Edwina Thomas Applies to Graduate School at UNC in 1938

After working its way through the Missouri state and federal courts, the landmark case Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada challenging segregation in higher education came to a close in 1938. In December of that year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Lloyd Gaines had been unfairly denied admission to the University of Missouri Law School because he was Black. When Gaines first challenged his rejection, the University offered to pay for him to attend law school outside the state. Gaines’ lawyer, Charles Hamilton Houston, masterfully convinced the courts that if Gaines could not attend the University of Missouri, the state would have to build a law school for Blacks equal to that of whites, recalling the “separate but equal” doctrine laid down in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. The decision was to enroll Gaines at the University of Missouri.

That year, in 1938, with the Gaines decision clearly having created fissures in the walls of Jim Crow, Black students continued pushing on the walls surrounding UNC. In late 1938, Pauli Murray applied to UNC’s graduate school and was denied. Her subsequent exchange with President Frank Porter Graham reveals both her genius and the tenuousness of Graham’s liberal position on race and integration.

Another Black woman applied earlier that year in 1938. Her name was Edwina Thomas. Her exchanges with Frank Porter Graham and Dean W.W. Pierson can also be found with Pauli Murray’s via the Records of the Office of the President of the UNC System Frank Porter Graham (1932-1949). When Thomas wrote to UNC asking the Dean for an application, the Gaines case had not yet been decided, but she was certainly very well aware of the details of the case and its chances for success.

Scan of letter April 1938 Dean Pearson to Edwina Thomas
In April 1938, Dean W.W. Pierson wrote to Edwina Thomas explaining why she would not be admitted to graduate school at UNC.

In January of 1938, Edwina Thomas, student at Talladega College in Alabama and of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, applied to graduate school at UNC. She requested an application by mail, which she filled out and returned. It is very unlikely that applications to the University asked for race – surely it was just assumed all applicants would be white. It appears to have taken some time for the Dean to realize that Thomas was Black. Pierson responds to Thomas at Talladega, dated April 27, 1938: “It is my understanding that it is the public policy of the State of North Carolina and the University of North Carolina not to admit members of the colored race to the University. Such admission would entail a reversal of a social policy of long standing and would require action to that effect by the trustees of the institution. I withhold therefore a ruling as to your academic eligibility for admission.”

In May, Thomas writes directly to President Frank Porter Graham, with echoes of the Gaines case in her response: “As I am unable financially to cope with the expenses of graduate schools outside my own state, I should like very much for you to advise me as to just what I can expect from the State of North Carolina in the way of help financially if I am to be denied admission to the State University because of my race.” Graham does respond to Thomas, assuring that despite the “laws of North Carolina with regard to providing separate schools for the two races, and the long established public policy of the state, I took the matter of your letter up with the Governor of our state,” and that the General Assembly should discuss the issue at some point the next year.

Scan of letter June 1938 Edwina Thomas to Frank Graham
In June 1938, Edwina Thomas writes from Winston-Salem stating that she is anxious to hear new of decisions regarding higher education and race.

In June 1938, Thomas writes Graham again, and on the letterhead of Wentz Memorial Congregational Church, where her father was Reverend. Referring to any possible decisions made at the state level regarding admission or funding of Black education, she says, “I look forward with great anticipation to any new developments along this line.”

Undeterred, Edwina Thomas still presses President Graham, writing from her home in Winston-Salem in August 1938, indicating that she is very much aware of legal and political tides within North Carolina: “Since a special session of the state legislature has been called, I was wondering the problem of facilities for negro graduate students could not be presented at this time. If this matter could be disposed of during this special session it would be considerably helpful for students, like myself, who wish to attend graduate school next year (next school year).” She closes, “I do hope that this very pressing problem can be mitigated soon.” Graham responds with news that neither education funding nor admission of Black students were discussed at the special session and would not be revisited until January 1939.

This is the extent of correspondence between Edwina Thomas and UNC administrators. She would not waste time waiting and went on to graduate school at Ohio State. Engaged as a scholar and leader, she became a lifelong member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. It is not clear if Graham took Thomas’ case specifically to the Governor at the time, as he claimed. The result would have been predictable, as Governor Clyde Hoey was a virulent segregationist and white supremacist.

Photograph of Edwina Thomas from 1963
Photograph of Edwina Thomas, The Ivy Leaf, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, June 1963

Edwina Theolyne Thomas was born in 1918 in Alabama to parents the Reverend George Jefferson Thomas and Winnie Cornelia Whitaker. Edwina’s father, originally from Georgia, was the leader of Winston-Salem’s Wentz Memorial Church, a Congregational Church. Before taking over at Wentz in 1924, George Thomas had been the field superintendent for Congregational Churches in Georgia and the Carolinas. When Thomas applied to UNC, she was 20 years old. A few years later when Thomas was 22, she married attorney H. Alfred Glascor, of Columbus, Ohio, and they lived some time in his hometown. Her marriage ended and she moved to Wisconsin, where Thomas became a renowned clinical psychologist at the Milwaukee County Memorial Hospital, a position she held for more than twenty years. There, she formed its first hospital outpatient unit in 1949. Tragically, Thomas died in a car accident in 1968 at age 50, and was mourned by the Milwaukee Star newspaper with a poem, “The Milwaukee Star mourns the loss/Of such an asset to our community;/But realize that one who lived so well/Will continue in the hereafter with impunity.”

