A Can for All Seasons: Quonset Huts at Postwar UNC

Quonset hut area (circa 1946-1947), from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory.

Imagine having 19 roommates instead of one.  How would you protect your belongings without a lock on your door?  What if your only source of heat in the winter occasionally spewed fireballs rivaling the Hunger Games?  Male students attending UNC immediately after World War II contended with these issues and more as residents of Quonset huts.

The G.I. Bill provided educational benefits to hundreds of thousands of veterans who served in World War II. Returning veterans flocked to UNC, raising enrollment from around 4,100 students before the war to 7,250 in the fall of 1947. (DTH, 10/10/1941, 9/25/1947)  The University simply did not have enough space to house all those students and resorted to creative measures to solve the housing crisis.  Military surplus owned by the federal government became an important source of temporary housing units such as trailers and Quonset huts.  Quonset huts were corrugated steel sheets shaped like a cylinder cut lengthwise and closed at the ends.  During WWII, the military used them for barracks or storage, but they were intended only for short-term housing.

However, UNC used Quonset huts as overflow housing from 1946 to 1950. Thirty-six Quonset huts were assembled on the old tennis courts behind the Monogram Club (now Jackson Hall), where Cobb Residence Hall stands today.  Thirty of them were designated as living quarters for single male students, three for studying, and three for latrines.  Up to twenty men lived in a single hut with a heater and primitive insulation made from rag paper. (DTH, 11/5/1946)  According to The Daily Tar Heel, rent for a bed in the Quonset huts costed $5 per month (DTH, 10/5/1946).

Inside a Quonset hut (1947) from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection.

The biggest issue with the Quonset huts was exposure to the elements. While summers turned the Quonsets into ovens, interruptions in regular fuel delivery during the winters left residents out in the cold.  A nationwide oil shortage in the winter of 1947-1948 forced the University to conserve fuel by closing six of the Quonset huts.  Still, during a frigid week in February 1948, half of the remaining Quonset huts ran out of oil.  The Daily Tar Heel reported that “siphoning of oil from the few huts with any left was apparently going on again last night.” (DTH, 1/7/1948, 2/12/1948)  After some rainy weather in April 1948, the Daily Tar Heel marveled at the mud surrounding the Quonset huts, “It was amazing and disgusting to see all of the mud.  Old-time Quonset hut residents merely sighed, rolled up their trousers, displayed their hip-boots and paddled through the goo.  It was a test of the old theory of survival of the fittest.” (DTH, 4/3/1948)

Clambering for scarce resources and wading through a veritable swamp were not the only tests of Quonset residents’ animal instincts. They also had to defend their territory after a robbery during a football game.  As Carolina faced off against the University of Georgia on September 27, 1947, thieves pilfered items and money from the Quonsets. To prevent another burglary, the RA, Ray Jeffries, had the huts padlocked beginning at 2 PM on game days. (DTH, 10/3/1947, 10/11/1947, 10/12/1947)

The Daily Tar Heel (11 October 1947)

As if cold, mud, and robberies weren’t punishment enough, Quonset huts dwellers contended with fire as well. After a fire in February 1947, the University installed fire extinguishers in each hut to prevent such a blaze from getting out of control. (DTH, 2/23/1947)  In November 1947, a malfunctioning oil stove exploded into flames before a student managed to extinguish it.  Though the fire caused minimal damage, the Daily Tar Heel pointed out that next time the University might not be so lucky as the Chapel Hill Fire Department’s soap guns could not reach the fire without access to the Quonset hut area, which was closed to all vehicles except oil trucks.  The Daily Tar Heel suggested that the University “mount an emergency in a glass front box, of the fire alarm variety,” so that the fire department could reach the affected hut in case of emergency. (DTH, 11/18/1947)

By January 1949, the fire extinguishers were long gone when an “oil heater began leaking, formed a pool of oil on the floor and leaped into flame.” A student attempted to call the fire department, but found that the page with their phone number had been torn from the telephone book.  The student attempted to reach the operator, but met silence at the other end.  Finally, the student called the police who contacted the fire department.  (Such was the drama of communication before cellphones and Siri.) The fire department put out the fire, apparently reaching the hut without difficulty. The heater and a pile of dirty clothes were the only casualties.  (DTH, 1/16/1949)  A year later, the Quonset huts were razed to make room for Cobb Residence Hall.

Razing the Quonset huts (1950), from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection.

Quonset huts were crowded, uncomfortable, and unprotected. The Daily Tar Heel wrote of the Quonset hut residents, “in order to receive an education, they are living under conditions similar to that of an East side slum.” (DTH, 12/2/1947)  The comparison to poverty aside, the willingness of UNC students to live in these temporary structures for years indeed testifies to the importance they placed on education.  For many returning veterans, the GI Bill offered the chance of a lifetime.  To seize that opportunity, they baked through the summer, shivered through the winter, and waded through mud.  If nothing else, the Quonset huts certainly put the modern experience of dorm living into perspective.



