Martin Delany, George Moses Horton, and the Curious Path of Historic Photos Online

Martin R. Delany, ca. 1861-1865.

Last week, we spotted an interesting photo on a flier advertising an event at the Chapel Hill Historical Society. The flier included what is apparently a photo of the enslaved poet George Moses Horton. This is a pretty big deal: very little is known about Horton’s life and we were not aware of any images of Horton (other than imagined drawings, such as in this excellent recent children’s book).

Where, then, did the image come from? And was it really Horton? A quick online search for Horton revealed the photo used in several different places: on a poetry website, advertising a lecture, and on a “free social encyclopedia.” However, none of these sites listed a source or any information about how the image was identified as Horton.

The man in the photo appears to be wearing a Union army uniform. Horton was known to have been in North Carolina until the end of the Civil War, when he was reported to have left the state with a Union regiment to find a new home in the north. Could he have been photographed along the way wearing a uniform? It’s certainly possible.

We shared the photo and the story among Wilson Library staff. One archivist thought the photo looked familiar — possibly from the Ken Burns Civil War documentary — but that it had been identified as somebody else, not George Moses Horton. Another archivist did a reverse image search on Google and found that the photo, while most often described as being Horton, is also identified as being another man: Martin Robinson Delany.

Delany was a prominent African American newspaper editor and, during the Civil War, became the first African American major in the U.S. Army. He seemed like somebody who was much more likely to have had their photograph taken at the time. But we still wanted to verify the information: how could we be sure that the photo wasn’t also being misidentified as Delany?

The Wikipedia page for Delany includes a version of the now familiar photo, with a citation to West Virginia University. We got in touch with the special collections library at WVU and quickly heard back from a photo archivist there. The Wikipedia citation pointed to a now-removed web page (sadly a common fate for many Wikipedia citations), but the West Virginia archivist was able to track down an earlier version of the page using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

That web page listed the photo as coming from the U.S. Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. That organization has changed its name to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, but the collections are still there. The West Virginia archivist pointed to a digitized scrapbook that included the photo we were after.

Martin R. Delany. From the MOLLUS – Mass Civil War Photo Collection, vol. 74. U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.

The photo is included in a scrapbook compiled by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. It’s definitely the photo we were looking for and the caption was clear: “Martin R. Delany.”

We can now say, with certainty, that the photo that is widely identified as George Moses Horton is not Horton: it’s Martin Delany. While Delany was a contemporary of Horton’s, there’s no evidence that they ever met or had any connection. The only mystery that remains is, how did this photo ever start to be used to represent Horton in the first place? It’s not as if it was a mystery photo of an unidentified person — it was clearly identified as Delany, who was himself a prominent figure.

Tracking down the source of the original photo was an interesting project, and we want to thank the awesome librarians and archivists who helped us get to the bottom of it. There are two big lessons we’re taking away from this: first, it’s always amazing how quickly misinformation can spread online, even by well-meaning people. And second, whenever there’s the slightest doubt about historical information, not just online but in print, it is always a good idea to go back to the original sources. If the answers are going to be found anywhere, they’ll be in the archives.

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Remembering Gwendolyn Harrison, the First African American Woman to Attend UNC

When Gwendolyn Harrison decided to come to UNC to pursue a Ph.D. in Spanish, she went through the usual process: she applied and was accepted, and she was assigned a room in one of the women’s dormitories. She arrived on campus in June 1951, checked into her dorm, and went to begin the registration process. When she returned to her dorm, a university employee told her that there had been a mistake: Harrison’s registration was cancelled and should would not be allowed to attend UNC that term. The reason? They had not realized that Harrison was an African American.

Gwendolyn Harrison, 1951. From the Johnson C. Smith University yearbook. Harrison was on the faculty at Johnson C. Smith when she applied to UNC.

UNC denied entry to African American students until forced by a federal court to admit African American graduate students in 1951. The lawsuit was initiated by four African American law students, who would enroll in the first summer session of 1951.

