Artifact of the Month: Saunders Hall plaque

This month’s Artifact of the Month is the plaque that appeared on the building now known as Carolina Hall.

Image of a Plaque

Completed in 1922, the academic building originally got its name from class of 1854 graduate William Lawrence Saunders. Leading into 2015, UNC students objected to Saunders’ reported membership in the Ku Klux Klan and issued a call to action. According to the News and Observer, the UNC Board of Trustees deliberated for “about a year,” eventually voting 10-3 to select a more “unifying name.”

Even before the Board’s deliberation, some students proposed that the building should honor anthropologist and writer Zora Neal Hurston. The students advocated for that name because as an African American woman, her identity contrasted the issues of racism and sexism perpetuated by having Saunders’ name on the building. Hurston also had ties to the University: in 1939 she attended writing classes at UNC with playwright Paul Green. Some activists used hashtags like “#HurstonHall” on Twitter, while others made T-shirts like this one, from the University Archives’ digital T-shirt archive.

Image of a T-Shirt

On May 28, 2015, the UNC Board of Trustees proceeded with renaming Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall. The Board also issued a sixteen-year moratorium on renaming historic buildings. According to The Daily Tar Heel, some activists critiqued the moratorium as well as the selection of the name “Carolina Hall.”

In a May 2015 article of the Daily Tar Heel, senior Judy Robbins was quoted as saying, “Renaming it Carolina Hall is automatically silencing all of the students who worked on this and also all students of color who have ever attended UNC and ever will attend UNC.” Carolina Hall officially reopened in the fall of that same year with a new name plaque. The old Saunders Hall plaque came to the North Carolina Collection Gallery.

On November 11, 2016, a new exhibit opened exploring the history of the building’s name, William Saunders, and the Reconstruction era.

Picture of Exhibit

Posted in Artifact of the Month, UNC History | Comments Off on Artifact of the Month: Saunders Hall plaque

Carolina Firsts: Karen L. Parker

At the University Day celebration on October 11, 2016, Chancellor Carol Folt announced a new program to name scholarships after notable “firsts” in UNC history. In recognition of the individuals recognized as pioneers at UNC, the University Archives is publishing blog posts with more information about each of the twenty-one “firsts.” This post is part of that series.

Karen L. Parker Diary, Letter, and Clippings #5275, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Karen L. Parker Diary, Letter, and Clippings #5275, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Karen L. Parker made history at UNC in 1965, when she became the first African American woman to receive an undergraduate degree from the University.

Parker began her studies at UNC in 1963 following two years of study at the North Carolina Women’s College in Greensboro (now UNC-Greensboro). During her time at UNC, she took an active role in the local and national civil rights movements, participating in sit-ins and marches. The diary she kept as a student — which documents her experience on campus and in the community, her hopes and goals for the future, and the trials she encountered along the way — has been digitized and can be found in the Southern Historical Collection.  

At UNC, Parker majored in Journalism. For her senior year, she was named the editor of The Journalista news publication put out by the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Parker was also chosen to participate in UNC’s exchange program with the University of Toronto.

After graduating, Parker went on to have a successful career in journalism, working at Grand Rapids Press in Grand Rapids, Michigan; the Los Angeles Times; and other publications before returning to North Carolina to work at the Winston-Salem Journal. She retired in 2010, and was inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame in 2012.

Parker has been active with UNC, serving on the Friends of the Library Board and the Board of the General Alumni Association. In 2015, during the campaign to rename the former Saunders Hall (now Carolina Hall), a UNC student wrote to the Daily Tar Heel published a letter to the editor, suggesting that the building be renamed in honor of Karen Parker.

Sources and Further Reading:

A Role Model for Change.” UNC News Services, February 19, 2015.

Karen Parker.” I Raised My Hand to Volunteer, UNC Library Exhibit, 2007.

Morgan Jones, “Karen Parker: A Woman to Remember.” For the Record, UNC University Archives blog, March 18, 2013.

Karen L. Parker Diary, Letter, and Clippings #5275, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Oral Histories:

  • February 2007 interview with the Southern Oral History Program
  • April 2007 interview with the Southern Oral History Program
  • December 2012 interview with UNC-Greensboro
  • March 2016 interview with the Southern Oral History Program
Posted in black history, Carolina Firsts, Civil Rights, Karen Parker, Student LIfe, University Archives, University History, women at carolina | Comments Off on Carolina Firsts: Karen L. Parker

A Cartoon Mystery Solved

An ink drawing of two trains about to collide on the same track, one labelled "Chemistry" and one labelled "Physics"above a drawing of two roosters about to fight.

