Behind the Scenes: Describing Archived Websites

On May 22, I participated in an Archive-It training webinar on describing archived websites. The following is a summary of my short presentation on the Wilson Special Collection Library’s approach to describing archived websites in finding aids.

Special Collections has been archiving websites with Archive-It since 2013. Our Archive-It account is spilt into collections that reflect our five main collecting units as well as one collection for the UNC at Chapel Hill Art Library. Some of our collecting units use catalog records to describe archived websites, but my presentation is focused on the finding aid side of the house and uses examples from the University Archives collection.

What makes describing websites unique?

In many ways, our approach to archived website description lines up with existing archival finding aid practices. However, there are some ways that archived websites are unique from other materials. For example, date can be tricky. Do we describe the date we archived the website or try to assign some kind of creation date? Our technical services team opted for describing the date we started archiving a website rather than trying to assign the website a date of use or creation. Other challenges are the recurring nature of “crawling” websites, frequently changing content, URL changes and redirects, the differing frequencies used to archive different websites in our collections, and the technical limitations and incompleteness of some archived websites.

Case Studies

We have some consistency in our approach, but we don’t have written documentation yet. The following examples are representative of our approach as well as a couple newer things we have tried more recently.

Archive-It Collection level description

  • The first example is a finding aid for the University Archives’ Archive-it collection. The finding aid was created in 2013 and serves as a blanket entry point and general description of all URLs in the collection. I think this is a helpful finding aid to have, but the University Archives collection has grown a lot since 2013. One improvement might be adding series to this finding aid that describe groups of related URLs in the collection.  The additional description will help the finding aid show up in more searches. It would also provide users with more access points rather than just being transported directly to the entire (very long) list of URLs in our collection.

URL level description

  • The second example is adding description of individual URLs to finding aids. This style of description is pretty standard across manuscript collecting units and was implemented broadly by our technical services team in 2013-14. Typically, these URLs were selected for archiving because we already had a collection for the person or organization. When adding individual archived websites to finding aids, we link to the Archive-It “calendar page” that shows each of the dates we archived the URL. The description also provides the URL, the first crawl date by month and year, and a brief description of the live website.
  • This approach works well. One way I’d like to iterate on this approach is to figure out how best to represent the incomplete nature of archived websites in the finding aid. The description of the site describes the live website features and content, but the archived version may be different based on how often we archive it or it may have elements missing due to technical limitations of web crawlers.
  • Example:

Group of related URLs description

  • A third way we’ve represented archived websites is by creator groups and this is a slightly newer approach for us. Instead of listing individual websites on this finding aid, we added one link to the group of URLs created by the student organization. We could have done item level and that might allow for better description of the URLs given that each is quite different (e.g. a Facebook event page vs. Email newsletter vs. a website). But linking to a group of URLs does fit more closely to traditional archival description practices that focus on aggregate rather than items. We’ll have to continue to think about how to handle the donation or selection of several websites by one creator in our descriptions.
  • Example:

Intersection of legacy media and websites

  • The last example is really different from our other archived websites. Last year I worked on a project with a colleague to deal with website directories given to UA on optical media (I wrote about it on the blog here). These sites are no longer live on the web. We essentially re-hosted the website, gave it an artificial URL, and crawled it with Archive-It.
  • One of the questions we had was how to best describe these websites. In order to re-host and archive the sites with Archive-It we had to use an artificial URL and the crawl date is very different from the creation/use of the site. Additionally, the directory of files from the DVD had already been ingested to the repository a couple years ago. We needed to make some connections between these factors.
  • We decided to keep a link to the repository, note the DVD identification number, link to Archive-It, and explain a bit about the process to re-host the site.

Next Steps

Our staff last talked about this work in 2013-14 when we first started using Archive-It, so our best next step is to revisit this topic as a group and figure out how we can iterate on our current approaches to meet the unique description challenges posed by archived websites. I had the pleasure of participating in the OCLC Web Archives Description working group in 2016-17 and the guidelines produced by the group will be a helpful resource in this discussion. Documentation of our practices for describing websites will be an important addition to our existing documentation for description of born-digital materials in archival finding aids. I’d also like to use more metadata in the Archive-It access interface. The OCLC WAM guidelines can help with that as well.

You can use and explore our archived website collections online through our Archive-It access portal.




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Archival Photo Mystery: Buncombe County Military Recruits, 1916-1917

During a recent renovation project at Wilson Library, we came across a couple of photographic postcards that had been set aside.  Based on a note left with the photographs, it appeared that the items had probably been separated from the University Papers; however, when we tried to find corresponding folders or items in the collection, we were unsuccessful.  Thus began our most recent processing mystery.

The backs of the postcards are blank, which leads us to believe that they were enclosed with a letter, likely sent to President Edward Kidder Graham in 1917.  The photos are dated in 1916 and 1917 and show how two men have gained weight over the course of several months, before-and-after style.

We were of course curious about who these two men were and why their photos were sent to President Graham.  Based on UNC records, it doesn’t look like either White or Bryson were ever students here, but after some searching, we did learn a few things.

After looking through census and military records, we found a little information about the first man — Jobe White. He was from Weaverville, N.C., born in February 1897 to Malissa White, and he had two brothers — Bradshaw and Hardy.  We were less successful in discovering the identity of the second man.  The writing on the postcard appears to show just initials and surname — W.C. Bryson  — and we can guess that he was also from Buncombe County.  While we did find records that gave us pause and made us wonder whether this was the same man, none contained enough information for us to make a confident match.

