The Black Arts Festival, 1972-1981

There are many forms of protest and one of them is the uninhibited celebration of your culture and the artistic achievements of your peers. Last month at the Project STAND (Student Activism Now Documented) symposium in Atlanta, one of the student panelists emphasized the necessity for uplifting depictions of black joy in addition to recognizing some of the struggles of activism. The Black Arts Festival, held by the Black Student Movement from 1972 to 1981, is an example of such joy.

Blue Poster Announcing Events
1975 Black Arts Festival Poster [Carolina Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, University Archives]
Called by 1973 Cultural Coordinator Algenon Marbley, “soul-stirring events” that “exemplify our culture through song, dance and drama,” the Black Arts Festival was an explosion of performances, workshops and lectures that featured artists not only from on campus, but throughout the United States. (Marbley, 1973)

Letter on BSM letterhead
Letter from Marbley to Chancellor Taylor [Carolina Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, University Archives]
The annual festival happened from 1972 to 1981, and featured performances from Black Student Movement subgroups like The Readers (now The Ebony Readers/Onyx Theatre), Opeyo Dancers (now Opeyo! Dance Company) and the Black Student Movement Gospel Choir. The festival was lauded as an event where black students could come together and express themselves through performance.

The relationships and roots of Black American art in the African diaspora were consistent themes in the 1973 festival. While performance seems to be the dominant form of expression in each year’s festival, the week-long series of events also featured panel discussions and classes. The festival in 1973 included a conversation between Chapel Hill’s first black mayor, Howard Lee, and activist Owusu Saudaki (Mills, 1973). Often, the BSM reached out to communities near UNC and workshops were taught by Durham’s Ebony Dance Theatre and the Bowie State Dancers (Starr, 1979).

In 1975, students expressed concern for continuing the festival, and conversations were had about how a black student organization on a predominantly while campus could thrive in terms of funding and administrative support. The festival was put on hiatus between 1976 and 1978, during which time the organization focused on other concerns like recruitment of black faculty and students (Carolina Union Records).

Speaker Contract with Black Panther Party
1974 Contract with Black Panther Party Speakers’ Bureau [Carolina Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, University Archives]
Recruitment Recommendations Text
BSM Recommendations for Recruitment 1975 [Carolina Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, University Archives]
Distressed by the lack of black artists coming to Chapel Hill, members of the BSM worked to revive the festival (Worsley, 1979). In 1979, black film and theater legend Cicely Tyson was invited to appear at Memorial Hall. That same year, co-sponsored by the Carolina Union, the award-winning and Grammy nominated New York Community Choir performed.

In 1980, the festival saw much less of an audience outside of the 300 audience members who came to support the Freshman Bloc, a skit-based variety show. The festival continued in 1981, with Wanda Montgomery as Cultural Coordinator. (Blossom, 1981). This is seemingly the last year, because in 1982, the BSM continued to fight for funding. The Black Arts Festival was under scrutiny, funding was cut and some of the events were added to Black History Month (Black Ink, 1982).

There are some occurrences of week-long events similar to the Black Arts festival after this. In 1991, an African American culture week called “African Americans in the Arts,” sponsored by the Black Cultural Centers Special Programming Committee, featured the Opeyo! Dancers (Mankowski, 1991). In the early 1990s, African American Culture Week is still mentioned in Black Ink. The Black Student Movement and its subgroups continue to produce, sponsor and curate performances, continuing their legacy as an organization that uplifts black joy.

References:

Black Student Movement in the Carolina Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records #40128, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Blossom, Teresa (1981). “BSM Black Arts Festival Arrives Mar 18-25”. Black Ink. Retrieved from
http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/2015236558/1981-03-17/ed-1/seq-3/

Mankowski, Melissa (1991). “Opeyo! Dancers Mix Modern with Traditional Steps”. The Daily Tar Heel. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1991-09-27/ed-1/seq-5/

Marbley, Algenon. (1973). “BACF Affect Apathy”. The Black Ink. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/2015236558/1973-04-01/ed-1/seq-4/

