The recent decision by the University of Miami Board of Trustees to cancel founder George Merrick’s name and his association with the school warrants a response.
To say that Merrick’s proposals on a planning board “perpetuated a wealth gap for Black residents and broad inequities in our community that persist to this day,” is a disservice to the man whose actions are contrary to the narrative being espoused.
History cannot be explained using a modern yardstick. Yes, in 1936 the laws of the land were antiquated and illegal by today’s standards. But that is the point. George Merrick was a man of his time, and during his lifetime, he advocated for those he admired (whether black or white) to the best of his ability within the norms of society at that time.
When examining history, one must accept the whole story, not pick and choose. One must balance history, not carve it or cancel it. Taking one quote and distorting it to describe a man’s whole life is unfair.
Let’s focus more on Merrick’s good deeds and his humanitarianism toward the black community and less on his proposals which were never implemented. The past should be discussed within a measured and relevant historical context. The late Arva Parks, official Merrick biographer, preservationist, and community leader, whose research collection resides at the University of Miami, described Merrick as “adored as a human being.” Will the university cancel her too?
The University of Miami solely exists because of George E. Merrick. He not only donated the land but also committed to a $5 million personal donation. Others pledged but only Merrick made good on his promise.
George Merrick served as regent and trustee of the university from its beginning to the time of his death in 1942. The University of Miami must rightfully honor founder George E. Merrick. However, if the point is to disassociate the school with the Merrick name, then it must disassociate itself completely with Merrick. No name. No school.
Amanda Rose, a University of Miami law student and member of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, created a petition against the decision and penned a letter to university leadership in opposition titled “Preserve George Merrick’s Name & Legacy,”
“There is a current phenomenon to rename and tear down our history and our founders’ legacies,” she wrote. “When I witnessed this manifest in my own community, I felt compelled to act.”