What we can say is this: both men were part of the First North Carolina Infantry in 1916 and 1917. They were both from Buncombe County.  And they both gained a significant amount of weight over the course of five months of military training. (White gained 30 lbs. and Bryson gained 50.)

Based on the years and regiment, they were probably sent to Texas as part of the Mexican Border Campaign, also known as Pershing’s Punitive Expedition or the Pancho Villa Expedition. The First Regiment mustered at Camp Glenn, in Morehead City, during the first week of August 1916, arrived in El Paso in September 1916, and returned to North Carolina in early February 1917.

While we were able to find out all this just using the captions on both photographs, where they came from is still a mystery.  Were they sent to President Graham enclosed with a letter? Why were they sent to him? Who sent them?  If these men were never UNC students, how were they connected to the University? If you have any ideas, please let us know in the comments on this post or get in touch at


For further reading:

State Archives of North Carolina, First North Carolina Infantry Regiment Panoramic Photograph.

National Archives, The United States Armed Forces and the Mexican Punitive Expedition: Part 1.

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Slave Labor and South Building

South Building, often called “Main Building” in early university records, was one of the first buildings constructed on campus. Work began around 1798.[1] It is currently the central administration building on campus, housing the Office of the Chancellor, the Executive Vice Chancellor, and Provost. South Building is located in the heart of the original campus where the first structures built by white and black workers are located, including Old East, Old West, Gerrard Hall, the Steward’s Hall, Person Hall, and Smith Hall. At least 35 known enslaved laborers, who were skilled brick-masons, carpenters, and artisans, and who likewise provided labor such as transportation of materials, contributed extensively to the construction of South Building and its subsequent repairs.

Gaps remain in the archival sources and historical records regarding enslaved peoples’ involvement in the original construction of structures such as South Building. University financial records list payments made to Samuel Hopkins in 1798 for his supervision of work on “Main Building,” and to Major Pleasant Henderson for procuring roofing shells and taking over the duties as superintendent in 1799. These records emphasize the involvement of white men, however, and provide little detail on the construction process. It was not until the 1820s and 1837 when extensive repairs and additions were made to South that enslaved workers were mentioned by name and with some degree of specificity regarding the nature of their labor.[2] There is a mention of “7 days labor of a hand moving” the steel and iron; no names are provided, however, for the enslaved men who contributed to the initial construction on South Building.[3]

Various issues, including the temporary loss of funds from escheated property (including enslaved people) hindered the building’s completion until 1814.[4] South Building stood as one and a half roofless stories from 1801 and 1811.[5] Trustees began raising funds for the university through donations, called subscriptions, in 1803. President Joseph Caldwell himself traveled throughout North Carolina in 1809 and 1811 collecting funds from elite North Carolinians. Construction on South Building resumed in 1811 once enough subscriptions were collected. Contractor John Close oversaw the completion of South Building in 1814, but the records do not indicate whether he used enslaved labor during construction.[6]

The Board of Trustees and the Building Committee hired architect William Nichols in 1822 to divide the Prayer Hall in South Building into two stories. Over the course of several years, enslaved laborers added a ceiling, and converted existing rooms into a chemical laboratory, and a library and lecture room.[7] From 1824 to 1826, Nichols and his laborers, which included several dozen enslaved men hired out from trustees and other local slave owners, worked to remove the leaky cupola, make the roof on South Building “continuous,” and to build a belfry.[8] Clayton, Daniel, Peter, Sam, Toney, and Will quarried rock, made repairs, and performed carpenter and sawyer work on multiple buildings in addition to South Building, including Old East, Old West, and Steward’s Hall under Nichols’ supervision.[9]

Thomas Waitt and his workers completed covering the roof of South Building in tin in 1837. A bill to the trustees listed the full names and wages of white workers, and listed the names of enslaved plasterers and masons Stewart, Chester, Peter, Calvin, Evans, laborers Lewis, Tom, Redin, Abraham, Jordan, and unspecified labor performed by unnamed hands.[10] Isaac, Jorge, Lewis, Luke, Ransom, and Sam were listed on a bill detailing that they had labored on South Building’s cupola and belfry, along with putting a new roof and portico on Gerrard Hall.[11]

No further repairs were commissioned for South Building until 1860. Architect and builder Thomas Coates and his laborers began construction on a new cupola after the first burned down in 1856.[12] However, no records have been found which detail who the laborers involved in this project were.

While William Nichols compiled extensive records which documented enslaved workers’ various duties and skills, other builders either kept far fewer records of their efforts, or such records were lost or destroyed.[13] What records do exist, however, prove the necessity of enslaved people to the university’s existence, their centrality in maintaining the university’s functions, and that the funds provided for construction, repairs, and additions to South Building and others came from slaveholders whose profits were made through the efforts of enslaved people.

[1] Board of Trustees for the University of North Carolina Records, 1789-1932, #40001, Series 1, Minutes 1789-1932, Oversize Volume SV-40001/3, 7/11/1799, 20-22.

[2] University of North Carolina Papers, 1757-1935, #40005, Series 1, Folder 79, 2/1/1823; Folder 82, 7/3/1823; Folder 86, 3/1/1824; Folder 101, 5/15/1826; Folder 103, 8/9/1826; Folder 104, 9/1/1826;

[3] Ibid., 70.