Mills, Janice. (1973). “Realm of Black Arts Explored”. The Black Ink. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/2015236558/1973-04-01/ed-1/seq-4/

Starr, Mary Beth. (1979). “Notable Groups Reflect Culture in Performance”. The Daily Tar Heel. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1979-03-23/ed-1/seq-12/

Williams, Linda (1974). “’74 Festival Set” Black Ink. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/2015236558/1974-03-01/ed-1/seq-1/

Worsley, Carolyn. (1979). “A Week of Arts, Entertainment.” The Daily Tar Heel. Retrieved from
http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1979-03-23/ed-1/seq-12/

Unknown Contributor. (1982). “Choir Guilty as Charged” Black Ink. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/2015236558/1982-04-29/ed-1/seq-2/

“Proving a Secret is Difficult”: Zora Neale Hurston at UNC

Image of the Zora Neale Hurston Hall plaque created by UNC MFA candidate Jeanine Tatlock.

On May 28, 2015, the UNC Board of Trustees voted to remove the name of Ku Klux Klan leader and Confederate Army colonel William Saunders from a campus building and rename it “Carolina Hall.” Additionally, the Board voted to place a 16-year moratorium on renaming campus buildings. The removal of Saunders’ name came after decades of work by student activists on campus, particularly the collaborative efforts of student organizations (the Black Student Movement, Real Silent Sam Coalition, and the Campus Y) in 2014.

Activists had urged the administration to rename the building for renowned black anthropologist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston. They cited a belief that Hurston attended UNC as a “secret student” in 1940, more than a decade before the first African American students were admitted to Carolina.

Even after the Trustees’ decision, student activists continued to celebrate Hurston’s life and call for a new name for Carolina Hall. In the fall of 2015, student activists held an “opening ceremony” for Hurston Hall. A statement by the Real Silent Sam coalition acknowledged the importance of naming the building for Hurston: “We named this building after Zora Neale Hurston precisely because racist and sexist admissions policies excluded her and other Black women from UNC.”

In March 2017, UNC MFA candidate Jeanine Tatlock added an additional plaque to the building, naming it Zora Neale Hurston Hall and acknowledging that “against all odds and despite a system that did everything in its power to keep [Hurston] from attending college she went on to become one of America’s most celebrated authors.”

From what we can tell, the Board of Trustees never collectively addressed the idea of renaming Saunders Hall for Zora Neale Hurston. However, in a letter to the Daily Tar Heel editor in 2017, UNC Trustee Alston Gardner argued that students never formally proposed the name change from Saunders to Hurston. Responding to the suggestion, Gardner wrote, “of course, proving a secret is difficult, so I applied a reasonableness test and came up short.” Many details of Zora Neale Hurston’s connection to Carolina are unclear, but the question of whether or not she was really a secret student here before UNC integrated in 1951 still remains on many of our minds. After an extensive search of resources in the Wilson Special Collections Library (and some from the University of Kansas’ Kenneth Spencer Research Library) we’ve established the following:

According to Cecelia Moore’s The South as a Folk Play: The Carolina Playmakers, Regional Theatre and the Federal Theatre Project, 1935-1939, in 1934, Zora Neale Hurston met playwright and UNC professor Paul Green and Carolina Playmakers founder Frederick Koch at the National Folk Festival in St. Louis, Missouri (p. 167). Recruited by Koch, Zora Neale Hurston came to North Carolina in 1939 to assume a theater teaching position at North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham (now North Carolina Central University)(Moore, p. 154).

Daily Tar Heel, 7 October 1939.
Daily Tar Heel, 7 October 1939, describing Hurston’s presentation at the Carolina Dramatic Association.

Hurston is now best known for her folktales and novels telling black stories, but in the 1930s she was invested in writing and producing folk plays: plays that highlighted everyday black life. On October 7, 1939, Hurston spoke at the fall meeting of the Carolina Dramatic Association, a statewide organization of theater directors and educators. The group met in Playmakers Theater on UNC’s campus. The following day, the Daily Tar Heel quoted her as telling the group, “Our drama must be like us, or it doesn’t exist.” She wanted to create theater that better exhibited the fullness of black life. Green, drawing from the legacy of the Carolina Playmakers under Frederick Koch, was similarly interested in writing folk plays.  He wrote and produced many works and won a Pulitzer Prize in May 1927 for the play In Abraham’s Bosom

Daily Tar Heel article describing the Sunday night Radio Writing and Production course, lists Zora Neale Hurston among other students, March 30, 1940. 