A late 1870s conflict between the Chemistry and Physics departments depicted as a train wreck and a cock fight. From the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives.

A few years ago, we posted about a series of cartoons found in the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005). The large, undated drawings showed Chemistry and Physics as colliding trains, fighting roosters, and scuffling men. We weren’t sure when the cartoons were made, or what exactly they meant. But while searching the Daily Tar Heel on Newspapers.com today, I stumbled across a story that offers an explanation – a story of inter-departmental conflict and a creative student prank.

The June 6, 1904 issue of the Daily Tar Heel reports that the Alumni Association invited Judge Francis D. Winston, class of 1879, to speak and share his memories of his time at UNC. In his speech, he recalled:

The reopened University* found itself practically without scientific apparatus. Its scarcity caused a conflict between two members of the faculty. The institution owned a dilapidated air pump, which was claimed by two departments – Chemistry and Physics. The professor of Physics, a man of few words and quick to act, took it to his room in the end of the Old West. In his absence the professor of chemistry had it taken to Person Hall by the college servant. Professor [Ralph Henry] Graves arrived on the scene just as it reached the door. He seized it and had it returned. Professor [Alexander Fletcher Redd] Reed [sic] interfered and they came ‘mighty nigh fighting’with chemistry worsted. And this was in the days of a struggling college, over an instrument which Dr. Elisha Mitchell had condemned as useless in 1856 and which had not exhausted air in a quarter of a century.

An ink drawing showing two men in suits fighting over an air pump, which is on the ground between them. One man is labelled "Chemistry" and the other "Physics." The man labelled "Chemistry" has a speech bubble coming from his mouth that reads, "I'll be damned if you shall!" Above the men is the header "The Climax Reached."

Two men, presumably Professors Redd and Graves, shown in conflict over an air pump. The man labelled “Chemistry” has a speech bubble that reads, “I’ll be damned if you shall.” From the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives.

The morning after this occurrence there was seen over the rostrum in the chapel, a large drawing in flaming colors, of two engines approaching each other on the same track. They were labeled Chemistry and Physics. Another scene told the story. Chemistry was derailed and demolished. Every student was at prayers that morning. The interest was manifest.

Dr. [Charles] Phillips was conducting chapel prayers that week. When he entered the door he took in the situation at a glance. When near the bull pen he broke into a quick run. He was applauded. He rushed up the steps to the hanging cartoons, but he failed to reach them, and he tried again and again. He was not without sympathy in the student body. How well do I recall their efforts of help and encouragement, when with his hand within an inch of the paper some one would cry: “Just a little more, oop-a-doop, a little higher.” But it was beyond his reach and he sat down. Wilson Caldwell, the college servant was sent for and the papers removed and prayers were said.

The next morning the artist put the incident into another form by having a game cock labeled Physics after a crestfallen, retreating rooster named Chemistry. The crowd was expectant. The good doctor saw the cartoons as he entered the door. He went to the desk with measured step. He appeared not to notice it. In the lesson that he read occurred this verse: ‘Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even or at midnight,’ and here he paused, ‘or at the cock crowing in the morning, lest coming suddenly he might find you sleeping.’

Though Winston’s memories of the cartoons and the event they commemorated – shared thirty years after the fact – may not be entirely reliable, these cartoons now make a lot more sense. We now know that they were created between 1875 and 1879 and refer to a real conflict between two departments on campus. The drawing of the two men fighting over a piece of equipment labelled “air pump” can be taken much more literally than previously thought, as we now know it depicts an actual dispute over an air pump.

Although Winston remembered the train and rooster drawings appearing separately and they are here presented on one sheet of paper, the holes and tears at the corners of these cartoons suggest that these may some of the original drawings he remembered being hung in Gerrard Hall during chapel exercises.

 

*The University of North Carolina was closed from February 1871 to September 1875. Learn more about the University during the Civil War and Reconstruction. 

 

Posted in From the Archives, University Archives, University History | Comments Off on A Cartoon Mystery Solved

Did Hinton James Really Walk all the way to UNC?