“Quonset Huts, 1947 and undated” and “Quonset Huts: Demolition, circa 1949,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection, 1799-1999, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Finding aid: http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/P0004/

“Quonset Huts, circa 1946-1947,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Library, 1946-2000, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Finding aid: http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/P0031/

“Sanitary Conditions: General, 1938-1952; 1957; 1963,” Student Health Service of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1932-1998, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Finding aid: http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/40127/

Various articles from The Daily Tar Heel cited above.

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Women Students in the Summer Normal School at UNC

An Act to Establish Normal Schools. North Carolina General Assembly, 1877.

In the summer of 1877, the University of North Carolina offered classes in the summer for the first time. It wasn’t just a continuation of the regular course offerings: UNC was host to a statewide “Summer Normal School,” providing teacher education to primary school teachers (and aspiring teachers) from around the state.

The Normal School was established by the North Carolina General Assembly in March 1877, allocating $2,000 for the program, which was to be jointly administered by the University and by the North Carolina Board of Education.

The act creating the school specified that it was “for the purpose of teaching and training young men of the white race for teachers of the common schools of the state.” The act also mentioned the possibility of creating a separate school to train African American teachers.

While the UNC administrators did not appear to object to the limitation of the program to white teachers,* they did argue that the school should open its doors to women. In his early history of UNC, Kemp Battle, who was President of the University in 1877, wrote:

 An important question came up at the outset. The Act authorizing the school confined its benefits to male teachers and those desiring to be teachers. It was exceedingly important that females should be included. The Board of Education took the ground and the University concurred, that while the public money could not be paid to females, there could be no objection to their attending the sessions, and they were accordingly invited to take advantage of all the exercises. Their presence contributed much to the success of the school. (Kemp Plummer Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, vol. 2.)

Ad for the Normal School in the Western Sentinel (Winston-Salem), May 31, 1877.

The Hillsborough Recorder reported on the new program on May 30, 1877. The paper called attention to the fact that women would be allowed to attend, writing: “Although the law requires that the moneys paid by the State shall be devoted to the use of males, yet females are cordially invited to attend all the exercises of the school free of charge.”

Of the 235 students enrolled in the six-week program, 107 were women. The presence of women on campus as students was especially significant as it would be another 20 years before UNC admitted its first women students. The inclusion of women was hailed by Cornelia Phillips Spencer, who wrote that she hoped the state would “do as much for her daughters as she has done for her sons.”

The following summer, Emily Coe, a teacher from New York, joined the Normal School faculty, making her the first woman to teach on the University campus. Coe specialized in training kindergarten teachers at a time when formal preschool education was still fairly rare in the United States. Battle thought that Coe’s course in the 1878 Summer Normal School was the first Normal kindergarten class in North Carolina.

Women continued to make up a substantial number of the Summer Normal School attendees each year, and the number of women on the faculty slowly increased.

Education remained a focus of the summer school for decades, but the University gradually began offering courses in other areas. In 1914, summer school classes were able to be counted for credit toward a degree, which led to even more integration with the regular UNC curriculum.

* The Summer School, like the rest of the University, would not be integrated until 1951, when four African American law students enrolled.

Programme for the Closing Exercises of the University Normal School, 1877. UNC Ephemera collection.

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UNC’s Union Veterans

UNC’s Confederate history is very well documented: in the Confederate monument on campus, in the “Roll of Confederate Dead” in Memorial Hall, and in the names of several buildings. While the heavy focus on Confederate veterans is not surprising for a state university in the South, we often get asked about a largely unexplored aspect of Carolina history: alums who served in the Union army.

Were there any Union veterans from UNC? We’ve heard the question a lot, and never had a great answer. We do now: Yes, but not many.

After some research and consultation with colleagues around campus, we’ve identified a handful of UNC students who went on to serve in the Union army or in the federal government during the Civil War.

Francis Preston Blair, a native of Kentucky, attended UNC for the 1839-1840 school year.  According to available student records, he was expelled from UNC. Blair also attended Yale before finally earning his degree from Princeton. He was living in Missouri when he joined the army, eventually rising to the rank of Major General. 

Edward Mallet, UNC class of 1818, was Paymaster General for the United States from 1862 to 1865.

Edward Stanly attended UNC during the 1829-1830 school year. He was elected to the North Carolina state legislature and represented the state in Congress before moving to California. He was appointed by President Lincoln as military governor of Eastern North Carolina in 1862, but resigned the following year.

Junius B. Wheeler was a native of Murfreesboro and a veteran of the war with Mexico. He was student at UNC from 1849-1851, then transferred to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where he earned a degree in 1855. When the war began, there were split loyalties in his family: one of his half brothers was an officer in the Confederate Army. Wheeler served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers throughout the war.