Believing that the ruling applied to all of the graduate programs at UNC, Harrison, who was from Kinston, assumed that she would finally be able to attend her home state university. In a letter to a local newspaper, Harrison wrote, “I was proud because I thought that North Carolina at least was about to live up to the democratic ideals which are a part of the heritage of our great land.”

Harrison’s story encapsulates the upheaval on campus as administrators and trustees struggled to accept that the University’s practice of excluding African American students — which had been in place for more than 150 years — was coming to an end. Their responses wavered between confusion, caution, and resistance.

While campus administrators were anticipating the first African American law students in 1951, Harrison’s arrival was a surprise. Her application did not ask for her race, but her dormitory reservation card did.

Gwendolyn Harrison’s Application for Room, May 21, 1951. Robert B. House Papers (40019), University Archives.

After Harrison’s enrollment was cancelled, she immediately appealed to University administrators. Both W.W. Pierson, Dean of the College of the Graduate School, and Chancellor Robert House told Harrison that the question of her enrollment was out of their hands and that it had to be resolved by the Board of Trustees at their June meeting. Harrison wrote the next day to Governor Bob Scott, who was the chairman of the UNC Board of Trustees.

News and Observer, June 13, 1951.

Harrison was not going to wait. Working with attorney C.O. Pearson of the North Carolina NAACP, she announced her intent to sue the University. The suit was filed in early July and Chancellor Robert House received a subpoena ordering him to appear in the United States District Court in Greensboro on July 12, 1951. Likely wary of getting involved in more legal struggles and probably aware of the University’s weak position in denying Harrison when other African American students were already enrolled in graduate programs, the University agreed to settle. On July 16, 1951, a few days after negotiating a delay in the trial, House wrote to Dean Pierson of the graduate school, telling him to inform Gwendolyn Harrison that she was admitted to UNC.

Harrison was able to enroll in the second summer session of 1951. In doing so, she became the first African American woman to attend UNC. She returned to Chapel Hill for summer school in 1952, but did not pursue any further education at Carolina. She returned briefly to teaching at Johnson C. Smith and then spent most of her adult life in Bessemer City, N.C.

Gwendolyn Harrison Smith passed away last month. In an obituary in the Gaston Gazette, family members noted that she rarely talked about her role in the long struggle to integrate UNC. Perhaps due to her brief time at Carolina, as well as the fact that she followed so closely behind the first African American students, who received a great deal of media attention, her story has been rarely told in accounts of UNC history. Neal Cheek, in his 1973 dissertation about the integration of UNC, includes a thorough account of Harrison’s efforts to attend UNC, and she has been occasionally noted as a trailblazer, though not nearly as often as other Carolina “firsts.”




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Annual Tuition and Fees at UNC, 1947-2017

Ever wondered what it cost to attend UNC 20, 30, or 60 years ago? Thanks to statistics made available online by the Office of the University Cashier, we’re able to share this chart of annual resident and non-resident tuition and fees from 1947 to 2017. Amounts are rounded to the nearest whole dollar.