The arrival of Hinton James, as imagined by the 1935 Yackety Yack.

It’s one of the most enduring legends of UNC history: a lone student, Hinton James, walking all the way from his home in Wilmington and arriving in Chapel Hill on February 12, 1795, where he reported to the one-building campus and enrolled, becoming the first student at the University of North Carolina. But did he really walk all the way here?

We’re not sure. We checked all of the records and reports that we could find and, while there are no contemporary reports confirming James’s long walk to Chapel Hill, there’s nothing to refute the story, either.

We know for certain that UNC officially opened on January 15, 1795. It was reported to be a blustery day and must have been an odd ceremony because there were no students present. The campus remained empty of students for four weeks before James arrived. For the two weeks after that, he was the only student at the school. Others trickled in after that and by 1798 James was part of the first graduating class at UNC, when a grand total of seven students received their diplomas.

Entry from the Philanthropic Society Minutes, 1795 (probably not written by Hinton James).

Hinton James did not have a lot of options for getting from Wilmington to Chapel Hill in 1795. We know he didn’t take I-40, and the arrival of railroads in North Carolina was still a few decades away. He probably traveled along recently established post roads to Raleigh and then found his way to Chapel Hill. For the long trip inland he could have taken a horse-drawn carriage, ridden on horseback, or, of course, walked. Given reports about the state of the roads during that cold, wet winter, a carriage was probably out of the question.

Hinton James’s signature from an 1838 letter reflecting on his time at UNC.

In the University Archives, there is a short account of the early days of the University written by Hinton James himself in 1838. He mentions the names of early professors and students and describes early exams, but does not talk about how he got to campus.

The earliest account that we’ve been able find, which mentions James’s mode of travel, was a speech by UNC history professor (and later President) Kemp Plummer Battle at University Day in 1880 (later reprinted in the 1886-1887 North Carolina University Magazine). Battle wrote, “Soon the first student came in — journeying all the way, hundreds of miles, from the Lower Cape Fear, on horseback doubtless, saddle-bags between his legs.”

Shirt from Hinton James Day, ca. 2010. From the UNC T-Shirt Archive.

Battle wrote about James in both volumes of his history of the University, though he told the story slightly differently in each. In the first volume, published in 1907, he wrote, “It was not until the 12th of February that the first student arrived, with no companion, all the way from the banks of the lower Cape Fear, the precursor of a long line of seekers after knowledge. His residence was Wilmington, his name Hinton James.” By saying that James arrived with “no companion,” Battle likely meant that he was the only student at the time. But this phrase may have been interpreted to mean that James made the entire trip by himself, a common detail in the story we often hear today.

After Battle’s history was published, the story began to take on the form we know today. Early 20th century issues of the Tar Heel mention James as the first student, but the first suggestion we could find of his having walked was in a 1908 article about the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, which referred to “the time when Hinton James first tramped from Wilmington to Chapel Hill and found himself the only student on the campus.” (Tar Heel, 17 September 1908).

When Kemp Battle published the second volume of his history of UNC, in 1912, the story changed a little: “Thus it happens that Hinton James has gained immortal fame by being the first to trudge through the muddy roads of the winter of 1795, and presenting himself to the delighted gaze of the first presiding Professor, Dr. David Ker, exactly four weeks after the session began.”

Note that these don’t specifically say that he walked. Can one tramp or trudge on horseback? We’re not sure.

It didn’t take much longer for the myth to begin to take shape. A 1920 Tar Heel article  said that “Hinton James established the Carolina long-distance walking record by tramping all the way from Wilmington so that he could be the first student to enter the University when it opened in 1795.” (Tar Heel, 20 June 1920).

While the story took hold, some still expressed doubt. At the University’s Sesquicentennial Convocation in April 1946, Victor Bryant, the chairman of the Legislative Committee on the Sesquicentennial, delivered the opening remarks. Bryant said, “We are told [Hinton James] had walked to Chapel Hill from his home in Wilmington, though I believe it possible that he did some hitch-hiking.”

In 2008, these UNC alums followed in Hinton James’s footsteps by walking all the way from Wilmington to Chapel Hill. (UNC News Services)

In Archibald Henderson’s 1949 book, The Campus of the First State University, James’s trek had the sound of a mythical journey: “The ambitious freshman of eighteen years, historic in primacy, trudged manfully more than 150 miles to reach the beckoning bourne of the State University on February 12, 1795.”

