Collecting a Snapshot of #SilenceSam

The Confederate Monument on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus has been the subject of controversy and protest for decades. A detailed timeline and corresponding archival materials related to the monument between 1908 and 2015 can be explored online via our Guide to Resources about UNC’s Confederate Monument. While some aspects of the current protests mirror past efforts, social media has facilitated new approaches for sharing information and sparking action on campus. In an effort to document the current protests, we knew it would be important to explore methods for collecting a sampling of tweets related to the Silence Sam protests.  

We decided to use a tool called twarc to harvest tweet data for specific hashtags searches. Twarc is a Python package that makes use of the Twitter API to collect tweets. Between August 22 and December 15, 2017, we performed a weekly search and harvest of #silencesam and #silentsam. In addition, we infrequently captured select complementary hashtags: #boycottunc #boycottunctownhall #iaarchat and the @Move_Silent_Sam user account. 15,063 tweets were collected across all searches. The hashtags #silentsam and #silencesam make the up the majority with 12,993 tweets collected.  

The tweets are in a raw form, so to speak. Twarc returns the tweets and associated metadata in a JSON document. So, in this collection you won’t automatically find a timeline that looks like the Twitter website. Instead, what we have is a structured text document with many lines and each line represents a tweet and associated metadata about that tweet. The data can be manipulated in a variety of ways for analysis or viewing. A wide variety of visualization tools could be useful for working with the data.  

To get started working with this collection, though, you’ll first need a Twitter account and Hydrator or twarc installed.

The first step is to “hydrate” the dataset. There are some specific access stipulations for this collection due to the Twitter API terms of service. We cannot make the full data we collected available for use. In particular, we are unable to make deleted tweets available for use. Instead, we provide a list of the tweet identifiers (tweet ids) for all the tweets we’ve collected in our repository. This list of identifiers can be hydrated by querying the Twitter API for the tweets that are still publicly available. There are two options for hydrating the tweet ids.  

Download the Hydrator tool  

  • You’ll need to authorize the app to connect to your Twitter account.  
  • Upload the tweet identifier document to Hydrator and start the process.
  • Download the hydrated tweets from the tool.

Hydrate using the command line with twarc 

  • This method will require you to have Twitter API credentials. It’s not as intense as it sounds. Social Feed Manager, a project at George Washington University Libraries, provides a helpful guide in their documentation under the Adding Twitter Credentials section. Don’t worry about the parts that are specific to using Social Feed Manager. Your API keys will be entered via command line when setting up twarc. Instructions for setting up twarc are available on GitHub. 

Once you have hydrated the dataset using one of the options above, you’ll have the full text of tweets and metadata in a JSON document or a CSV spreadsheet (from Hydrator).

The next step is to begin working with the data. You could use a variety of tools to visualize the data.  Twarc comes with a few useful “utilities” that can also be used. A few are highlighted below:

wordcloud.py 

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).

emoji.py

Screenshot showing emojis found in tweets. Angry, red face emoji was most used.
The emoji.py program provides a way to tally up the emojis used across collected tweets.

wall.py 

The wall.py program is the best way to generate a timeline of tweets that can be read one by one.

noretweets.py and deduplicate.py 

These programs may be useful if you want to pare down the dataset. We don’t anticipate much duplication of tweets in the dataset, but no deduplication has been performed by us prior to making the collection available.

A note on images and video: There are limitations to collecting video and image files embedded in tweets due to the nature of the collecting by API. You may try using the method shared in this blog post from Tim Sherratt under Get Images. He uses image URLs and wget to gather pictures.

Access the Collection: You can find the collection description here and access to the tweet identifiers documents can be found here 

Other on-going collecting efforts related to the Confederate Monument protests that began on August 22, 2017 can be found:  

If you have materials related to the protests – like photos, signs, or video – and you are interested in donating these materials to the University Archives, please contact us by email archives@unc.edu 

 Other twarc and social media archive resources: 

 

Black Student Movement Demands, 1968

Black Student Movement Demands, 1968.
Black Student Movement Demands, 1968.