New Names on the Landscape

Zora Neale Hurston Hall sign in the design of a plaque.
Sign for Zora Neale Hurston Hall, created by UNC art student Jeanine Tatlock in 2017.

In the wake of the recent decision by the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees to rescind the 16-year moratorium on building renaming that was enacted in 2015, many members of the UNC community have suggested potential new namesakes for campus buildings and public spaces.

In this post, we’re gathering some of the names that have come up most often and sharing suggested resources for learning more. We’ll update the post with new names and resources based on the feedback we receive.

Pauli Murray

Pauli Murray’s name often comes up in discussions about potential new namesakes for UNC buildings. An influential and inspirational author, activist, lawyer, and Episcopal priest, Murray had lifelong ties to UNC. She was a descendant of university trustee James Strudwick Smith and was related to benefactor Mary Ruffin Smith (namesake of Smith Building at UNC). Murray applied to attend graduate school at UNC in 1938 and was rejected because she was an African American. Four decades later, in recognition of Murray’s exceptional career, UNC offered Murray an honorary degree. She ultimately declined, citing the university’s continued failure to provide equal opportunities to Black students. UNC would not be the first University to name a building for Murray. In 2017 Yale University dedicated Pauli Murray College, a new residential building.

Suggested Resources:

henry owl

Henry Owl, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, became the first Native American student to attend UNC when he enrolled to attend graduate school in 1928. He graduated the following year with a master’s degree in history. Owl’s thesis, The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Before and After Removal, is an important history of the Cherokee.

Suggested Resources:

james cates

Plaque honoring James Cates
This plaque honoring James Cates was installed in the Pit by student activists in February 2019. Photo by Sarah Lundgren, Daily Tar Heel.

Chapel Hill native James Cates was murdered by a white supremacist biker gang in 1970 following a dance on campus. After he was stabbed in the Pit, crucial minutes passed before Cates received medical attention, a delay many on the scene attributed to the inaction of local police. Cates’s killers were ultimately acquitted by an Orange County jury. In 1971 students rallied to protest Cates’s killing. In 2019, while the University community continued to debate the toppling of the statue on top of the Confederate monument, student activists installed a plaque commemorating Cates in the Pit. The memorial was soon removed by campus officials.

Suggested Resources:

Zora Neale Hurston

Banner reading "Hurston Hall" displayed over the door of Saunders Hall in 2015.
Hurston Hall banner on (then) Saunders Hall, April 2015. Photo by Stephanie Lamm, Daily Tar Heel.

In the mid 2010s, UNC student and faculty activists urged campus administrators to rename Saunders Hall for author Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston had a brief connection to UNC through playwright and faculty member Paul Green. Hurston visited campus many times in the late 1930s. She spoke at a drama conference on campus in 1939 and participated in a playwrighting workshop with UNC students at Green’s house. The UNC Board of Trustees ultimately removed Saunders’s name from the building, but neglected to honor Hurston, choosing the new name of Carolina Hall.

Suggested Resources:

Wilson Caldwell

Wilson Swain Caldwell was a 19th-century educator, public official, and university employee. He was enslaved by UNC President David Lowry Swain and was the son of November Caldwell, who was enslaved by the first university president, Joseph Caldwell. After the Civil War, Caldwell helped to found schools for Black students and became the first African American elected official in Orange County when he was elected Justice of the Peace. After the end of Reconstruction and the establishment of Jim Crow laws restricting opportunities for Black North Carolinians, Caldwell returned to UNC to work as the head janitor on campus. He is memorialized, along with his father and two other enslaved workers on campus, by an obelisk in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.

Suggested Resources:

  • “Finding Wilson Caldwell: The Study of Slavery at UNC.” Carolina Alumni Review, January 2020. [Online access available to General Alumni Association members.]
  • “Honoring an Unsung Legacy.” University Communications, 27 February 2017. https://www.unc.edu/discover/honoring-unsung-legacy/
  • Kemp P. Battle, Sketch of the Life and Character of Wilson Caldwell, 1895. https://exhibits.lib.unc.edu/items/show/3640. [Note: This account by University President Battle uses condescending language and may not be reliable in its account of Caldwell’s words and thoughts, but it is useful for learning some of the details of Caldwell’s life.]

