NJ university removes name of Revolutionary War veteran from campus building because he owned slaves

Benjamin Van Cleve was a Revolutionary War veteran who served four terms as speaker of the state Assembly.


The Van Cleve House, a building on the campus of Rider University in New Jersey, has had its name changed to Alumni House on Thursday, due to concerns over Benjamin Van Cleve, whom the facility is named after, having been a slaveholder.

Benjamin Van Cleve was a veteran of the Revolutionary War and served as speaker for the state Assembly for four terms during his life. He also, it has now been revealed, was the owner of at least two slaves, and probably more.

According to NJ.com, the Task Force on Rider and the History of Slavery, which is the group that performed the research on Van Cleve, then recommended the name of the building be changed based on their recent findings, which relied on old tax records, among other documents discovered.

Gregory Dell'Omo, the President, and John Guarino, the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, concurred, issuing the following statement on the university's website:

"His support of slavery, both as a private citizen and a legislator, makes it inappropriate for Rider to continue its association with him."

"Judged by the standards of his time or ours, Van Cleve’s actions and attitudes have no place in the Rider community. We cannot continue to hold him up, even tacitly, as worthy of honor or emulation," the letter read.

The campus building in question currently houses the university's alumni relations department and sits on property originally owned by Van Cleve, purchased by Rider University in 1956.

Universities across the nation have been heavily engaged recently in actions of this type, "cancelling" historical references and displays.

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