Carolina Firsts: W. Horace Carter

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.

carter_0404944_dthIn 1953, journalist W. Horace Carter was one of the first UNC alumni to win a Pulitzer Prize. Carter, the founder and editor of the Tabor City Tribune, was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for his brave reporting on the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in Tabor City – reporting that led to an FBI investigation and the convictions of almost one hundred KKK members.

When Carter entered UNC in 1939, he was not only the first in his family to attend college, but the first to graduate from high school. In an interview conducted by the Southern Oral History Program, Carter said that the summer before coming to Chapel Hill, he saved up $112 while working in a cotton mill. His first day on campus, he went to Director of Admissions Roy Armstrong’s office and asked whether he thought he could get through school with the money he’d saved. Armstrong encouraged him, saying “I know a lot of people who got through on less.”

Carter immediately got a job at the UNC News Bureau, working about eight hours a day, and also joined the freshmen baseball team. He soon became a sports editor for the Tar Heel (today the Daily Tar Heel).

In 1942, as the United States entered World War II, Carter left UNC to work in a shipyard. After several months, he joined the Navy and was assigned to a hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. After serving there for a year, he returned to UNC – this time as part of the V-12 Navy College Training program. He returned to work at the News Bureau and at the Tar Heel, where he served as sports editor, then as a co-managing editor, and, starting in May 1944, as editor. He was involved in a number of campus organizations and activities, and was tapped as a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece and the Order of the Grail.

“No Excuse for KKK,” Horace Carter, Tabor City Tribune, July 27, 1950.

After graduating from UNC, Carter moved to Tabor City, North Carolina, to start a newspaper, the Tabor City Tribune. Four years later, after the KKK paraded through the town, Carter wrote his first anti-Klan editorial, headlined “No Excuse for KKK.” Without the support of his community and at great risk to himself, he would go on to write more than 100 articles exposing and condemning Klan activities in the area. The articles drew the attention of the FBI, and nearly 100 members of the Klan were arrested and convicted as a result of the investigation.

In 1953, Carter and Willard Cole, the editor of the Whiteville News Reporter, were both honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in recognition of their work. Carter continued at the Tribune for two decades before retiring to Florida, where he was a prolific writer on nature, fishing, and other topics. He returned to the Tribune in the 1990s, working there until shortly before his death in September 2009.

Sources and Further Reading:

The Editor and the Dragon: Horace Carter Fights the Klan, Center for the Study of the American South,

“Carter Ends Brilliant, Though Short, TH Career,” Muriel Richter, The Tar Heel, 24 June, 1944. (available via on campus or with a UNC ONYEN account)

“No Excuse for KKK,” Horace Carter, Tabor City Tribune, 27 July, 1950

Oral History with W. Horace Carter, January 17, 1976. Interview B-0035. Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“W. Horace Carter, 88, a Publisher Whose Paper Challenged the Klan, Dies,” Bruce Weber, the New York Times, 20 September, 2009,

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1982 — UNC’s First Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

In 1982, UNC held its first annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Day Celebration. The multi-day celebration included a variety of events honoring Dr. King and his legacy. The featured speaker at the University-wide celebration was Dr. Prezell R. Robinson, president of St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh and of the United Negro College Fund.  Originally scheduled for January 15, the celebration was postponed due to snow and ice in Chapel Hill. The event featuring Dr. Robinson was held on January 28, 1982.

Program from the Records of the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Christopher C. Fordham, 1980-1988 (40024).

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North Carolina Governors Who Went to UNC

When Roy Cooper was sworn in as Governor of North Carolina on January 1st, he became the 32nd North Carolina Governor to have attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here’s the full list.