Elizabeth Brooks and Mary Smith

Elizabeth Brooks and Mary Smith were UNC employees and activists. While working at Lenoir dining hall in the late 1960s, Brooks and Smith advocated for improved pay and working conditions for food service workers at UNC. When these demands were not met, they led a strike that drew the attention of campus and state leaders and ultimately resulted in a change in supervision, improved pay, and the establishment of a statewide minimum wage. After UNC outsourced food service to a private company and working conditions failed to improve, Brooks and Smith were active in a second strike. Their efforts, in collaboration with members of the Black Student Movement and other campus allies, have served as an inspiration for future generations of activists and campus workers as they continue to work toward improved pay and treatment for the University’s front-line employees. 

Suggested Resources:

James Walker, Jr.

James Walker, Jr. was one of the first African American students to attend UNC. A North Carolina native, Army veteran, and alumnus of North Carolina Central University, Walker’s application to attend law school at UNC was initially rejected because of the University’s policy to refuse admission to African Americans. Walker joined the lawsuit that eventually led to the integration of graduate programs at UNC in 1951 and enrolled that summer. While at UNC, Walker fought to integrate social spaces on campus, pushing for the removal of segregated seating in Kenan Stadium and appealing to the Chancellor when university administration refused to allow an integrated dance on campus. After graduation, Walker had a long and successful legal career combined with a continued commitment to Civil Rights activism. In 2019, the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies announced a plan to commission a portrait of Walker, who was the first Black member of  the Societies, UNC’s oldest student organization. 

Suggested Resources:

slayton evans, jr.

Slayton Evans, Jr. was the first African American faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. A native of Mississippi and alumnus of Tougaloo College, Evans was hired at UNC in 1974 and remained on the faculty until he passed away in 2001. He was named Kenan professor of Chemistry in 1992. Evans developed a reputation as an outstanding teacher and mentor and earned multiple university and professional awards throughout his career.

Suggested Resources:

 

Digital Records Management 101: Remote Edition

We had planned to host a Digital Records Management 101 training session this month, but we had to cancel the training due to COVID-19. However, we still wanted to provide the university community with some tips for managing digital records. If you are working from home, this might be a good time to work independently to organize your work records or remotely collaborate with colleagues in your department to tackle organization of a shared drive.

This post provides suggestions for reviewing and organizing digital records based on the requirements found in the UNC at Chapel Hill General Records Retention Schedule (Retention Schedule). University Archives staff are working from home and we are available to answer records management questions. You can reach us at archives@unc.edu.

What is Records Management and what is the Records Retention Schedule?

Essentially, records management provides a systematic way to manage records. The Retention Schedule outlines the rules for how different types of records should be managed at our institution. For example, the Schedule (available as a PDF here), provides retention rules for a variety of Personnel Records. So, if you are wondering how long to keep SHRA personnel records, you can find that information on page 128 of the Schedule.
Many of the most common questions about records management are answered on this guide.

How can I used the Retention Schedule to determine what digital records can be deleted and what we need to keep?

The following prompts can help you determine how to manage a record.

  1. What type of record is it?
    • Based on the information communicated in the record, what type of record is it? Personnel? A policy? Curriculum? Student information? Financial?
  2. Who created the record? Who is responsible for it?
    • An important concept in records management is the Office of Record and Reference Copy. You may have copies of digital records that weren’t created by your department and so aren’t your responsibility. This can get tricky when it comes to cross-departmental collaboration. If you are uncertain, feel free to send us an email.
  3. What is the retention and disposition?
    • Check the Retention Schedule for the retention and disposition rules based on your assessments in question one and two above.
  4. Does it go to the Archives?
    • Some records are scheduled to be transferred to the University Archives. If you have records that need to be archived, please contact us.

I would like a way to better organize and manage digital records. What advice is there for individuals or departments on managing shared storage like shared drives or SharePoint sites?

  • One of the best things you can do to keep records organized is to discard files as soon as the retention period allows.
  • Creating a plan for how to organize active records and instructions for when to review records for retention can go a long way!
    • The plan should accounts for the variety of record types and storage locations that you use. Once you’ve outlined a plan — implement and use your plan consistently.
  • If you are developing a plan for a team or department, ensure that members of the team are involved in planning and communicate the plan clearly to everyone who will manage records.

What are some records organization plan components that I should consider?

