School of Law’s L.Q.C. Lamar professorships to Emory School of Law Distinguished Professors, according to an April 21 email from University President Greg Fenves.

Community members have advocated for this change since March 2020, when Professor of Law George Shepherd sent letters to former University President Claire Sterk, requesting the removal of Yerkes’ name. Shepherd is a part of the Emory Community Members for Historical Accountability, which is made up of alumni, faculty and students. The group told the Wheel in February that they had sent multiple letters to Fenves since May 2021 requesting for controversial names, including Yerkes and Lamar, to be removed from campus buildings and professorships.

The Yerkes National Primate Research Center, which lies on the edge of Emory’s campus, is named after its founder Robert Yerkes, one of the most prominent eugenicists of the 20th century. The University inherited the name after it assumed ownership of the primate research center from Yale University (CT) in 1956.

Yerkes advocated for the sterilization, isolation and murder of those who weren’t socially “useful” under the guise of racist research, writing in the Symposium on Recent Advances in Psychology that “being held no promise of complete, serviceable biological development … it would seem socially defensible that his life should be ended gently.”


The Emory University School of Law’s L.Q.C. Lamar professorships are named after Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (1845C). He championed white supremacy, leading Mississippi’s secession from the Union during the Civil War while owning slaves himself. He also supported the Dawes Act, under which the U.S. government seized 100 million acres of Native American land.


The Emory School of Law used to be named after Lamar. However, the University removed Lamar’s name from the official law school name, but did not change the professorship title until today.

Currey Hitchens (09L), a leader of Emory Community Members for Historical Accountability, told the Wheel in February professorship titles like Lamar’s could easily be changed, so she found it “baffling” that it remained.

“He was a traitor against our nation, he was fighting to continue to enslave Black peoples because he believed that there were less than others,” Hitchens said. “He fought for that even after the Civil War.”

The decision follows widespread criticism toward the University for racist honorary names, which are not limited to Yerkes and Lamar. In 2020, Fenves appointed the University Committee of Naming Honors to review contested honorary names. In May 2021, the Committee submitted a report to Fenves, recommending the removal of Lamar, Yerkes, Atticus Haygood, George Foster Pierce and Augustus Longstreet from all honors.

Emory decided to rename Longstreet Means Residence Hall to Eagle Hall and the Longstreet Professor of English position to Emory College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of English in June 2021.

Eagle Hall’s original name honored former University Presidents and slave owners Augustus Baldwin Longstreet and Alexander Means. {snip}