New Collection: Danny Bell Photographs

We have just opened a new collection for research: photographs from Danny Bell. Bell has been at the heart of American Indian life at UNC since the late 1980s. He was one of the founders of the American Indian Studies program and has worked closely with the Carolina Indian Circle. Bell’s photos document performances, lectures, and classes, and include many images of Carolina Indian Circle events.

The photos now available for use in Wilson Library.

Carolina Indian Circle performance and beading workshop, ca. 1996-1997. Photo by Danny Bell.

Carolina Indian Circle performance and beading workshop, ca. 1996-1997. Photo by Danny Bell.

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New Collection: Fred Brooks Papers

Fred Brooks at the dedication of the Brooks Computer Science Building in 2008.

Fred Brooks at the dedication of the Brooks Computer Science Building in 2008. Photo by UNC News Services.

We are pleased to announce the availability of a new collection: the Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. Papers. This collection documents the work of Fred Brooks, the pioneer computer scientist and founder of UNC’s Department of Computer Science. The UNC Computer Science building, dedicated in 2008, is named for Brooks.

The collection includes materials about the Department of Computer Science, the development of the Triangle Universities Computing Center (an early collaboration between Duke and UNC), and records of Brooks’s research and writing, including the manuscript of his influential book The Mythical Man-Month.

The Brooks Papers are open and available for research in Wilson Library.

Image source: News Services of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (#40139). Digital Folder DF-40139/0382, https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/record/uuid:a80564ce-18dc-487b-ad64-3519cc0879ae

 

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The Rise and Fall of Apple Chill

The Apple Chill festival began in Chapel Hill in 1972, a time when the city was (as the 1972 UNC yearbook said) “a town of small, even shops interrupted by one higher roof with the unmistakable air of village compactness and tradition.”

Springtime would bring the festivities to a Franklin Street closed to traffic, and people from far and wide would join the revelry. The large street fair brought thousands of people into Chapel Hill each year and provided exposure for artists and musicians of all types. A group that became a mainstay of the celebration was the Apple Chill Cloggers, a folk dance troupe that has performed in 14 countries since their first festival appearance in 1975.

The first Apple Chill festival page from the 1972 edition of the Yackety Yack.

As the years flew by Apple Chill began to change and three major issues began to make themselves clear: the astronomical cost, the violence, and the unbelievably bad traffic. The 2004 celebration cost the town $43,593. In 2005 the cost had doubled: the town spent $87,233 for police and other costs.

Apple Chill, for all its charm, had problems more serious than merely draining the treasury (DTH 4/15/05). Rising crime resulted in an increased police presence as the years drifted by: in 1993 there was a shootout after the festival, in 2003 alone 12 fights were reported, and two people were injured in a stabbing at the Local 506 in 2004.

Apple Chill 1979. [Yackety Yack]

All good things must come to an end, and the increasingly violent events caught up with the festival. In 2006 Chapel Hill chilled for the final time. Around 30,000 people (and 235 police officers) attended that year, unaware that they would be the final attendees to celebrate in Chapel Hill proper. That year officers arrested 11 people and issued 87 traffic citations, but that was only the beginning of the troubles. At an unsanctioned event called “After Chill,” the fun and games finally ended as the violence reached a head: three people were shot.

Traffic was another problem of Apple Chill; roads were congested so badly that not even ambulances could navigate. The News and Observer reported on one particularly shocking 2006 incident (N&O 4/25/06):

One of the shooting victims had to be taken from Franklin Street to UNC Hospitals on a John Deere Gator, which is like an all-terrain vehicle with a cab on the back that was retrofitted to hold a gurney.

Apple Chill 1990. [Yackety Yack]

The death of Apple Chill, though tragic, was also a reflection of Chapel Hill’s evolving culture. It was no longer a small town, and Mayor Kevin Foy was forced to acknowledge that fact even when facing resistance from many Chapel Hill locals. “The town is not the same as it was 35 years ago; as the town grows, as the region grows, we have to be willing to change.”

