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New Residence Halls Named After Renowned Civil Rights Activists

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Photo: Arthur Fredericks

On October 10, the Stony Brook Council unanimously confirmed the official names of two new state-of-the-art residence halls that are located between Mendelsohn Quad and Toll Drive, and once complete, will house 759 students: César Chávez Hall and Harriet Tubman Hall.

As explained by President Stanley, Stony Brook University’s mission is grounded in the pursuit of knowledge and access to excellence within a diverse global community. As such, it strives to create a campus environment that welcomes all. Seeking to reflect the diversity of our community and to honor those who have had an indelible impact on civil liberties enjoyed today, the new residence halls on Toll Drive have been named César Chávez Hall (302 beds) and Harriet Tubman Hall (457 beds) after two prominent civil rights activists.

“Stony Brook is a community where all are welcome and where our commitment to diversity is essential to providing an environment that not only promotes academic achievement, but also inspires compassion and tolerance,” said President Stanley. “In naming these new campus residence halls for César Chávez and Harriet Tubman — two renowned civil rights leaders — we seek to prominently honor their legacy.”

César Chávez Hall
Opened on September 10, 2016, César Chávez Hall honors the late Mexican-American labor organizer and civil rights leader, César Estrada Chávez, who co-founded the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) in 1962 and helped unionize thousands of farmworkers in California’s Central Valley. Chávez fought to provide a voice for farm workers, advocating for fair wages, humane treatment and safer working conditions. The famous United Farm Workers slogan “Sí Se Puede”, or “Yes we can” in English, was created in 1972 during the 24-day fast in Phoenix, Arizona in which Chávez, and UFW co-founder, Dolores Huerta, protested legislation that was antagonistic to their cause, limiting farm workers’ right to strike and organize. His efforts for UFW in New York were not without success as well. Under his leadership, the UFW, along with New York unions, successfully executed a boycott to prevent California grapes from being shipped and sold in New York.

Chávez is one of the most recognized Latino activists in the United States, having received the Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, the Pacem in Terris Award from the Catholic Church and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, awarded by President Bill Clinton.

Harriet Tubman Hall
Scheduled to open in January 2017, Harriet Tubman Hall honors the American abolitionist and humanitarian who was born into slavery, and suffered abuse by her masters as a child, which caused her lifelong injuries.

In 1849, Tubman was able to escape to the North to earn her freedom. Once a free person, she longed to help others achieve this precious freedom and became a famous “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, the network of people who helped slaves escape to freedom in the North States or Canada. Nicknamed “Moses” after the biblical story of Moses who attempted to lead the Jewish people to the Promised Land and free them from slavery, Tubman led thirteen rescue missions to liberate hundreds of slaves, never losing a fugitive or allowing one to turn back. In addition, she provided invaluable services as a spy and scout for the Union Army, providing critical intelligence as she was able to gain insights about crucial strategic points of interests such as cotton warehouses, ammunition depots and gain support of slaves waiting to be liberated.

She was also a trailblazer in other aspects, having been an early promoter of women’s suffrage and the first woman to lead an armed assault during the American Civil War.

A New Yorker for most of her life, Tubman resided in Auburn, New York from 1858 until her death in 1913. Her former home has been designated as the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. In April 2016, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced Harriet Tubman will appear on the new $20 bill replacing Andrew Jackson. The design of the new bill will be available in 2020.

See a live feed of the Chávez and Tubman construction sites.

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