Academic Year Resident Tuition Non-resident Tuition Mandatory Fees
1947-1948 $54 $192 $52
1948-1949 $54 $192 $52
1949-1950 $100 $240 $52
1950-1951 $100 $240 $52
1951-1952 $100 $240 $52
1952-1953 $100 $240 $59
1953-1954 $150 $360 $89
1954-1955 $150 $360 $92
1955-1956 $150 $500 $92
1956-1957 $150 $500 $92
1957-1958 $150 $500 $92
1958-1959 $150 $500 $92
1959-1960 $150 $500 $104
1960-1961 $150 $500 $104
1961-1962 $175 $600 $104
1962-1963 $175 $600 $104
1963-1964 $175 $600 $110
1964-1965 $175 $600 $110
1965-1966 $175 $600 $134
1966-1967 $175 $600 $134
1967-1968 $175 $600 $151
1968-1969 $175 $700 $162
1969-1970 $175 $850 $167
1970-1971 $225 $950 $177
1971-1972 $225 $1,300 $177
1972-1973 $225 $1,800 $197
1973-1974 $242 $1,800 $197
1974-1975 $256 $1,800 $197
1975-1976 $256 $1,900 $212
1976-1977 $256 $1,900 $222
1977-1978 $364 $2,074 $165
1978-1979 $364 $2,074 $165
1979-1980 $364 $2,074 $202
1980-1981 $364 $2,074 $235
1981-1982 $436 $2,260 $256
1982-1983 $436 $2,260 $266
1983-1984 $480 $2,842 $286
1984-1985 $480 $3,100 $293
1985-1986 $480 $3,400 $314
1986-1987 $480 $3,820 $339
1987-1988 $504 $4,106 $341
1988-1989 $504 $4,458 $372
1989-1990 $604 $5,106 $404
1990-1991 $604 $5,230 $513
1991-1992 $447 $6,642 $474
1992-1993 $822 $7,406 $462
1993-1994 $846 $7,888 $608
1994-1995 $874 $8,400 $695
1995-1996 $948 $9,064 $738
1996-1997 $1,386 $9,918 $775
1997-1998 $1,428 $10,414 $796
1998-1999 $1,456 $10,622 $806
1999-2000 $1,528 $10,694 $837
2000-2001 $1,860 $11,026 $908
2001-2002 $2,328 $12,320 $949
2002-2003 $2,814 $14,098 $1,042
2003-2004 $2,955 $14,803 $1,117
2004-2005 $3,205 $16,303 $1,246
2005-2006 $3,205 $17,003 $1,408
2006-2007 $3,455 $18,103 $1,578
2007-2008 $3,705 $19,353 $1,635
2008-2009 $3,705 $20,603 $1,692
2009-2010 $3,865 $21,753 $1,760
2010-2011 $4,815 $23,430 $1,850
2011-2012 $5,128 $24,953 $1,881
2012-2013 $5,823 $26,575 $1,867
2013-2014 $6,423 $28,205 $1,917
2014-2015 $6,423 $31,764 $1,923
2015-2016 $6,648 $31,730 $1,943
2016-2017 $6,882 $31,963 $1,953

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New Addition: Records of the LGBTQ Center

A flyer decorated with a Tar Heel foot symbol, with a downward pointing triangle as the tar on the heel. The flyer reads "Monday Aug. 29th 8:00 PM B-GLAD Bisexuals, Gay Men, Lesbians, and Allies for Diversity Manning 209. On the right is a list of "Tips for Coming Out Every Day."

A flyer for a B-GLAD event, circa 1994.

We’re excited to announce a recent addition to the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Center Records in the University Archives!

The cover of an event program that reads "Queerniversity: Testing your LGBT IQ." It also reads "unity 2005."

Program for 2005 Unity Conference

The LGBTQ Center, established in 2003, works to make the UNC campus a welcoming environment for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

The new addition includes materials documenting events and programs sponsored by the Center in the 2000s, as well as materials from organizations predating the LGBTQ Center, including the Carolina Gay and Lesbian Association (CGLA) and its successors, Bisexuals, Gay Men, Lesbians and Allies for Diversity (B-GLAD) and Queer Network for Change (QNC). The addition also includes a wealth of newspaper and magazine clippings and ephemera documenting events related to LGBTQ issues on campus, in the local area, and beyond in from the late 1980s through the 2000s.

Learn more in the collection finding aid:


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Now Available: Elsie Earle Lawson Modern Dance Ephemera, 1941-1942

We are pleased to announce a new addition to the University Archives: a small collection of materials related to modern dance at Carolina in the 1940s. These materials were collected by Elsie Earle Lawson, and can now be found in the University of North Carolina Ephemera Collection.

Dancers in the UNC Modern Dance Club, early 1940s.

At UNC, Elsie Earle Lawson worked as a dance instructor in the Department of Physical Education, dance associate to the Carolina Playmakers, and faculty adviser to the Carolina Modern Dance Club. The materials collected include press releases and clippings about modern dance events on campus, programs for performances and conferences, as well as photographs of student dancers.

