“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

A New Addition of Athletics Photographs from the 1960s and 1970s

We are excited to announce that a new accession of photographs to the Department of Athletics Collection is available for research. This accession is particularly special since it contains images of less-documented sports — including women’s sports and intramural sports — from the 1960s and 1970s.

Included in this addition are images of the Titleholder’s Championship (also called the Women’s Pro Tournament), held at Southern Pines and sponsored by UNC in 1972.  The Titleholder’s Championship was only a handful of championship-level events for professional women’s golf in the 1970s, and the winner of the event — Sandra Palmer — was one of the most accomplished female golfers of the time. The addition also includes photographs of the 1963 renovations to Kenan Stadium.

The selection of photos below include images of men’s intramural handball; women’s intramural basketball, volleyball, tennis, and bowling.

 

Noteworthy Firsts: Vermont C. Royster

At the University Day celebration on October 11, 2016, Chancellor Carol Folt announced a new program to name scholarships after notable “firsts” in UNC history. In recognition of the individuals recognized as pioneers at UNC, the University Archives is publishing blog posts with more information about each of the twenty-one “firsts.” This post is part of that series.

When Vermont C. Royster began his studies at UNC in 1931, he was no stranger to the campus.  He was born in Raleigh, and his father, Wilbur Royster, was a professor of Greek and Latin at the university. Although Royster did receive his degree in Classics, his mark on UNC as a student, alumnus, and professor was made through his journalism — writing for the Wall Street Journal and later teaching at the School of Journalism. Royster was one of the first UNC alumni to receive a Pulitzer prize in 1953 (the same year as W. Horace Carter), and he later received a second Pulitzer in 1984.

Royster’s profile in the 1935 Yackety Yack.

Royster began his journalism career at UNC, where he worked for several campus publications, including The Daily Tar Heel and The Student Journal.  During his senior year, he revived and wrote a column in the Daily Tar Heel titled “Around the Well,” which highlighted and described various campus happenings and gossip.

In addition to being drawn to journalism at UNC, he was also an active writer and participant in the Department of Dramatic Arts.  As part of a play-writing course, he wrote and staged two plays — Shadows of Industry and Prelude — both of which can be found in the archives.

After graduating, Royster went on to begin the journalism career for which he is well known.  He moved to New York and began working for the Wall Street Journal in 1936.  He retired from the Wall Street Journal in 1971 and joined UNC’s School of Journalism as a faculty member later that year.  Over the course of his career — both as a professional journalist and university professor — he won two Pulitzer Prizes: the first in 1953 for Editorial Writing and the second in 1984 for Commentary.

Royster died in 1996, and his personal papers are housed in the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library. In addition, Royster published several books over the course of his life — including My Own, My Country’s Time, A Pride of Prejudices, and Journey Through the Soviet Union — all of which can be found in UNC Libraries.

Sources & Additional Readings:

Collection of “Around the Well” columns

“Vermont C. Royster (1914-1996),” written by Will Schultz.  North Carolina History Project. http://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/vermont-c-royster-1914-1996/.

Vermont Royster papers #4432, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Essential Royster: a Vermont Royster reader. edited by Edmund Fuller. Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books, 1985.

My Own, My Country’s Time: a journalist’s journey. Vermont Royster. Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books, 1983.

A Pride of Prejudices. Vermont Royster. Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books, 1984.

Journey through the Soviet Union.  Vermont Royster. New York, D. Jones [1962].

A Can for All Seasons: Quonset Huts at Postwar UNC

Quonset hut area (circa 1946-1947), from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory.

Imagine having 19 roommates instead of one.  How would you protect your belongings without a lock on your door?  What if your only source of heat in the winter occasionally spewed fireballs rivaling the Hunger Games?  Male students attending UNC immediately after World War II contended with these issues and more as residents of Quonset huts.

The G.I. Bill provided educational benefits to hundreds of thousands of veterans who served in World War II. Returning veterans flocked to UNC, raising enrollment from around 4,100 students before the war to 7,250 in the fall of 1947. (DTH, 10/10/1941, 9/25/1947)  The University simply did not have enough space to house all those students and resorted to creative measures to solve the housing crisis.  Military surplus owned by the federal government became an important source of temporary housing units such as trailers and Quonset huts.  Quonset huts were corrugated steel sheets shaped like a cylinder cut lengthwise and closed at the ends.  During WWII, the military used them for barracks or storage, but they were intended only for short-term housing.