William Miller Attended 1802 In office 1814- 1817
John Branch Class of 1801 In office 1817-1820
John Owen Attended 1804 In office 1828-1830
David Lowry Swain Attended 1821-1822 In office 1832-1835
Richard Dobbs Spaight Class of 1815 In office 1835-1836
John Motley Morehead Class of 1817 In office 1841-1845
William Alexander Graham Attended 1882-1884 In office 1845-1849
Charles Manly Class of 1814 In office 1849-1851
Warren Winslow Class of 1827 In office 1854-1855
John Willis Ellis Class of 1841 In office 1859-1861
Henry Toole Clark Class of 1826 In office 1861-1862
Zebulon Vance Attended 1851-1852 In office 1862-1865;       1877-1879
Tod Robinson Caldwell Class of 1840 In office 1871-1874
Alfred Moore Scales Attended 1888-1890 In office 1885-1889
Thomas Michael Holt Attended 1849-1850 In office 1891-1893
Elias Carr Attended 1855-1857 In office 1893-1897
Daniel Lindsay Russell Attended 1860-1862 (honorary degree given 1911) In office 1897-1901
Charles Brantley Aycock Class of 1880 In office 1901-1905
William Walton Kitchin School of Law, Class of 1910 In office 1909-1913
Locke Craig Class of 1880 In office 1913-1917
Angus Wilton McLean Attended the School of Law 1890-1892 In office 1925-1929
O. Max Gardner Attended 1905-1906 In office 1929-1933
John C.B. Ehringhaus Class of 1901 In office 1933-1937
Clyde R. Hoey Attended the School of Law 1899 In office 1937-1941
William B. Umstead Class of 1916 In office 1953-1954
Luther H. Hodges Class of 1919 In office 1954-1961
Terry Sanford Class of 1941 In office 1961-1965
Dan K. Moore Class of 1927 In office 1965-1969
James Holshouser School of Law, Class of 1960 In office 1973-1977
James B. Hunt, Jr. School of Law, Class of 1964 In office 1977-1985;      1993-2001
Mike Easley Class of 1972 In office 2001-2009
Roy Cooper Class of 1979 Currently in office

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A Holiday Tradition: Frederick Koch’s Reading of a Christmas Carol

A drawing, in green on a white background, of Frederick Koch seated at a table with a candle on it, holding a book and pointing as he reads.

An illustration of Koch performing A Christmas Carol, 1943 (From the Carolina Playmakers Scrapbook, 1942-1943, North Carolina Collection)

When Carolina Playmakers founder Frederick Koch came to UNC in 1918, he brought with him a holiday tradition – annual dramatic readings of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Each year, he performed the classic Christmas tale on campus and in towns across North Carolina and beyond, sometimes performing it 15 or more times each season. The tradition started in 1906, when Koch was at the University of North Dakota:

Far away, it seems now, on the winter prairie of Dakota I was impelled with the desire to read again for my own enjoyment Charles Dickens’ immortal ghost story, A Christmas Carol. Fresh from Harvard, I was then a very young instructor at the State University of North Dakota… In that lonely isolation on the Great Flat I was pretty homesick, I guess, when I thought of the cheerful fireside associations I had left behind me in the East – of home, and friends at Christmastime. It was a Sunday afternoon that I read the story, and felt myself greatly cheered by it. So much so, that I mentioned the fact to a little group at supper in the University commons that evening with the comment: “Everybody ought to read Dickens’ Christmas Carol every year before Christmas.”

The dean of women spoke up: “Well, if you feel that way about it, you ought to read it for us.” On the following Sunday afternoon, the last Sunday before Christmas, I read A Christmas Carol, seated in a great armchair beside a crackling wood-fire. Outside the snow was blowing and drifting with a bitter wind, but inside all was warm with the glow from the hearth and from the mellow light of the candles. I remember distinctly the big bowl of crisp, green holly leaves someone had brought, and the soft singing of girls’ voices of the old songs we cherish at Christmas: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Silent Night,” and “Joy to the World.” So it began. The next year, and the next, and the next.

-Frederick Koch (Burlington Daily Times-News, December 13, 1933)

(An audio clip from one of Koch’s performances, year unknown, from the Records of the Department of Radio, Television and Motion Pictures, University Archives)
Program for a 1943 performance of A Christmas Carol (From the Carolina Playmakers Scrapbook, 1942-1943, North Carolina Collection)

Program for a 1943 performance of A Christmas Carol (From the Carolina Playmakers Scrapbook, 1942-1943, North Carolina Collection)

Koch’s performances brought the story to life without the aid of elaborate costumes or sets. The Raleigh News and Observer said that at a 1919 performance in Gerrard Hall, he “[sat] alone on the stage, the chapel dark except for the light at his table, with a background of Christmas trees gaily decorated behind him.” According to the newspaper’s report, he read “with spirit, vividness, and a fine touch of feeling,” and the two intermissions during the show featured carols by university singing groups.

By the end of his life, Koch had performed the story over 245 times – 39 times on the UNC campus. His readings had been broadcast on radio and television, and were a beloved annual tradition for many. After Koch’s death in 1944, the tradition was taken up by Samuel Selden, Koch’s successor as chair of the Dept. of Dramatic Art and director of the Carolina Playmakers. From 1966 through the early 1980s, the annual reading was performed by Earl Wynn of the Department of Radio, Television, and Motion Pictures.

