‘Southern Charm’ Star Kathryn Calhoun Dennis’ Ancestor, John C. Calhoun, Causing Bad Press For Yale University

The cast of Southern Charm seemed so impressed by Kathryn Calhoun Dennis’ lineage, that even yankees Whitney and Patricia boasted early on about her “breeding.” But like Kathryn Calhoun Dennis, her ancestor seems to know a bit about starting a scandal, as even though he has been dead well over a hundred years, John C. Calhoun is still causing big trouble, and violent behavior at Yale University. It seems that Southern Charm doesn’t impress those at Yale, and it doesn’t translate up north. Kathryn Calhoun Dennis could take a page from great-grandpa John C. Calhoun.

Though the cast of Southern Charm might have been impressed by the name dropping that was associated with Kathryn Calhoun Dennis and her on-again, off-again beau Thomas Ravenel, whose names can be seen on buildings and bridges all over Charleston, South Carolina, it seems that they are pretty easily impressed by titles, as they obviously didn’t look much further to see who these ancestors, like John C. Calhoun, even were. Whitney and mama Patricia take great pride on linking themselves, improperly, to Robert E. Lee, and supposedly, that passes as impressive in today’s Charleston. But a brief peek would show the ugly face of not only slave owners, but huge cheerleaders of slavery itself.

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Despite angry calls from Yale students and staff to rename Calhoun College, the Yale University president, Peter Salovey, said that they would retain the name Calhoun College on the university’s residential college. The New York Times refers to John C. Calhoun as “19th-century politician and white supremacist John C. Calhoun.” It seems that Kathryn Calhoun Dennis isn’t the only Calhoun who knows how to keep her name on the lips of everyone in town.

In appeasement, Yale has decided to name a new residential college for Anna Pauline Murray. Ms. Murray was a legal scholar and civil rights activist who graduated from Yale Law School in 1965. This will be the first time that Yale has honored a woman, or an African-American, with the naming of a building.

The Yale University president also discussed another change to appease those still angered by the name Calhoun on a college by saying that the heads of each college will no longer be known as “Master,” as it caused great discomfort among many at the university who believe it smacks of America’s history of slavery. The people, mostly men, will now be known by the title, Head of College. The reaction was less than thrilling, as most believe the name changes are long overdue.

President Salovey said by changing names, and essentially “white-washing” university history, it avoids having difficult conversations about Yale’s past, slavery, and the origins of a country.

“Universities have to be the places where tough conversations happen. I don’t think that is advanced by hiding our past.”


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John C. Calhoun publicly, and in his writings, referred to slavery as “a positive good.” Calhoun was born in Abbeville, South Carolina, in 1782, and attended Yale University, then called Yale College in 1802. At the time, John C. Calhoun stirred up controversy with his writings and speeches, but now he is back in the news, and a Yale employee has been arrested for a protest which included Yale University vandalism.

In June, a Yale University dishwasher was arrested by the local New Haven police after he “smashed a stained-glass windowpane in Calhoun College that depicted slaves picking cotton.” Corey Menafee admits that he knocked out the panel at Calhoun College, because he no longer wanted to look at the “racist, very degrading” image depicted at Calhoun College on the Yale campus. Yale spokesman Tom Conroy reported that the glass shattered, and threatened the safety of those walking by.

There are many images around the college depicting John C. Calhoun with scenes of slavery, but Menafee says the student protests had nothing to do with his decision to break the stained-glass depiction of the evils of slavery.

“I took a broomstick, and it was kind of high, and I climbed up and reached up and broke it. It’s 2016, I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.”

Yale denied pressing charges against Menafee, and is not seeking restitution for the Calhoun glass panel. Menafee has since apologized for his actions.

“It could be termed as civil disobedience. But there’s always better ways of doing things like that than just destroying things. It wasn’t my property, and I had no right to do it.”

After protests at Yale, and after a group of students and faculty raised $24,000 for Corey Menafee’s legal bills, Yale University offered to reinstate Menafee to his position at Yale, despite the breaking the window of John C. Calhoun at Calhoun College. At the end of July, Menafee accepted Yale University’s offer, and returned to work.

What do you think of the Calhoun family legacy, and how it’s now being challenged at Yale? Should the name Calhoun sound so impressive on the show Southern Charm?

[Photo by Bravo TV]