[4] “South Building,” UNC University Library, 2005,; Kemp Plummer Battle, An Address on the History of the Buildings of the University of North Carolina (Greensboro: Thomas, Reece & Co., Printers, 1883), 11, 134.

[5] Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, Volume I: From its Beginning to the Death of President Swain, 1789-1868, (Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton Printing Company, 1907), 126-127.

[6] Battle, An Address, 11, 134.

[7] Battle, History of the University, 281-282; Archibald Henderson, “Chapter 9: Old West and The New Chapel; President Polk’s Visit,” The Campus of the First State University, (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1949), 85.

[8] Battle, History, 282.

[9] Folder 79, 2/1/1823; Folder 82, 6/4/1823; Folder 86, 3/1/1824; Folder 101, 5/15/1826; Folder 104, 9/1/1826.

[10] “Thomas A. Waitt’s bill for labour,” UNC Libraries, last modified 2005,

[11] UNC Papers, Series 1, Folder 101, 5/15/1826.

[12] Battle, History of the University, 653.

[13] Battle, An Address, 134.

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The Names of the Enslaved People who Built the University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was founded in the midst of a slave society by slaveholders. Enslaved people were present on campus from the laying of the cornerstone of Old East in 1793 until the end of the Civil War in 1865. Enslaved people built the earliest structures on the campus, many of which still exist. Old East, Old West, Gerrard Hall, South Building, Steward’s Hall, Person Hall, Smith Hall, and the original President’s House all took shape under the skilled hands of enslaved people owned or hired by the University’s trustees, employees, students, architects, and the townspeople of Chapel Hill. Enslaved people made repairs, provided supplies, and attended upon students and faculty as servants. This post is part of a series looking more closely at records documenting slavery at UNC. Explore all of the posts here.

The joint efforts of researchers, archivists, historians, students, and administrators has resulted in the identification of more than 100 enslaved people who built and labored at the University from 1795 to 1865. Students in History 398, an undergraduate seminar on slavery taught by Professor Jim Leloudis in Fall 2017 contributed significantly to this research.  The list of 119 names enumerated below is neither exhaustive nor complete, and it is certain that countless enslaved people who built, worked at, and contributed to the University will never be identified. Enslaved women and children are likewise largely absent from this list, but it is hoped that future work will uncover more information about their presence at and contributions to the University. While we only have brief glimpses into the personal lives of the enslaved people who built and sustained the University, their places within the broader contexts of the University and the Chapel Hill community allows for some understanding of their experiences, and most importantly, their humanity.

Note: Some names are repeated several times or have slightly different spellings, and may indicate multiple mentions of the same person; however, in a number of instances, men with the same name had different owners, and so the names are kept separate for the sake of accuracy and clarity. Additionally, there are several sources that mention unnamed enslaved peoples’ work, which have been omitted here for clarity. We are in the process of preparing, and will soon share, a spreadsheet with full citations to the records that mention the people listed below.