See also: “A Christmas Carol with a Playmakers’ Flair,” North Carolina Miscellany

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Michael Eric Dyson’s 1996 Commencement Speech

Twenty years ago this week, UNC professor Michael Eric Dyson delivered the commencement address at the winter graduation ceremony. The speech, “Is America Still a Dream?,” was immediately controversial.

Daily Tar Heel, 7 January 1997.

Daily Tar Heel, 7 January 1997.

Dyson, a faculty member in the department of communications, wrote about rap music and contemporary African American culture, topics he addressed in his commencement speech. Dyson spoke first about the idea of the American dream, saying, “The only hope for extending the American Dream is an acknowledgment that for many it has not been achieved.” He talked about the anger and frustration of many young people in the so-called “Generation X” and argued that youth culture in general, and rap music in particular, “sometimes conceals, at other times reveals, personal and social pain, the stark underside of the American Dream.”

Defending contemporary rap against its critics, Dyson said that in the work of many rappers “there is also a celebration of the freedom of lyrical creativity, rhetorical dexterity and racial signification.” He gave examples, quoting from the lyrics of Snoop Doggy Dogg and Notorious B.I.G., some of which included profanity.

Dyson encouraged the graduates to “get rid of the amnesia that clogs the arteries of American national memory” and to acknowledge that “the American Dream has been long in the making, and that your piece of it today as a college graduate, has come at great expense.” In his closing remarks, he commented on Michael Jordan’s recent gift to the UNC School of Social Work, and expressed disappointment that Jordan did not donate to support the new Black Cultural Center at Carolina.


Daily Tar Heel, 8 January 1997.

The use of occasional profanity, the criticism of Jordan, and the overall challenging tone of the speech were controversial. Apparently some students and parents walked out during the speech, but the larger outcry came later in local media and in letters from alumni to UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker. Several parents who attended the ceremony wrote to Hooker with complaints, as did many more alumni who read about it in local papers.

In his responses, Hooker was often apologetic, writing to one parent, “In my judgment, our speaker could have advanced his thesis without using offensive language, especially at a family-oriented ceremony such as graduation. Commencement is an occasion that calls for challenging, but also inspiring and uplifting comments.” A Daily Tar Heel editorial criticized Hooker, writing, “More than anything, he should have stood up for the truth behind Dyson’s comments. In sparking such controversy, he dared to present a harsh truth in place of sugar-coated platitudes.

Ultimately, the focus on the rap lyrics and the comments about Jordan overshadowed the larger content and message of Dyson’s speech. A Charlotte Observer editorial a few days later noted that his message was “not so radical,” continuing: “He was challenging graduates to understand our American history, the good and the bad in all its complexity.” In the Daily Tar Heel coverage of the controversy, Jane Brown, who was Chair of the Faculty, said, “The focus on the language in the rap lyrics distracted from the main message. (Dyson) was speaking for people who are rarely spoken for. A lot of people appreciated that.” The DTH editorial was even more direct: “Dyson, instead of facing criticism, should have received a standing ovation.”

Dyson left UNC in 1997 for a faculty position at Columbia University. He is currently on the faculty at Georgetown University and continues to write and speak about African American history and culture.

Sources and Further Reading:

Michael Eric Dyson:

Charlotte Observer, 22 December 1996.

Daily Tar Heel, 7 January 1997 and 8 January 1997.

Independent Weekly, August 20-26, 1997.

Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Michael Hooker Records, 1995-1999. Series 1, folder 29 (Commencement: General, January – March 1997). University Archives.

Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): C. D. Spangler, Jr., Records, 1986-1997. Series 2.1, folder 809 (Commencement, December 15, 1996 – Mike Dyson Controversy). University Archives.

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German Language during World War I

Everything gets more stressful when parents get involved, especially choosing courses. In 1918, Llewellyn French signed up for a chemical engineering course that required 2 years of German.  At the time, the U.S was fighting Germany in World War I.  The war sparked a backlash against German culture and language.  Llewellyn’s father, William, protested his son’s enrollment in German language in a letter to University President Edward Kidder Graham, “I thought every true American institution had discarded everything pretaining [sic] to the cursed German nation, and I assure you I for one am just red blooded enough not to allow it in my family.  German cannot be spoken in my presence.”

President Graham responded the next day, explaining that the chemistry faculty found that students who didn’t read German had difficulty in that particular course. While it might seem like chemistry has nothing to do with foreign language,  in the early 20th century many scientific texts were written in German.  He further presented his own position on the language debate, arguing that educated men should continue learning German.   After all, he said, “I do not think we should cease to study cancer simply because the cancer preys upon the healthy body.”  However, Graham conceded that elementary schools should teach French, the language of America’s ally, rather than German.

