Watch: UNC Alums Recall Fashion Favorites

FashionEarthShoes_featureFashionEarthShoes_featureUNC alumni discuss items they contributed to an exhibition about Carolina fashion. On view through June 5 in Wilson Library. Continue reading
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Operation Match: Computer Dating at UNC in the 1960s

Long before Tinder and Match.com, students at UNC and other schools looked to a computer for help finding dates with a  program called “Operation Match.”

Operation Match was founded by students at Harvard and Cornell in 1965. Students would send in a questionnaire with a $3.00 fee. Their answers were transferred to punch cards, processed on a five-ton mainframe computer in Massachusetts, and then the students were sent a list of names and phone numbers of potential matches.

The program came to UNC in time for the fall 1965 semester. A Daily Tar Heel editorial asked, “Are you willing to let a big machine with flashing lights and flying cards tell you how to run your personal social life?” Apparently many students were.

The program ran an interesting promotion on campus in October 1965. Patsy Puckett, who was then Miss Mississippi, filled out an Operation Match questionnaire and then went on a date with Carolina student she was matched with.

According to the DTH, several hundred students used the service in its first month. While Operation Match apparently led to several successful dates, there were some unusual matches, including that of a UNC sophomore who was matched with his sister, a student at Duke. This was notable not just for the fact that they were related, but, according one of the student’s friends, “They are as different as night and day.”

The program lasted at least through the next school year. In February 1966 Operation Match was advertising for a “North Carolina District Manager” to help with promotion and outreach. By the fall of 1966, the DTH declared “Electronic match-making is here to stay.”

In the University Archives, we’re interested in tracking down one of the questionnaires that the students were asked to fill out. We haven’t been able to find one in our records (yet). If any former students are reading this and have suggestions, please let us know.

Operation Match ad from the Daily Tar Heel, 20 April 1966.

Operation Match ad from the Daily Tar Heel, 20 April 1966.

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From the Archives: Anti-War Rally at UNC, 1936.

Anti-war rally at Memorial Hall, ca. 1936. P004.

Anti-war rally at Memorial Hall, ca. 1936. P004.

I ran across this photograph in the UNC-Chapel Hill Image Collection and was surprised to see an anti-war protest not from the mid 1960s, when college students across the country demonstrated against the Vietnam war, but from three decades earlier. The photograph is in a folder labeled “Anti-War Activities, World War II, Late 1930s.”

Memories of World War I were still fresh in the minds of many Americans when tensions were beginning to escalate in Europe in the 1930s, building toward the conflicts that would lead to World War II. Pearl Harbor was still several years away and some college students were wary of the idea of getting involved in another European war. At UNC, students formed local chapters of two national anti-war organizations: the American Student Union, a left-wing organization associated with the Communist and Socialist parties, and the Veterans of Future Wars, a satirical group asking for compensation for future military service.

The photo shown here is probably from a rally held on campus on April 22, 1936. It was described as a “strike,” with classes cancelled for about an hour. The rally started at South Building and continued to Memorial Hall for speeches. The description in the Daily Tar Heel said, “Placards and tableaux expressing antipathy to war will make their appearance at the anti-war strike.”

The featured speaker at the rally was Dick Whitten, president of Commonwealth College in Arkansas, who descried “capitalistic imperialism” as the driving force behind war. An estimated 700 students and local residents attended.

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Artifact of the Month: IBM Personal Computer AT, ca. 1984

Our May Artifact of the Month is the state-of-the-art IBM Personal Computer AT, IBM’s second-generation PC.

ibm_computer500

While this computer may seem like a mammoth in comparison to the latest MacBook Air, it was IBM’s streamlined and state-of-the-art release in August of 1984. In fact, AT stands for Advanced Technology. Advanced, high-technology features of this computer include: 80286-based processor with 265k RAM, one 1.2-Mbyte floppy disk, and high-capacity diskette and fixed-disk drives. When it first went on sale, all this and more could be had for the low, low price of $3,995!

If the RAM-and-bytes jargon doesn’t make sense to you, we’ll simplify: this computer was pretty high-tech for its time, and it was designed for professional applications, office environments, and personal productivity. This computer in particular was used in an office in Davis Library during the first decades of automated record keeping and online searching.

ibm_computer2_500

To put technology growth into perspective: In August of 1984, the IBM Personal Computer AT was released with a memory capacity of 256K RAM. In 1995, the average RAM of most computers was 2 Megabytes. Modern-day RAM is anywhere between 4-12 Gigabytes. In other words, from 1984 to 2016 there was a million-fold increase in computer memory capacity. That’s pretty astounding.

