Graffiti on Silent Sam: 1968 and 2015

Last weekend,”Silent Sam,” the Confederate memorial located on McCorkle Place, was spray painted with “KKK,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Murderer” with an arrow pointing to the Confederate soldier above. The monument was covered before being cleaned a few days later.

The incident highlights Silent Sam’s place in the ongoing discussion of race, campus landmarks and spaces, and university history. It also reflects the renewed push against the display of Confederate symbols since the racially-motivated attack in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17.

However, while the action was timely given these current contexts, it isn’t a first. Most strikingly, in early April 1968, as the country was gripped by grief and unrest following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Silent Sam was splashed with red paint and its base covered with words and symbols.




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Electing a President: 85 Years Ago Today

Yearbook dedication to Frank Porter Graham, 1931. From the Yackety Yack, DigitalNC.

Yearbook dedication to Frank Porter Graham, 1931. From the Yackety Yack, DigitalNC.

Eighty-five years ago today on June 9, 1930, Frank Porter Graham was elected president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

According to the minutes of the Board of Trustees:

Mr. A.H. Graham, Chairman of the Fact-finding Committee appointed at the meeting on March 4, 1930, to investigate the availability of a new president for the University, made a very comprehensive report. He laid before the Board the names of the following ten persons, any one of whom, in the opinion of the committee, would make a satisfactory president: H.G. Baity, R.D.W. Connor, Frank P. Graham, R.B. House, Archibald Henderson, Louis R. Wilson, all of the University faculty, Ivey Lewis, of the University of Virginia, Howard Dement, of the Asheville School for Boys, Skelton Phelps, of Peabody College and John L. McConnaughy, of Connecticut Wesleyan.

Four ballots were taken, in which professors R.D.W. Connor and Graham took the lead. In the end, Graham won with 47 of 82 votes. The minutes continue:

Mr. Frank P. Graham having received a majority of the votes cast was declared elected president of the University. Mr. Daniels moved to make his election unanimous which was carried.

Governor Morrison moved that a committee of three be appointed to notify the new President of his election and bring him before the Board. Seconded and carried, the following committee being appointed: Messrs. Morrison, Daniels, and John J. Parker.

Judge Biggs moved that the salary of the new President be the same as that received by retiring President Chase. Carried.

President-elect Graham being presented to the Board was visibly overcome with emotion at the honor conferred upon him. After a moment of silence he announced that “with your help and with the help of God I accept the Presidency of the University.”

A brief recess was taken in order that the trustees might congratulate the new President.

Board of Trustees Minutes, June 9, 1930. From the Records of the Board of Trustees (#40001), University Archives, Wilson Library.

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University Archives in Action: Renaming Saunders Hall

Today the Board of Trustees voted 10 to 3 to rename Saunders Hall “Carolina Hall.” For those who’ve been under a rock for the past few years, the charge to change the name of Saunders Hall, which was named by trustees in 1920 after William Saunders (1835–1891), North Carolina Secretary of State and chief organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in the state, has been led by various student groups over the past two decades, most recently the Real Silent Same Coalition along with the Campus Y and other student groups.

Saunders’s involvement in the KKK was not ancillary to the decision to name the new building after him, but as seen in the minutes of the Board of Trustees, was indeed central. (You can read the minute books online.)


Minutes, Oversize Volume SV-40001/12 (p. 234), in the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina Records #40001, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

University Archives staff worked diligently to rediscover this information and provide it to trustees and to the public at large. It is gratifying to know that the (not always easy or recognized) work of collecting, describing, and preserving these materials played a part in energizing students and swaying the board.

We at Wilson Library work very hard to make primary information about the university available to the public, including online exhibits such as “Slavery and the Making of the University,” one of the first exhibits of its kind. We don’t need a mandate to do all we can to make university history public.

We depend on scholars and students to tell the story of the university. We just don’t have the time to read every sheet of paper that comes into our custody. Our job is to collect enough that our researchers have rich and inclusive documentation to work from and to describe it all in a way that gets that material into the hands of researchers as soon as possible.

If you’re interested in any aspect of university history, you can always come to Wilson Library and talk to a reference archivist to get access to the collections that might satisfy your curiosity.

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Disorder in Old West: the Student Riot of August, 1850

Charles Phillips

Charles Phillips

On the night of August 13, 1850, Charles Phillips, then a tutor of mathematics, heard “loud vociferations, high words, as of persons quarrelling, and other noises” coming from Old West (then known as West Building). As he went to investigate the disturbance, he could not have anticipated that the evening would end with him and a colleague cornered in a dorm room, fending off rioting students.