Program from a dance conference at UNC, 29 November 1941



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Carolina Firsts: Karen L. Parker

At the University Day celebration on October 11, 2016, Chancellor Carol Folt announced a new program to name scholarships after notable “firsts” in UNC history. In recognition of the individuals recognized as pioneers at UNC, the University Archives is publishing blog posts with more information about each of the twenty-one “firsts.” This post is part of that series.

Karen L. Parker Diary, Letter, and Clippings #5275, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Karen L. Parker Diary, Letter, and Clippings #5275, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Karen L. Parker made history at UNC in 1965, when she became the first African American woman to receive an undergraduate degree from the University.

Parker began her studies at UNC in 1963 following two years of study at the North Carolina Women’s College in Greensboro (now UNC-Greensboro). During her time at UNC, she took an active role in the local and national civil rights movements, participating in sit-ins and marches. The diary she kept as a student — which documents her experience on campus and in the community, her hopes and goals for the future, and the trials she encountered along the way — has been digitized and can be found in the Southern Historical Collection.  

At UNC, Parker majored in Journalism. For her senior year, she was named the editor of The Journalista news publication put out by the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Parker was also chosen to participate in UNC’s exchange program with the University of Toronto.

After graduating, Parker went on to have a successful career in journalism, working at Grand Rapids Press in Grand Rapids, Michigan; the Los Angeles Times; and other publications before returning to North Carolina to work at the Winston-Salem Journal. She retired in 2010, and was inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame in 2012.

Parker has been active with UNC, serving on the Friends of the Library Board and the Board of the General Alumni Association. In 2015, during the campaign to rename the former Saunders Hall (now Carolina Hall), a UNC student wrote to the Daily Tar Heel published a letter to the editor, suggesting that the building be renamed in honor of Karen Parker.

Sources and Further Reading:

A Role Model for Change.” UNC News Services, February 19, 2015.

Karen Parker.” I Raised My Hand to Volunteer, UNC Library Exhibit, 2007.

Morgan Jones, “Karen Parker: A Woman to Remember.” For the Record, UNC University Archives blog, March 18, 2013.

Karen L. Parker Diary, Letter, and Clippings #5275, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Oral Histories:

  • February 2007 interview with the Southern Oral History Program
  • April 2007 interview with the Southern Oral History Program
  • December 2012 interview with UNC-Greensboro
  • March 2016 interview with the Southern Oral History Program

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A Cartoon Mystery Solved

An ink drawing of two trains about to collide on the same track, one labelled "Chemistry" and one labelled "Physics"above a drawing of two roosters about to fight.

A late 1870s conflict between the Chemistry and Physics departments depicted as a train wreck and a cock fight. From the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives.

A few years ago, we posted about a series of cartoons found in the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005). The large, undated drawings showed Chemistry and Physics as colliding trains, fighting roosters, and scuffling men. We weren’t sure when the cartoons were made, or what exactly they meant. But while searching the Daily Tar Heel on today, I stumbled across a story that offers an explanation – a story of inter-departmental conflict and a creative student prank.

The June 6, 1904 issue of the Daily Tar Heel reports that the Alumni Association invited Judge Francis D. Winston, class of 1879, to speak and share his memories of his time at UNC. In his speech, he recalled:

The reopened University* found itself practically without scientific apparatus. Its scarcity caused a conflict between two members of the faculty. The institution owned a dilapidated air pump, which was claimed by two departments – Chemistry and Physics. The professor of Physics, a man of few words and quick to act, took it to his room in the end of the Old West. In his absence the professor of chemistry had it taken to Person Hall by the college servant. Professor [Ralph Henry] Graves arrived on the scene just as it reached the door. He seized it and had it returned. Professor [Alexander Fletcher Redd] Reed [sic] interfered and they came ‘mighty nigh fighting’with chemistry worsted. And this was in the days of a struggling college, over an instrument which Dr. Elisha Mitchell had condemned as useless in 1856 and which had not exhausted air in a quarter of a century.