By the time William Snider published Light on the Hill, in 1992, there seemed to be no doubt about James’s long journey. Referring to the first student, Snider writes, “His name was Hinton James and he walked the entire distance from his native Wilmington to Chapel Hill to enroll.”

So, returning to our original question: did Hinton James really walk the whole way from Wilmington to Chapel Hill? We don’t know. There’s nothing in the University Archives that says he did, but there’s also nothing to prove otherwise. As we’ve seen, the earliest account says James “probably” came on horseback, and it took a while for the full walking story to emerge. However, it’s certainly possible that this is a true story that was simply carried orally through the generations. No matter how Hinton James got here, it had to have been a difficult trip and serves as an enduring inspiration to the the generations of students who have continued to follow him in their own journeys to Chapel Hill.

Posted in University Archives, University History | Comments Off on Did Hinton James Really Walk all the way to UNC?

Ida Howell Friday

Detail of Ida Friday, from a group portrait by Hugh Morton, with her husband William Friday and their daughter Betsy after Ida received the University Medal from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 4 December 1985. (Photograph cropped by the author. To see the alternate portrait visit http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/morton_highlights/id/972.)

Detail of Ida Friday, from a group portrait by Hugh Morton, with her husband William Friday and their daughter Betsy after Ida received the University Medal from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 4 December 1985. (Photograph cropped by the author. Click on the photograph above to see the alternate portrait without cropping.)

There is news today that Ida Howell Friday, widow of former UNC President William “Bill” Friday, passed away on Monday.  She was 97.  Bill Friday encouraged Hugh Morton to donate his photographic archive to the North Carolina Collection.  There are a handful of images of Ida Friday in the online Hugh Morton collection, one of which can be seen below.  An online obituary can be read at the News and Observer website.

(L to R, Front Row): NC Governor Jim Hunt, NC Lt. Gov. Jimmy Green, and unidentified. Behind them are UNC President William Friday, and Friday's wife Ida. NCAA Championship, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, 29 March 1982. (Cropped by the author.)

(L to R, Front Row): NC Governor Jim Hunt, NC Lt. Gov. Jimmy Green, and unidentified. Behind them are UNC President William Friday, and Friday’s wife Ida. NCAA Championship, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, 29 March 1982. (Cropped by the author.)

 

Posted in Biography, UNC | Comments Off on Ida Howell Friday

German POWs at UNC

During World War II, UNC employed German prisoners of war in the dining halls.  Beginning in 1943, the Navy rented facilities from UNC to operate a Pre-Flight Training School and other training grounds.  As part of that arrangement, Lenoir Hall became a dining hall exclusively for Pre-Flight Cadets.  Renovations to Lenoir gave it a seating capacity of 1,800.  To maximize efficiency, waiters served the meals “family style” as opposed to having the cadets wait in a cafeteria line.  Some of those waiters were POWs bussed in from Camp Butner in Granville County, northeast of Durham.

Camp Butner received its first influx of German prisoners in Spring 1944.  It would become the largest POW camp in North Carolina with 889 prisoners as of June 1944.  While most of the Butner prisoners maintained the military installation, others worked outside the camp for civilian businesses.  A report on Camp Butner from April 1945 counted 110 prisoners employed as mess attendants at Duke University and UNC.

Excerpted from “Report of Inspection of Medical Activities at University of North Carolina: 6 November 1944” in Office of the Vice President for Finance of the University of North Carolina Records, University Archives, Wilson Library

There is very little information on these war prisoners in the University Archives.  The papers of the Vice President for Finance mentions them twice with respect to the financial arrangement between UNC and the Navy.  The Daily Tar Heel, however, offers more information about the German war prisoners and their reception on campus.  Barbara Swift, an opinion columnist, observed the prisoners “lying in the grass in front of Lenoir Dining Hall . . . laughing and talking, playing with a pack of campus poodles that happen[ed] by.”  She further speculated that “some profound change has come over these prisoners who have seen a tiny part of America.”

