Joseph W. Straley papers, 1936-2002.

Creator: Straley, Joseph W., 1914-
Collection number: 5252
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Abstract: Physics professor and activist Joseph Ward Straley (1914-2005) was born in Paulding, Ohio. Straley joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina in 1945; he retired from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980. Straley was dedicated to a wide range of social justice issues, including desegregation, civil rights, freedom of speech, academic freedom, and injustice in Central America. He, along with the Reverend Charles Jones, helped start the racially integrated Community Church of Chapel Hill in 1953; served as chair of the Committee of Concerned Citizens, a group of Chapel Hill residents dedicated to civil rights, 1964-1965; was co-chair of the Orange County Energy Conservation Task Force, 1975; and was active in the Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America, 1987-2002. Straley was also an elected member of the Chapel Hill Town Council, 1980-1984. Straley and his wife Lucy had a daughter, Lesley, and two sons, Joseph Jr. and David. Essays, correspondence, pamphlets, newsletters, clippings, audiotapes, a videotape, photographs, Straley’s FBI file, and other items relating to Straley’s education, causes in which he was interested, and other topics. There are materials relating to the North Carolina Speaker Ban law, to which Straley was opposed; clippings of opinion and other pieces Straley wrote chiefly about Central America; materials on communism, including a 1949 letter to University of North Carolina Chancellor R. B. House from Straley about his not being a Communist; sermons by Charles Jones and materials relating to him and to the Community Church; materials relating to African American politician Howard Lee’s unsuccessful 1976 North Carolina lieutenant governor bid; and notebooks from Straley’s 1984-1985 trip to Central America that contain detailed information on meetings Straley had with local activists and other residents.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Joseph Straley was an advocate for many social justice issues, including de-segregation and civil rights. Folders 11 – 12 contain materials related to the Committee of Concerned Citizens (1963-1964), a group dedicated to civil rights concerns and ending segregation in Chapel Hill.

Folder 14 contains papers related to a memorial service for John Dunne, a student in Chapel Hill involved in the Civil Rights Struggle who died of cancer in 1982. (For more information, please also see the John Dunne Papers (#4391):,John_B.html)

Folder 19 contains sermons and other materials (1964-1995) related to Charles Jones, a minister and social justice activist who was also the first pastor at  the racially integrated Community Church in Chapel Hill. (For more information, please also see the Charles Jones Papers (#5168):,Charles_Miles.html)

Folder 20 contains items related to African American politician Howard Lee’s run for Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina in 1976.

Also included is a videotape (Videotape VT-5252/1) entitled “Bible Belt Justice in the Southern Part of Heaven”. The film discusses Reverend Charles Miles Jones attempt his North Carolina church and his subsequent dismissal for his attempts. The film includes interviews with Chapel Hill residents, including several founding members of the church he formed after his dismissal, the Community Church of Chapel Hill (United Church of Christ).