Name Occupations and Labor on Campus
“John Hoggs man” or John Hoggsman Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
[Mason’s] Tony Sawyer; repairs to Old East about 1823
Abel College servant hire in 1830
Abraham Repairs to South Building in 1837
Adams Labor on Old West in 1823
Albert Plasterer on additions to Old West in 1846; Brother of plasterer Osborne
Aldeman Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Allaman Labor on Old West in 1823
Allan Labor on Old West in 1823
Allan Labor on Old East in 1824
Allman Repairs to Old East foundation, taking down old gable, cleaning bricks about 1823
Anderson or Andson Sawing work on Old East and Old West in 1823
Austin Labor on unspecified buildings 1825-1826
Ben Servant hire at President’s House, 1850
Ben Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Benny Labor on observatory, digging pits in 1832
Bill Carpenter labor on Old West in 1823
Bob Labor on observatory, digging pits in 1832
Bob Labor on Old West in 1823
Bob Bricklayer on Old West in 1823
Bob Repairs on Old East about 1823
Cad Labor on Old West and Old East in 1824; May have run away from the university in 1825
Calvin Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Caplen Labor on Old East about 1823
Ceaser Labor on Old West in 1823
Charles Construction of Old West in 1823
Charles Labor on Old West in 1823
Chester Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Cicero Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Clayton Quarrying rock, making brick, repairs for the President’s House, Steward’s Hall, Gerrard Hall, South Building, and Belfry in 1826
Clayton Building Gerrard Hall, known as the New Chapel, in 1826
Clinton Labor on Old West in 1824
Clinton Labor on Old West and Old East in 1824
Clinton Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Daniel Hired by William Nichols for unspecified labor in 1822
Daniel Quarrying rock, making brick, carpenter on repairs for the President’s House, Steward’s Hall, Gerrard Hall, South Building, and Belfry in 1823-1824, 1826
Dave Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
David Barham College servant hired from William Barham by Professor James Phillips in 1830
Davy Construction of Old West in 1823
Dick Brick work on Old West 1823-1824
Dick Building Gerrard Hall, known as the New Chapel, in 1826
Edmund College servant; Improvement of grounds in 1848
Emmeline Washerwoman, seamstress for students in 1846
Ephraim Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Evans Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Frank Apprentice to Harry on unspecified labor in 1826
Gee Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
George Unspecified labor in 1826, included on list of hires for work on the President’s House, Steward’s Hall, Gerrard Hall, South Building, and Belfry
Glasgow Brickmaker on repairs to President’s House, Stewards Hall, Gerrard Hall, and South Building Belfry
Harry Unspecified labor in 1826, had an apprentice named Frank
Harry Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Harry Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Henderson Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Henry Labor on Old West in 1823
Henry Repairs to Old East about 1823
Henry Labor on Old West in 1823
Henry Labor on Old West in 1823
Henry Smith College servant
Isaac Labor on Old West and Old East in 1824
Isaac Construction of Old West, labor on Old East in 1823
Isaac Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
Isom Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Jack Labor on Old West in 1823
Jacob Carpenter work on Old East and Old West, 1823-1824, 1826
Jim Construction of Old West 1823-1824, 1826
Jim Labor on Old West in 1823
Joe Construction of Old West 1823-1824, 1826
John Labor on Old West in 1823
John Sawyer on Old East, unspecified labor on Old West in 1823
Jonathan Waiting on masons “while at window sills” on Old East; assisting in hauling sand and rock about 1823
Jorge Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Jourdan Master workman and carpenter, construction of Old West 1823-1824, 1826
Jourdan Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Lewis Labor on Old West in 1823
Lewis Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
Lewis Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Luke Labor on Old West and Old East 1823-1824
Luke Repairs on Old East about 1823
Luke Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
Luke Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Luke Hired for unspecified labor in 1825
Moses Labor on Old West in 1823
Ned Labor on Old West in 1823
Ned Labor on Old East in 1824
Ned Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Ned Peek Brickwork on Old West in 1823
Nelson College servant hired from Elizabeth King by Professor James Phillips in 1830
Nelson Repairs on Old East about 1823
Nelson Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
November Caldwell College servant in South Building and Old East for 30 years; wood collection
Osborne Mortar work and plasterer on additions to Old West in 1845; brother of plasterer Albert
Peter Repairs to Old East, President’s House, Stewards Hall, Gerrard Hall, and South Building Belfry in 1824
Peter Building Gerrard Hall in 1826
Peter Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Peter Labor on Old West in 1823
Peter Labor on Old West in 1823
Philip Hired by William Nichols for unspecified labor in 1822
Phillips Carpenter work on Old East and Old West, 1823-1824, 1826
Ransom Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
Redin[?] Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Sam Hired for unspecified labor in 1826
Sam Labor on Old West in 1823
Sam Carpenter on repairs to Old East, President’s House, Stewards Hall, Gerrard Hall, and South Building Belfry in 1824, 1826
Sam Labor on belfry and cupola in South Building; putting roof and portico in Gerrard Hall in 1826
Sam Morphis Hired himself out as a hack driver, dates unknown
Sim Fred College servant; Improvement of grounds in 1848
Stephen Construction of Old West 1823-1824, 1826
Sterling Sawyer laboring on Old West, repairs to Old East in 1823
Stewart Plasterer and mason, repairs on South Building in 1837
Thomas Laborer on repairs to South Building in 1837
Tom Hired out at university for cutting wood in 1820
Toney Bricklayer laboring on Old East, Old West, Gerrard Hall, Steward’s Hall, and South Building belfry 1823-1824, 1826
Will Sawyer laboring on Old East, Old West, Gerrard Hall, Steward’s Hall, and South Building
Willis Rock work for improvements to college grounds in 1848
Willis Labor on South Building and Gerrard Hall in 1826
Wilson Caldwell College servant
York Construction of Old West 1823
Young Rock work for improvements to college grounds in 1848
Zack Hired for unspecified labor in 1826


Posted in Slavery, Uncategorized, University History | 4 Comments

A New Addition of Athletics Photographs from the 1960s and 1970s

We are excited to announce that a new accession of photographs to the Department of Athletics Collection is available for research. This accession is particularly special since it contains images of less-documented sports — including women’s sports and intramural sports — from the 1960s and 1970s.

Included in this addition are images of the Titleholder’s Championship (also called the Women’s Pro Tournament), held at Southern Pines and sponsored by UNC in 1972.  The Titleholder’s Championship was only a handful of championship-level events for professional women’s golf in the 1970s, and the winner of the event — Sandra Palmer — was one of the most accomplished female golfers of the time. The addition also includes photographs of the 1963 renovations to Kenan Stadium.

The selection of photos below include images of men’s intramural handball; women’s intramural basketball, volleyball, tennis, and bowling.


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Order of the Golden Fleece: Frank Porter Graham Lecture on Excellence Speakers

Founded on April 11, 1904, the Order of the Golden Fleece is the oldest and highest honorary society at UNC. The presiding officer of the organization is called the Jason, and members of the order are called “argonauts.” Membership in the club was closed to women until 1972. Initiates to the society are classically inducted in public “tapping ceremonies,” an event where “giants” (the name for members of the Order disguised in black hoods) roam the audience of a campus event “tapping” those chosen for membership. After the ceremony, a guest speaker is called onto stage to give a lecture. Prior to the 1960s, the ceremony did not always include a lecture. In 1980, the guest lecture was named the Frank Porter Graham Lecture on Excellence. The following list is an incomplete timeline of speakers hosted by the Order of the Golden Fleece.

1930: Harry Woodburn Chase, UNC President

1942: Dr. Urban T. Holmes reads “Jason and the Argonauts”

1954: R. Mayne Albright

1955: Justice William H. Bobbitt

1958: Clifton L. Moore

1959: Lenoir Chambers

1960: Albert Coates

1961: Terry Sanford, NC Governor

1965: Frederick Henry Weaver

1966: Lennox Polk McLendon, Jr.