In his first sweep of West Building, Phillips found most of the students quiet in their rooms, but heard and saw students yelling and throwing stones at each other outside. He ran into his colleague Dr. Elisha Mitchell in the hallway, and they continued the investigation. In one room, the professors found “great disorder—the beds rumbled, the chairs in confusion, the floor very wet, and the remains of a stone vessel scattered up on it.” They found a nearly empty jug of whisky under the bed.

Elisha Mitchell

Elisha Mitchell

Upon leaving West, the professors encountered Manuel Fetter, professor of Greek language and literature, and retreated to the Laboratory to discuss the situation. However, as they left the Laboratory, they were immediately attacked. Phillips recalled:

Because of the vollies of stones which swept the passage I kept close to its northern wall, and looking through the opening that leads to the front door of the building I noticed a group of persons standing before the door. Immediately a volley of stones (or bats) entered, and a person passed me quickly accompanied by another volley. On speaking to him, I recognized Prof. Fetter who told me that he had been violently struck on the hand and leg. So violent was one of the blows that his cane was knocked to a distance from his hand.

Manuel Fetter

Manuel Fetter

When they eventually made their way back to West Building, they were met by more rowdy students, some disguised with blankets or fencing masks. As some students escaped through the windows, others began lobbing stones and sticks at the professors. The professors barricaded themselves in a student’s room, but the rioters continued their attack, knocking out a panel of the door. Phillips explained:

Discovering our exact position [in the room], those outside endeavoured to hit us by throwing obliquely into the room through the door and windows, and by introducing their hands so as to throw sideways directly at us. One individual introduced through a window, a stick two or three feet long and of the size of one’s wrist, evidently intending to swing it around and so strike us. As missiles were still entering the room, and our present was the only safe position, I immediately seized a chair and as an act of self defence urgently necessary, threw it in the direction of the concealed assailant. This act rendered the students outside much more excited, and threats of great violence, even to the getting our heart’s blood, were uttered for our striking a student.

After about an hour, a student, J.J. Slade, was able to reason with the rioters and escort the professors out on the condition that they leave campus immediately. The professors left and reported the night’s events to the president. They returned later that night with several other faculty members and searched the residence halls, but the disorder had subsided and most students were asleep in their beds.

The student who had come through the window with a club (and subsequently been hit by a chair) was expelled, but most students involved in the riot were not identified.


Charles Phillips’ testimony on the events of August 13, 1850. From the University Papers (#40005), University Archives, Wilson Library.


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The Cost of College: An Issue Then and Now

In recent times, the volcano of American student loan debt has been casting a tall and ominous shadow over the neatly trimmed lawns of American universities. Like a room of frantic volcanologists in the opening scenes of a disaster film, voices from across the country have forecast a cataclysmic eruption of student loan debt due to the exponential increase in the cost of attending college.

But, like all volcanoes, the rising cost of higher education did not become a problem overnight. Below are some insights on the issue given roughly half a century ago by former UNC President, William C. Friday, during a Board of Trustees Meeting on February 25, 1963, regarding raising tuition to fund the construction of new dormitories:

Bill Friday, 1962. From the  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive, Wilson Library.

Bill Friday, 1962. From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive, Wilson Library.

I feel I must point to the full significance of the continuing inflationary trend in the cost of going to college […] But it is a certainty that a public state university goes against one of the cardinal principles of its constitution if it shifts a disproportionate percentage of cost to the individual student. It should never be that the effective criterion of admissibility to the state university becomes a test of financial means. We are tending that way, and every increment of cost aggravates the tendency [….]

Building on this idea, President Friday makes the observation that:

State-supported institutions are erected and maintained by the public for the purpose of making higher education accessible to the rank and file of citizens. To perform this function, they must keep the doors open to students of all economic classes. Already, I fear, we have reached the point in the threefold University where many students, upon learning the cost of tuition and fees, room and board, and books and other essentials, immediately conclude that the state University is becoming too expensive too attend.

Tuition rates have continued to rise in the years since, and in 1982, Bill Friday again raised the alarm over America’s student loan crisis. According to the 1962-1963 UNC Chapel Hill catalog, the in-state tuition of a full-time undergraduate student during the 1962-1963 academic year was $87.50 per semester (adjusting for inflation, equivalent to $671.18 today). For the academic year of 2014-2015, a semester’s tuition for the same student would be $3211.50.

