The University of North Carolina enforced racial segregation in campus buildings well into the mid 20th century. There is clear evidence of this in documents, publications, and in the recollections of people who studied and worked at Carolina. However, photographs of segregated spaces at UNC are often hard to find. Recently we found a couple of photos from the UNC Photo Lab collection that provide clear evidence of how public spaces on campus continued to be segregated by race into the 1950s.
These photos are from a series taken by university photographers to publicize the opening of the new dental school building at Carolina. The new dental building (now known as “First Dental”) was a significant milestone in dental education and service at Carolina — in addition to teaching and learning facilities, the new building marked the beginning of patient services offered by the School of Dentistry. Dentistry faculty and students offered clinical services to patients from the local community and across North Carolina. A memo about the opening of the new building states: “There are separate, complete facilities for white and for Negro patients.” (Records of UNC President Gordon Gray, collection 4008, folder 383). The description of separate facilities was repeated in a Daily Tar Heel story about the dental building in December 1952.
The note about facilities for Black patients was intentional. The University clearly wanted to highlight the fact that it would be offering dental services to Black patients who might otherwise rightly have assumed that they would not be admitted to medical facilities at Carolina. However, the announcement was also clear to specify that the spaces would be segregated by race.
The publicity photos also included two showing patients in the separate waiting rooms. It’s hard to tell whether or not these photos represent typical conditions in the waiting rooms, but the differences are striking. The waiting room for white patients is spacious and shows just two people waiting. The waiting room for Black patients is significantly more crowded, with every seat full and one of the patients having to stand.
It is noteworthy that the University established segregated patient spaces in 1952, just over a year after UNC was forced to begin admitting Black students to graduate programs. In the summer of 1951, Black students entered Carolina for the first time, enrolling in the School of Law, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Medicine, which was adjacent to the new dental building.
It’s not clear, at least from our initial research, how long the facility continued to operate separate waiting rooms for Black and white patients. When local high school students began challenging segregated businesses in Chapel Hill in February 1960, the protests soon spread to UNC buildings. In April 1963, the UNC chapter of the NAACP picketed North Carolina Memorial Hospital in protest of continued racial segregation of some hospital patients. Most likely racial segregation in the hospital and dental facilities continued in some form until the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964.
In the Records of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for for Black Culture and History, we recently came across a design statement from the Freelon Group, the architects responsible for the Center. The Group was led by Phil Freelon, a North Carolina-based architect of international renown, now best known for his work on the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. Learn more about Freelon.
The Stone Center pamphlet discusses the group’s “intentional blending of traditional elements of the UNC campus environment with carefully integrated references to African influenced design.” Read more below.
From folder 105, “Center space, 2003-2004, undated.”
Although the UNC campus has changed and grown significantly over the past half century, one thing has remained exactly the same: it can be tough to find a place to park. Students, visitors, and employees all know the struggle of searching campus lots for open spots or else paying for a space that is often nowhere near your final destination.
In the University Archives, folders labeled “Traffic” or “Parking” are common in administrative collections, usually filled with letters complaining about campus parking challenges. We found one of these folders, labeled “Parking, 1967” in the records of Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson. One of the letters it contained seemed similar to so many others, until we noticed the name of the writer: Doris Betts, the acclaimed novelist and longtime UNC faculty member in the Department of English.
In September 1967, after receiving a $1 parking ticket for failing to display her parking sticker, Betts wrote to the Chapel Hill Police Department, with a copy of her letter to Chancellor Sitterson. “Having paid the dollar,” she wrote, “I now feel entitled to complain.”
In what is easily the most literary parking complaint we’ve ever read, Betts addressed the absurdity of receiving a ticket while parking in order to pick up her faculty parking permit. Betts compares the campus parking regulations to scenes from Alice in Wonderland, with the police department in the “position of the gardeners in Wonderland who—discovering that they had planted a white rose bush in the spot the queen has ordered a red one—were busily coating the blooms with red paint.”
Betts also raises an important point that is likely even more relevant today: the burden of long commutes and parking challenges falls largely on those students and staff who cannot afford to live near campus. The full letter, transcribed below, is worth reading in its entirety.
September 28, 1967
Chapel Hill Police Department Chapel Hill, North Carolina
I enclose my fine of $1.00 for the parking ticket issued yesterday by Officer 3 for my car . . . parked in a faculty zone while I was teaching classes but not yet marked with the new permit sticker. Having paid the dollar, I now feel entitled to complain.
I commute to teach classes in the University English Department, and since I am not on-campus between Wednesday and Monday, there is an inevitable time-lag in the receipt of red-tape requests and the compliance with red-tape requests. I have paid my parking permit fee for the new sticker, to replace last year’s F. sticker for which Officer #3 must have noted on the bumper, but in order to go to the department and obtain this sticker on my next teaching day, it was necessary—oddly enough—to leave the car in a parking space. I was so enchanted to find one in time, for a change, to be in the office at the time set for student conferences, that I scooted right in and parked in it without considering this hazard of time-lag. The sticker will be on the bumper next time your officers pass my car. Whether it will be PARKED anywhere is, of course, a very different and more complex question.