In the spring semester of 1940, Hurston joined Paul Green’s small theater group. The March 30, 1940 issue of the Daily Tar Heel lists Zora Neale Hurston among the students in Green’s “Radio Writing and Production” course, meeting Sunday nights in Caldwell Hall. A class of that name does not appear in the catalog for the 1939-1940 academic year, suggesting that it may not have been officially offered through the University. Several of the class participants, including Hurston, were not enrolled at UNC at the time. There is also conflicting information about where they met: Hurston biographer Robert Hemenway writes in Zora Neale Hurston: a Literary Biography that they moved to Green’s home due to a complaint from a white student (p. 255), while Laurence G. Avery in A Southern Life: Letters of Paul Green, 1916-1981 says the meetings were always at Green’s house (p. 312).  In a 1971 interview with Robert Hemenway, Paul Green said they often had to work “sort of specially separate from the class,” and she would come to his house quite often.

Although Paul Green was the instructor for the course, his relationship with Hurston appeared to be more collaborative. In one energetic letter, Hurston writes to Green imploring him to send someone to record a spiritual she found at a black church in South Carolina. The spiritual could help them in the writing of their play, with the working title John De Conqueror. In the letter, she says, “Now, don’t sit there Paul Green, just thinking! Do something!” (p. 312). She feared a fellow student would record the spirituals and sell them before they could use it in their work. Unfortunately, the recordings weren’t made, and John De Conqueror was never finished.   

Daily Tar Heel article describing the Sunday night Radio Writing and Production course, lists Zora Neale Hurston among other students, March 30, 1940.

Despite not being officially recognized as a student, the spirit of the plaque students placed on Carolina Hall two years ago is still represented in Zora Neale Hurston’s abundant life as a black scholar. Her work initially received mixed reviews, but by the time she arrived in North Carolina, she had already earned a bachelors degree from Barnard College in 1928 and published several noteworthy books—including one of her most popular works, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Paul Green said in that 1971 interview that he remembered Hurston driving around campus in her “little red sports car” with a “jaunty little tam o shanter” on her head. Students would “jeer” as she drove by. On one occasion, he recalled, even the professors mocked her — she responded by calling “Hi, freshmen! Hi, freshmen!” It seems she never backed down from a challenge.

As Gardner noted, “proving a secret” is a challenge, and one archivists face often. Reference archivists frequently receive questions about aspects of campus history that, for many reasons, went undocumented or unpreserved. It is a struggle to find answers and adequate evidence to support them. It all depends on what has been collected and preserved. When we find these gaps in the historical record, it is frustrating but encourages us to think more deeply about what we’re collecting now and its uses in the future. In the case of Zora Neale Hurston at UNC and many parts of university history that we take extra time to research, we relish in the small crumbs we have but find ourselves hungry for more information.

Learn More: “Saunders Hall” essay in Reclaiming the University of the People: Racial Justice Movements at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Charlotte Fryar, 2019.

Sources:

Carolina Hall History

The Daily Tar Heel

Frederick H. Koch Papers, 1893-1979.

Letter to the Editor of the Daily Tar Heel

Paul Green Interview, 1971, Personal Papers of Robert E. Hemenway, PP 487, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Paul Green Papers, 1880-2009

The South as a Folk Play: The Carolina Playmakers, Regional Theatre and the Federal Theatre Project, 1935-1939 [in the Carolina Digital Repository]

A Southern Life: Letters of Paul Green, 1916-1981

UNC T-Shirt Archive

University Archives Web Archives

William Laurence Saunders Papers, 1712-1907.

Zora Neale Hurston: a Literary Biography

Now Available: Edie Parker Papers

We are pleased to announce a new addition to University Archives, the Edie Parker Papers.