Despite being ousted from Chapel Hill, Apple Chill events can still be found hosted in other cities (though the Spoonerism of a name makes a bit less sense as a result). From 2007 until 2010 the festival was held in Roxboro, NC. Since 2011 it has been held in Fayetteville.

 

References:

Apple Chill Cloggers

“Chapel Hill Town Council Passes Resolution To End Street Fair”

“Chapel Hill Votes to Kill Apple Chill”

“Police: Chapel Hill Festival Shootings Probably Gang-Related”

The Daily Tar Heel (articles cited above)

The Yackety Yack

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UNC Students Study Nike, 1998

Daily Tar Heel, 29 April 1998.

In the mid 1990s, Nike and other apparel companies drew criticism for labor practices in overseas factories they owned or used. UNC students and faculty were at the heart of the debate in the spring of 1998 when an entire class looked at Nike and its role in the global economy.

UNC began its relationship with Nike in 1993, when it signed its first agreement with the company to provide shoes and other athletic apparel for Carolina athletes and coaches. It was a new era for the basketball team in particular, which had worn Converse shoes since the 1960s.

When the University began negotiating a renewal of the contract a few years later, students began to bring up concerns about Nike’s labor practices. In the summer of 1997, student Marion Traub Warner started the Nike Awareness Campaign to educate other students about concerns over Nike’s labor practices. This was not just a UNC issue. Other universities with apparel deals with Nike, including Michigan, Ohio State, and the University of California, collaborated with an independent study of working conditions in factories used by Nike. In the fall of 1997, business students at Dartmouth released a study of pay rates at factories in Indonesia and Vietnam. Workers were found to be poorly paid and subject to dangerous environmental conditions.

Inspired by UNC student interest and an opportunity to study and learn from a current, global issue, UNC faculty members Richard Andrews, Nick Didow, and James Peacock offered a class in the Spring semester 1998 entitled “Economics, Ethics, and Impacts of the Global Economy: The Nike Example.”

The course drew national media attention, including a mention on ESPN. At the end of the semester, the faculty arranged for a staff member from Nike to be present for the students’ final presentations, which included recommendations for the company. They were all surprised when the company representative turned out to be Nike CEO Phil Knight. Nike took steps to address labor concerns in its factories and the University continued to renew its apparel contracts with Nike.

This topic and the class are covered at length in a new collection in the University Archives. The collection includes materials gathered and saved by Dr. Raymond (“Pete”) Andrews. It is a terrific resource for anyone interested in studying labor practices of apparel companies in the 1990s and the ways that college students at UNC and around the country helped to engage and possibly influence the practices of a major international corporation.

UNC faculty and students with Nike CEO Phil Knight (third from left), 1998. From the Richard Andrews Collection on The Nike Class, UNC University Archives.

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Test your UNC History Knowledge!

For the last two years, the University Archives has collaborated with Linda’s Bar and Grill on Franklin Street to host a round of UNC history-themed trivia during the first week of classes. How would you do? Test your knowledge with the questions below, then check out the answers here.

1. Eight of the buildings currently in use on the UNC campus were originally built before the Civil War. Can you name at least five? 

2. Only two U.S. Presidents have studied at Carolina. James K. Polk, who graduated in 1818, is the only UNC graduate to go on to become President. Who is the other future President who took classes at UNC? Hint: he spent one summer taking classes at the UNC School of Law in 1938. 

3. In the 1920s, students often complained about the noise coming from the basement of Caldwell Building. What was the source of the noise? 

  • Practices by the UNC Mandolin and Guitar Club 
  • Mysterious yells and chants from Order of the Gimghoul ceremonies 
  • Barking and howling from lab animals used in Medical School courses 
  • Loud hammering and clanking from the UNC blacksmith shop

4. In the early 1990s when basketball coach Dean Smith decided that the Tar Heels needed a new look, what local fashion designer did he turn to for help redesigning the team’s uniforms? 