UNC has close ties to IBM because of Fred Brooks, computer architect and founder of UNC’s Computer Science department. Brooks managed the development of IBM’s System/360 family of computers that revolutionized IBM computing, made advancements in capability, and allowed machines to be upward-compatible. Brooks also facilitated the transition of the 360-series from a 6-bit byte to an 8-bit byte. Simply put, a byte is the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer, and for that reason it’s the smallest addressable unit of memory in computers. The switch from a byte composed of 6 bits to that of 8 bits allows us to use lowercase letters.

If, like us, you’re thankful that computer text is not all caps and doesn’t read as if someone is yelling at you, give Fred Brooks a nod if you ever see him on campus.

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More than a building

During the month of May, UNC’s General Alumni Association (GAA) celebrates three very important anniversaries: it’s 173rd birthday on May 31st, and the groundbreaking for and the dedication of the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.  Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard shares some the history behind these events.

Frank H. Kenan (left) and George Watts Hill Sr. (right) at an unidentified event, probably at UNC-Chapel Hill. (Photograph cropped by blog editor.)

Frank H. Kenan (left) and George Watts Hill Sr. (right) at an unidentified event, probably at UNC-Chapel Hill. (Photograph cropped by blog editor.)

A Prolog
The General Alumni Association at the University of North Carolina (GAA) was born on May 31, 1843 when thirty-one graduates ranging from the classes of 1801 to 1842 gathered in Garrard Hall with Governor John Motley Morehead as chairman and director.  Three decades would pass, however, before alumni as a collective body would take an active role in the well–being of the university.  According to Kenneth Joel Zogry in his 1999 book, The University’s Living Room: A History of the Carolina Inn, “there was little interest or activity before the Civil War.  But alumni involvement was critical to the reopening of the University in 1875.”

Following the university’s reopening, alumni activities took place in various campus locations—first in the Alumni Building on McCorkle Place, then on the second and third floors of South Building—but there never seemed to be enough room.  Plans drawn for The Carolina Inn in 1922 had the GAA moving its offices into the building, fulfilling the original concept for the inn.  When the inn opened in December 1924, however, there was no space included for the Alumni Association offices, and the “traveling” GAA continued its journey from the third floor of South Building.

In a letter dated June 4, 1935 John Sprunt Hill, who had built the Carolina Inn, turned the facility over to the university.  Soon thereafter, on February 13, 1936, the university made makeshift quarters for the GAA by modifying the inn’s eastern porch that ran behind the the main ballroom. The enclosed porch, along with space in the basement and lobby, became GAA’s home, lasting until 1940 when it moved into a small suite of offices next to the inn’s Faculty Club Room.  Also opening in 1940 was a three-story building consisting of twelve apartments, built next to the original Carolina Inn building. That new structure faced South Columbia Street and was named the Bryan Apartment Building honoring Joseph Hunter Bryan, a University trustee from 1809 until 1817.

In October of 1969, the GAA moved into the Bryan Apartment Building (often called the Carolina Apartments) and the facility then became known as Alumni House.  The GAA remained there for twenty-four years until the George Watts Hill Alumni Center opened in March of 1993.


More than a Building . . .

We are funding more than a building, more than a Chapel Hill home for our loyal and dedicated alumni.  We are cementing the bond between Carolina’s sons and daughters and alma mater.  We are expanding alumni involvement and assuring that alumni—the only permanent constituency of the University—will forever have a seat at the table in the important work of our University.

— Ralph N. Strayhorn, UNC Class of 1947,
Chairman, Alumni Center Fund Raising Campaign

As UNC’s General Alumni Association approached its 142nd birthday in mid-May of 1985, it was still in search of a permanent, free-standing center to call home.  During the ‘85 graduation and reunion weekend things were about to change.

Alumni Association President Ralph Strayhorn, during the annual alumni luncheon on May 11th, announced to the gathering of 450 people that the GAA had received the necessary approvals for a new alumni center to be located on South Campus next to the Kenan Center, which was still under construction, and overlooking the still unfinished Student Activity Center.  At last, a three-story 63,000 square foot building could be called home.

One of those necessary approvals was permission to raise the needed $8.5 million to build the center.  That campaign got underway quickly, and in May 1986 the GAA reported that they had received a $3.5 million anonymous challenge-gift, along with a $500,000 donation from the James M. Johnson Trust.  They also announced that Ralph Strayhorn would be heading up the fund raising campaign.