On my first day of classes, having driven over from Sanford, I then put nearly and equal amount of mileage on the car by motoring up and down the lanes and lots of the U.N.C. campus in search of some place to be rid of the thing. When I finally did park and hike some distance to my department office, I encountered both my department chairman and the provost, who responded to my grumbling by saying all would be different as soon as I paid the new fee and obtained the new parking permit.
Now, however, time lags and all, this begins to sound more and more like Alice in Wonderland, like the Queen of Hearts passing sentence first and having a verdict second. I am not clear why a permit and a sticker ten feet high will manufacture a space where no space existed without said permit. In actuality, I have paid $5 for the privilege of driving around just as much and just as often and an extra dollar for the privilege of meeting the student conference on time and being delayed in picking up the sticker. While some students and lithe young faculty members, residing in Chapel Hill, may be able to reach classes on-foot, on-Honda, and on-Schwinn, those of us who commute must come in automobiles of necessity. I assure you, that if you drove on highway 15-501, behind school buses and brick trucks, behind trucks which showered your windshield with sand and poultry feathers, and cars full of nice old ladies who straddle the center-line in the interests of moderation and safety, sniffing your own burning gasoline in the air of Lee, Chatham, and Orange Counties—and THEN arrived, minus the cost of a permit and the cost of a traffic ticket unable to find a plain legal rectangle within reasonable distance of your duties, you’d be in a cross mood, too.
Gentlemen, the situation is not your fault; Officer 3 is doing his duty in abiding by understandable campus rules; I submit the fee fully understanding the justice of it. But the purpose of the letter, with its carbon to Dean Sitterson, is to relieve my feelings and find a more suitable outlet for them than Muttering Under One’s Own Breath.
I call your attention to the editorial in today’s Greensboro Daily News, which seems to be based on such common sense that it comes like the voice of Alice into the Queen’s croquet game and trial.
By the way, the student conference I met yesterday was also delayed. The student came out to his own car to find that HIS sticker had been neatly peeled off his bumper—either that, or the glue proved unreliable. He had been by to collect, he though a duplicate sticker, since he had paid a $10 registration fee and will actually be graduating in January. He was told that, for the coming 3½ months, he must buy a second sticker, at an additional $10. They are trying to discourage black market track in stickers, he said. The two of us had a difficult time getting off this subject and onto the purpose of our meeting, which had to do with literature and the rhetoric of fiction. Had I known that at that very time Ticket Number 40457 was even then nestling under my windshield wiper, I doubt we would have managed to deal with the short story form at all.
Gentlemen, you are in the position of the gardeners in Wonderland who—discovering that they had planted a white rose bush in the spot the queen has ordered a red one—were busily coating the blooms with red paint. As such, you have our sympathy. It is not much help to you, any more than my complaining is much help, but I hope it makes you feel better. I do.
The spring commencement ceremony has been a time for reflection and celebration since UNC’s first commencement in 1798. Commencement has traditionally included a featured speaker who provides insight and advice for the graduating students. These speakers have often included prominent people well known through their work in politics, arts, business, journalism, and public service. This list includes UNC-Chapel Hill’s featured spring commencement speakers from 1951-2022.
Role and Affiliation
Equal Justice Initiative
New York Times
Anthony Fauci and Kizzmekia Corbett (delivered virtually)
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Fauci), research fellow and scientific lead for the Coronaviruses Vaccines and Immunopathologies Team at the National Institutes of Health (Corbett)
Roy Williams (delayed until October 2020)
UNC Men’s Basketball Coach
CEO, Habitat for Humanity
Author, founder Carolina for Kibera
Foreign policy analyst
Former CEO, Hulu
Mayor of New York City
Author, Biodiversity scholar
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Anglican archbishop, Activist
Former U.S. Secretary of State
Founder, Teach for America
Rev. Peter Gomes
Theologian, Harvard University Divinity School
Attorney and Civil Rights activist
U.S. Senator, North Carolina
Stuart E. Eisenstat
Deputy Secretary, U.S. Treasury
Former basketball player, U.S. Senator
Marian Wright Edelman
Children’s Defense Fund
Erskine B. Bowles
White House Chief of Staff
Poet, Nobel Laureate
Johnnetta B. Cole
President, Spelman College
Director, National Human Genome Research Institute
Lawrence Douglas Wilder
Governor of Virginia
Hugh L. McColl
Bank of America
Roger H. Mudd
U.S. Senator, Arkansas
Peter V. Ueberroth
Commissioner, Major League Baseball
James G. Martin
Governor of North Carolina
CBS News reporter
UNC Professor of History
UNC Professor, Curriculum of Peace, War, and Defense
Martha Nell Hardy
UNC Professor, Department of Communications
J. Carlyle Sitterson
Former UNC Chancellor
UNC Professor, Creative Writing
Richard J. Richardson
Governor of North Carolina
President of EMB Research Economists
Former U.S. Senator, Missouri
Chancellor, N.C. State University
James Holshouser, Jr.