An ink drawing showing two men in suits fighting over an air pump, which is on the ground between them. One man is labelled "Chemistry" and the other "Physics." The man labelled "Chemistry" has a speech bubble coming from his mouth that reads, "I'll be damned if you shall!" Above the men is the header "The Climax Reached."

Two men, presumably Professors Redd and Graves, shown in conflict over an air pump. The man labelled “Chemistry” has a speech bubble that reads, “I’ll be damned if you shall.” From the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives.

The morning after this occurrence there was seen over the rostrum in the chapel, a large drawing in flaming colors, of two engines approaching each other on the same track. They were labeled Chemistry and Physics. Another scene told the story. Chemistry was derailed and demolished. Every student was at prayers that morning. The interest was manifest.

Dr. [Charles] Phillips was conducting chapel prayers that week. When he entered the door he took in the situation at a glance. When near the bull pen he broke into a quick run. He was applauded. He rushed up the steps to the hanging cartoons, but he failed to reach them, and he tried again and again. He was not without sympathy in the student body. How well do I recall their efforts of help and encouragement, when with his hand within an inch of the paper some one would cry: “Just a little more, oop-a-doop, a little higher.” But it was beyond his reach and he sat down. Wilson Caldwell, the college servant was sent for and the papers removed and prayers were said.

The next morning the artist put the incident into another form by having a game cock labeled Physics after a crestfallen, retreating rooster named Chemistry. The crowd was expectant. The good doctor saw the cartoons as he entered the door. He went to the desk with measured step. He appeared not to notice it. In the lesson that he read occurred this verse: ‘Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even or at midnight,’ and here he paused, ‘or at the cock crowing in the morning, lest coming suddenly he might find you sleeping.’

Though Winston’s memories of the cartoons and the event they commemorated – shared thirty years after the fact – may not be entirely reliable, these cartoons now make a lot more sense. We now know that they were created between 1875 and 1879 and refer to a real conflict between two departments on campus. The drawing of the two men fighting over a piece of equipment labelled “air pump” can be taken much more literally than previously thought, as we now know it depicts an actual dispute over an air pump.

Although Winston remembered the train and rooster drawings appearing separately and they are here presented on one sheet of paper, the holes and tears at the corners of these cartoons suggest that these may some of the original drawings he remembered being hung in Gerrard Hall during chapel exercises.


*The University of North Carolina was closed from February 1871 to September 1875. Learn more about the University during the Civil War and Reconstruction. 


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Did Hinton James Really Walk all the way to UNC?

The arrival of Hinton James, as imagined by the 1935 Yackety Yack.

It’s one of the most enduring legends of UNC history: a lone student, Hinton James, walking all the way from his home in Wilmington and arriving in Chapel Hill on February 12, 1795, where he reported to the one-building campus and enrolled, becoming the first student at the University of North Carolina. But did he really walk all the way here?

We’re not sure. We checked all of the records and reports that we could find and, while there are no contemporary reports confirming James’s long walk to Chapel Hill, there’s nothing to refute the story, either.

We know for certain that UNC officially opened on January 15, 1795. It was reported to be a blustery day and must have been an odd ceremony because there were no students present. The campus remained empty of students for four weeks before James arrived. For the two weeks after that, he was the only student at the school. Others trickled in after that and by 1798 James was part of the first graduating class at UNC, when a grand total of seven students received their diplomas.

Entry from the Philanthropic Society Minutes, 1795 (probably not written by Hinton James).

Hinton James did not have a lot of options for getting from Wilmington to Chapel Hill in 1795. We know he didn’t take I-40, and the arrival of railroads in North Carolina was still a few decades away. He probably traveled along recently established post roads to Raleigh and then found his way to Chapel Hill. For the long trip inland he could have taken a horse-drawn carriage, ridden on horseback, or, of course, walked. Given reports about the state of the roads during that cold, wet winter, a carriage was probably out of the question.

Hinton James’s signature from an 1838 letter reflecting on his time at UNC.

In the University Archives, there is a short account of the early days of the University written by Hinton James himself in 1838. He mentions the names of early professors and students and describes early exams, but does not talk about how he got to campus.