Ralph N. Strayhorn, UNC Class of 1947, was a past chairman of the UNC Board of Trustees, and a past president of The Educational Foundation, Inc.  He was a former president of the North Carolina Bar Association and chief corporate counsel of Wachovia Corporation in Winston-Salem.  Many old-time Tar Heels will remember him as co-captain of the 1946 Carolina Tar Heel football team that played in the 1947 Sugar Bowl, and along with his friend Charlie Justice was honored in a pregame ceremony during the 1997 Sugar Bowl—50 years after that ’47 game. Strayhorn also spoke at the dedication of the Charlie Justice statue in November of 2004.

UNC President Bill Friday, George Watts Hill, Ralph Strayhorn, and UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Christopher Fordham posed with Hill's presentation check dated October 12, 1986 and an artist's rendering of the alumni center building. (Photograph cropped by blog editor.)

UNC President Bill Friday, George Watts Hill, Ralph Strayhorn, and UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Christopher Fordham posed with Hill’s presentation check dated October 12, 1986 and an artist’s rendering of the alumni center building. (Photograph cropped by blog editor.)

In July of 1987, Strayhorn announced that fund raising had reached $5.5 million and it was also revealed that the anonymous donor was George Watts Hill, Sr., for whom the building would be named.  On Hill’s urging and with the GAA’s blessing, the site for the new alumni center was moved to Stadium Drive next-door to Kenan Memorial Stadium. Since the new site provided very little parking and was one of the last wooded areas on South Campus, there was some opposition, but the new site was approved.

As contributions rolled in and time went by, the costs for the building increased. By the time the November, 1988 issue of The Alumni Report newspaper came out, the total costs for the facility had risen to $12 million and a Kenan family gift of $250,000 had brought the total monies raised to $10 million.  Two months later, when the January, 1989, issue of the paper hit the streets, the total donations had reached the $11 million mark.

May 13, 1987 groundbreaking ceremony for the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. (L to R): Ralph Strayhorn, fund raising chairman; George Watts Hill; Doug Dibbert, General Alumni Association Executive Director; unidentified; Tom Lambeth, chairman of the area campaigns; Ray Farris, Charlotte area campaign coordinator, and UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin.

May 13, 1987 groundbreaking ceremony for the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. (L to R): Ralph Strayhorn, fund raising chairman; George Watts Hill; Doug Dibbert, General Alumni Association Executive Director; unidentified; Tom Lambeth, chairman of the area campaigns; Ray Farris, Charlotte area campaign coordinator, and UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin.

By graduation/reunion weekend ’89, it was time to break ground for the center. The formal groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 13, 1989 featuring remarks by George Watts Hill followed by the groundbreaking with a team of University and alumni leaders doing the honors. Hugh Morton’s photograph of the groundbreaking event shows Ralph Strayhorn, George Watts Hill, Sr., Doug Dibbert, GAA Executive Director, Robert Eubanks, Board of Trustees President, Thomas W. Lambeth, Chairman of the area campaigns, Ray Farris, Charlotte Area Campaign Coordinator, and UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin.

Soon construction got underway, and the fund raising campaign reached its goal: $12.5 million raised with 14,500 alumni and friends contributing.  In the words of campaign committee chairman Strayhorn, “Once we got Mr. Hill’s lead gift for the center, the raising of the money was very—I won’t say easy, but came in very nicely.  Of course, that doesn’t mean we didn’t work very hard for it.”


I will never stop doing all I can for Carolina. —George Watts Hill, Sr., UNC Class of 1922


As the construction work continued, the end was in sight.  Moving-in day looked to be in early 1993 with a graduation/reunion weekend date of May 14th for the dedication ceremony.  Then, in the early morning hours of January 20, 1993, the Tar Heel Nation lost a loving friend and faithful supporter.  George Watts Hill, Sr., UNC Class of 1922, died peacefully in his sleep. He was 91 years old.

“Watts Hill symbolized in his life what the word grace means. And his decency and good will taught us so much we will long remember,” said Dr. William Friday.  UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin added, “We have lost indeed one of the most majestic leaders in the 20th century.”  And GAA Executive Director Douglas Dibbert said, “It was my personal joy to work with him these past several years as together, with the support of many others, we moved the long cherished dream to reality with the construction of the George Watts Hill Alumni Center . . .”  A moment of silence in his honor was observed in the Smith Center before the start of the Carolina–Virginia basketball game on January 20.

UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin speaking to gathering at the dedication of the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on May 14, 1993. Seated on the left are General Alumni Executive Director Doug Dibbert, UNC Class of 1970 and outgoing General Alumni President Elizabeth "Pepper" Dowd, UNC Class of 1953 (photograph cropped by editor).

UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin speaking to gathering at the dedication of the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on May 14, 1993. Seated on the left are General Alumni Executive Director Doug Dibbert, UNC Class of 1970 and outgoing General Alumni President Elizabeth “Pepper” Dowd, UNC Class of 1953 (photograph cropped by editor).

GAA accomplished its planned move into the new Alumni Center in early March. Two months later, on May 14th, hundreds of invited guests, alumni and university friends attended the dedication ceremony held in front of the center’s main entrance.  Among those invited guests, were UNC System President C. D. Spangler; UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin; Anne Hill, widow of George Watts Hill; Frances Hill Fox, George Watts Hill’s sister; and of course Hugh Morton who documented the day’s events with his camera.  Elizabeth “Pepper” Dowd, UNC Class of 1953 and outgoing General Alumni Association president, presided over the ceremony.  Doug Dibbert, UNC Class of 1970 made the formal presentation of the George Watts Hill Alumni Center to the university, accepted on its behalf by Chancellor Paul Hardin.  Frances Hill Fox represented the Hill family with a few remarks. The Clef Hangers, Carolina’s oldest a cappella group, provided the entertainment.  A team of UNC alumni and friends conducted the formal ribbon cutting ceremony: Doug Dibbert; Anne Cates, UNC Class of 1953 and Chairperson of the Alumni Center Building Committee; Pepper Dowd; Anne Hill; Frances Hill Fox; and Chancellor Hardin.


The next time you visit the UNC campus and you find yourself near Carolina’s geographical center on that path between north and south campus, stop for a few seconds and check out the building at 106 Stadium Drive, the one with the entrance tower which bears the carved stone nameplate “George Watts Hill Alumni Center.”  If your schedule permits, go inside . . . you’ll be impressed.  For more history and a description of the building, the GAA website has republished a 1997 article by — Carolyn Edy ’97 (MA) updated in 2003 titled “Welcome to the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.”


An Epilog
On August 30, 1994, a group of about seventy-five GAA employees, friends, and former residents of the Bryan Apartment Building gathered for a good-bye ceremony. The building had served the University for fifty-four years and the GAA for twenty-four. Following a few speeches of remembrance, a giant wrecking ball swung into action and a few days later, the old building was but a memory.  To keep that memory alive, the Public Works Administration plaque from the 1939-1940 additions to the Carolina Inn, which had included the Bryan Apartments, was retrieved, mounted, and given a special place in the new George Watts Hill Alumni Center.

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Barack Obama’s 1994 Visit to Chapel Hill

In 1994, the Sonja Hayes Stone Black Cultural Center sponsored a three-day program for leaders of African American student groups at UNC. The Black Student Leadership Summit included sessions on leadership and community outreach and gave students opportunities to discuss issues and ideas. The event kicked off on the evening of September 2, 1994, with an opening reception and dinner followed by a featured speaker from out of town: Barack Obama.

Program for the 1994 Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.

Program for the 1994 Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.

The future president had received nationwide attention when he was elected as the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. He was working as a Civil Rights lawyer in Chicago at the time of his visit to Chapel Hill.

Obama, whose first name was misspelled as “Barak” in the conference program, was listed as a “motivational speaker.” Unfortunately, there is little record of his speech or his visit. The booking was arranged through an agency, so there is no correspondence with Obama. The file did not include any photographs and the conference was not covered in the Daily Tar Heel.

Excerpt from an invitation to the Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.

Excerpt from an invitation to the Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.

The conference was held at the Aqueduct Conference Center south of Chapel Hill, so it’s likely Obama never even made it to campus. About all we can tell from the records is that the the visit was short: notes on travel arrangements showed that he arrived the afternoon of the 2nd, spent the night at the Omni Europa, and then flew back on the morning of the 3rd. Obama received a $1,500 honorarium for his talk.  A handwritten note in the file said that he was travelling with his wife, so it appears that future First Lady Michelle Obama was here as well.

Excerpt from evaluations of the Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.

Excerpt from evaluations of the Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.

While we don’t know what Obama said, we do know that his speech was well received. With approval ratings that President Obama (or any politician) would envy, 21 out of 22 people responding to a post-conference survey said that they enjoyed Obama’s talk. Attendees said that they “Liked his views and thoughts about values and picking our battles,” and “liked the fact that he was a very successful Black man fighting for the betterment of Black people.” One respondent called him “inspirational.” Another said, “He was a little long.”