Edie Parker (then Edie Knight) attended UNC from 1947 to 1949. As a student, she was active in student government, Greek life, and the Model United Nations. The collection — mostly in the form of a scrapbook — includes materials from the Women’s Intercollegiate Government Forum that Parker planned, orientation booklets, rush invitations, clippings about the Model UN from the Daily Tar Heel, and letters from male suitors. While at UNC, Parker also participated in a conference about the U.S. role in European recovery from World War II that Mademoiselle magazine hosted in 1948. Her notes from the conference are included in the collection. Parker’s scrapbook and accompanying papers provide insight into the life of a woman student at UNC during the late 1940s.

Below, we’ve highlighted just a few items from the Edie Parker scrapbook, including photographs of UNC students and the 1949 UNC Commencement program.

Carolina Tweets #archiveunc

When you think of archives you might think of dusty old books and papers tucked away to be used by historians and other academics. Here at the University Archives we preserve plenty of old University records (that are kept dust-free, by the way), but our day-to-day work is actually very focused on the current moment. Without collecting materials that document the present day researchers can’t study the University in the future.

One way we archive the current moment is through collecting student life materials and UNC related web content. With only three full time staff members it can be tough to keep up with all the conversations, events, and activism happening on campus. We can’t do this alone. This is where you come in!

You can actively contribute to the documentation of what’s happening at UNC by using the hashtag #archiveunc on your public tweets or Instagram posts. That’s all you have to do! By using the hashtag, you opt in to having the posts archived for long-term preservation and research access.

How is the content archived? We will periodically use a tool called Archive-It to “crawl” the tweets or posts tagged with the #archiveunc hashtag. Once the posts have been crawled by the Archive-it tool, the data is preserved by the Internet Archive and we provide access through our Archive-It website.

What kind of tweets are we looking for? We’re open to any tweets or Instagram posts related to UNC academics, campus life, and events. For example:

  • Promoting a student organization event? #archiveunc
  • Protesting? #archiveunc
  • Promoting a cause? #archiveunc
  • Sharing activities or chalk messages seen on campus? #archiveunc

If you don’t use #archiveunc, we may be in touch to ask permission to add your social media content or website to the Archives. Collecting social media content as it unfolds is new for us. We’re experimenting, so how we ask for permission and the technology used may evolve over time. As things change, we’ll keep you in the loop.

We hope you’ll join us in this exciting new effort!

Not interested in social media? Other ways to get involved and help document Carolina history:

  • Submit photos of UNC shirts to the UNC T-Shirt Archive.
  • Connect with us regarding donation of student organization records, digital or print photos, videos, or campus posters/flyers. If it documents something happening at UNC, we’re happy to talk about adding it to the archives. Please email (archives@unc.edu) us to get the process started.
  • Nominate a UNC website for archiving. First check to see if we’ve already archived the website: https://archive-it.org/collections/3491. If the website can’t be found in our web archives, send us an email (archives@unc.edu) to get the process started.

Now Available: Records of the UNC Cardboard Club

University Archives is pleased to share a newly processed collection – the records of the UNC Cardboard Club. The Cardboard Club, started in 1948 by UNC cheerleader Norman Sper, coordinated and produced displays at UNC football games, using colored cardboard squares to form words and images in the stands.

unc_cardboard_023
Animated GIF made from photos from a 1967 football game between UNC and Wake Forest, in the Records of the UNC Cardboard Club (#40354), University Archives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Members of the club planned out their designs on gridded paper, and placed cardboard squares and cue cards listing the upcoming “stunts” on the seats of the “card section” of Kenan Stadium the night before football games.

GIF made from photos of a 1966 UNC versus Duke game from the Cardboard Club Records (40354), University Archives.
GIF made from photos of a 1966 UNC versus Duke game from the Cardboard Club Records (40354), University Archives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The club was funded by the Carolina Athletic Association. It was discontinued in 1987, in part due to safety concerns–students often sent their cardboard panels flying towards the field at the end of games, hitting fellow spectators.

See more photos of the Club’s game day stunts in the collection finding aid.