1967: Edward M. Yoder, Jr.

1968: Professor Walt Spearman

1969: Charles Kuralt

1970: Tom Wicker of the New York Times

1971: Richardson Preyer, NC Congressman

1972: William D. Snider, Editor

1973: James B. McMillan, Federal District Court Judge


1975: Howard Lee, Mayor of Chapel Hill

1976: Ed Yoder

1977: Hamilton Hobgood

1978: Samuel R Williamson

1979: McNeil Smith

1980: Charles Kuralt

1981: Richardson Preyer

1982: Hargrove Bowls, Jr.

1983: Jim Hunt, NC Governor

1984: James Cooper, U.S. Congress, Tennessee

1985: Dean Smith

1986: James Leutze

1987: Terry Sanford, U.S. Senate, N.C.

1988: Anson Dorrance

1989: Alexander Heard

1990: Judith A Hines

1991: Julius L Chambers

1992: Willis Padgett Whichard

1993: Richard Allen Vinroot

1994: Marie Watters Colton

1995: Chuck Stone, Jr.

1996: Shelby Foote

1997: Dr. Julius Chambers

1998: Edwin M Yoder, Jr.

1999: Erskine Bowles

2000: Benjamin S. Ruffin

2001: Richard J. Richardson

2002: Doris Betts

2003: Robert Kirkpatrick

2004: Dr. Francis Collins

2005: Phillip Clay, MIT Chancellor

2006: Woody Durham


2008: Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat

2009: Jonathan Reckford


2012: F. Taylor Branch


2014: Mia Hamm

2015: Carol Folt

2016: Thomas W Ross, Sr.

2017: Kevin Guskiewicz

2018: Bland Simpson



Daily Tar Heel (articles cited above).

Order of the Golden Fleece of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1904-2017
Finding Aid:

G. Nicholas Herman, The Order of the Golden Fleece at Chapel Hill, 1904-2004 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, 2005), 58.

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April 1968: Carolina Reacts to the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Daily Tar Heel headline reading "King Killed" in large letters

Headline from the Daily Tar Heel, 5 April 1968

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 – 50 years ago today – the reactions of UNC students were emblematic of the complex racial landscape at Carolina. Below is a timeline of events on campus in the week following the assassination.

April 4, 1968 

In an oral history conducted in 2015, alumnus John Sellars remembered the reaction on campus when students learned of Martin Luther King’s assassination: 

Senior yearbook portrait of John Sellars

John Sellars, from the 1971 Yackety Yack yearbook

The night that Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, I was in Hinton James, in my room, studying for class the next day. And all of a sudden I hear people running up and down the hallways, on the balconies, cheering. And so, I go outside to see what’s going on. And somebody says that Martin Luther King, Jr., just got assassinated. And it hit me that the reason for the cheering was because Martin Luther King, Jr., just got assassinated. Again, it gives you an idea of what the mood, what the attitude, what the social and racial structure was at UNC. Again, we’re talking about 1968.

April 5, 1968 

Approximately 60 African American students and local clergy held a memorial service on Polk Place followed by a meeting in Gerrard Hall. Speaking at the meeting, Black Student Movement President Preston Dobbins said, “Martin Luther King’s assassination is the very last time that a black man is going to be killed in this country without violent reaction” (Daily Tar Heel, 6 April 1968).

The Daily Tar Heel reported that approximately 30-40 black students, including Dobbins, walked down Franklin Street and through campus. They purchased several Confederate flags at a Franklin Street store and burned one on the sidewalk and the rest in front of the Kappa Alpha fraternity house.

After learning of violent protests around the country (including in Raleigh, where police used tear gas on student marchers), the Chapel Hill Police enact a voluntary curfew of 8:00pm, asking businesses to close early and suspending alcohol sales. (Daily Tar Heel, 7 April 1968)

People lining the sidewalk on Franklin Street. One holds a sign reading "Brotherhood and Human Dignity." Caption reads "Mourners Line Franklin Street."

From the Daily Tar Heel, 7 April 1968.

April 6, 1968 

Approximately 200 students and local residents line Franklin Street in a silent vigil honoring Dr. King (Daily Tar Heel, 7 April 1968).






From the Hugh Morton Photographic Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive.

 April 7, 1968 

Early in the morning, the Confederate Monument (“Silent Sam”) is spray painted (Daily Tar Heel, 10 April 1968).

Approximately 600 students march from Y Court to the First Baptist Church to pay tribute to Dr. King. Chancellor Sitterson and President Friday are part of the group (Daily Tar Heel, 9 April 1968).

First page of the program for an April 8, 1968 memorial service for Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial service program. From the Records of the Office of the Chancellor: J. Carlyle Sitterson (#40022), University Archives. Click the image above to read the full program.

April 8, 1968 

Approximately 2,000 people attended a memorial in honor of Dr. King at Memorial Hall (Daily Tar Heel, 10 April 1968).

 Some students volunteer to clean the Confederate Monument, which was spray painted over the weekend. During the clean-up, two small Confederate flags are placed on the statue, but were removed after an administrator asked them to be taken down (Daily Tar Heel, 9 April 1968).

April 9, 1968 

African American students and approximately 90% of UNC’s African American non-academic workers staged a one-day walkout. Their absence forced a cut in many services across campus, with several dining halls having to close. The boycott was encouraged by Preston Dobbins and BSM to give people time to mourn and show respect to Dr. King. Chancellor Sitterson announced that employees could take a half-day off if they chose (Daily Tar Heel, 10 April 1968).