The earliest account that we’ve been able find, which mentions James’s mode of travel, was a speech by UNC history professor (and later President) Kemp Plummer Battle at University Day in 1880 (later reprinted in the 1886-1887 North Carolina University Magazine). Battle wrote, “Soon the first student came in — journeying all the way, hundreds of miles, from the Lower Cape Fear, on horseback doubtless, saddle-bags between his legs.”

Shirt from Hinton James Day, ca. 2010. From the UNC T-Shirt Archive.

Battle wrote about James in both volumes of his history of the University, though he told the story slightly differently in each. In the first volume, published in 1907, he wrote, “It was not until the 12th of February that the first student arrived, with no companion, all the way from the banks of the lower Cape Fear, the precursor of a long line of seekers after knowledge. His residence was Wilmington, his name Hinton James.” By saying that James arrived with “no companion,” Battle likely meant that he was the only student at the time. But this phrase may have been interpreted to mean that James made the entire trip by himself, a common detail in the story we often hear today.

After Battle’s history was published, the story began to take on the form we know today. Early 20th century issues of the Tar Heel mention James as the first student, but the first suggestion we could find of his having walked was in a 1908 article about the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, which referred to “the time when Hinton James first tramped from Wilmington to Chapel Hill and found himself the only student on the campus.” (Tar Heel, 17 September 1908).

When Kemp Battle published the second volume of his history of UNC, in 1912, the story changed a little: “Thus it happens that Hinton James has gained immortal fame by being the first to trudge through the muddy roads of the winter of 1795, and presenting himself to the delighted gaze of the first presiding Professor, Dr. David Ker, exactly four weeks after the session began.”

Note that these don’t specifically say that he walked. Can one tramp or trudge on horseback? We’re not sure.

It didn’t take much longer for the myth to begin to take shape. A 1920 Tar Heel article  said that “Hinton James established the Carolina long-distance walking record by tramping all the way from Wilmington so that he could be the first student to enter the University when it opened in 1795.” (Tar Heel, 20 June 1920).

While the story took hold, some still expressed doubt. At the University’s Sesquicentennial Convocation in April 1946, Victor Bryant, the chairman of the Legislative Committee on the Sesquicentennial, delivered the opening remarks. Bryant said, “We are told [Hinton James] had walked to Chapel Hill from his home in Wilmington, though I believe it possible that he did some hitch-hiking.”

In 2008, these UNC alums followed in Hinton James’s footsteps by walking all the way from Wilmington to Chapel Hill. (UNC News Services)

In Archibald Henderson’s 1949 book, The Campus of the First State University, James’s trek had the sound of a mythical journey: “The ambitious freshman of eighteen years, historic in primacy, trudged manfully more than 150 miles to reach the beckoning bourne of the State University on February 12, 1795.”

By the time William Snider published Light on the Hill, in 1992, there seemed to be no doubt about James’s long journey. Referring to the first student, Snider writes, “His name was Hinton James and he walked the entire distance from his native Wilmington to Chapel Hill to enroll.”

So, returning to our original question: did Hinton James really walk the whole way from Wilmington to Chapel Hill? We don’t know. There’s nothing in the University Archives that says he did, but there’s also nothing to prove otherwise. As we’ve seen, the earliest account says James “probably” came on horseback, and it took a while for the full walking story to emerge. However, it’s certainly possible that this is a true story that was simply carried orally through the generations. No matter how Hinton James got here, it had to have been a difficult trip and serves as an enduring inspiration to the the generations of students who have continued to follow him in their own journeys to Chapel Hill.

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German POWs at UNC

During World War II, UNC employed German prisoners of war in the dining halls.  Beginning in 1943, the Navy rented facilities from UNC to operate a Pre-Flight Training School and other training grounds.  As part of that arrangement, Lenoir Hall became a dining hall exclusively for Pre-Flight Cadets.  Renovations to Lenoir gave it a seating capacity of 1,800.  To maximize efficiency, waiters served the meals “family style” as opposed to having the cadets wait in a cafeteria line.  Some of those waiters were POWs bussed in from Camp Butner in Granville County, northeast of Durham.

