Collections and Resources, Exhibits, North Carolina History, Special Collections

Two Centuries of Textbooks on Exhibit in Wilson Library

Curriculum and Controversy: Two Centuries of Textbooks in North Carolina
North Carolina Collection Gallery, Wilson Special Collections Library
Oct. 21, 2011 – Jan. 31, 2012
Free and open to the public
Information: (919) 962-0104 or

Civil War-era schoolbooks, banned biology texts, and the first Dick and Jane books to include African Americans are now on display as part of Curriculum and Controversy: Two Centuries of Textbooks in North Carolina. The exhibition in the North Carolina Collection Gallery of the Wilson Special Collections Library will run through Jan. 31, 2012.

Curriculum and Controversy examines social history of the last two centuries through the schoolbooks used by North Carolina students. Visitors can see how textbooks have imparted values about race, gender roles, and social change, and how treatment of these issues evolved over time.

The earliest textbooks offered primarily moral lessons, said Linda Jacobson, keeper of the North Carolina Collection Gallery and one of the exhibition organizers.

Panel on Textbooks
Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011
Wilson Library
5 p.m. Reception and exhibition viewing
5:30 p.m. Program
Free and open to the public

Bill McDiarmid, dean of the UNC School of Education, will moderate a panel discussion about the current state and future of textbooks in North Carolina. What are the implications of using digital textbooks? Is a state textbook commission still necessary? Do textbook publishers dictate what’s taught in the classroom? (Read more)

“It’s shocking for a modern reader to see warnings about drunkenness and stories about death in a textbook,” said Jacobson. “It really demonstrates how sensibilities have changed, as well as our notions about childhood and the purpose of schooling.”

Exhibition highlights include:

    • The First Dixie Reader and other textbooks from the 1860s that supported a slaveholding ideology;
    • Two biology textbooks that were banned from North Carolina classrooms in the 1920s because of their teachings on evolution;
    • Fun with Our Friends and More Fun with Our Friends, Dick and Jane books from the 1960s featuring the African American children Mike, Penny, and Pam.

Wilson Library hours are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m; Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.

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