A letter to the editor in the Daily Tar Heel criticizes King for taking breaking the law and inspiring violent protests. The author says that King’s assassination proves that “they who live by violence, die by it” (Daily Tar Heel, 9 April 1968) 

April 10, 1968 

Daily Tar Heel editorial criticizes the hypocrisy of the white moderates who attend the memorial services but do nothing to support civil rights and social justice for African Americans. On the same page, a letter to the editor criticizes the people who vandalized the Confederate monument, comparing them to King’s assassin (Daily Tar Heel, 10 April 1968). 


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Carolina Gay Association Southeastern Conference, 1976

From April 2-4 of 1976, the Carolina Gay Association (CGA) hosted the first annual Southeastern Gay Conference, a conference dedicated to “furthering the feminist and gay movements.” Tom Carr, the CGA Conference Coordinator, called it “a celebration of the gay lifestyle.” A major theme of the conference was how the gay identity, whether open or hidden, influences society, and that theme was addressed by three out of four of the major spokespersons.

The three spokespeople in question were Dave Kopay, Loretta Lotman, and Perry Deane Young. Dave Kopay was a running back for the Washington Redskins and one of the first professional football players to come out as gay (in December 1975). The Daily Tar Heel reports that in a press conference, Kopay said:

Many athletes are trapped by the feeling of macho heaped on the male in the U.S. To be homosexual and an athlete in unheard of. Hopefully there will be more athletes to come out now.

Young was a former writer for the Durham Morning Herald who was collaborating with Kopay on a book about homosexuality.

Lotman was the media director for the National Gay Task Force, a videotape producer, and additionally founded G-MAN, the Gay Media Alert Network. In her panel she discussed the discrimination faced by lesbians in the workplace and how they dealt with both sexism and homophobia.

The convention’s keynote address was delivered by Franklin Kameny, “the first self-acknowledged homosexual to run for Congress.” Though unsuccessful, he was nonetheless a man described by The Daily Tar Heel as “the country’s leading gay activist.” At the time the article was written, two gay congresspeople had won their seats since Kameny’s campaign. In his address Kameny stated that his campaign, even though it didn’t end with him in Congress, was beneficial to the gay community, partially because of its impact on the government’s political structure and partially as an effort to shift how queer culture was perceived by the minds of the general populace.

Read more about the Carolina Gay Association here.


The Daily Tar Heel 4/05/1976


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Collecting a Snapshot of #SilenceSam

The Confederate Monument on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus has been the subject of controversy and protest for decades. A detailed timeline and corresponding archival materials related to the monument between 1908 and 2015 can be explored online via our Guide to Resources about UNC’s Confederate Monument. While some aspects of the current protests mirror past efforts, social media has facilitated new approaches for sharing information and sparking action on campus. In an effort to document the current protests, we knew it would be important to explore methods for collecting a sampling of tweets related to the Silence Sam protests.  

We decided to use a tool called twarc to harvest tweet data for specific hashtags searches. Twarc is a Python package that makes use of the Twitter API to collect tweets. Between August 22 and December 15, 2017, we performed a weekly search and harvest of #silencesam and #silentsam. In addition, we infrequently captured select complementary hashtags: #boycottunc #boycottunctownhall #iaarchat and the @Move_Silent_Sam user account. 15,063 tweets were collected across all searches. The hashtags #silentsam and #silencesam make the up the majority with 12,993 tweets collected.  

The tweets are in a raw form, so to speak. Twarc returns the tweets and associated metadata in a JSON document. So, in this collection you won’t automatically find a timeline that looks like the Twitter website. Instead, what we have is a structured text document with many lines and each line represents a tweet and associated metadata about that tweet. The data can be manipulated in a variety of ways for analysis or viewing. A wide variety of visualization tools could be useful for working with the data.  

To get started working with this collection, though, you’ll first need a Twitter account and Hydrator or twarc installed.

The first step is to “hydrate” the dataset. There are some specific access stipulations for this collection due to the Twitter API terms of service. We cannot make the full data we collected available for use. In particular, we are unable to make deleted tweets available for use. Instead, we provide a list of the tweet identifiers (tweet ids) for all the tweets we’ve collected in our repository. This list of identifiers can be hydrated by querying the Twitter API for the tweets that are still publicly available. There are two options for hydrating the tweet ids.  

Download the Hydrator tool  

  • You’ll need to authorize the app to connect to your Twitter account.  
  • Upload the tweet identifier document to Hydrator and start the process.
  • Download the hydrated tweets from the tool.

Hydrate using the command line with twarc 

  • This method will require you to have Twitter API credentials. It’s not as intense as it sounds. Social Feed Manager, a project at George Washington University Libraries, provides a helpful guide in their documentation under the Adding Twitter Credentials section. Don’t worry about the parts that are specific to using Social Feed Manager. Your API keys will be entered via command line when setting up twarc. Instructions for setting up twarc are available on GitHub. 

Once you have hydrated the dataset using one of the options above, you’ll have the full text of tweets and metadata in a JSON document or a CSV spreadsheet (from Hydrator).

The next step is to begin working with the data. You could use a variety of tools to visualize the data.  Twarc comes with a few useful “utilities” that can also be used. A few are highlighted below: 

Screenshot of a wordcloud. some of the most prominent words are students, confederate, statue, unc, monument, silent, campus, protest

Sample wordcloud generated from collected tweets that included #silentsam or #silencesam (from Fall semester 2017).