5. Which well-known author is not a UNC alumnus? 

  • Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities 
  • Mary Pope Osborne, author of the Magic Tree House series 
  • Sarah Dessen, author of Saint Anything and other popular young adult novels. 
  • Walker Percy, author of The Moviegoer and Lost in the Cosmos 

6. The design of the Old Well was modeled after a similar structure in what country? 

  • England 
  • France 
  • Italy 
  • Greece 

7. In 1965, UNC students were frustrated with the poor performance of the basketball team and blamed the young coach, Dean Smith. How did they express their dissatisfaction? 

  • They started a petition calling for Smith’s firing. 
  • They toilet-papered Smith’s house. 
  • They wrote letters to former coach Frank McGuire, urging him to come back to UNC. 
  • They hanged Smith in effigy. 

8. Captain Johnston Blakeley is believed to be the first UNC alumnus to be killed in military service. In what war was he killed? 

9. In 2006, UNC was the first predominantly-white university to name a building in honor of someone formerly enslaved on campus. Name the building and the man for whom it was named. 

10. Every October 12th, the University celebrates “University Day” in honor of an important event that happened on that day in 1793. What was it? 

11. Who was the first student to attend UNC?  

12. Which of UNC’s varsity athletic programs has the most NCAA championship wins? 

13. UNC has 5 buildings named after members of the same family. What is the family? 

14. What UNC sports team was, for a time, known as the “White Phantoms?” 

15. In the 1970s, the “High Noon Society” regularly met on Fridays at the Bell Tower. For what purpose? 

16. How many students were in UNC’s first graduating class? Hint: Not many. 

17. In 1951, the first four African American students were admitted to UNC. They were graduate students in what program? 

18. In 1935, UNC president Frank Porter Graham proposed a plan to reform intercollegiate athletics, which was met with immediate backlash. Which of the following was not part of the Graham Plan? 

  • Eliminated athletic scholarships 
  • Made first-year students ineligible to participate in varsity athletics 
  • Prohibited students from missing class for games 
  • Banned recruiting 

19. In 1852, UNC completed a building that would serve a dual purpose as a library and ballroom. It was later used as a performance venue. What is the name of that building now? 

20. According to a Daily Tar Heel report, “Carmichael auditorium oozed steamy sexuality” during this late musical artist’s 1983 performance. 

Check your answers here!

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Noteworthy Firsts: Lenoir Chambers

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.

Lenoir Chambers was one of the first three Carolina alumni, along with W. Horace Carter and Vermont C. Royster, to receive the Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

He graduated from Virginia’s Woodberry Forest School in 1910 and received an A.B. degree from The University of North Carolina in 1914. He then studied at the Columbia University School of Journalism from 1916 to 1917. After working on the Washington staff of the New Republic, he served overseas during World War I as a first lieutenant of infantry with the 52nd Infantry, Sixth Division. After the war, Chambers directed UNC’s news bureau until 1921, when he joined the Greensboro Daily News.

Chambers was married to Roberta Burwell Strudwick in 1928. They had a daughter, Elizabeth Lacy, in addition to a son from Ms. Chambers’ first marriage, Robert Strudwick Glenn.

In 1929, Chambers became associate editor of the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk under editor Louis I. Jaffe. Chambers became editor of the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch in 1944 and editor of the Virginian-Pilot in 1950, after Jaffe’s death. He was also the author of the biography Stonewall Jackson (1959) and Salt Water and Printer’s Ink (1967), a history of newspapers in the Norfolk, VA area.

Chambers was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his series of 12 editorials on the school integration problem in Virginia. He was very opposed to segregation, much to the surprise of those who knew him as a North Carolinian and the biographer of a Confederate general. His series in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot began with “The Year Virginia Closed the Schools,” published January 1, 1959.

Lenoir Chambers in 1914. [From the Yackety Yack yearbook, 1914].

The story is this: in 1958, Virginia closed the doors of a Warren County high school in Front Royal and two schools in Charlottesville. Perhaps most personally to Chambers, six schools in Norfolk were closed. The reason? To avoid desegregating them. With this action, Chambers wrote, the state denied nearly 13,000 children “the kind of education which the people of Virginia had in mind when they wrote… their Constitution.” This first editorial ended with a call to action:

The question Virginians must ask themselves on this New Year’s Day is what they can, and will, do in 1959 to recover from the tragedy of 1958.

