DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke University history professors have filed a formal request to remove the name of a benefactor who espoused white supremacist ideas from their department's building.

John Martin, the chairman of Duke's history department, said in an email Monday that his colleagues recently requested that the university rename the Carr Building, where the department is housed. The department has also voted unanimously to propose renaming it for the late Raymond Gavins , the first black member of Duke's history faculty.

The building is currently named for Julian Carr, a Confederate veteran and tobacco magnate who gave land where part of Duke was built, helping facilitate the university's move to Durham.

Carr is also known for his 1913 speech at the University of North Carolina's dedication of the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam. During the speech he bragged about whipping a black woman. Protesters tore down Silent Sam last week, and many have cited Carr's speech as evidence that the statue symbolized racism.

Duke University spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said the history department's request, first reported by The Chronicle student newspaper, will go through a formal process for reconsidering names that involves the university president and gives trustees the final say.

The proposal to rename the building for Gavins would honor a man who served as "a powerful mentor to generations of Duke students," Martin said. Gavins, who died in 2016, began teaching at Duke in 1970.

"The history department believes that the proposed change, which we have thoughtfully considered, is in keeping with the highest educational ideals and mission of the University," Martin said.