However, UNC used Quonset huts as overflow housing from 1946 to 1950. Thirty-six Quonset huts were assembled on the old tennis courts behind the Monogram Club (now Jackson Hall), where Cobb Residence Hall stands today.  Thirty of them were designated as living quarters for single male students, three for studying, and three for latrines.  Up to twenty men lived in a single hut with a heater and primitive insulation made from rag paper. (DTH, 11/5/1946)  According to The Daily Tar Heel, rent for a bed in the Quonset huts costed $5 per month (DTH, 10/5/1946).

Inside a Quonset hut (1947) from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection.

The biggest issue with the Quonset huts was exposure to the elements. While summers turned the Quonsets into ovens, interruptions in regular fuel delivery during the winters left residents out in the cold.  A nationwide oil shortage in the winter of 1947-1948 forced the University to conserve fuel by closing six of the Quonset huts.  Still, during a frigid week in February 1948, half of the remaining Quonset huts ran out of oil.  The Daily Tar Heel reported that “siphoning of oil from the few huts with any left was apparently going on again last night.” (DTH, 1/7/1948, 2/12/1948)  After some rainy weather in April 1948, the Daily Tar Heel marveled at the mud surrounding the Quonset huts, “It was amazing and disgusting to see all of the mud.  Old-time Quonset hut residents merely sighed, rolled up their trousers, displayed their hip-boots and paddled through the goo.  It was a test of the old theory of survival of the fittest.” (DTH, 4/3/1948)

Clambering for scarce resources and wading through a veritable swamp were not the only tests of Quonset residents’ animal instincts. They also had to defend their territory after a robbery during a football game.  As Carolina faced off against the University of Georgia on September 27, 1947, thieves pilfered items and money from the Quonsets. To prevent another burglary, the RA, Ray Jeffries, had the huts padlocked beginning at 2 PM on game days. (DTH, 10/3/1947, 10/11/1947, 10/12/1947)

The Daily Tar Heel (11 October 1947)

As if cold, mud, and robberies weren’t punishment enough, Quonset huts dwellers contended with fire as well. After a fire in February 1947, the University installed fire extinguishers in each hut to prevent such a blaze from getting out of control. (DTH, 2/23/1947)  In November 1947, a malfunctioning oil stove exploded into flames before a student managed to extinguish it.  Though the fire caused minimal damage, the Daily Tar Heel pointed out that next time the University might not be so lucky as the Chapel Hill Fire Department’s soap guns could not reach the fire without access to the Quonset hut area, which was closed to all vehicles except oil trucks.  The Daily Tar Heel suggested that the University “mount an emergency in a glass front box, of the fire alarm variety,” so that the fire department could reach the affected hut in case of emergency. (DTH, 11/18/1947)

By January 1949, the fire extinguishers were long gone when an “oil heater began leaking, formed a pool of oil on the floor and leaped into flame.” A student attempted to call the fire department, but found that the page with their phone number had been torn from the telephone book.  The student attempted to reach the operator, but met silence at the other end.  Finally, the student called the police who contacted the fire department.  (Such was the drama of communication before cellphones and Siri.) The fire department put out the fire, apparently reaching the hut without difficulty. The heater and a pile of dirty clothes were the only casualties.  (DTH, 1/16/1949)  A year later, the Quonset huts were razed to make room for Cobb Residence Hall.

Razing the Quonset huts (1950), from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection.

Quonset huts were crowded, uncomfortable, and unprotected. The Daily Tar Heel wrote of the Quonset hut residents, “in order to receive an education, they are living under conditions similar to that of an East side slum.” (DTH, 12/2/1947)  The comparison to poverty aside, the willingness of UNC students to live in these temporary structures for years indeed testifies to the importance they placed on education.  For many returning veterans, the GI Bill offered the chance of a lifetime.  To seize that opportunity, they baked through the summer, shivered through the winter, and waded through mud.  If nothing else, the Quonset huts certainly put the modern experience of dorm living into perspective.