At the Town Hall meeting about race and inclusion held at Memorial Hall last night, students from The Real Silent Sam and other activists presented a series of demands to university administrators. The demands referenced a similar document from the Black Student Movement in 1968.

On December 11, 1968, representatives of the Black Student Movement presented a list of 23 demands to Chancellor Carlyle Sitterson and other campus administrators. The demands included changes in admissions and financial aid policies, the establishment of a department of African and Afro-American studies, administrative support for black students, and a commitment to address the low wages and inadequate living conditions of African American employees and the local black community.

Daily Tar Heel, 12 December 1968.
Daily Tar Heel, 12 December 1968.

Chancellor Sitterson responded the following month with a 19-page, point-by-point reaction to the demands.  He wrote of a desire to promote “free and frank discussion” on campus.  Sitterson’s responses addressed specific issues in the demands, often pointing out that the changes requested were either partially underway, needed further elaboration, or fell outside the responsibilities of the Chancellor’s office.

People interested in learning more about the 1968 demands and the ongoing discussions they provoked can find good coverage in the Daily Tar Heel. The Chancellor’s response and the reactions of some alumni are documented in the Sitterson papers in the University Archives. The role of the Black Student Movement is documented in Black Ink, which began publication in late 1969, and the records of the Black Student Movement in University Archives.

Visit Wilson Library, or contact us for resources and suggestions for researching UNC history.

Sources:

Black Student Movement Demands, December 1968.

Sitterson Response to Black Student Movement Demands, January 1969.

Daily Tar Heel, 12 December 1968.

The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History: Exhibit on The Black Student Movement at Carolina.

Learn More:

Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Joseph Carlyle Sitterson Records, 1966-1972 (collection number 40022), University Archives.

Black Student Movement Records (collection number 40400), University Archives.

 

 

Student Protests in Support of the Black Cultural Center, 1992

In the wake of the recent protests and demonstrations at the University of Missouri, many people in the UNC community are looking back on our own past at occasions where students and activists fought for change in Chapel Hill. Two pieces published today — an article in the Daily Tar Heel and an excellent blog post by graduate student Charlotte Fryar — draw comparisons between Missouri and a specific series of protests at UNC in 1992.

Spike Lee at UNC, 17 September 1992.
Spike Lee at UNC, 17 September 1992.

Students at UNC rallied throughout the spring and fall of 1992 in support of several issues, most notably the construction of a freestanding Black Cultural Center on campus. The protests drew national attention and filmmaker Spike Lee came to campus to help rally the students and support their cause. By at least one measure, the protests were a success: after repeatedly speaking out against a separate Black Cultural Center on campus, Chancellor Paul Hardin eventually endorsed a plan to build the center, and agreed to name it after former UNC faculty member Sonja Haynes Stone.

There is a lot of information about the protests and the reactions of the administration in the University Archives and other Wilson Library collections. This general guide to sources and basic timeline of the events will serve as a starting point for students and others interested in learning more about this important period in UNC history.

General Sources

  • The Daily Tar Heel covered all of the major protests and administrative actions related to the debate over the Black Cultural Center. Digitized copies are available on DigitalNC.
  • Black Ink, the newspaper of the Black Student Movement, provided extensive coverage of the protests and student reactions. Digitized copies of the paper are available through the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.
  • Regional media, especially the News and Observer in Raleigh, covered many of the student protests. The Wikipedia article on the Sonja Haynes Stone Center has an excellent list of citations to relevant newspaper articles.
  • The Records of the Office of the Chancellor at UNC, Paul Hardin Records (1988-1995), include several folders related to the Black Student Movement and student protests. One of these folders, containing correspondence and clippings related to the protests, has been digitized.
  • The Carolina Alumni Review, Winter 1992 issue (vol. 81 no. 4) includes a lengthy article about the protests, the long movement toward a Black Cultural Center, and a “Chronology of Racism Issues at UNC.”