The records of the 1994 Black Student Leadership Summit are in the records of the Sonja Hayes Stone Center for Black Culture and History in the University Archives.

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The History of the University Seal

The seal of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill affixed to a stone pillar at one of the entrances to the historic campus.

The seal of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill affixed to a stone pillar at one of the entrances to the historic campus. Copyright 2011, University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has many symbols associated with it, from the Tar Heel footprint to the silhouette of the Old Well. One of the most formal UNC visual components is the University’s ornamental seal. While you may see images of the seal around campus (more on this later) use of the seal is primarily reserved for official University documents, such as diplomas or transcripts. The seal is an emblem of the University, designed for formal occasions to represent the ideals of this home of higher education.

The official ornamental seal of the University has gone through four major revisions since it was first created. Provision of the seal dates back to a meeting of the Board of Trustees held at Fayetteville from November 15 through 27 in 1790. On motion of John Hay, a committee was appointed to form a device for the common seal. This committee included seven men, including Hay and Chairman William Lenoir.

Original UNC seal, from the 1893 catalog, NCC.

Original UNC seal, from the 1893 catalog, NCC.

By July 20, 1791, the seal had been designed, completed and delivered. They chose the face of Apollo, the God of Eloquence, and his emblem the rising sun “as expressive of the dawn of higher education in our State.” This first seal of UNC was used on documents and diplomas until 1895.

On the seal, the face of Apollo was placed at the center facing straight ahead and surrounded by rays of light. Around the outside read the Latin inscription “Sigil Universitat Carol Septent” (literally meaning “The Symbol of the University of North Carolina”).

The next revision appeared in 1895 under President George Winston. The seal kept the face of Apollo, but turned his head to profile. The Latin inscription changed just slightly from “Sigil” to “Sigillum” and Apollo gained a crown of leaves on his head. This seal was used only briefly in the Catalogue, from 1894 through 1896.

University seal from an 1896 catalog, North Carolina Collection.

University seal from an 1896 catalog, North Carolina Collection.

In 1897, Dr. E.A. Alderman became President and called for a new seal. The June 1, 1897 minutes for the Board of Trustees describe the proposed new look for the seal: “On a tinted circle there appear the words Sigillum Universitat Carol Septent. Within the open space there is a tinted shield with a diagonal white band. One the shield are the words “Lux” and “Libertas.” In the open spaces there are burning torches.”

Thus Apollo was removed from the shield for this third revision. It also added the University motto of “Lux Libertas” meaning “Light and Liberty.”

UNC seal used from 1896-1944. From the 1920 catalog, NCC.

UNC seal used from 1896-1944. From the 1920 catalog, NCC.

This seal was nearly identical to the seal used today, but a keen eye may decipher one key difference. This third iteration of the seal was used from 1896 through 1944. At this point, controversy arose over the band on the shield included in the seal.

In traditional heraldry, the “bend” denotes the stripe running across the shield. A traditional bend is supposed to run from the upper dexter corner of the shield (the bearer’s right side and the viewer’s left) to the lower sinister corner of the shield. This is called a “bend dexter.” By some mistake, the bend included on the University seal shield was crossing in the wrong direction, from the upper sinister corner to the lower dexter.

This is referred to as a “bend sinister” and has popularly but incorrectly been thought to imply the stigma of illegitimacy for those who bore such a shield. In actuality, it meant that the bearer was a second or later son who could not inherit his father’s estate. However, the stigma was popular and so many people complained to the university that they changed the direction of the bend in 1944. The change was made under the direction of Controller William D. Carmichael Jr. who wished to remove all implications of illegitimacy, however erroneous, concerning the bend.

Current UNC seal, adopted 1944.

Current UNC seal, adopted 1944.

This is the current University seal that has been in place since 1944. The seal used by the University Press on its bookplate actually changed prior to the University’s seal (in around 1925). The University Library also changed their bookplate design prior to 1944.

However, an eagle-eyed visitor to the University campus may be able to spot the third version of the seal (with the bend sinister) in a few locations. One such location is on the front of Wilson Library, which was built in 1929. It is engraved in the columns above the front porch. At the time of its engraving, this was the officially correct seal but it now stands as a testimony to the prior design and the unique history of this seal. An alumnus wrote to a local newspaper in 1974, complaining about the “bend sinister” seal on Wilson Library, writing: “Beloved Alma Mater should always be scrupulously legitimate.”