The final editorial of the series was “The Year Virginia Opened the Schools,” published on the final day of 1959. Thoughtful and sober, it too ends with a challenge:

But the old years of impracticality, unconstitutionalism, and futility are on the way out. If Virginia can produce more willingness to face the facts and fresh qualities of initiative and leadership in dealing with them, the year the state opened the schools can lead to a new year of hope.

Between the poles defined by those two editorials, much changed in Virginia. Resistance to desegregation crumbled in the face of public school teachers, angry parents, and complaints by business owners. Eventually peaceful desegregation, on a limited scale, took place.

Chambers retired in 1961 and afterward continued to write and lecture and to serve on many civic and historical boards, including the Society of Newspaper Editors, the Virginia Historical Society, and the National Conference of Editorial Writers. He passed away in 1970, but Robert Mason’s letter nominating him for the Pulitzer is an admirable tribute to his spirit.

He never wavered. He wasted no time on the fiction of what might have been or might be. When some of his colleagues of the Virginia press at last joined him in his view, he welcomed them warmly, and he did not chide them for the lateness of their education.

It is not too much to say, I am persuaded, that Lenoir Chambers has done more, and under conditions more vexing and longer sustained, to give logic and direction to Virginia, and to the whole South, in the school problem than any other editor.

Many of Chambers’ papers are preserved in the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library.

Sources and Further Reading:

Lenoir Chambers Papers (#3827), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Lenoir Chambers Wins the Pulitzer Prize!The Virginian-Pilot May 2, 2013

Salt Water and Printers Ink. Lenoir Chambers. The University Of North Carolina, 2011.

Stonewall Jackson. Lenoir Chambers. Broadfoot Pub. Co., 1988.

Yackety Yack, 1914

 

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Noteworthy Firsts: Dr. William Alexander Darity, Sr.

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.

Image result for Dr. William Alexander Darity, Sr. unc

Darity in 2011. [From University of Massachusetts-Amherst].

Dr. William Alexander Darity, Sr. was born January 15, 1924, in East Flat Rock, North Carolina. He was born to Aden Randall and Elizabeth Smith Darity, neither of whom had an education past 6th grade. Nonetheless, Darity went on to pursue a collegiate education. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Shaw University and his Master’s of Science in Public Health from North Carolina Central University.

In June 1964, he became the first African-American to earn a Ph.D from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in what is now the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Health Behavior, an accomplishment that only took him only two years to complete. His thesis was titled Contraceptive Education: The Relative Cultural and Social Factors Related to Applied Health Education with Special Reference to Oral Contraceptives.

Prior to pursuing his Ph.D., Darity accumulated 10 years of international experience with the World Health Organization, where he focused on malaria eradication. He also spent two years working with The North Carolina Fund, an anti-poverty agency. Afterwards, in 1965, Darity joined the University of Massachusetts-Amherst faculty; there were only three full-time faculty members in the public health department when he joined. Darity also helped to found the Black Caucus of Health Workers of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in the late 1960s. He became head of the department in 1968 and was named dean of the School of Health Sciences in September 1973.  Immediately before his appointment at University of Massachussetts-Amherst, Darity served as Director of Program Development for the North Carolina Fund, Inc. (a statewide, privately funded, non-profit, anti-poverty organization). 

Darity in 1974. [From Gillings School of Global Public Health].

In 1977 he received a Distinguished Service Award from the UNC School of Public Health Alumni Association, and he served as a member of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees from 1985 and 1991. In 1996 UNC named him a distinguished alumnus. In 2014 he was inducted into the Golden Rams Society, a group for alumni who matriculated at the University 50 or more years ago.