This is not the only time that President Graham was asked to weigh in on the debate over German language. Other university presidents and the United States Commissioner of Education sent letters requesting that Graham make a public statement on his position.  These letters, including the elder French’s incendiary missives, are preserved in the University of North Carolina Papers at the University Archives.  You can see part of the exchange below:

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Carolina Firsts: Henry Owl

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.

From the 1927 "Hacawa," student yearbook at Lenoir Rhyne College.

From the 1927 “Hacawa,” student yearbook at Lenoir Rhyne College.

Henry Owl, a member of the Eastern band of Cherokee Indians, was the first Native American student to attend UNC.  Owl came to Carolina in the fall of 1928 and graduated the following year with a Master of Arts in History.

Owl was born in 1896 near Rattlesnake Mountain in western North Carolina. He attended the school at the Cherokee reservation, which at the time went only through eighth grade. Owl began his college education at the Hampton Institute, a primarily African American school in Hampton, Virginia. After leaving Hampton, Owl joined the U.S. Army and then taught briefly in Oklahoma. He returned to North Carolina in 1925 to enroll in Lenoir College (now Lenoir-Rhyne University) in Hickory.

At Lenoir, Owl was a member of multiple college clubs and was elected “Most Popular Boy.” He was also a star athlete, playing football and baseball. He was inducted into the Lenoir-Rhyne Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. According to Lenoir-Rhyne, Owl was the first Cherokee to graduate from a North Carolina college. 

Not long after coming to Chapel Hill, Owl was mentioned in a Daily Tar Heel article about UNC’s “most cosmopolitan student body,” which discusses the growing number of international and out-of-state students at the university, despite the fact that Owl was neither an international nor an out-of-state student.    

Owl wrote his master’s thesis on the history of the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. The thesis, The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Before and After Renewal, is available in Wilson Library.

In 1930, just a year after graduating from UNC, Owl was prohibited from voting in Swain County. A profile in a the Lenoir-Rhyne alumni magazine described what happened:

[Owl’s daughter, Gladys Cardiff] said her father often discussed this incident. “North Carolina had some issue that they knew the tribe would be voting against,” she said. In those days the state had a literacy test for voters. When Owl tried to register, he was turned away on the grounds that he was illiterate. Owl left the courthouse and returned with a copy of his master’s thesis.

The story of Owl’s struggle to vote eventually reached the U.S. Congress, which passed a law affirming that Cherokees in North Carolina were citizens and had the right to vote.

Owl worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a teacher and principal on reservations in North Carolina, Montana, and South Dakota. He moved with his family to Seattle where he worked as a counselor at the Veteran’s Administration and later as an inspector at Boeing. Wary of the racism that he knew he and his family would encounter on leaving the reservation, Owl began using his wife’s last name, Harris. He died in Seattle in 1980.

In addition to the new Carolina Firsts scholarship named in Owl’s honor, in 2011, the Department of American studies announced an endowed scholarship named The Henry Owl Scholarship Fund for Undergraduate Students.  The scholarship provides need-based assistance to undergraduate majors in the American Studies department, with preference given to those studying American Indian and Indigenous Studies.

Sources and Further Reading:

“Living in Two Worlds,” Profile: The Magazine of Lenior-Rhyne College, Winter 2007.

“The Henry Owl Scholarship and a Class in ‘Gumption,’ UNC Arts & Sciences Magazine, 2014.

“Cherokee Indian Leaders Eloquently Describe to Senators Needs of Tribe.” Asheville-Citizen Times, 27 March 1930.

“Members of Indian Family Win Honors in Scholastic Work.” Asheville-Citizen Times, 27 November 1932

“Owl Family Holds Reunion.” Asheville-Citizen Times, 26 August 1962

“North Carolina Deaths, Funerals: Henry Harris” Asheville-Citizen Times, 11 March 1980

“Lenoir-Rhyne Announces Sports Hall Of Fame Class Of 2012” L-R Athletics, 26 September 2012.

Lenoir-Rhyne University. Hacawa. 1927.

“University Presents Most Cosmopolitan Student Body.” Daily Tar Heel. 6 October 1928.

“First Indian Student at UNC, Henry Owl.” The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History.

“Henry Owl Fellowship honors American Indian pioneer.” Cherokee One Feather. 31 October 2012.

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Carolina Tweets #archiveunc

When you think of archives you might think of dusty old books and papers tucked away to be used by historians and other academics. Here at the University Archives we preserve plenty of old University records (that are kept dust-free, by the way), but our day-to-day work is actually very focused on the current moment. Without collecting materials that document the present day researchers can’t study the University in the future.

One way we archive the current moment is through collecting student life materials and UNC related web content. With only three full time staff members it can be tough to keep up with all the conversations, events, and activism happening on campus. We can’t do this alone. This is where you come in!

You can actively contribute to the documentation of what’s happening at UNC by using the hashtag #archiveunc on your public tweets or Instagram posts. That’s all you have to do! By using the hashtag, you opt in to having the posts archived for long-term preservation and research access.

How is the content archived? We will periodically use a tool called Archive-It to “crawl” the tweets or posts tagged with the #archiveunc hashtag. Once the posts have been crawled by the Archive-it tool, the data is preserved by the Internet Archive and we provide access through our Archive-It website.

What kind of tweets are we looking for? We’re open to any tweets or Instagram posts related to UNC academics, campus life, and events. For example:

  • Promoting a student organization event? #archiveunc
  • Protesting? #archiveunc
  • Promoting a cause? #archiveunc
  • Sharing activities or chalk messages seen on campus? #archiveunc

If you don’t use #archiveunc, we may be in touch to ask permission to add your social media content or website to the Archives. Collecting social media content as it unfolds is new for us. We’re experimenting, so how we ask for permission and the technology used may evolve over time. As things change, we’ll keep you in the loop.

We hope you’ll join us in this exciting new effort!

Not interested in social media? Other ways to get involved and help document Carolina history:

  • Submit photos of UNC shirts to the UNC T-Shirt Archive.
  • Connect with us regarding donation of student organization records, digital or print photos, videos, or campus posters/flyers. If it documents something happening at UNC, we’re happy to talk about adding it to the archives. Please email ( us to get the process started.
  • Nominate a UNC website for archiving. First check to see if we’ve already archived the website: If the website can’t be found in our web archives, send us an email ( to get the process started.

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Summer in the Archives: Carolina’s Untold History Undergraduate Research Fellowships

Photo from the Southeastern Gay Conference, from the 1976 Yackety Yack

Photo from the Southeastern Gay Conference, from the 1976 Yackety Yack

We are pleased to announce a new research fellowship for undergraduate students who are interested in getting hands-on experience with archival research and who want to contribute to the ongoing conversation about UNC history.

The University Library and the Chancellor’s Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill’s History are sponsoring four undergraduate research fellowships for summer 2017. The fellows will work in the University Archives in Wilson Library on research projects that will help to expand the existing narrative of UNC history. The research will focus on underrepresented, excluded, or misrepresented people and events – the “untold” stories that have not made it into traditional accounts of Carolina’s history.

How to Apply

The Carolina’s Untold History fellowships will be administered through the Office of Undergraduate Research as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. Visit the SURF website for more information about how to apply.

A color photo of UNC housekeepers holding a sign that reads "The UNC Housekeepers Association" in front of the "Silent Sam" Confederate monument on the UNC campus.

A demonstration of the UNC Housekeepers Association, circa 1996.

Research Topics

As part of the application process, students will work with a faculty adviser and with the staff of the UNC University Archives to develop a research topic. Topics will be related to UNC history and must focus on aspects of university history that have not been covered at length in existing histories of UNC. University Archives staff can help applicants determine whether there are sufficient archival resources to support the nine-week fellowship. Students should contact the University Archives to discuss potential topics:

Sample Topics

The following are just examples of the types of topics students might choose to explore.

A black and white photo of women students doing laundry in a dormitory in 1948.

Women students doing laundry in a dormitory, 1948.

Applicants are encouraged to be thoughtful and creative about their research topics and should contact the University Archives to discuss potential research ideas.

  • The origins of the Carolina Gay Association in 1974 and the struggle for early LGBTQ organizations at UNC to receive recognition and support.
  • A look at racial segregation practices on the UNC campus before and after the arrival of the first African American students in the 1950s.
  • The practice of hiring slaves to use as college servants prior to emancipation.
  • An examination of the different administrative policies for women students in the early to mid 20th century.


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Morehead-Patterson Memorial Bell Tower Dedication, November 26, 1931

One of UNC’s most beloved landmarks, the Morehead-Patterson Memorial Bell Tower, was dedicated on November 26, 1931. Thanks to a recent gift from an alumnus, we are pleased to be able to share the program from the dedication ceremony. (Click on the image below to view the full program.)

UNC bell tower dedication program, 1931. UNC Ephemera Collection, NCC.

UNC bell tower dedication program, 1931. UNC Ephemera Collection, NCC.

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