  • One of the most important parts of a records management plan is to determine who (be specific!) will review records and how often that review should occur. This role might fall to one person or to a small team. In our experience, offices who designated a records management point person or small team have the most success at keeping things organized. We suggest that records are reviewed for retention yearly, but you can review more frequently.
  • List all the digital storage options available and create guidance on how to use that storage and what records should be stored there.
  • Create short, descriptive notes in digital folders.
    • Use a text file (.txt) in a program like Notepad (PC) or Text Edit (Mac) to describe a folder of digital files. Remind your future self or future staff what the contents of the folder are. Title the file README.txt
  • Use file and folder names wisely & go for consistency
    • Create a standard date formatting in file and folder names to make finding things easier: YYYY-MM-DD_AnnualReport.pdf
    • Think of other people – what would help them understand what this file is or what this folder contains?
  • Use folders strategically, but don’t go overboard with too many nested folders. That can end up making it harder to navigate to files later.
  • Centralize storage (digital or analog) for final copies of records. Avoid relying on individual staff computers/OneDrives for storing important departmental records.
  • Create a process to ensure any staff who leave employment in your department add important documents to shared storage, so that records are not left behind in personal OneDrive accounts or other cloud storage accounts (e.g. Google Drive).
  • Ensure digital files are secure and backed-up as needed. Discuss this with ITS as needed.

Do I really need to look at every file? There is so much content and much of it was added to our shared drive by other people or before I worked in the department.

Records management assessment relies on understanding the information contained in a file, so in many cases it is necessary to look at files individually. But there are some higher level strategies that might help to make the task easier.

  • Try to use folder title and filename cues. If you trust a folder name like “Annual Reports 2012-2016” then you probably don’t need to open every single file in that folder to determine the contents.
  • Instead of trying to organize everything in one project, you might start by tackling one year’s worth of records at a time. Maybe start with the newest or oldest year. Similarly, you could focus on one specific record type at a time. For example, maybe the first project is to find and organize all annual reports and strategic planning documents.

How can I manage my email more effectively?

As of April 2019, we implemented a new policy on email retention (see Appendix A of the Retention Schedule document). Under this policy, email records created and received by employees in selected administrative positions will automatically be retained as permanent records in the University Archives. All other email accounts will be retained for a period of five years after the employee leaves the University and then discarded. All employees still have a responsibility to evaluate emails, like other record formats, based on the Retention Schedule.

To manage email more effectively, we suggest:

  • Delete “transitory” or reference copy emails as soon as possible. This refers to things like messages about meeting room changes, calendar invitations, messages about breakroom food or staff parties, or messages sent to the entire campus.
  • Use folders to organize emails that are related to your department and your substantial work projects.
  • We suggest that records are reviewed for retention yearly, but you can review more frequently.

How do I access work records from home?

If you are working with records in OneDrive, Outlook, Sharepoint, or a work computer you brought home with you, you can log in to those sites or devices as you normally would when on campus. If you want to work with files that are on a shared drive or access a work computer that is still on campus, you can likely do this from your home with a few extra steps. Follow the guidance below to set up access at home:

  • If you were able to bring home a work computer:
    • Install and log in to the VPN following this guidance from ITS.
    • Once logged in with the VPN, you can access shared drives as you normally would.
      You do not need to be logged in with the VPN to access Outlook, SharePoint, or OneDrive.
  • If you were unable to bring a work computer home:
    • You may be able to access your work computer desktop (and all your files) from home using VPN and the Remote Desktop application.
    • See this guide for more information on connecting to Remote Desktop.
      • Note: Step 1 of this guide won’t be possible remotely. If you don’t know your office computer IP address, contact the ITS Help Desk or your departmental IT to get IP address information for your work computer.
  • If you run into any issues with VPN or remote desktop, contact ITS Help Desk or your departmental IT staff for further assistance.

How should I collaborate remotely on reviewing digital records from my department?

This will depend on your team and the type of records you have, but you could consider:

  • A series of virtual meetings to discuss the current state of your department’s digital storage options and goals for reviewing and organizing that storage.
  • A discussion of records management and the Records Management guide as it applies to records in your office.
  • Create a plan for assessing older digital records. Discuss the plan over virtual meetings and divvy up tasks based on who can access files from home.
  • Create a plan for organizing new digital records going forward and determine the best way to get buy-in from your department.

New Website Collection and Digital Access Guide

We have written before about collecting tweets related to the recent protests of the Confederate monument on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. We would like to announce the availability of the UNC-Chapel Hill Confederate Monument Protest web archive collection as an additional resource on the recent protests.

Screenshot of a wordcloud. some of the most prominent words are students, confederate, statue, unc, monument, silent, campus, protest
Sample wordcloud generated from collected tweets that included #silentsam or #silencesam (from Fall semester 2017).

The web archive collection contains a variety of content related to the protests. It contains many statements about the monument in the form of editorials, webpages, tweets, and Google documents. The collection also includes news articles from The News & Observer, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and more. The collection also includes other online materials such as activist websites, editorial cartoons, and Facebook event pages. You can learn more about the web archive in the finding aid on our website.

Additionally, the UNC-Chapel Hill Confederate Monument Protest tweet collection has expanded to include tweets from 2018 and 2019. Visit the finding aid for additional details.

Access to the tweets and web archives can involve a slight learning curve due to technical methods used for collecting the material. So, with this in mind, we are also happy to announce the release of a guide to accessing digital materials. The guide includes information on where to find archived websites, tools for using Twitter data sets, and tips on accessing the myriad file formats in our collections.

