Corey Menafee spent years cleaning Calhoun College, named after slavery advocate and former Vice President John C. Calhoun. Like many others that walked the halls, he always noticed a stained glass window that depicted slaves picking cotton. One day in June, enough was enough and he took his broomstick and smashed the window students have been unsuccessfully protesting for years.
“I thought, I’m tired of looking at this, I’m about to break this,” Menafee said, according to NBC News. “It’s the 21st century, why do I have to go to work and look at this?”
Menafee then resigned from his position in exchange for the university dropping a looming felony charge and cleaning his employment record of any notes of termination or inappropriate behavior. Now, five weeks and a slew of support for his actions later, Yale University if looking to rehire him.
Yale released a statement this Tuesday saying that Menafee, “will be allowed to return to a position in a different setting, starting on Monday, after serving a five-week unpaid suspension (including the time since his resignation on June 21),” according to The Daily Beast. “We are willing to take these unusual steps given the unique circumstances of this matter, and it is now up to Mr. Menafee whether he wishes to return to Yale.”
Menafee dreamt of being a journalist and studied mass communications at Virginia Union University to make it a reality; he even went on to become a sports editor of the school’s newspaper. Unfortunately, upon graduation, he had difficulty turning his degree into full-time work in his desired field. He later ended up taking on a job working as a janitor at Yale University, which had better pay than anything he had done previously. Ironically enough, this job would put him in a better position to promote change than he ever expected.
“He’s an intelligent man and he knows those images should have been taken down a long time ago,” said Patricia Kane, Menafee’s attorney.
“Yes, he destroyed property, but he didn’t hurt anyone,” she added. “Those images at Yale have been the subject of controversy for thirty years. We need to remember the context in which this happened.”
Students, alumni and community members have all come to celebrate Menafee’s actions on that day, but he doesn’t want to be viewed as a hero.
“I’m not an activist,” he said. “What I did is not on the level of Rosa Parks and other greats like Martin Luther King. I’m just regular guy who had enough and I broke it.”
While some claim that the destruction to property is appalling, you have to ask yourself: Does it even start to compare to the damage done to the generations of people affected by the very same culture it depicted?
Photo Credit: Change.org