Screenshot showing emojis found in tweets. Angry, red face emoji was most used.

The program provides a way to tally up the emojis used across collected tweets. 

The program is the best way to generate a timeline of tweets that can be read one by one. and 

These programs may be useful if you want to pare down the dataset. We don’t anticipate much duplication of tweets in the dataset, but no deduplication has been performed by us prior to making the collection available.

A note on images and video: There are limitations to collecting video and image files embedded in tweets due to the nature of the collecting by API. You may try using the method shared in this blog post from Tim Sherratt under Get Images. He uses image URLs and wget to gather pictures.

Access the Collection: You can find the collection description here and access to the tweet identifiers documents can be found here 

Other on-going collecting efforts related to the Confederate Monument protests that began on August 22, 2017 can be found:  

If you have materials related to the protests – like photos, signs, or video – and you are interested in donating these materials to the University Archives, please contact us by email 

 Other twarc and social media archive resources: 


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Slave Labor and Old East

Building Old East, 1793-1795

On October 12, 1793, construction began on Old East, UNC’s first building and the first public university building in the United States. Slave labor was likely used for the construction of Old East, and used extensively in subsequent repairs and expansion.

The Building Committee made a contract with a white man named James Patterson, a university land donor and slaveholder, to oversee construction of Old East along with two other men serving as undertakers, George Lucas and Patrick St. Lawrence.[1] The building was completed in 1795, but repairs and additions to the building took place throughout the antebellum period.

One indication that enslaved workers worked on Old East’s initial construction comes from a letter written by Patterson in 1795. Patterson mentioned that several of his “own slaves” had painted the roof of Old East that same year, a task he lamented for its dangers and the risk to the slaves’ lives. In subsequent maintenance, repairs, and construction from 1804 onward, many enslaved men worked as carpenters, bricklayers, and plasterers on Old East. Most of them appear to have been owned by slaveholders affiliated with the university or hired from the surrounding area of Orange and Chatham counties.

The records created by free whites such as Patterson can often be frustratingly limited in detail regarding the enslaved black people tasked with the majority of construction. Whites proved primarily concerned with documenting and discussing enslaved people in terms of their economic value, meaning their monetary worth and productive output as unpaid laborers. Indeed, Patterson’s concern for his slaves’ safety stemmed largely from his concerns over losing “a valuable servant.”[2] He never mentioned any of his slaves by name, and while three slaves are tallied in the 1790 census as part of Patterson’s household, no one but Patterson himself was identified by name.

Expanding Old East, 1822

In 1822, a third story was added to Old East under the supervision of designer and builder William Nichols and with the significant aid of enslaved workers. Some of the enslaved men who repaired Old East appear as first names tallied on bills so that their white owners could receive compensation for their labors. Bob and Henry repaired Old East’s foundation and put in stone window sills, while Nelson and Allman worked on the gable ends and chimneys; “Masons Tony” repaired holes in the walls and worked on the roof, while Luke, Isaac, Jonathan, and Caplen all assisted carpenters and performed various general labor tasks.[3] John C. White, who assisted William Nichols with overseeing the repairs and the workmen, presented a bill totaling the enslaved men’s labor at about $395, equivalent to roughly $7,935.35 today. He specified that the payment was “to be paid their several owners,” indicating the continued practice of hiring slaves from the surrounding area.[4] Beyond their first names and costs of their labor, however, it is difficult to parse out much about these enslaved men as individual people.

Bills and receipts for the “boarding of hands” during this time appears to indicate that various townspeople housed white contractors’ and professionals’ slaves for extended periods of time to work on the university buildings.[5] If this was the case, it would mean that these workers were potentially separated from their families and communities for extended periods of time filled with difficult and grueling work. The unabated nature of such labor appears to have taken a toll on these men, several of whom appear on records from 1823 to 1826. A receipt from 1824 indicates that enslaved workers owned by Colonel William Polk and Judge Frederick Nash, both trustees of the university, worked on Old East and several other buildings on campus when normally they would be resting.[6] From November 1823 to January 1824, enslaved workmen Phillips, Daniel, Will, Sam, and Jacob conducted overtime work on “Holy days,” usually the only days which enslaved people received respites from their dawn to dusk labor, as well as “night work.”[7]  Phillips, Jacob, and Sam were noted as carpenters, and likely performed more skilled work, while Will and Daniel worked as sawyers to cut the wood. Isaac and Allen, whose owner is unknown, also worked as sawyers for the Old East repairs. Sterling and Ned also worked on Old East in some capacity, though the records do not clarify what they both did. Nimrod Ragsdale, a white brick maker who provided tens of thousands of bricks for the third story addition to Old East, as well as the construction of Old West, also employed his slaves Dick and Ned Peek to assist him in making and placing the bricks, and it is likely they too conducted work on Old East.[8]

As valuable laborers put to difficult and sometimes dangerous work, enslaved workers at the university appear to have occasionally received some medical treatment. In September 1823, William Nichols received a bill from “Cave” Yancey, potentially a physician by the name of Charles Yancey who lived in Orange County and worked in some capacity near or at the university. The bill listed several visits Yancey made to several named and unnamed enslaved workers, including Peter and Anderson. Throughout 1823, Yancey had administered unspecified medicines, as well as an emetic, treated “bleeding,” and even spent “24 hours attendance” at the side of one worker. In all, the cost was $16.25 to keep enslaved workers sound and functional.[9]