Funded by the National Cancer Institute, one of Darity’s final research efforts at University of Massachussetts-Amherst was both extensive and important. He served as the principal investigator for a $3.4 million, five-year research study on smoking and cancer in black populations; the study explored the multitude of factors that lead to smoking and the accompanying health risks among low-income black communities.

After retirement, he continued to use his influence to do good. After his urging upon his retirement, the UoM-Amherst Division of Public Health became a School of Public Health with its own dean. The Division of Nursing also became a School of Nursing with its own dean. Moreover, he served as senior associate and deputy director for the Asia and the Near East for the Population Council of New York. He passed away in 2015 at age 91.

Sources:

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Noteworthy Firsts: Sallie Walker Stockard

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.

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A portrait of Sallie Walker Stockard [From the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives]

In 1898, Sallie Stockard became the first woman to graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a thesis called Nature in Poetry. A few years later she triumphed again, earning a masters degree.

Before attending UNC, Stockard went to other institutions. In 1892, at the age of 23, Stockard enrolled in Guilford College — a school only 4 years old at the time.

The trustees of UNC voted to open its doors to women for postgraduate studies in January of 1897. Five women including Stockard were accepted, but the university was unprepared for the possibility that a woman would actually complete a degree. When Stockard did finish (the only one of the four to do so), she was excluded from all ceremonies, including the actual presentation of degrees and class pictures. She would stay on at UNC until earning a masters degree in 1900.

After obtaining her master’s degree, she left North Carolina for Clark University in Massachusetts where she published a dramatization of the Song of Solomon. By 1904 she had moved to Arkansas, where she married. She then moved to New Mexico, where she had two children. She separated from her husband soon after the birth of her second child, and in the 1920s, she moved to New York City and enrolled in Columbia University’s Teachers College. In 1924 she received a second masters degree there.

Over the course of her life, Stockard published several books on local history, both in North Carolina and other places she lived. Her master’s thesis at UNC was The History of Alamance, and was reprinted by the Alamance Historical Museum in 1986. Her second book, The History of Guilford County, North Carolina, was published in in 1902. In Arkansas, she published A History of Lawrence, Jackson, Independence and Stone Counties of the Third Judicial District of Arkansas.

In the 1940s, she wrote an autobiography detailing life in rural Alamance and her UNC experience, Daughter of the Piedmont: Chapel Hill’s First Co-Ed Graduate. Around the same time she founded a newspaper,  the Nassau Golden Fleece News Gleaner, in her new home of western Long Island, NY.

Stockard passed away at age 93 in Long Island.

Sources and Further Reading:

103rd UNC Commencement Pamplet

Dean, Pamela. Women on the Hill: a History of Women at the University of North Carolina. Division of Student Affairs, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1987.

http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=4042

“‘Daughter of the Piedmont’ by Sallie Walker Stockard” in Miscellaneous Writings, circa 1893-1956 #03704-z, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finding Aid: https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/03704/

“Stockard, Sallie Walker (1869-1963): Scan 1” in Digital North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives

Stockard, Sallie Walker. History of Guilford County, North Carolina. Nabu Press, 2010.

Stockard, Sallie Walker. History of Lawrence, Jackson, Independence, and Stone Counties of the Third Judicial District of Arkansas. Little Rock: Arkansas Democrat Co., 1904.

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Otelia Connor: UNC’s Guardian of Good Manners

Otelia Connor, from the Daily Tar Heel, 9 March 1963.

Otelia Connor, from the Daily Tar Heel, 9 March 1963.

Before there were Pit preachers, there was Mrs. Otelia Connor, an elderly Southern woman who patrolled the manners of Carolina students in the 1960s.  Instead of a Bible, she carried an umbrella to thwack those who ran afoul of her rules.  Though she reportedly only used the umbrella once, the threat of her wrath was enough to keep many in line—at least in her presence.  Connor was known as a campus gadfly, a character whose outsized personality kept her on the pages of The Daily Tar Heel.  Her mission and popularity led Time magazine to write a feature in which they coined the term “Oteliaquette” to describe her unique take on campus etiquette.  She later appeared on other media outlets, including The Mike Douglas Show and various radio programs.  Her moment in the national spotlight faded, though she continued to contribute to campus life until her death in 1969.