Governor of North Carolina
Professor of Economics, Duke University
Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor
J. Carlyle Sitterson
New York Times
James A. Shannon
Former director, National Institutes of Health
Chancellor, Vanderbilt University
President, Furman University
Frank Porter Graham
Former President, UNC
Douglas M. Knight
President, Duke University
Governor, North Carolina
President’s Special Assistant on the Arts
Publisher, Atlanta Journal Constitution
Governor of North Carolina
Vermont C. Royster
Editor, Saturday Review of Literature
Robert B. House
Barnaby C. Keeney
President, Brown University
Andrew J. Warren
Francis P. Gaines
President, Washington & Lee University
President, Consolidated University of North Carolina
March 1970: The student group Female Liberation issues a list of demands, one of which calls for “inclusion of courses for and about women in the curriculum.” [Source: Records of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, 1920-2004, University Archives. Box 35: Female Liberation, 1969-1974 Demands.]
February 1973: The University Women for Affirmative Action organizes with the goal of ending discrimination based on gender at UNC. [Source: Margaret Anne O’Connor Papers, 1972-1989, Southern Historical Collection.Women’s Advisory Board 1973-74]
November 1974: Joan Scott, a faculty member in the Department of History, asks the Faculty Council to investigate the possibility of establishing a Women’s Studies program. At the Council’s request, Chancellor Nelson Ferebee Taylor appoints a committee to explore the idea. [Source: Interview with Mary Turner Lane, 1986-1987. Southern Oral History Program Interviews, Southern Historical Collection]
April 1975: The Chancellor’s committee to explore the creation of a Women’s Studies program unanimously recommends the creation of such a program. [Source: Margaret Anne O’Connor Papers, 1972-1989, Southern Historical Collection.Women’s Advisory Board 1973-74]
July 1976: Professor Mary Turner Lane agrees to serve as the first Director of the Women’s Studies Program. Dr. Lane, a professor in the School of Education, began as an instructor in 1954. During her time at the UNC, Lane worked to end social limitations for female students. Lane also helped found the Association for Women Faculty and Professionals and served as a chair of the Committee on the Status of Women.[Source: Margaret Anne O’Connor Papers, 1972-1989, Southern Historical Collection.Women’s Advisory Board 1973-74]
February 1988: The UNC Faculty Council approves a proposal to make the Women’s Studies Program an independent curriculum offering a bachelor’s degree. The change was not approved by the UNC System. [Source: Daily Tar Heel, 2/25/1988;Daily Tar Heel, 4/1/1992]
This spring brought significant news in records management on our campus. Effective immediately, UNC-Chapel Hill will no longer rely on a separate records retention and disposition schedule. Instead, we will use the UNC System schedule.
Why Was This Change Made?
For the past several years, the State Archives of North Carolina, which oversees records management activities throughout state government, has been working to consolidate local schedules in order to ensure consistency across state agencies and to make it easier to update and maintain records schedules. UNC-Chapel Hill was the only UNC System school to maintain a separate records schedule. By using the UNC System schedule we will bring our record retention and disposition practices into line with those of our colleagues at other UNC System schools throughout the state.
What Effect Will This Have on Records Management in My Office?
Probably very little. The retention requirements in the UNC System schedule match those in the separate UNC-Chapel Hill schedule in nearly every case. When there are differences, we will work with the State Archives to determine the proper requirements and update the records schedule as necessary. The biggest thing all of us will have to get used to is looking to a new document for all our records management questions.
What If There are Records in my Office That Are Not Covered in the UNC System Schedule?
This is bound to happen as we work through the process of reconciling the UNC-Chapel Hill schedule with the UNC System requirements. If you have documents in your office that do not appear to be represented in the UNC System schedule, please contact us right away: email@example.com. We’ll work with you to figure out the appropriate retention and disposition plan and will continue to collaborate with the State Archives to ensure that the UNC System schedule covers all record types produced on our campus.
Will My Office Still Need to Work with the UNC-Chapel Hill University Archives?
Yes! We are still your first point of contact for all of your records management questions and will continue to be the repository for the official records of the university. We are still getting used to the UNC System schedule ourselves, but we are available to work with you to interpret the requirements in the records schedule and answer any questions you have.
Will You Offer Training on Using the UNC System schedule?
Yes! We will continue to offer records management training through Carolina Talent. These sessions will cover records management basics and will be updated to reflect the use of the UNC System schedule. Our Guide to Records Management at UNC-Chapel Hill has also been updated and continues to be the best first stop for your records management questions.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Finding Wilson Caldwell: The Study of Slavery at UNC.” Carolina Alumni Review, January 2020. [Online access available to General Alumni Association members.]
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.
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.
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.
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 toit 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.
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.
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.