Wilson Library Exhibit Honors Four Alumni Writers

The lives and legacies of four writers who attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the two world wars, will be the subject of an exhibit July 16 through Sept. 30 at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library.

The free, public exhibit, Four from between the Wars: Paul Green, Thomas Wolfe, Robert Ruark, and Walker Percy, will be on view in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Room on the third floor of Wilson Library.

Four from between the Wars exhibit flier
"Four from between the Wars" exhibit flier

Approximately 75 historic photographs, rare printed items, and original documents illustrate the development of these students into some of the South’s best-known writers of the 20th century. The exhibit will also explore their literary circles and work of their protégés.

Among the items to be displayed is a copy of Wolfe’s autobiographical novel Look Homeward, Angel that he inscribed for his mother in 1929, and first editions of Wolfe’s novels. More fanciful items include a Thomas Wolfe T-shirt and a commemorative postage stamp.

First editions of the works of Ruark, a journalist and novelist, are on exhibit, along with cartoons he drew for campus publications as a student.

Green, a dramatist, teacher, and humanitarian, is represented with letters from fellow writers and collaborators including Richard Wright, Betty Smith, and Orson Welles. The exhibit also includes images and artifacts relating to the production of Green’s outdoor drama The Lost Colony (1937), which is still performed each summer on Roanoke Island, near North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

“It was during the interwar period that UNC became a modern research university,” said Eileen McGrath, assistant curator of the North Carolina Collection and one of the exhibit organizers.

“These authors came to the University as young men, novice writers,” McGrath said. “Their experiences here enabled them to develop their understanding of themselves and the world.”

Four of Wilson’s special collections— the North Carolina Collection, the Rare Book Collection, the Southern Historical Collection and University Archives— are jointly sponsoring this exhibit as a contribution to the 2009 North Carolina Literary Festival. The biennial festival will take place on the University campus Sept. 10-13.

“The festival focuses on contemporary writers,” said Biff Hollingsworth, collecting and public programming archivist for the Southern Historical Collection. “We wanted to offer a space for people to come and reflect on the historical aspect of Southern writing.”


Four from between the Wars:
Paul Green, Thomas Wolfe, Robert Ruark, and Walker Percy

Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room, Wilson Library
July 16-Sept. 30, 2009
Free and open to the public
Exhibit information: rbcref@email.unc.edu, (919) 962-1143
In conjunction with the North Carolina Literary Festival, Sept. 10-13, 2009