Otelia Cunningham Connor, a widow from an illustrious North Carolina family, originally came to Chapel Hill for her son’s graduation from law school in 1957.  She fell in love with Carolina, and promptly moved to a modest apartment near campus.  Though the mother of two grown children, Otelia adopted the entire student body as her children and set about improving their manners from her base in Lenoir Hall.  Her rules ranged from common demonstrations of respect—such as holding the door for older people—to specific prohibitions against everything from chewing gum to bumping the back of her chair.  In general, she advocated friendly and thoughtful behavior as hallmarks of a proper upbringing and education.  She wrote of her calling, “The world expects good manners of a college graduate.  When I correct the young people it is because I think too much of them to see them go out into the world without the rudiments of good manners . . . . Most young people appreciate someone taking the trouble to correct their thoughtlessness.” Otelia Connor, “Manners Minder,” DTH (11 April 1962, pg. 2)

Dean of Students Charles Henderson described Otelia as an “anthropological treasure . . . a throwback to those lost days when manners counted for something, and when elderly ladies thought it their duty to preserve them.”  Students were more divided on her mission and methods.  Some students appreciated her contributions, as Stanley Cameron wrote to the DTH, “She is truly a pearl.  Carolina would not be the same without her.  Only a mature, reserved, detached woman like herself could display such keen insight in the life of this university.” Stanley Cameron, “Wants More Otelia, Wellman,” DTH (15 February 1963, pg. 3).  Others were more dubious, “Otelia Connor writes such stinging comments on the social manners of our times that she has been suspected of being the pseudonym of a crotchety editor whose pen has an acute case of acid hemophilia.” Alan K. Whiteleather, “The Pen’s Poison, But Manners Are the Motive: ‘Otelia’—It’s No Pseudonym,” DTH (13 February 1963, pg. 1).  Indeed, DTH editors had to reassure incredulous students that Otelia was indeed “real” on multiple occasions.

As the self-appointed guardian of manners, Otelia was often viewed as a prude.  The 1963 April Fool’s issue of the DTH (March 31, 1963) featured Otelia as a member of an imaginary “Human Relations Committee” to enforce the administration’s abolishment of sex.  Indeed, Otelia argued against pre-marital sex during a Di-Phi debate.  Otelia was also positively scandalized by a dance called the Thunderbird, citing its resemblance to “an orgy” and expressed concern that a male student might “shake his backsides right off,” continuing, “please excuse me from this bottom-shaking business.  Whatever it is, it is not a dance and shouldn’t be classified as a dance.” Otelia Connor, “From Otelia,” DTH (11 July 1963, pg. 4).

Despite her traditional ideas about sex and dancing, Otelia was more progressive regarding dissent.  As she wrote in a rare political letter to the editor, “When this country ever reaches the point where it is afraid of new ideas and afraid to let people express themselves in open and free debate, then democracy will already be dead, and waiting to be buried by the communist world.” Otelia Connor, “More Afraid Of J Birchers,” DTH (11 December 1962, pg. 2).  This is not to say that she embraced an activist worldview.  Although she claimed to support civil rights for African Americans, she objected to continuing demonstrations by the Civil Rights movement, “I think it would be the part of wisdom to consolidate the many gains they have made recently, and give the extreme segregationists a chance to accommodate themselves to the changes which have come about.”  Otelia Connor, “From Otelia On Civil Rights,” DTH (1 August 1963, pg. 5).

By the end of her life, Connor had recanted some of her earlier strictures regarding dancing, male-female relationships, and—in her final letter—long hair on men.  In that last article, she decried her earlier belief “that everybody should conform to the status quo, and that there should never be any changes.”  After exhorting men with long locks to keep their hair clean, she offered words of wisdom for all generations, “Let us all, students and adults, grow into maturity, and be ready to accept the next period of change around the corner.” Otelia Connor, “Time For Change,” DTH (31 July 1969, pg. 6).

