15 Historical Landmarks Renamed Due to Their Controversial Associations

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Worldwide, historical landmarks have been revered as testaments to the past. But what happens when those tributes glorify figures with checkered legacies? Over the years, there has been a movement to change the names of landmarks that are controversial or offensive by today’s standards. Here are 15 historical landmarks that have been renamed due to controversial associations.

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Mount McKinley

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Mount McKinley is the tallest peak in North America and was named after President William McKinley in 1896. But as he had no connection to Alaska, the indigenous Koyukon Athabascan people started calling it Denali, which means “the high one” or “the great one.” It was officially renamed ‘Denali’ in 2015 to honor the mountain’s cultural significance to Alaska Natives.

Rhodes University

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Rhodes University in South Africa was named after a British colonialist known for his imperialist policies and racist views. To discontinue the racist heritage, the university decided to rename itself Makhanda University in 2022 after a Xhosa warrior and prophet who fought against colonial rule. It is a significant step toward acknowledging significant step toward acknowledging and abolishing the legacies of decolonization.

Jefferson Davis Highway

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The Jefferson Davis Highway was named in honor of the President of the Confederate States. However, it has been criticized for its associations with the Confederacy, slavery, and racism. To avoid this, sections of this highway have been renamed Richmond Highway in Virginia. The change ensures public spaces do not honor figures perpetuating division and oppression.

Ayers Rock

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Ayers Rock is a massive sandstone monolith in the heart of Australia’s Northern Territory. It was renamed Uluru in 1993, which means ‘Great Pebble’ in the local Pitjantjatjara language. It is a sacred site for the Anangu people. This renaming recognized the landmark’s cultural and spiritual significance to the indigenous population.

St. Petersburg

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This one here is quite interesting. It has been renamed four times, and, in the end, it was renamed to the original one, St. Petersburg. It is a city in Russia and was founded by Peter the Great in 1703. 1914, it was renamed Petrograd to sound less German during World War I. After Lenin died in 1924, it became Leningrad. And when the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the city reverted to its original name, St. Petersburg. These incidents perfectly represent how political regimes use place names to assert their ideologies.

Forrest High School

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Nathan Bedford Forrest High School is in Jacksonville, Florida. It was named after a Confederate general and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. It has faced decades of protests and calls for renaming while being renamed Westside High School in 2014. This change welcomed the environment for students of all backgrounds and created distance from its association with racism and white supremacy.

Stanford University’s Serra Mall

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The famous Stanford University Serra Mall has recently gone through a renaming! In 2018, it was renamed Jane Stanford Way after Junípero Serra, a Spanish missionary who was criticized for his role in the colonization and mistreatment of Native Californians. Renaming it to the university’s co-founder depicted the efforts towards addressing historical injustices and honoring figures representing the institution’s values of innovation, education, and equality.

Lake Calhoun

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In the same year, 2018, Lake Calhoun was also renamed Bde Maka Ska, which was its original Dakota name, which means ‘White Earth Lake’. John C. Calhoun was the lake’s namesake and a pro-slavery politician and advocate for the institution of slavery. The process involved extensive consultation with the Dakota community, which showed people’s efforts to honor the cultural heritage of the region’s Indigenous people.

Fort Bragg

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Fort Bragg is in North Carolina and was named after Confederate General Braxton Bragg. It has yet to be renamed but is scheduled to be renamed Fort Liberty. The US military initiated this to remove Confederate names from its bases, which reflects a commitment to unity and the values of liberty and justice for all. The new name honors the ideals of freedom and equality.

Gilbert Tiger Exhibit

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Gilbert Tiger Exhibit is located at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs and was renamed the Wild Encounters tiger exhibit. The original name was considered to pay tribute to Walter W. Gilbert, a big-game hunter whose practices are now viewed as controversial and unethical. After this act, it aligned the zoo’s public image with today’s values of wildlife preservation and respect for animal welfare.

Yale’s Calhoun College

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The famous Yale University’s Calhoun College was renamed Grace Hopper College in 2017. The person the college was named after was John C. Calhoun, who was a staunch advocate for slavery and white supremacy. And if we talk about the present name of it, then it was named after Grace Hopper, a pioneering computer scientist and Navy rear admiral. People believe it was a significant step taken towards honoring individuals representing progress, innovation, and equality.

King Leopold II Street

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King Leopold II’s name adorns several streets in Belgium and worldwide. A lot of them have changed their name due to his brutal colonial regime in the Congo, which led to the deaths and exploitation of millions of Congolese people. In several locations, it is called Patrice Lumumba Street, which is dedicated to honoring the leader of Congolese independence.

Fort Benning

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Fort Benning is located in Georgia and was named after Confederate General Henry L. Benning. However, it is scheduled to be renamed Fort Moore. The new name will be a tribute to Lieutenant General Hal Moore and his wife, Julia, who reflect the values of service, sacrifice, and dedication to family. The US military is doing this to remove Allied symbolism from its bases and instead give honor to more ideal figures in the country.

Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

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Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs of Princeton University was renamed to The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs in 2020. The school was previously named after the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, who was receiving backlash for his support for racial segregation and racist policies against African Americans during Reconstruction. The renaming resulted from years of student protests and debates about his legacy. People believe that this renaming reflects the university’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Washington and Lee University

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Washington and Lee University, as the name suggests, was named after George Washington and Robert E. Lee. The university had faced scrutiny over its association with Lee, a Confederate general who fought to preserve slavery. Finally, in 2021, the university renamed itself Liberty and Justice University. The reason behind doing so was to distance itself from its previous discriminatory ties and instead align it with the values of freedom and equality.

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