Tag Archives: Carolina

A freshman stands up to being hazed

In our second installment of our “welcome back” series, we feature a letter from Neil A. Sinclair (a freshman) to his mother, 9 September 1882, in which he recounts his experiences with being hazed by the older boys at Carolina. Hazing was frequent during the early years of the University.  In Kemp Plummer Battle’s “History of the University of North Carolina. Volume II: From 1868 to 1912,” available online through DocSouth, you’ll find a lot of description about these hazing practices (starts around page 294 of the electronic version), including descriptions of the “blacking parties” mentioned in Sinclair’s letter below:

There has been [a] good deal of “freshing,” but I’ve been troubled but very little.  The first of the week, while going to supper one evening, a fellow thought he would be smart & stepped up in my path & drew his fist as if he were going to knock me down.  He came meeting me, but I deliberately walked on till we met & ran up against each other, but instead of backing off I stood firm & looked him square in the eyes.  He seemed rather disappointed & after a while asked what I was looking at him so hard for, thinking he would create a laugh, but I said, “I was just going to keel you about 10 ft. out there on the grass if you had touched me,” & I would have done it too.  He saw I was in earnest & he got mighty small & slunk around to one side of me & passed on leaving me in possession of the field.  Then I started on without even looking back & the crowd first yelled at the Sophomore about allowing a Freshman to bully him.  I was not troubled any more till Wednesday night.  About 25 boys came around & told me I had to make them a bow, but I told them I would do nothing of the kind.  They also tried to make me get on the table & speak & to dance but I would not. They said they would black me then.  Ransom & 2 others about drunk were going to do the blacking.  I told them that was one thing I did not propose to allow & that I would not be blacked alive & that the first man that attempted to black me would get that. I told them there was but one thing they could make me do & that was to trot[?], that I would not think of fighting a man for such a thing as that, & I knew they could carry me by force.  So they gave out their blacking notion & we started out & just as we got to the door, Pres. Battle met us & said, “Gentlemen, this devilment has got to stop.”  In five minutes the whole campus was quiet, & for 3 hours before you could have heard the noise for 5 miles….

Beware of fiddlin’ roommates

As our way of welcoming Carolina students back to campus, this week we’ll share a few reflections and experiences of bygone Tar Heels.  These letters and diary entries are rich, funny, often surprising accounts of student life in Chapel Hill.

Take, for example, this 21 January 1834 letter from Charles L. Pettigrew to his father in which junior writes of the challenges in finding (and keeping) a good roommate.

Letter from Charles L. Pettigrew to his father, 21 January 1834 (from Pettigrew Family Papers, #592)

Letter from Charles L. Pettigrew to his father, 21 January 1834 (from Pettigrew Family Papers, #592)

The business of the session has again commenced and I am in a very neat and warm room with out a room-mate, nor do I intend to take a room-mate because good ones are so hard to find; I had one last session, I was compelled to take him his brother wrote to me to take him in my room and there by he would be under some restraint, his brother had just graduated, and had left me his room one of the best rooms and some say the best in college and therefore I felt myself under some sort of obliation [sic] to him, for the first two months he made no noise studied hard and behaved himself well and properly and I liked him very much, the affection was reciprocated, but after a while he got a fiddle and of course got among the fiddlers in college idle and worthless fellows, then he began somewhat to absent himself from his room and finally he went and staid [sic] with one altogether although his trunk was in my room, so we parted and and [sic] very seldom see each other, after he left me he began to drink considerably and to have wines and brandy continually, and boy of about 15, I am afraid he will not do much good in this world…