 

Haunted House of Master Mangum

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From the Daily Tar Heel, 31 October 1985

 

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David Brown begging for sympathy from visitors in Mangum’s Haunted House Wednesday Night (From the Daily Tar Heel, 31 October 1985)

Halloween is fast approaching, and students across campus are deciding what costume to wear for a night out on Franklin Street. The tradition of roaming Franklin Street on Halloween began in the early 1980s and while the tradition is well known across the state, it’s not the only way students on campus have celebrated the holiday.  In the fall of 1981, residents of Mangum dormitory decided they wanted to buy an ice machine for the building. When they learned the University wouldn’t cover the costs under its enhancement policy, they took matters into their own hands and decided to raise the money themselves by staging a haunted house.

The first Mangum Haunted House opened at 7 p.m. on October 30, 1981 and visitors paid $1 for a guided tour through “madmen, a hell scene, a cemetery scene, and a lot of other scary scenes,” according to Mangum Resident Assistant Billy Leland (from the Daily Tar Heel, 30 October 1981). The 1st Annual Mangum Haunted House was open until midnight on the 30th and from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. on the 31st.  The event was a success, and an ice machine was purchased.

The event continued until the mid-1990’s, with Mangum residents trying to create a new and scarier version of the haunted house each year, and beginning in 1982, proceeds from ticket and t-shirt sales were donated to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center.

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“Slime, anyone?” From the Daily Tar Heel, 31 October 1985
skullman
From the Daily Tar Heel, 31 October 1986

Introducing the UNC T-Shirt Archive

The UNC T-Shirt Archive. http://unctshirtarchive.tumblr.com/
The UNC T-Shirt Archive. http://unctshirtarchive.tumblr.com/

We are pleased to announce the release of the UNC T-Shirt Archive. This digital collection of Carolina T-shirts past and present provides a unique window into all aspects of student life at UNC. The website is available now, but it’s far from complete: for that, we need your help.

If you have a UNC shirt that is fun, interesting, important, or just looks good, we’d like to preserve a photo of it in the University Archives. Just take a photo of your favorite UNC-related shirt, and submit it to us. We’ll publish the images online and make sure that the digital files are preserved for posterity. Learn more about submitting shirts on the website or contact us directly via email (archives@unc.edu), Twitter (@uncarchives), or Instagram (@uncarchives).

Why Have a T-Shirt Archive?

As archivists, we don’t just worry about the records and documents that are in our collections: we think a lot about what we’re missing. We want to build a collection that documents all aspects of UNC history and culture, but because our stacks, our staff, and our servers can only handle a limited amount of material, we have to be selective.

Phi Mu Seniors, 1988
Phi Mu Seniors, 1988

One of the goals of the UNC-Chapel Hill University Archives in recent years has been to do a better job documenting student life. A few years ago, the Archives began an effort to collect records of student organizations. Building on the success of that project, we looked for other ways to ensure that we were preserving the experience of being a student at Carolina. After tossing around many ideas, we realized that some of the most distinctive and creative symbols of student life were right in front of us every day: t-shirts.

UNC Parachute Club t-shirt, ca. 1969-1973.
UNC Parachute Club t-shirt, ca. 1969-1973.

Inspired by the Wearing Gay History project, we decided to build and host a digital collection of images of UNC t-shirts, past and present. T-shirts are often more than just articles of clothing. They can tell a story, document an event, or celebrate an achievement. With the UNC T-Shirt Archive we hope to include shirts showing all aspects of student life and culture. We will accept images of t-shirts from students, alumni, and anyone else with a connection to Carolina and a story to tell. We’re looking forward to hearing from all of you who have shirts you’d like to contribute and are excited about this new initiative to preserve and share Carolina history.

 

Exam Spoilers…for Fall 1885

Could you pass finals in 1885?

While looking through the University Papers this week, I found these exams administered at the end of the fall semester in 1885. There is one for Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics and English. Some of the questions would be familiar to a student today, but others, not so much. Can you tell us “what are the defects of our Alphabet?”

Exams administered December 1885 (from the University Papers, #40005, University Archives).