When faced with these numbers, one may wonder: will higher education as a whole suffer the same fate as Pompeii? Only time will tell. All that can be said for certain is that if the eruption does happen, the resulting explosion won’t be as abrupt as the one that shook Rome long ago. As William C. Friday confirmed 50 years ago, the student loan problem is a volcano that has been quietly erupting one undramatic day at a time.

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LGBTQ Center: New Collection and New Finding Aid

University Archives recently acquired a new collection from the LGBTQ Center. This is an exciting hybrid collection that includes material documenting the center’s history for its ten-year anniversary in 2014. Online content is in the CDR and the finding aid is here. We are very happy to make this material available and look forward to continuing to work with the LGBTQ Center.

Image credit: LGBTQ Center web site,

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Lawrence Giffin Appointed Electronic Records Archivist

giffin_lawrence_11_001We are excited to announce that Lawrence Giffin has returned to University Archives and Records Management Services as our new Electronic Records Archivist! His first day was April 1, 2015.

In this position, Lawrence will work to ensure that the University’s electronic records are properly managed and preserved, and will assist other units in Wilson Library with the management and preservation of the born-digital materials in their collections.

Lawrence earned a Masters in Library Science from Queens College, where he specialized in archives, records management, and preservation. He has worked as a processing archivist both at NYU’s Fales Library and at Duke’s Rubenstein Library. From 2011 to 2014 he served as Records Services Archivist here in UARMS, and he most recently served as Electronic Records Archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina.

Lawrence can be reached by email at and by phone at (919) 962-6402.

Welcome back, Lawrence!

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The Battle Challenge: 100 Years in the Making

flyer1This Wednesday, Wilson Library and the UNC Department of History are putting on the first of two events that are 100 years in the making.

It all started in 1915, when former UNC president Kemp Plummer Battle presented the North Carolina Historical Society with a sealed tin box. The box contained a Montgomery Ward catalog and was accompanied by a letter that outlined an unusual request. He asked that in 1965 and 2015, a member of the University community be appointed to write an essay on the changes in American life the catalogs showed.

In 1965, Chancellor Robert B. House was appointed to take on Battle’s challenge, writing an essay called “Great and Important Changes.” After comparing the 1915 and 1965 catalogs, House returned the 1915 catalog to Wilson Library and added the 1965 catalog for use in 2015.

Kemp Plummer Battle [From the 1919 Yackety Yack, North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library]

Kemp Plummer Battle [From the 1919 Yackety Yack, North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library]

This year, the University is taking on the challenge with two lecture events. On April 8th, John Kasson, UNC professor of history and American studies, and Dana McMahan, UNC professor of journalism and mass communication, will address the topic “Mail Order Catalogs and Consumers.” In September,  Peter Coclanis, UNC professor of history, and Dr. Lee Craig, professor in the Poole College of Management at NC State University, will speak on “Mail Order Catalogs and the American Economy.” Both events will be moderated by Fitz Brundage, chair and professor of history.

At both events, there will be a display of items related to the challenge, including Battle’s original instructions, the 1915 and 1965 catalogs, and Robert B. House’s 1965 essay. Light refreshments will be served.

Please join us at 5:30 this Wednesday in the Pleasants Room of Wilson Library for this exciting event!




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School of Journalism Oral Histories Now in CDR

Tom Bowers began his career in the School of Journalism in 1971 and retired in 2006. From 2007 to 2008, he interviewed prominent UNC School of Journalism alumni for his book, “Making News: One Hundred Years of Journalism at Carolina.”  The recordings of these interviews are part of University Archives’s School of Journalism collection (#40280), and are now also available in the Carolina Digital Repository.  To listen to the interviews, visit the finding aid and click the links to the interviews.

These interviews were digitized and ingested into the CDR through the Legacy Media Project.  This project aims to make material on digital storage media in processed collections available through the CDR. Watch this blog for announcements of more material being made available in the CDR through the Legacy Media Project, and read more about the project in this post.

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New resource for archiving email

From the News Services Multimedia Library

From the News Services Multimedia Library

University Archives has added a new resource to our Records Management Guidelines page, specifically to help you archive your email. Whether you are preparing to transfer your office’s email correspondence to University Archives or just want to back up your personal messages for posterity, our new guide to exporting email will help you along the way.

For more information on managing and archiving email, see the “Email Retention” section of our Guidelines page or contact us at


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