 

References:

“Quonset Huts, 1947 and undated” and “Quonset Huts: Demolition, circa 1949,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection, 1799-1999, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Finding aid: http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/P0004/

“Quonset Huts, circa 1946-1947,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Library, 1946-2000, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Finding aid: http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/P0031/

“Sanitary Conditions: General, 1938-1952; 1957; 1963,” Student Health Service of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1932-1998, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Finding aid: http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/40127/

Various articles from The Daily Tar Heel cited above.

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

Training Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) at UNC

“Opportunities for Defense Training at Chapel Hill" brochure,” UNC Libraries, accessed February 23, 2016, http://exhibits.lib.unc.edu/items/show/2686.
“Opportunities for Defense Training at Chapel Hill” brochure,” UNC Libraries, accessed February 23, 2016, http://exhibits.lib.unc.edu/items/show/2686.

In March of 2015, the Army stated that women who had served as Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) in World War II were not eligible for burial in Arlington National Cemetery. This was a  reversal of the 2002 decision that allowed them to be interred at Arlington with full military honors. The Senate and the House now have bills on the floor  to overturn the Army’s decision. This controversy has sparked a renewed interest in who the WASPs were and what they did during their service in World War II.

The Women Airforce Service Pilots were a group of over 1,000 women that ferried aircraft around the country, towed dummy aircraft during live artillery training, taught as flight instructors and tested new planes.  This freed up qualified male pilots for combat duty overseas. The program began in 1942 as two separate branches, which then merged under the WASP name in 1943. During their time, the WASPs flew every military aircraft available and were trained in everything the men did, except combat exercises. The very first female pilots in the program had to enter the program with at least 200 hours of flight time. That is where the story brings us to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

[CAA requirements for a Civilian Pilot Training Program, from the Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): Frank Porter Graham Records, 1932-1949 , #40007, University Archives]

The UNC System was home to a Civilian Pilot Training Program. N. C. State was the first school in the system to host the program. Later, UNC Chapel Hill and North Carolina A&T started their own versions of the program, along with Duke and other colleges around the state. Any student, male or female, was allowed to take the ground portion of the classes for college credit. These classes taught basic aviation theory as well as airplane maintenance. Ground classes were known as primary training. Women students took these classes and anticipated that they would be allowed to continue into flight training.

[Letter inquiring about allowing a female student into flight training, from the Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): Frank Porter Graham Records, 1932-1949 , #40007, University Archives]

However, actual flight training, or secondary training, was limited to a quota imposed on the university by the Civilian Aviation Authority. The CAA provided most of the funding for flight training and was therefore able to dictate who could participate in secondary courses. The entire purpose of the Civilian Pilot Training Program was to feed the graduates directly into military service and women were not allowed to fly at all in a military capacity before the WASPs program. Therefore, women were only allowed into flight training when the total number of qualified male pilots was less than the quota allotted.

Memo explaining CAA quotas, from the Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): Frank Porter Graham Records, 1932-1949 , #40007, University Archives
Memo explaining CAA quotas, from the Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): Frank Porter Graham Records, 1932-1949 , #40007, University Archives

The UNC administration did all they could to prove that discrimination was not the reason female trainees had a difficult time getting into flight training, and celebrated the women who made it through both parts of the program. The first woman to complete the entire Civilian Pilot Training Program at UNC, including both ground and flight training, was Virginia Broome. She graduated from UNC in 1942 and became a WASP in 1943. As a ferry pilot she, ferried completed military aircraft from factories to the point of embarkation.  Only four women completed the entire course of training at UNC. Of these four, only Virginia Broome (later Virginia Broome Waterer)  became a WASP.

For more information about the University of North Carolina during World War II, see the online exhibit A Nursery for Patriotism: The University at War, 1861-1945.