Update: The Curious Case of the Cuban Club

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the Cuban Club, a short-lived club for Cuban students at UNC in the early 20th century. This week, I came across a letter written just months after the Spanish-American War in which Major General Joseph Wheeler, president of the Cuban Educational Association, tells UNC President Edwin Alderman that he “note[s] with pleasure that you state that the University of North Carolina would easily give scholarships, remitting all tuition to several [Cuban students].”

The Cuban Educational Association operated from 1898 to 1901 and partnered with colleges across the United States to send Cuban and Puerto Rican college-age students to school in the United States. Universities and colleges offered one to two students a full scholarship to cover books, tuition and fees. The students and their families had to cover the cost of living, usually $200 – $300 annually. Therefore, most of the students coming to the United States were from the middle and upper classes. The scholarship mandated that the students return home after graduation.

Over the four years it was in operation, the Cuban Educational Association and its over 50 partner institutions helped to send over 2,500 students to school in the United States. When these students returned home, most became teachers, doctors and lawyers in their communities.

This letter was written 10 years before the Cuban Club appeared in the Yackety Yack, but it suggests that the influx of students from Cuba in the early 20th century may have been related to work begun by the Cuban Educational Association.

Letter to Dr. Alderman from Joshua (from the University Papers, #40005, University Archives).

Original Post: The Curious Case of the Cuban Club

“All Dances Will Be Suspended”: The Effect of Prohibition at UNC in 1925

While national prohibition was voted into law in 1919 with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, North Carolina had been dry since it passed a state-wide prohibition law in 1908. As the sale and consumption of alcohol in North Carolina had already been banned for twelve years when enforcement of the 18th Amendment began in 1920, prohibition had little direct effect on the University.

German Club Executive Committee, from the 1926 Yackety Yack, http://digitalnc.org
German Club Executive Committee in the 1926 Yackety Yack, from DigitalNC

However, a 1925 German Club dance held around Thanksgiving prompted a harsh response from President H.W. Chase. Despite its name, the German Club was not related to the nation of Germany or the German language. Rather, the club, organized in the late nineteenth century, planned formal dances and other social events for its members. A ‘German’ was a kind of social dancing that became popular following the Civil War.

The incident caused by this dance was investigated by Andrew Henry Patterson, a professor of physics and Dean of the School of Applied Sciences. In his report to President Chase, Patterson noted that the conditions for illegal drinking were perfect as there were, “hundreds of visitors brought here by the game, and many of them with liquor. The wonder is that more drinking was not done[….]” The game to which Patterson referred was the annual Thanksgiving Day game against the University of Virginia. According to Patterson, “no estimate on the part of anybody as to the number of men who had taken a drink would run over 20 or 25% of those present,” and that “no shadow of a rumor that any girls were drinking has been found, which is encouraging.”

Patterson to Chase
Report on German Club dance incident by A.H. Patterson, from  University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives

On the day this letter was sent to President Chase, December 4, 1925, he delivered an address to students in chapel discouraging the use of alcohol. Chase emphasized “the problem of the influence of drinking on the future business and social relations of the young men who make up the student bodies in our colleges today.” He went on to state “his opinion that drinking is now a thing for the vulgar and lower classes to indulge in” and that alcohol use was something “invariably leading to unmannerly and indecent conduct.”

This incident and its investigation prompted President Chase to suspend all dances at the University until the end of Easter holidays. This suspension also extended to “the giving of any dance by any University organization or student at any place outside the University campus.” When the suspension ended in April of 1926, the German Club adopted new bylaws that made its executive committee responsible to the University for the conduct at all dances, regardless of the clubs or groups hosting them. According to the Daily Tar Heel on April 15, 1926, these bylaws also imposed regulations on dances. These included no smoking on the dance floor, no girls leaving the dance hall without a chaperone, and strict end times for dances. Most dances were required to end by 1:00 AM, while Saturday night dances had to end by midnight. Some German Club dances were permitted to last until 2:00 AM. The German Club continued to organize dances and concerts until the late 1960s.

[President Chase’s letter to the German Club suspending all dances, from the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives]