As part of ongoing efforts to reckon with its past, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently joined several dozen universities and colleges in becoming a member of Universities Studying Slavery (USS). This “multi-institutional collaboration” aims to facilitate an environment of mutual support in order for these institutions to “address both historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality in higher education and in university communities as well as the complicated legacies of slavery in modern American society.”
Each of these institutions has employees and students who have begun extensive research into universities’ founders’, employees’, trustees’, donors’, and students’ exploitation of enslaved peoples’ labor in order to to build, maintain, and serve the needs of higher learning in the United States. Undergraduates in Dr. James Leloudis’ HIST 398 course, entitled “Slavery and the University,” and graduate student research assistants conducted extensive research into the university’s use of enslaved labor and its role in the slave trade. In my capacity as a graduate research assistant for the History Task Force during the Spring 2018 semester, I expanded upon, collated, and formalized this research into a list of the names of enslaved people who have thus far been identified as workers and builders on and around the campus. This list includes the names of identified enslaved people, as well as information on their duties and the years in which they worked on campus.
In order to aid further research into these people and their lives, a more complete list is available below, which includes the names of identified enslaved people’s owners, and the sources in which enslaved people’s names were found. The aim is to provide such information to acknowledge and honor the previously unnamed enslaved people who literally built the university; to facilitate better understandings of the contexts within which the university operated; to promote further interest and research into the university’s past and its involvement with slavery; and to begin the process of reconciling the university’s past with its present.
More information on enslaved people not currently included in these lists will continue to be published as researchers, including undergraduate and graduate students, archivists, genealogists, and historians continue their work. Several employees, trustees, and presidents of the university provided their enslaved workers as hired labor in currently unknown capacities; attorneys throughout the state of North Carolina sold escheated enslaved people to fund the university’s operations; and Chapel Hill townspeople boarded enslaved people hired out to work on the campus.
In order to facilitate further research, the full spreadsheet of known enslaved laborers, along with associated owners and citations to relevant archival sources is available below. Click the link to download a copy of the Excel file.