National Institute on Aging

Yale Worker Breaks Stained Glass Window That Depicted Slaves

YalewindowsCory Menafee, a dishwasher at the Calhoun residential college at Yale University, used a broom handle to punch out a stained glass window that depicted slaves carrying cotton. Menafee, an African American who is a graduate of historically Black Virginia Union University in Richmond, was arrested and resigned from his job at the college. Later the university said it would not advocate prosecuting the case and would rehire the worker after a five-week unpaid suspension.

In an interview with the New Haven Independent, Menafee called the incident an act of civil disobedience. “I took a broomstick, and it was kind of high, and I climbed up and reached up and broke it,” he told the newspaper. “It’s 2016, I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that. I just said, ‘That thing’s coming down today. I’m tired of it.’” he added.

In 1932, Calhoun College was named after John C. Calhoun, vice president of the United States under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Calhoun, an 1804 graduate of Yale, was a leading defender of the institution of slavery. Recently, Yale decided not to remove Calhoun’s name from the residential college.

Yale said that the stained glass windows in the common room at the residential college depicting scenes from Calhoun’s life would be removed, conserved for future study, and possibly included in a future exhibition.


Comments (7)

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  1. Char says:

    I don’t blame Cory for getting tired of that scene but my question is on another topic:
    I realize “dishwasher” is a noble profession, but I want to know why a graduate of Virginia Union University is a dishwasher at Yale. It’s nothing wrong with it, but he must have skills that could be put to use at this college in other areas. My 2-cents worth.

  2. Dr. Cornick says:

    This article states that Mr. Menafee is a graduate of Virginia Union University. Why was he washing dishes at Yale University?

  3. Gwendolyn Bookman says:

    As an attorney, who is often asked why I am not “practicing law” (I teach law-related courses and have been an administrator in higher ed for most of my professional career), I can relate to doing “other things” with a degree. But I must admit my first thought was why a person with a college degree would be washing dishes!

  4. David says:

    Most black college graduates are under-employed. The USA Today published a factoid stating that only 51% of 2014-2015 college graduates were employed in fields requiring a college degree. If that’s true for all college graduates, then that percentage must be higher for black college graduates.

  5. El says:

    Frankly, I was deeply embarrassed to read that this young man is an alum of Virginia Union. I realize the economic conditions are not propitious here in the aftermath of the Great Recession. But, dishwashing at Yale!?!? Had I been him, I probably would have hesitated long and hard to even acknowledge my educational background. And, Virginia Union should reflect on this alum’s occupation says — if anything — about how well they prepare their grads for postgraduate employment.

  6. Betty says:

    Ditto to every comment so far.

  7. Dr. Steph says:

    Anyone conclude he did it to bring attention TO his CURRENT job situation?! That would be the true reason behind the civil disobedience. Just my two cents.

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