Camp Butner received its first influx of German prisoners in Spring 1944.  It would become the largest POW camp in North Carolina with 889 prisoners as of June 1944.  While most of the Butner prisoners maintained the military installation, others worked outside the camp for civilian businesses.  A report on Camp Butner from April 1945 counted 110 prisoners employed as mess attendants at Duke University and UNC.

Excerpted from “Report of Inspection of Medical Activities at University of North Carolina: 6 November 1944” in Office of the Vice President for Finance of the University of North Carolina Records, University Archives, Wilson Library

There is very little information on these war prisoners in the University Archives.  The papers of the Vice President for Finance mentions them twice with respect to the financial arrangement between UNC and the Navy.  The Daily Tar Heel, however, offers more information about the German war prisoners and their reception on campus.  Barbara Swift, an opinion columnist, observed the prisoners “lying in the grass in front of Lenoir Dining Hall . . . laughing and talking, playing with a pack of campus poodles that happen[ed] by.”  She further speculated that “some profound change has come over these prisoners who have seen a tiny part of America.”

Others were more cynical.  A student objected to Swift’s “rosy picture of healthy boys,” instead depicting the war prisoners as “arrogant and conceited.”  He further argued that “They are not willing to accept or even listen to our beliefs and ideals.  They regard us as stupid, lazy Americans.”  This small debate in The Daily Tar Heel reveals something about the German war prisoners at UNC.  Though they are well hidden in the historical record, the German prisoners were a familiar sight to UNC students.  However, students rarely engaged with them.  It is unknown whether careful guarding, social taboos, the language barrier, or some combination thereof isolated the prisoners from the students.  People who worked in the dining hall clearly had contact with the prisoners, but the archive has no record, that we could find, of those relationships.


“National Defense Navy: Commissioning/Decommissioning, 1943-1946” in Office of the Vice President for Finance of the University of North Carolina (System) Records, University Archives, Wilson Library.

Robert D. Billinger Jr., Nazi POWs in the Tar Heel State, (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008).

Barbara Swift, “They Tell Me,” Daily Tar Heel, 5 August 1944.

“Unknown Writer Insists Nazi’s Arrogant,” Daily Tar Heel, 8 August 1944.

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The UNC “White Phantoms”?

Daily Tar Heel, 5 February 1933.

Daily Tar Heel, 5 February 1933.

The UNC men’s basketball team was known informally as the “White Phantoms” from the 1920s through 1950s. It wasn’t an official nickname — they’ve always been the Tar Heels — but White Phantoms was a popular term for the team, especially among sportswriters.

The origins of the nickname are not entirely clear. A Daily Tar Heel article from 1965 attributed the nickname to Atlanta sportswriter Morgan Blake, who first used it after witnessing the quiet, quick play of the team in a tournament. At the time, the team also wore all-white uniforms, which probably contributed to the nickname.

Daily Tar Heel, 25 March 1941.

Daily Tar Heel, 25 March 1941.

The name originated in an era when sportswriters were known for their colorful language and creative headlines. UNC was not the only team with an unofficial sports-section nickname: N.C. State was the “Red Terrors,” Duke was the “Blue Imps,” and the Carolina freshman team was known as the “Tar Babies.” Most of these informal names have now faded from use, though a few have remained (like the “Wahoos” of the University of Virginia).

Daily Tar Heel, 11 February 1928.

Daily Tar Heel, 11 February 1928.

Daily Tar Heel, 12 February 1927.

Daily Tar Heel, 12 February 1927.







It’s hard to pin down exact dates for when the nickname was used, but a keyword search of the digitized Daily Tar Heel archives gives us a good idea. The first use appears in late 1925, around the time that UNC won the Southern Conference tournament in Atlanta (which supports the idea that it originated with an Atlanta sportswriter). It appears to have faded from use by 1951, possibly under the encouragement of the athletic department, which wanted to promote the consistent use of Tar Heels for all of the UNC teams.


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