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Noteworthy Firsts: Johnston Blakeley

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.

Captain Johnston Blakeley (sometimes spelled Blakely) was a successful naval officer during the War of 1812 and the first University of North Carolina alumnus to give his life in military service to the United States.

Blakeley had a long journey to Chapel Hill. Born in County Down, Ireland in 1781, he immigrated to the United States with his family in 1783. Tragically, his mother died during the voyage. His family lived in Wilmington, NC, but he spent much of his youth in school in Flatbush, Long Island, NY.

In 1796 he entered UNC (making him a contemporary of Hinton James) and was a member of the Philanthropic Society by 1797. The first speech he gave to the society “spoke on the happiness of ye farmers.” His later speeches and compositions covered a variety of topics: the education of women, Jacobinism, the advantages of education, self-government, the state of France and America, Brutus’ speech to the Romans, advantages of riches and poverty, and tobacco. He even gave a reading of Ulysses’ speech to Alcinous and the queen from The Odyssey.

A 1797 record of Blakeley’s presentation to the Philanthropic Society about women’s education [From the Records of the Philanthropic Society, University Archives].

In 1797, when Blakeley was 16, tragedy struck again. His father died and he was orphaned, becoming a ward of Edward Jones of Rockrest, Chatham County. Moreover, he was left without money due to a disastrous fire that destroyed his family’s warehouses.

Portrait of Johnston Blakeley. [From the North Carolina Portrait Index, North Carolina Collection].

In 1800 he joined the U.S. Navy as a midshipman, becoming a lieutenant seven years later. In 1812 he served on the President and the Enterprise before being made  Master Commandant and put in command of the Wasp and its 173 person crew.  In 1814 he sank and captured a number of British ships, among them were Three Brothers, the Bacchus, the HMS Reindeer and HMS Avon. He also captured the Atalanta, a supply ship laden with wine, brandy, and silk. Though Blakeley had a custom of burning the ships he battled, there was doubt as to the Atalanta’s nationality. Instead, he put Midshipman David Geisinger and a prize crew aboard. On September 22, 1814 the Atalanta set sail to Savannah, Georgia, where she arrived safely in November. No further word was ever received from the Wasp.

A Wilmington marker memorializing Blakeley. [From North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program].

Rumors abound about Blakeley’s mysterious disappearance. A privateer claimed to have seen the Wasp off the Canary Islands. The British frigate Lacedemonian was believed by some to have sunk her off Charleston, South Carolina. John C. Calhoun even heard a report that she was operating in the Pacific Ocean. It’s more likely that the Wasp simply sank due to winds, but whatever the case he and his men never returned.

In January of 1815 his wife, Jane Hoope Blakeley, gave birth to a daughter, Udney Maria. The following year the North Carolina legislature resolved to pay for Udney’s education and to provide the family with funds. The legislature planned to give Udney a sword in memory of her father, but in the end, at her mother’s suggestion, she was given a  silver tea service. In 1904, the US Navy honored Blakeley with the naming of a battleship, the USS Blakely.

A poem written by a “highly gifted and accomplished young lady” demonstrates the power of Blakeley’s legacy:

No more shall Blakeley’s thunder roar
Upon the stormy deep;
Far distant from Columbia’s shore
His tombless ruins sleep;
But long Columbia’s song shall tell
How Blakeley fought, how Blakeley fell.

Sources:

Homans, Benjamin. Army and Navy Chronicle. Vol. 6, 1838.

“Johnston Blakeley, 1781-1814.” North Carolina Portrait Index, 1700-1860. Chapel Hill: UNC Press. p. 25.

“Minutes, 1795-1959.” in the Philanthropic Society of the University of North Carolina Records, 1795-1959 #40166, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program, ID D-37

S. M. Lemmon, Frustrated Patriots: North Carolina and the War of 1812 (1973).

Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library (Record Group 45), United States National Archives.

A. R. Newsome, “Udney Maria Blakeley,” North Carolina Historical Review 4 (1927).

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