If you have any questions about these collections or are interested in donating material related to protests of the monument, please feel free to contact us by email: archives@unc.edu.

New Collection Alert: Student Musical Groups

A collection of materials from UNC student musical groups is now available for use in Wilson Library. The collection includes materials from several UNC Student Musical Groups including the Clef Hangers, Loreleis, Tar Heel Voices, and Pauper Players. Collection materials range from the mid 1980s through the mid 2000s, with a lot from the 1990s. The collection includes flyers, posters, and recordings from the groups’ performances.

Student Musical Groups at UNC-Chapel Hill, 1985-2005: https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/40328/

The Myth of the Wilson Library Dunce Cap

VIew of Polk Place on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.
This mid 20th century photo shows the dunce cap effect of the Bell Tower on Wilson Library when viewed from South Building. UNC Image Collection, NC Collection Photo Archives.

Have you heard the story that the Bell Tower was intentionally placed right behind Wilson Library so that, when viewed from South Building, the top of the tower looks like a dunce cap on the round dome of the library?

The dunce cap story has been one of the enduring campus legends for decades. The story originally told was that John Motley Morehead, angered that Louis Round Wilson wouldn’t let him put the tower on top of the new library building, put it right behind to make fun of Wilson. I’ve heard a slightly different version on campus recently, which attributes it to an ongoing battle between two of the university’s “founding families,” the Moreheads and the Wilsons, making them seem like UNC’s version of the Hatfields and McCoys.

As with many campus legends, this one is not true, though some of the stories hint at what really happened.

The Bell Tower was the idea of John Motley Morehead, the Carolina alumnus and industrialist who donated the Morehead Planetarium and established the Morehead scholarships. According to Louis Round Wilson, Morehead’s first proposal was made during the renovation of South Building in the 1920s. Morehead, who had been interested in bringing a tower with chimes to the campus, suggested funding the construction of a tower on top of South Building under the condition that it be renamed the Morehead Building. The Trustees refused, and Morehead looked for other sites.

Morehead turned his attention to the new library building planned for the opposite end of Polk Place, and suggested a bell tower on top of it. This was indeed rejected by librarian Louis Round Wilson. Wilson spoke from his knowledge of bell towers on top of buildings at Cornell University and the University of Illinois. He wrote that, while pleasing to the campus in general, “the ringing of bells and chimes immediately above the reading rooms of the libraries in working hours played havoc with mental concentration and quiet study.”

Morehead had yet another idea: when the university announced a plan to move the large flagpole on campus from McCorkle Place to its current location in the center of Polk Place, Morehead suggested this as the perfect site for the bell tower. The flagpole could be placed on top.

Finally, by 1930, a location was settled. Though initially appearing to be at the very southern end of the campus, long-range plans to expand the university to the south would put the bell tower at the center of the campus, which is where it stands today. The Morehead-Patterson Memorial Bell Tower was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1931.

"Wilson Wears Dunce Cap" article, Daily Tar Heel, August 25, 1975
Daily Tar Heel, 25 August 1975.

It’s not clear when the dunce cap story began. The earliest published reference to it that I could find was in a 1975 Daily Tar Heel article. The author of the story, Dan Fesperman, had the advantage at the time of being able to go straight to one of the sources: 99-year-old Louis Round Wilson was still living in Chapel Hill. Wilson reviewed the debate over the placement of the tower and then addressed the legend directly. “When Wilson was asked if there was even a speck of truth in the Bell Tower legend, he said, ‘It wasn’t designed for that purpose at all.’ He then added, ‘But it does look that way – like a fool’s cap.”

Sources: “The Saga of the Morehead Patterson Bell Tower.” In Louis Round Wilson’s Historical Sketches. Durham: Moore Publishing Co., 1976. https://catalog.lib.unc.edu/catalog/UNCb1408393

Daily Tar Heel, 25 August 1975. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1975-08-25/ed-1/seq-44/

Henry Patrick Merritt, Jr.: An Archival Photo Mystery Revealed

We are pleased to present this guest post from UNC-Chapel Hill student Autumn Linford. Autumn is a Park Fellow in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

Aros Coke Cecil’s photographs could be the work of any UNC undergrad of any era. Playing sports, the Old Well, friends goofing around, socializing with pretty co-eds: the images in Cecil’s 1917-1918 album wouldn’t seem out of place on a student’s Instagram page today.  There are photos of students studying, photos of students procrastinating, and even one of Cecil and a friend clowning around with a classroom skeleton (see figure 1).

There is only one photo in the album that stands out. A young man, college-aged, stands in a dorm room holding a bucket and broom (see figure 2) Pennants and framed pictures are tacked to the wall behind him. It isn’t the scene that sets this photograph apart. It’s the fact that the young man, who looks at home casually leaning up against a desk with neatly stacked books, is black.

