Although Elihu Yale was not himself a slave owner, over the past several decades students have spoken out about the portrait’s implication of slavery. There are two other portraits of Elihu with black servants in the Yale collection.
“Since the portrait is confusing without the explanation [that Elihu Yale did not own slaves], I have decided it would be prudent to exchange that portrait of Elihu to another one in the University’s collection,” [University Vice President and Secretary Linda] Lorimer said.
But even if Elihu Yale owned no slaves, it remains that eight of Yale's 12 residential colleges bear the names of slaveholders, including John C. Calhoun: In Calhoun College, "[s]ome of the stained-glass windows in the . . . dining hall depict slaves picking cotton," according to the Yale Daily News. Picking the remnants of slavery out of Yale, or Brown, or New York City or just about any place on the eastern seaboard with any history at all is pretty impossible. Plucking a picture off a wall is easy, in some ways too easy. Yale's history might be better acknowledged and dealt with if that troublesome portrait were to hang around a bit longer.