Timeline

24 February 1992: Students from the Black Student Movement, Campus Y, and other student activists issue several demands to Chancellor Paul Hardin: the construction of a freestanding Black Cultural Center on campus, named after Sonja Haynes Stone; and endowed faculty position named after Sonja Stone; and action by the University to improve pay and working conditions for housekeepers on campus. [Source: DTH, 2/25/1992]

Daily Tar Heel, 18 March 1992
Daily Tar Heel, 18 March 1992

17 March 1992: Hardin responds to the student demands in remarks delivered at South Building. Hardin expressed his sympathy with student requests, but said he was unable to meet any of them. He said, “I do not agree with those of you who advocate a free-standing Center.” [Sources: DTH, 3/18/1992; the full text of Hardin’s response is available in the Chancellor’s records in University Archives — digitized copy here, beginning with scan number 35]

Black Awareness Council founders. From Black Ink, 8/31/1992.
Black Awareness Council founders. From Black Ink, 8/31/1992.

Early Summer 1992: Four African American football players — John Bradley, Jimmy Hancock, Malcolm Marshall, and Timothy Smith — form the Black Awareness Council, a group dedicated to increasing awareness among African Americans about campus and community issues. The founders spoke about their desire to get black athletes more involved in issues of importance to other black students on campus. [Source: Black Ink, 8/31/1992]

30 August 1992: The Black Student Movement, Campus Y, and Black Awareness Council list their demands and announce a plan to bring them directly to Chancellor Hardin at his home. [Source: Records of the Office of the Chancellor; the digitized statement shows Hardin’s handwritten note, “Not possible” next to the demand for a freestanding Black Cultural Center]

3 September 1992: Around 300 students march to Chancellor Paul Hardin’s house demanding immediate action on their demands. [Sources: DTH, 9/4/1992); Black Ink, 9/16/1992]

Announcement of student demands with Chancellor Hardin's handwritten annotations.
Announcement of student demands with Chancellor Hardin’s handwritten annotations.

10 September 1992: Several hundred students march to South Building to present a letter from the Black Awareness Council demanding both support and a clear plan for building a separate Black Cultural Center on campus. The students give the Chancellor a deadline of November 13. They write, “Failure to respond to this deadline will leave the people no other choice but to organize toward direct action.” The protest draws the attention of the New York Times. [Source: DTH, 9/11/1992 / William Rhoden, “At Chapel Hill, Athletes Suddenly Become Activists. New York Times, 9/11/1992].

17 September 1992: Moved by what he has read about the student protests, filmmaker Spike Lee comes to campus to lend his support. Around 5,000 students hear him speak at the Dean Dome. Lee draws attention to the fact that African American athletes are active in leading the protests. He says, in an interview with Black Ink, “What’s important here is that the athletes are at the vanguard of this. The reason why that is important is that college sports is powered by the muscle, brawn, speed, and intelligence of the black athletes. If these schools didn’t attract black athletes through football and basketball, there could be no multimillion dollar T.V. contracts.” [Source: Black Ink, 10/5/1992].

23 September 1992: Provost Richard McCormick forms a panel to investigate and come up with a plan for an expanded Black Cultural Center on campus. [Source: DTH, 9/24/1992].

1 October 1992: An article in the Daily Tar Heel discusses the involvement of football players in the protests and addresses the prospect of players missing practices or games. Tim Smith, one of the founders of the Black Awareness Council, says, “BAC hasn’t said anything about (boycotting), so it’s not an issue.” Football coach Mack Brown is quoted as saying he has encouraged the players to be active on campus, but, “We’ve always asked them to do it as an individual and not as representatives of our football program.” [Source: DTH, 10/1/1992, p. 7]

5 October 1992: The panel votes, 10-2, in favor of a freestanding Black Cultural Center. [Source: DTH, 10/6/1992]

12 October 1992: Still awaiting a response from Chancellor Hardin, about 125 students briefly interrupt University Day festivities to advocate for the Black Cultural Center. [Source: DTH, 10/13/1992]

15 October 1992: Chancellor Hardin announces his support for a freestanding Black Cultural Center on campus: “I endorse a free-standing facility to house the center and will recommend that the proposed facility be named for Dr. Stone.” [Source: DTH, 10/16/1992]

As we find other relevant sources, we’ll update this blog post.  For more information or suggestions for exploring this or other topics on UNC history, contact or visit Wilson Library.