George H. Williamson, from Cincinnati, Ohio, was a student at UNC during the 1860-1861 school year. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War.

We think there are almost certainly more Union veterans who attended UNC, but these are the only ones we know about right now. If you know of any, or have suggestions, let us know. If we confirm any others, we will add them to this list.

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Timeline of 1980s Anti-Apartheid Activism at UNC

Daily Tar Heel, April 7, 1986 (via Newspapers.com)

In the mid 1980s, UNC students actively campaigned to convince the University to divest from investment in South Africa in protest of the legalized segregation in place under that country’s apartheid system.

This timeline presents an overview of major dates and activities on campus.

1978-1979: Students at Harvard and several other American universities begin advocating for university endowments to stop investing in South African companies. The students argue that providing financial support for South African business provides indirect support to the government and its formal policy of racial discrimination (apartheid). UNC administrators discuss the issues but decide not to make any changes to the university’s investment policy at the time. Source: Office of the Chancellor, Nelson Ferebee Taylor Records #40023, box 11, “Sullivan Principles 1978-1979.” 

October 21, 1982: UNC students hold a rally calling for UNC to end its business relations with IBM due to IBM’s business presence in South Africa. Sources: Anti-Apartheid Support Group Records #40143, folder “UNC Related Materials: Collateral, 1981-1981”; Daily Tar Heel, 22 October 1982.

November 19, 1982: UNC Public Interest Research Group lobbies the Board of Trustees to divest from South Africa. Source: Anti-Apartheid Support Group Records #40143, folder “UNC Related Materials: Collateral, 1981-1981.”

February 8, 1983: UNC students vote 3,313 to 1,891 in support of a resolution urging the Board of Trustees to divest from South Africa Source: Anti-Apartheid Support Group Records #40143, folder “UNC Related Materials: Collateral, 1981-1981.”

April 23, 1983: UNC Endowment Board rejects divestment but says they will not invest in South African companies unless they agree to the “Sullivan Principles,” described as a voluntary code of racial equality for companies doing business in South Africa. Source: Daily Tar Heel, April 7, 1986.

October 1985: UNC Anti-Apartheid Support Group formed. Source: Anti-Apartheid Support Group Records #40143,

October 11, 1985. Students hold an anti-apartheid rally in the Pit. Source: Daily Tar Heel, October 14, 1985.

February 4, 1986. Students vote 2,560-1,130 in support of a referendum in favor of UNC divesting from South Africa. Source: Daily Tar Heel, February 5, 1986.

Shanties build in protest of UNC’s investment in South Africa, Spring 1986. (Yackety Yack, 1986)

March 18, 1986. The UNC Anti-Apartheid Support Group builds several shanties in front of South Building in order to draw attention to their cause and to express sympathy for South Africans forced to live in shantytowns. Campus police dismantle the structures, which are rebuilt later in the day after the group receives permission from Chancellor Fordham. Source: Daily Tar Heel, March 19, 1986.

March 31, 1986. Two student groups, the College Republicans and Students for America, stage a counter protest in front of the shanties by construction a mock “Berlin-type wall.” The counter-protesters spoke out against oppressive governments in South Africa and the Soviet Union. The Daily Tar Heel quoted the College Republicans Chairman: “(The wall) is to show that there are other atrocities around the world that are even far greater than those in South Africa. It is hypocritical to just call for divestment (in South Africa). If you say you’re against ‘immoral governments’ then you should do it across the board.” The counter-protesters also objected to the extended presence of the shanties. Source: Daily Tar Heel, 1 April 1986.

April 24, 1986. University Endowment Board meets in a “very argumentative” secession and votes against total divestment, electing partial measures and agreeing to place pressure on South African companies to encourage them to abandon Apartheid. Chancellor Fordham supports divestment and says “we did not get the vote I wanted.” Student protesters hold a sit-in followed by a march down Franklin Street to protest the decision. Source: Daily Tar Heel, April 4, 1986.

UNC students march on campus in protest of the school’s investment in South Africa, November 20, 1986. (Yackety Yack 1987)

11 February 1987: A new student group, Action Against Apartheid, is formed. Source: Daily Tar Heel, February 11, 1987.

May 1987: A group of students from Action Against Apartheid hold an eight-day hunger strike to protest UNC investment in South Africa. Source: Daily Tar Heel, 21 May 1987.

October 1, 1987: UNC Endowment Board agrees to divest all funds from South African companies. The change of mind is due partly to the ongoing protests, but also due to diminishing returns in those funds. Source: Daily Tar Heel, 2 October 1987.

October 12, 1987. Student protesters interrupt University Day celebrations in Memorial Hall, marching down the aisle carrying signs and banners opposing apartheid in South Africa. Source: Daily Tar Heel, October 13, 1987.




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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: http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/40433/


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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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