UNC’s Library opened the newest chapter of a great Carolina tradition on March 20. In front of a crowd of nearly 200 at the FedEx Global Education Center, Chancellor Carol L. Folt accepted the Library’s seven-millionth book as a gift from the John Wesley and Anna Hodgin Hanes Foundation.
Family member Borden Hanes presented the volume, a 1573 book of poems by Juan Latino. Scholars have described Latino as the first person of sub-Saharan African descent to publish a book of poems in a Western language.
Through its foundation, the Hanes family has given every milestone millionth volume in the UNC Library collection. And as the millionths mount up, the tradition—which officials believe is unique among research libraries—has taken on a significance of its own, coming to symbolize an enduring belief in the power of the written word and the mission of the University.
“It’s an amazing tradition,” Folt said during her remarks. “The heart of a great university is its library, and that is particularly important at a place like UNC. Being the ‘University of the People’ means that we have an obligation to keep our library strong.”
University Librarian Sarah Michalak said that the story of Juan Latino, who was raised as the slave to a noble family in Spain and earned his freedom through mastery of Latin and Greek, called to her mind a story closer to home—that of George Moses Horton, the slave who invented poetry for Carolina students during the 19th century.
“Both men found their way forward through learning, literature, and the creative strength within themselves,” she said in her remarks. “Whether from within or from outside the walls, both recognized in academia a world that could change their destiny. As we gather here today, the idea of a great University continues to animate us—a University open to all and inspiring dreams of a better future, a University with a thriving Library at its heart.”
The rare volume of poetry—one of only a few copies in U.S. libraries—will take its place in the stacks of the Rare Book Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library. There, as part of another great Carolina tradition, it will be available for study and consultation by students, researchers, and any who wish to see it and add their own chapter to the history of learning.
- Library Celebrates Seven Million Books with Rare Poetry Volume of the African Diaspora
- Rare Book Collection in Wilson Special Collections Library