In our second installment of our “welcome back” series, we feature a letter from Neil A. Sinclair (a freshman) to his mother, 9 September 1882, in which he recounts his experiences with being hazed by the older boys at Carolina. Hazing was frequent during the early years of the University. In Kemp Plummer Battle’s “History of the University of North Carolina. Volume II: From 1868 to 1912,” available online through DocSouth, you’ll find a lot of description about these hazing practices (starts around page 294 of the electronic version), including descriptions of the “blacking parties” mentioned in Sinclair’s letter below:
There has been [a] good deal of “freshing,” but I’ve been troubled but very little. The first of the week, while going to supper one evening, a fellow thought he would be smart & stepped up in my path & drew his fist as if he were going to knock me down. He came meeting me, but I deliberately walked on till we met & ran up against each other, but instead of backing off I stood firm & looked him square in the eyes. He seemed rather disappointed & after a while asked what I was looking at him so hard for, thinking he would create a laugh, but I said, “I was just going to keel you about 10 ft. out there on the grass if you had touched me,” & I would have done it too. He saw I was in earnest & he got mighty small & slunk around to one side of me & passed on leaving me in possession of the field. Then I started on without even looking back & the crowd first yelled at the Sophomore about allowing a Freshman to bully him. I was not troubled any more till Wednesday night. About 25 boys came around & told me I had to make them a bow, but I told them I would do nothing of the kind. They also tried to make me get on the table & speak & to dance but I would not. They said they would black me then. Ransom & 2 others about drunk were going to do the blacking. I told them that was one thing I did not propose to allow & that I would not be blacked alive & that the first man that attempted to black me would get that. I told them there was but one thing they could make me do & that was to trot[?], that I would not think of fighting a man for such a thing as that, & I knew they could carry me by force. So they gave out their blacking notion & we started out & just as we got to the door, Pres. Battle met us & said, “Gentlemen, this devilment has got to stop.” In five minutes the whole campus was quiet, & for 3 hours before you could have heard the noise for 5 miles….