Yale struggles with preserving history and confronting its association with slavery

In her National Geographic series, "America Inside Out," Katie Couric visits Yale University's campus where some buildings are named for men associated with slavery.
7:03 | 04/11/18

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Transcript for Yale struggles with preserving history and confronting its association with slavery
mething terrifying happened in charlottese,irginia. White nationalinded on this ny quietle town. Fights are breaking out. Reporter:was one of the seen in decades. They riot gear and the aged us is what happened Reporter: As I watched the violence unfold wondered, how we get here? Here come the supremacists. Eporter: What's behhis war? Scary, isn't it? Makese want to cry. Yes Reporter: It was hard to believe T match thatited this was the statue ofert E. Lee. From charlotille to new Orleans, from high sc football fields to college campuses, there a more than 650 confederate mentscr the country. 85 schools and 80 cs a cities are named after promi confederate figures. We have a righto our heritage and traditions as much as anyonese. Reporter: I set out to understa this battle over hiy. How we cmemorate the past -- I was Ming with confederateg my backor th years. We wereo blind to it, honestly. Reporter: And what it says about say are W rewritinghistory? Or re-righting it? Some statues of cderateroes be removed, in your ? Eporter: If the battle O monuments has been raging in to across the country, T early skirmishes startedivy league uniities like Yale. Hey, hey, ho, ho - Reporter: Calhoun college was named in 1933 a Yale alumnusjohn C. Lhoun, a senator from South Carolina who later served as vice president tn Adams and Andrew jac. Buat's not all. The first half of 19t center he was T most stdent articulato to use words, of slavery as a ve good. And he rooted that view that slavery aitive bothor slaveholders and slaves. An idea that I think is Dee urng to us today. He Rd that belief in core efabouthite premacy. Reporter:enior ja Moore said Calhoun's nam and images his time M her uncomfortable, esplly in the DIHA ight across from M can see stained glassindow that depicts two slavesking something. It's a symbol that declares, you do not belong re. Or you are imagined in this space T fulfill a certain really limited role. Reporter:he already-simmering debatecame more heated a Yale Ng hall workerey Menefee smasone of the windows. Althougversity worker foight years, menef says he been working in the dining hall at calholege for just Mont whileping Flo the 38-year-old took a mopandle to the subjof his disgust. T was going throuour head, Corey? I was just sick of looking at that win here we are in 21st century.d I don't think those type ofimages should blatantly displayed in places LE dining halls. It's culturally sensitive. No St that the majorityof the employees who in the dining hall of African-American dtment. Repr:was a literal and figuretive breakinint. Ake down these rac window panes! Repor the Yale president was ally opposed to Chan the name. Our campu, both in the classroom but also outside of the classroom, is a LIV historylesson. And I wto make sure that that conversation Calhoun was one that weld always . Changname!ter: He was caught between student who thought his de was wrong-he and older alumni who felt he should stand onide of traditi he appointed a committee to come up with a Brint for stays and who es. After all, ninheruildings on campus are named for men asated with slavery. Cluding M yalehimself. John wit was the head of the committee. On a university campus like rs renamings rare but might be appropriate principal cis, thing whether the idea was contested at the time of the name, thinking about what the motive of the university in putting the name on the building, and how does theldrk in helping to build community? Reporter: The committee C up with four princs and discovered Oun's name was controversial even back in 1933. Re were states written at the time saying, really John C. Calhoun? Reporter: Sot a ceremony in named after the late navyadmiral, computer pioneer, yalealumna, grace er. Lest thosehat belong to this col now, grace Murray harps your home -- Was it emotional for you I er It was. I go hit with theon right befo walked in. And it was jus pure joy. Changing the people that we honor helps a wid range of students be a to envision thselves as some who can make a difference, who will be remembered. Orter: As part of a conscit to not sanitize or erase the , Calhoun's Ima will main on the edifice. It'o Lon the name by which T college is known. But the history and what neeto learn and a John C. Calhoun is not wiped away. We can't forget that Yale was a university that once have a llege, a veryortant part of the camp dedicated to johnc.calhoun. Orter: For "Nightline," M Katie couric. Our thatokatie. And"america inside out Katie couric"re tomorrow night on the nnal geographic channel.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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