Black men and women weren’t allowed to attend the university as students until 1951, following a federal court order that led to the admission of black students to graduate programs. African American undergraduates were not admitted until 1955. There were blacks on campus in 1917, but it was strictly in the role of staff, cooking or doing maintenance jobs or, as was likely case of the young man pictured, cleaning. That this man was photographed by a white student is surprising. That his photograph was carefully preserved in a book alongside Cecil’s other college memories seems remarkable.

While we know something about the photographer, nothing was written down about the young man pictured other than the suggestion that he may have been a janitor for the university’s dorms. Was he friends with Cecil? Was he seen as a mascot to the men in the dorm? Did he appreciate being photographed, or dislike it? Was he important to Cecil, or was this a way to finish out a roll of film?

There is so much that we can never know about this man, but I wanted to try to identify him with however much information I could. Utilizing the resources available online and in the Wilson Library’s collections, I was able to identify the young man in question as Henry Patrick Merritt, Jr.

My process was systematic and replicable. I first confirmed the janitor was, in fact, standing in a dorm room by examining other photographs in the collection and finding other shots of the same room. I then went through each page of Chapel Hill’s 1920 census record and found all black men employed on campus. I narrowed the list down to those working in dormitories, and then again to janitors, leaving about 10 men. It is difficult to tell how old the man in the picture is, but a conservative guess suggests he was between the ages of 15 and 35 at the time of the photograph. By eliminating all men whose ages were outside that frame, I was left with only three names: Johnson Merritt, Jr., Lee Baldwin, and Henry Merritt, Jr.

Other photographs in Cecil’s collection showed the college men receiving their draft information for WWI in 1917. I thought it likely that the black men on campus had received their notices at the same time. I looked up all three men in the WWI databases and found each of their war registration cards. In 1917, Johnson Merritt, Jr. wrote in his occupation as gardener for the college. Lee Baldwin listed his occupation as a laborer.  Henry Merritt, Jr., age 19, listed himself as a janitor for the dormitories at the University of North Carolina.

Merritt was born March 15, 1900 in Chapel Hill. His father, Henry Merritt, Sr. was a long-time janitor for the on-campus fraternity Kappa Sigma. Henry Jr. was the oldest of nine children: six sisters and two brothers. With so many younger siblings, the income Merritt made by working at the university would have been crucial to his family’s survival. At the time, janitors on campus were paid $14.93 a week, a wage that covered barely half of the average living expenses for blacks living in town at the time. Despite that, the wage was still considered “relatively high” for people of color at the time.[1]

After the war, Merritt worked for C. and P. Telephone Co. His father continued to work as a janitor at the university and features prominently in several editions of the Daily Tar Heel, including one with a four-column photograph in 1926 (see figure 3).[2]

A newspaper article titled "Five Cheerleaders at the Game Saturday" with a photo a five black men.
fig. 3 Henry Merritt, Sr. is pictured far right. [Click image to view article.]
We don’t know why Cecil took his photograph of Merritt, or why it was important enough for him to keep. We can’t know what Merritt felt while he posed or what he was thinking as he cleaned up after men he wasn’t allowed to call peers. But we do now know his name. In conjunction with the archivists at the Wilson Library, I have already begun the process of updating the system to include Merritt’s name and basic information. It is by treating him with dignity that we can begin to reckon with the past’s efforts to erase him and others like him.

References

[1] Dorothy Fahs, report. “Income and expenditure in 28 Chapel Hill Negro Families,” University of North Carolina Wilson Library.

[2] R.W. Madry, “Five Cheerleaders at the Game Saturday.” Daily Tar Heel, November 2, 1926. https://bit.ly/2rLme0j

Elephants and Butterflies . . . and Contraceptives

This post contains information about reproductive health that may be sensitive for some readers. 

A decade of change in UNC’s student population sparked several changes in reproductive and sexual health dialogue on campus.  From 1967 to 1977, women grew from 28.7% of the student body to 49.2%. Women were first allowed to enroll as freshman in most programs at the University in the early 1960s, and were admitted based on a higher academic standard until Title IX in 1972 (OIRA Fact Book, 1994). 

In December 1970, in response to a recognized need for more open dialogue about reproductive health on campus, a student and a faculty member started “Elephants and Butterflies,” a weekly column in the Daily Tar Heel. Created by student-activist Lana Starnes and Dr. Takey Crist, activist and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the column featured their responses to anonymous letters about health and sexuality.

dr. crist and lana starnes in office
Dr. Crist, holding a copy of the Elephants and “Butterflies…and Contraceptives” booklet and Lana Starnes, from “Rebellion in Black and White” by Robert Cohen and David J. Snyder

Some of the reasons Starnes and Crist cited for the necessity of the column were the high rate of unwanted pregnancies and the high rate and danger of illegal abortion (Bobo, 1973). Starnes noted that about 25,000 women sought an illegal abortion in North Carolina annually (Starnes, 1971). A few years earlier, in 1968, campus research showed that 60% of sexually-active women surveyed had not used contraceptives (Morrow, 2006, p. 12). Around the time, UNC administration denied the prescription of birth control to unmarried women, fearing that access to birth control and information would increase sexual activity (Warren, 1967). To make matters more difficult, if a student were unmarried and pregnant or found to have sought an illegal abortion, she would not be permitted to continue school (Unwed Pregnant Student Policy, Collection # 40124). 