Photo by UNC News Services, copyright 2011.

Photo by UNC News Services, copyright 2011.


IMG_0003

Original university seal on a diploma from 1798 (Southern Historical Collection).

IMG_0004

Detail from 1798 diploma (SHC).

IMG_0001

1927 diploma with the “bend sinister” seal. Southern Historical Collection.

IMG_0002

Detail from 1927 diploma.

 

 

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The Cake Race at UNC

Cake Race, 1924. UNC Image Collection (P004)

Cake Race, October 1924. UNC Image Collection (P004)

I ran across this photo in the Wilson Library stacks the other day. It was labeled “Cake Race, October 1924.” No further information was given, suggesting that none was needed, that everybody should know what a cake race is.

Daily Tar Heel, 2 November 1923.

Daily Tar Heel, 2 November 1923.

A little research revealed that the students lined up in the 1924 photo were doing exactly what the caption said: racing for cakes. The annual race began in the 1920s as an intramural event held in the fall. Students ran a cross country race covering one and a half to two miles with the winners in each of several divisions receiving cakes. In some years, students competed in teams, with prizes for the dorms that had the most students participating.

The Cake Race was popular at UNC in the 1920s and 1930s, but was discontinued in 1938. The race was revived 20 years later, in 1958, and was run annually through the 1960s. After that there were only brief references to the race in the DTH in 1980 and 1981, and nothing after.

The practice of racing for cakes was not unique to UNC. I found references to cake races at Georgia Tech (as early as 1911), Auburn, and Davidson College, which still holds an annual freshmen cake race.

If you know more about the cake race at UNC, or why college students began racing for cakes in the first place, please let us know in the comments.

Cake Race winners, 1962. UNC Photo Lab collection (P0031).

Cake Race winners, 1962. UNC Photo Lab collection (P0031).

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Coming Soon: A New Look for The Carolina Story

The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of UNC History was first published nearly 10 years ago, on University Day, 2006. The website was created to provide an accurate and comprehensive guide to UNC history. While ten years is a short period in the long history of the university, it is a pretty long time for a website. As it approaches its tenth anniversary, The Carolina Story is getting an upgrade.

The UNC University Library, which hosts the website, is actively working to migrate the website contents to new technology to ensure that it can be easily updated and maintained long into the future (for those curious about the tools involved, it’s moving from a custom-built Django platform to Omeka). Not only will this make the back end of the website easier to maintain, it will enable us to update and expand the site’s entries and features.

The technology upgrade will bring a new look to the Carolina Story. While the front page will be different, all of the content will remain the same, at least for now. The Chancellor’s Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History is currently evaluating all of the ways that the university represents its history, including The Carolina Story. We will work closely with the task force and others to ensure that The Carolina Story remains an honest, authoritative, and helpful resource for anyone interested in UNC history.

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From the Archives: James Walker to Robert House: “I have made footprints around the world defending a free society.”

UNC admitted its first African American students in 1951. While the students were able to enroll in classes and live in a dorm, many of the campus activities remained either closed to African Americans or strictly segregated. We came across an example of the students’ ongoing struggle to participate in normal campus life in a letter from James Walker to Chancellor Robert House in January 1952.

As the law school students planned their traditional spring dance, the question arose about whether the recently-admitted African American students would be able to attend. The student-run Law Association put it to a vote, asking whether the dance should be open to all students. The vote was fairly close, passing 82-63. The Daily Tar Heel reported on the “possible bi-racial dance,” calling it “the first in the history of the University and perhaps in the South” (DTH 1/15/52).

But the possibility of an integrated dance was quickly vetoed by the campus administration. Citing a Board of Trustees ruling prohibiting unsegregated social gatherings, Chancellor House wrote that “no mixed social functions shall be held on the University campus.” (DTH 1/16/52)

The letter shown below is James Walker’s response to House’s ruling. It is from the Chancellor’s records in University Archives, included among clippings and correspondence documenting desegregation efforts at the university, including Walker’s push to end segregated seating in Kenan Stadium.

Walker writes of his frustration at House’s decision, noting that it was especially cruel for having been announced right before exams. But Walker remains undeterred, writing, “I will never accept the denial of a privilege. I have made footprints around the world defending a free society.”

Letter from James Walker Jr. (page one), in the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Robert Burton House Records #40019, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Letter from James Walker Jr. (page two), in the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Robert Burton House Records #40019, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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