Yale Worker Shatters Stained-Glass Window Depicting Slaves

Yale has asked the state attorney to drop the charges.

Yale University. Courtesy of Getty Images.
Yale University. Courtesy of Getty Images.

A Yale University employee, Corey Menafee, was arrested by campus police for taking a broomstick to what he described as a “racist, very degrading” stained-glass panel in the residential college named after Yale alumnus John C. Calhoun, a former US vice president who advocated for the protection of slave plantations in the antebellum South. The incident occurred in the wake of a controversial decision by the school’s president, Peter Salovey, to retain the building’s name. Though the event happened in mid-June, it has recently taken the media by storm.

According to the New Haven Independent, which first had the story, Menafee faces multiple charges: felony for first-degree criminal mischief and a misdemeanor for second-degree reckless endangerment. Menafee appeared in court on July 12 for a hearing, after which Yale University requested that the state attorney not press charges. Another court hearing has been scheduled for July 26.

“It’s 2016,” Menafee told the New Haven Independent. “I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.”

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The panel, which was located in the building’s dining hall, depicted two figures carrying what appears to be baskets of cotton on their heads. In a statement to the newspaper, the university’s president for communications Eileen O’Connor said that shards of glass reportedly “fell on a passersby but that the woman was not injured.”

Activists across the board have taken to social media to stand in solidarity with Menafee and protest his felony charge. In a statement to the Daily Beast, alumna Brea Baker, who served as president of the university’s NAACP chapter, said that “Yale must apologize to Corey Menafee and black workers who come in daily and are subject to such a hostile work environment.” She added: “What he did was a form of decolonizing Yale and his bravery must be commended.”

According to Yale News, plans of replacing the decorative window are currently in the works. “An artist specializing in stained glass will be commissioned to design new windows, with input from the Yale University, including students, on what should replace them,” the statement reads.

Related: Metropolitan Museum of Art Is Sued Over Display of ‘Racist’ 16th-Century Paintings of Jesus

George Peter Alexander Healy, <em>John C. Calhoun</em> (1845). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

George Peter Alexander Healy, John C. Calhoun (1845). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In a letter addressed to the university’s community earlier this year, Salovey said that the “the college’s name commemorates John C. Calhoun, a Yale Class of 1804 graduate, statesman, and political theorist, who, while serving as a member of the House of Representatives, senator, and vice president of the United States, was a prominent advocate for and defender of the repugnant institution of slavery.”

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