The column grew out of the sexual health booklet titled “Elephants and Butterflies…and Contraceptives,” co-written by Dr. Crist and released in 1970.  To combat stigma and help dymystify human sexuality, Starnes and Crist wrote of their column:

“It is not our purpose to cause embarrasment or fear or shame, but to allow students to examine their educational presuppositions and value judgments concerning human sexuality. We feel your questions are legitimate, necessary and should make us respond thoughtfully, adequately and honestly.” (Starnes & Crist, 1971) 

Elephants and Butterflies newspaper column
Elephants and Butterflies column, Daily Tar Heel, February 14, 1972

The name of the booklet and column came from that same commitment to openness. It is a reference to the E.E. Cummings fairy tale, “The Elephant and The Butterfly”, a sweet, short story about love and dedication written for Cummings’ daughter (Popova, 2013). The story was printed in the beginning of the booklet, representing sexual relationships as ones that should be entered into with “caring and trust” (Cohen & Snyder, p. 201) In the health booklet, male physiology is described in the “Elephant” section and female physiology in the “Butterfly” section. (Starnes & Cheek, 1970)

the elephant and the butterfly front page
E.E. Cummings, Fairy Tales, illustrated by John Eaton [Rare Book Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library]
Subjects covered in the column ranged from how smoking affects sexual functioning (Sept. 6, 1971) to pregnancy after having a miscarriage (March 5, 1973). Sometimes, in leui of questions, readers could match definitions to a reproductive organ diagram (Sept. 25, 1972) or read an informative guide on STDs (October 1, 1973).

In 1972, the March 6th column was left blank in memory of an 18-year old student who died seeking an illegal abortion. That day, a somber message from Starnes and Crist in place of their usual advice asked if her death could have been prevented with proper birth control and counseling, ending with “We mourn in silence.” (March 6, 1972)

The final column was the seventh in a series of columns about contraception (March 4, 1974).  They omitted the recurring section requesting that students send in letters, but stated that the next essay (presumably the eighth) in the series would be on the future of birth control. They did not mention whether or not the column would return.

Learn more about Dr. Crist, Lana Starnes and “Elephants and Butterflies” in “Sexual Liberation at the University of North Carolina,” by Kelly Morrow, a chapter in Rebellion in Black and White: Southern Student Activism in the 1960s. (Robert Cohen and David J. Snyder, eds., Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2013). The article is based on Morrow’s 2006 master’s thesis, available in Carolina Digital Repository: https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/concern/dissertations/d504rm21k.

Sources:

Bobo, M. (1973). Lana Starnes: the woman who helped bring ‘Elephants and Butterflies’ to UNC. The Daily Tar Heelhttp://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1973-02-09/ed-1/seq-1/  

Cummings, E. E. & Eaton, J. (1965). Fairy tales. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. https://catalog.lib.unc.edu/catalog/UNCb3123616

OIRA. Fact Book: Bicentennial Edition, 1793-1993. https://oira.unc.edu/files/2017/07/fb1994_bicent.pdf 

Morrow, K. (2006). Navigating the “sexual wilderness”: The sexual liberation movement at the University of North Carolina, 1969-1973.

Morrow, K. (2013) “Sexual Liberation at the University of North Carolina.” Rebellion in black and white: Southern student activism in the 1960s. Edited by Robert Cohen and David J. Snyder. The John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.

Popova, M. (2013). Vintage illustrations for the fairy tales e.e. cummings wrote for his only daughter, whom he almost abandoned. Brain Pickings.

Starnes, L. & Cheek, T. (1970). Elephants and butterflies..and contraceptives. The Daily Tar Heel. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1970-10-11/ed-1/seq-3/  

Starnes, L . & Crist, T. (1971). Elephants and Butterflies. The Daily Tar Heel. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1971-08-31/ed-1/seq-50/

Starnes, L. (1971). College loans for abortion? The Daily Tar Heelhttp://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1971-04-08/ed-1/seq-8/ 

Starnes, L. (1972). Elephants and Butterflies. The Daily Tar Heel. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1972-02-14/ed-1/seq-6/

Starnes L. & Crist, T. (1973) Elephants and Butterflies. The Daily Tar Heel. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1973-04-16/ed-1/seq-6/

Starnes L. & Crist, T. (1974) Elephants and Butterflies. The Daily Tar Heel.