In 1825, in the midst of work on Old East and other university buildings, a man by the name of Joseph Hawkins placed an advertisement in the Raleigh Register and North Carolina Weekly Advertiser offering a $50 reward for the capture and return of an unnamed runaway slave. Hawkins noted that the “cut-finger cad” had been hired “for most of the last two years” to William Nichols and worked at Chapel Hill. The man had likely absconded in order to find his wife, and carried with him distinct clothes and a dagger and pistol, rendering him potentially dangerous.[10] There is no way of knowing what ultimately caused the enslaved man to run away from his position as a hired hand, but perhaps an onerous schedule and the nature of construction work took a toll the man was no longer willing to bear. Perhaps he had been planning to escape for years and finally had an opportunity and the means to do so.

Expanding Old East, 1844-1845

The roof to Old East was repaired and covered with fireproof material in 1842, but this work was largely undocumented. In 1844, the Building Committee hired architect Alexander J. Davis and builders Isaac J. Collier and Kendall Waitt to lengthen both Old East and Old West.[11] The addition and repairs to Old East cost $9,454, or about $301,102.50 today.[12] Collier and Waitt’s contract specified that they were to provide the necessary materials and workers, called “chattels,” for which the white builders would ultimately be compensated.[13] Two highly skilled enslaved laborers, brothers Albert and Osborne, were hired to cover the new additions of Old East and Old West in plaster in 1845.[14] The brothers belonged to Dabney Cosby, himself a builder and brick mason who occasionally worked with Thomas Waitt, likely a relative of Kendall Waitt’s. Cosby owned at least 19 slaves according to the 1840 census, making him a wealthy man. According to Cosby, of the two brothers it was Albert upon whom the builders could “rely” because he performed “firstrate work, his Plaistering and roughcasting here has preference to any done in this part of the state.”[15] Albert’s skills as a plasterer earned him praise and specific mentions in Cobsy’s correspondence, emphasizing the particular importance whites ascribed to enslaved labor.

No other major repairs appear to have been made to Old East during the antebellum era. As the oldest structure on campus, Old East stands as a reminder of the university’s various roles in United States history. Original pieces of Old East, including its cornerstone, remain in the building today. It is thus worth considering the fact that the work conducted by enslaved people continues to shape and impact the university and its students. Enslaved people were fundamental to the creation of the University of North Carolina’s campus.[16]


[1] Battle, 46; OVCFB Records 40095 Series 4.1 Historical Financial Records, 1789 – 1919, Oversize Volume 5 Journal of the University of North Carolina, 1789-1859, p. 5

[2] University of North Carolina Papers, 1757-1935 (#40005), Series 1, Folder 8, James Patterson’s Request for Payment, August 18 1795,

[3] Perhaps one of the masons owned Tony, hence the moniker. Ibid, Folder #79, John C. White’s Bill for Labor of Negro Workmen, [1824],

[4] Ibid; “$395 in 1804 → 2018 | Inflation Calculator.” FinanceRef Inflation Calculator, Alioth Finance, 1 Feb. 2018,

[5] University of North Carolina Papers, Series #1, Folder #79, To The University of N Carolina, By John [Thomas], For H Thomson, January 1823;  Folder #79, Of John [Beard], 7th February 1824; Folder #81, To Mrs. Mitchell, May 3 1823; To Magie Henderson, May 29 1823″; Folder #82, Trustees of University to Captain William Nichols for Bills, June 4 1823; To Captain Robert Anderson, From Chapel Hill, July 3 1823; Folder #83, Trio of letters by [Unclear], November 1823; Salley Mitchel, November 15 1823; Folder #84, Disbursements, 1823.

[6] Folder #86, Trustees of University from November 1 $23 up to the 1 of Jan 1, 1824; Building Committee of the University of North Carolina, March 1 1824; Folder #79, Labour of negroes on new building to 1st of Feby, 1823; Folder #104, Account of Money Owed William Nichols for Labor and Materials, September 1, 1826.

[7] Folder #79, Labour of negroes on new building to 1st of Feby, 1823.

[8] Folder #84, William Nichols to John Haywood, November 1823; Folder #85, To Nimrod Ragsdale for 33,279 bricks for old colege…; 66 days work of Dick on the Brick work…75 days work of Ned Peek.

[9] Folder #83, William Nichols by Jno Barr to Cave Yancey, Dr, Sept 15, 1823.

[10] Joseph Hawkins, “$50 Reward For Cut-Finger Cad,” Raleigh Register and North Carolina Weekly Advertiser (NC), Jan 30, 1825,

[11] University of North Carolina Papers, Letter from Alexander J. Davis to David L. Swain, April 17, 1844,

[12] Ibid, List of Building Specifications and Costs, Compiled by Alexander J. Davis for David L. Swain, [1844?],; $9,454 in 1844 → 2018 | Inflation Calculator.” FinanceRef Inflation Calculator, Alioth Finance, 1 Feb. 2018,

[13] University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), Contract between the Board of Trustees and Collier & Waitt, December 20, 1844,

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid, Dabney Cosby to Davis L. Swain, May 11, 1846,

[16] Many thanks to Caroline Collins, Kacie England, Jennifer Gay, Claire Paluszak and Sydney Plummer for their exhaustive research on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s buildings and construction.

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