The Struggle for the Navy Pre-Flight School

In 1941 the United States Department of the Navy was determining which four universities would house the Naval Aviation Cadet Instruction Centers. The schools under consideration had to have extensive recreational facilities to accommodate the rigorous physical training required for naval cadets. Furthermore, there needed to be classroom space, dormitories, mess hall space and infirmary space available. All of this also had to be supported by janitorial services, laundry facilities and regular maintenance services. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill believed that it could provide all of this, and if it did not already exist, further infrastructure would be built to fill the gaps. However, UNC was fighting an uphill battle. The University of Georgia had been appointed as the southern region school while UNC was still being inspected by the Navy for suitability. Below is UNC Controller William D. Carmichael Jr.’s response to the news (click to enlarge).

40011_1
Letter from William D. Carmichael Jr. to Tom Hamilton. From the Office of the Vice President for Finance of the University of North Carolina (System) Records, 1923-1972, #40011, University Archives.

The president of the United States at that time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, apologized personally when he found out the University of Georgia had been appointed for the southern region over the University of North Carolina:

40011_2
Letter from F. D. R. to Josephus Daniels concerning appointment of Navy Pre-Flight Schools. From the Office of the Vice President for Finance of the University of North Carolina (System) Records, 1923-1972, #40011, University Archives.

This meant that UNC had to fight to be the eastern region school, and this was a much tougher battle to win. Through hard work, and a lot of lobbying,  UNC won the battle against all of the universities in the northeast to host the eastern region pre-flight school. It was not just patriotic fervor that pushed the administration to bid for one of these pre-flight schools–there was also a financial advantage. The Navy split the costs of  improvements and additions to the campus that were made to house the pre-flight school, paying the lion’s share themselves. The Navy also paid for the housing and feeding of their cadets while stationed at UNC and compensated the university for any wear and tear to the facilities used. The following is a breakdown of the work done at UNC to enable the Navy pre-flight school to operate.

40011_3
Report on work done to make the UNC Chapel Hill campus ready for the Navy Pre-Flight School. From the Office of the Vice President for Finance of the University of North Carolina (System) Records, 1923-1972, #40011, University Archives.

Another advantage of having the Naval Aviation Cadet Instruction Center at UNC was bragging rights. The UNC administration at the time was adamant that UNC would become the “first” of the four schools, meaning the very best  of the “Annapolises of the Air”.

20 Facts for 20 Years!

On this day in 1994, the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Carolina’s students, staff, and faculty pass the Cemetery on a regular basis.  It is as much a part of the campus as the Arboretum or the Bell Tower.  In honor of the 20th anniversary of its addition to the National Register of Historic Places, we’ve made a list of 20 facts about the Cemetery.  How many did you already know?

The Old Chapel Hill Cemetery on UNC Chapel Hill's campus.
The Old Chapel Hill Cemetery on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus.
  1. The original 125 acres was sold to the College in October of 1776 for 5 shillings. That would be $40.65 today!
  2. The first recorded burial was George Clarke.  George was a student from Burke County, NC.  He died September 28, 1798.  He was also a member of the Philanthropic Society.  Although he was the first buried, his stone was not placed until the mid-nineteenth century.
  3. The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies were the first to buy plots in the Cemetery.  When students passed away and their homes were too far away for quick transport, the respective society would bury the student in their plot. In fact, the Di and Phi Societies were as competitive in burying their members as they were in everything else before they became a united organization. The societies were constantly trying to one-up each other with the erection of monuments in their cemetery plots.  The Phi Society once commissioned an eight-foot high Italian Marble monument for a deceased member.
  4. In 1835, it was officially named the College Graveyard.  This did not stop Chapel Hill residents from calling it the “Village Cemetery” though.  It was renamed upon the completion of a low wall encompassing the entirety of the property.
  5. All cemetery plots have already been purchased.  The Cemetery isn’t entirely full yet, but plots are off the market!