Unwed Pregnant Student Policy, 1967, in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records #40124, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Warren, V. (1967). Should university health services provide the pill?”. The Daily Tar Heel. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1966-02-03/ed-1/seq-1/

Did UNC Really Lose to Wake Forest in 1888?

In the University Archives, our work often has us viewing contemporary events with an eye toward the past. So while we look ahead to Friday night’s football game between UNC and Wake Forest, we see it not just as an important matchup for the undefeated Tar Heels, but also a chance for Carolina to avenge its loss to Wake Forest on October 18, 1888, in the first football game played by UNC.

Or maybe not. We thought the facts were pretty clear when we looked at newspaper coverage of the game, which was played in Raleigh at the State Fair. The News and Observer mentioned the game in the following day’s paper as part of its coverage of the fair: 

Decidedly one of the most interesting features of the whole fair was the game of foot ball yesterday between Wake Forest and Chapel Hill, resulting in a victory for Wake Forest. The game was exciting and was played by excellent teams on both sides. It was witnessed by a tremendous crowd. The players were uniformed and were a skilled and active set of boys. (News and Observer, 19 October 1888).

Official records have the final score as a 6-4 in favor of Wake Forest. But the coverage of the game by UNC students tells a different story. 

At the time the game was played, there was no student newspaper (the Tar Heel was established five years later, in 1893). The primary student publication on campus was the University Magazine, a professionally-printed periodical that included essays, stories and poetry, and campus news. 

The University Magazine reported on the football game in its next issue, in an unsigned column called “The College World.” At first it seems to match the newspaper story: “A game of foot-ball was played at Raleigh during Fair week between the Wake Forest team and the University Soph. Class team, under a set of improvised rules. The score was two goals to one in favor of Wake Forest.” Then the story gets confusing. The Magazine report quotes the coverage in The Wake Forest Student, which seems to describe three different games (maybe they were three periods in the same game?). The response from the Magazine is pretty direct: 

No one objects to The Student’s exulting over the victory (?), if it can find anything in it to exult over, but it should be fairer towards its opponents. There were many more rules which were strange to the University than to the Wake Forest team. It was by these rules, unfair and peculiar, that Wake Forest got the credit of a victory . . .” (University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 2, 1888, p.85). 

The Magazine goes on to compare the game to the one played between UNC and Trinity College (predecessor to Duke University) a month later, which it called the first “scientific” game of football played in North Carolina. It’s certainly understandable that the very first game of what was a new sport to all involved would result in some misunderstandings about the rules. As the debate continued in the student press, the Magazine remained adamant that UNC was the superior team and that the October 18, 1888 victory for Wake Forest did not count. By contrast, the student authors conceded that the UNC team was outplayed in a fair game against Trinity. 

The next issue of the Magazine continued the debate, responding at greater length to more claims from the Wake Forest student paper. It’s worth reading in its entirety. In closing, the author continued to insist that the game against Wake Forest did not count, writing:  

A fair-minded man likes to see merit win, whoever possesses it, and can admire it in an opponent. The University team has played but one game of foot-ball, and was then beaten fairly as this Magazine cheerfully acknowledged. It wished to show that, while in the game with Trinity merit won, in that on Thursday of Fair week it did not. (University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 3, 1889, p. 137). 

 While this was clearly a spirited debate at the time, history seems to have come down on the side of Wake Forest. Some long-lasting rivalries have disputed games in their past (see for example, Georgia-Florida), but there is no further record that we could find of the earliest UNC game being contested. In everything we have read online and in print, the October 18, 1888 loss to Wake Forest is widely credited as being UNC’s first football game. To be fair, the UNC and Wake Forest teams definitely played on that date, and the News and Observer report did not refer to it as a scrimmage or unofficial game. In an era well before the establishment of the NCAA or other governing bodies, the very idea of an “official” game would have been an unfamiliar concept. 

But the student authors of the Magazine were persistent in their claims. What do you think: does Wake Forest really deserve credit for their 1888 victory over Carolina? Will “Avenge 1888!” be the rallying cry that leads Mack Brown and the Tar Heels to victory tomorrow night? Here’s hoping so. Go Heels.

University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 2, 1888, p. 185.
University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 2, 1888, p. 185.
University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 3, 1889, p. 137
University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 3, 1889, p. 137

 

“New” Wilson Library Doors a Return to the Past

This fall, the doors of the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library are getting a new look with the installation of glass panels – but it actually marks a return to the their original design.

From the library’s construction in 1929 through the 1970s, its front doors were wood and glass, allowing passersby a look inside and filling the lobby with natural light. You can see the original doors in the photos below, identified by photographic archivists Stephen Fletcher and Patrick Cullom.

Though we haven’t been able to confirm when the doors were replaced with solid wood, the photographic evidence places it in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Wilson Library underwent major renovations between 1984-1987 after Davis Library opened as the new central library, and it’s likely that the doors were replaced in that period.