Others were more cynical.  A student objected to Swift’s “rosy picture of healthy boys,” instead depicting the war prisoners as “arrogant and conceited.”  He further argued that “They are not willing to accept or even listen to our beliefs and ideals.  They regard us as stupid, lazy Americans.”  This small debate in The Daily Tar Heel reveals something about the German war prisoners at UNC.  Though they are well hidden in the historical record, the German prisoners were a familiar sight to UNC students.  However, students rarely engaged with them.  It is unknown whether careful guarding, social taboos, the language barrier, or some combination thereof isolated the prisoners from the students.  People who worked in the dining hall clearly had contact with the prisoners, but the archive has no record, that we could find, of those relationships.

Citations:

“National Defense Navy: Commissioning/Decommissioning, 1943-1946” in Office of the Vice President for Finance of the University of North Carolina (System) Records, University Archives, Wilson Library.

Robert D. Billinger Jr., Nazi POWs in the Tar Heel State, (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008).

Barbara Swift, “They Tell Me,” Daily Tar Heel, 5 August 1944.

“Unknown Writer Insists Nazi’s Arrogant,” Daily Tar Heel, 8 August 1944.

Posted in POWs, University Archives, University History, workers, WWII | Comments Off on German POWs at UNC

Charles Scott and the Integration of Varsity Sports at Carolina

Exhibit runs from Jan. 30 to April 30 on the fourth floor of Wilson Library. Continue reading
Posted in Athletics, Exhibits, Homepage Exhibits, Homepage Special Collections, Photography, Special Collections, UNC History, University Archives | Comments Off on Charles Scott and the Integration of Varsity Sports at Carolina

Student Protests over Time in NC Student Publications

Today over on the DigitalNC blog we’re sharing 10 examples of North Carolina student protests, beginning with the historic Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in on this date in 1960 and continuing up to 2012.

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is located in Wilson Library and works closely with the North Carolina Collection. We’ll occasionally be cross-blogging some posts that North Carolina Miscellany readers may find interesting.

Posted in DigitalNC, From the Stacks, greensboro nc, history, North Carolina, Tar Talk, UNC History | Comments Off on Student Protests over Time in NC Student Publications

Student Protests over Time in NC Student Publications

Today over on the DigitalNC blog we’re sharing 10 examples of North Carolina student protests, beginning with the historic Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in on this date in 1960 and continuing up to 2012.

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is located in Wilson Library and works closely with the North Carolina Collection. We’ll occasionally be cross-blogging some posts that North Carolina Miscellany readers may find interesting.

Posted in DigitalNC, From the Stacks, greensboro nc, history, North Carolina, Tar Talk, UNC History | Comments Off on Student Protests over Time in NC Student Publications

The UNC “White Phantoms”?

Daily Tar Heel, 5 February 1933.

Daily Tar Heel, 5 February 1933.

The UNC men’s basketball team was known informally as the “White Phantoms” from the 1920s through 1950s. It wasn’t an official nickname — they’ve always been the Tar Heels — but White Phantoms was a popular term for the team, especially among sportswriters.

The origins of the nickname are not entirely clear. A Daily Tar Heel article from 1965 attributed the nickname to Atlanta sportswriter Morgan Blake, who first used it after witnessing the quiet, quick play of the team in a tournament. At the time, the team also wore all-white uniforms, which probably contributed to the nickname.

Daily Tar Heel, 25 March 1941.

Daily Tar Heel, 25 March 1941.

The name originated in an era when sportswriters were known for their colorful language and creative headlines. UNC was not the only team with an unofficial sports-section nickname: N.C. State was the “Red Terrors,” Duke was the “Blue Imps,” and the Carolina freshman team was known as the “Tar Babies.” Most of these informal names have now faded from use, though a few have remained (like the “Wahoos” of the University of Virginia).

Daily Tar Heel, 11 February 1928.

Daily Tar Heel, 11 February 1928.

Daily Tar Heel, 12 February 1927.

Daily Tar Heel, 12 February 1927.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to pin down exact dates for when the nickname was used, but a keyword search of the digitized Daily Tar Heel archives gives us a good idea. The first use appears in late 1925, around the time that UNC won the Southern Conference tournament in Atlanta (which supports the idea that it originated with an Atlanta sportswriter). It appears to have faded from use by 1951, possibly under the encouragement of the athletic department, which wanted to promote the consistent use of Tar Heels for all of the UNC teams.

 

Posted in University History | Comments Off on The UNC “White Phantoms”?