    UNC Chapel Hill recognizes the segregated section of the historic cemetery.
    UNC Chapel Hill recognizes the segregated section of the historic cemetery.
  6. Two sections of the Cemetery were reserved for African Americans and segregated from the other four by a low rock wall. The section was established because there were no black church cemeteries in Chapel Hill. Many of those buried in sections A and B were university laborers and servants who were often slaves or former slaves. The earliest (marked) grave in this part of the cemetery belongs to Ellington Burnett (1831-1853).
  7. Confederate soldiers were buried in the Cemetery during the Civil War. Their stones are marked with “C.S.A.”
  8. Like most cemeteries, Chapel Hill’s has had a problem with vandalism. It’s unclear whether or not vandalism has been intentional or accidental.  For example, in 1974, 40 to 50 monuments were broken and pushed off their bases.  However, in 1985, stones were damaged by football fans eager to get to their seats. 
  9. In 1922, the town of Chapel Hill took over responsibility for maintaining the Cemetery.  However, in 1988, ownership was transferred to the University.
  10. The oldest monument in the Cemetery belongs to the grave of Margaritta Chapman, who died in 1814 at the age of 16.  Although George Clarke was the first buried, his monument was not erected immediately upon his death.
  11. Charles Kuralt is buried in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery. Before he launched his successful journalism career, Kuralt spent so much time working on the The Daily Tar Heel in his senior year that he ended up failing all of his other classes!  Since many of the plots had already been purchased, Charles Kuralt would not have been buried in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery had the Pickard Family not relinquished a plot.
  12. The Cemetery holds the graves of more than 800 African Americans. Many of the graves are unmarked. The segregated section of the Cemetery has since been recognized with a sign post remembering those buried there. While many of the graves are still unmarked, the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill did conduct a survey of the segregated area in 2009.

    Wilson Caldwell.  From the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.
    Wilson Caldwell. From the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.
  13. Wilson Caldwell is buried in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery. Born a slave in 1841 to University President David Swain, Wilson was a much recognized member of the Carolina community during his lifetime.  When enslaved, Caldwell became the head janitor to the University.  After Emancipation, Caldwell stayed in the Chapel Hill area and established a school for African Americans in 1868.  He was also elected to the Board of Commissioners of Chapel Hill, bought 12 acres of land, and served as a justice of the peace.  In 1884, however, he returned to work for the University and maintained his position as the head of the campus workforce until his death in 1898.  Get more information on Wilson Caldwell here.
  14. Cars used to park on unmarked graves before football games until restrictions were implemented in 1991. We know parking is tight here, but thank goodness we’re showing a little more respect now!
  15. Several of the monuments in the Di-Phi plots were by the famous 19th Century stone carver George Lauder. Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, Lauder lived in Raleigh and Fayetteville, NC.  He actually owned the largest gravestone factory in North Carolina in the 1800s!
  16. University trustees almost created a second cemetery in McCorkle Place! When the body of Dr. Joseph Caldwell was moved from the “College Graveyard” to its spot under the monument in McCorkle Place in 1846, the trustees briefly considered creating a new cemetery.  The idea never came to fruition though.
  17. Jane Tenney Gilbert (1896-1980) has the gravestone with the most school spirit. Ever.  Her epitaph reads: “I was a Tar Heel born and a Tar Heel bred/and here I lie a Tar Heel dead./BORN JAN. 1896 AND STILL HERE 1980.”
  18. There is a large sandstone obelisk in Section B, dedicated to the black servants of the University.  The obelisk is the original Joseph Caldwell monument from McCorkle Place, which was replaced in the late 19th century by a granite obelisk. It was rededicated in memory of Wilson Caldwell, his father November Caldwell and David Barham and Henry Smith, two other black university servants. Note that even though these men and women were “servants” to the University, some of them were enslaved by families in the area and loaned to the school.
  19. Five 19th century headstones were tipped over and smashed the day before Charles Kuralt was buried in the cemetery. We’re not sure if the vandalism was in anticipation of Charles Kuralt’s burial or if the timing was incidental.  We can’t imagine anyone having THAT much of a problem with Charles Kuralt!
  20. If you are so inclined, you can have your ashes scattered near the cemetery!  Memorial grove was created as the solution to the limited space of the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.  It is UNC’s garden for the scattering and interment of ashes.  The garden is reserved for use by individuals with a university affiliation, and for immediate family members of those individuals. Because of the nature of a scattering garden, the space can accommodate an unlimited number of individuals, allowing anyone who wishes to maintain an eternal connection to the university to do so.
Jane Tenney Gilbert's spirited epitaph.
Jane Tenney Gilbert’s spirited epitaph.

Now you know!

Memorial Day

College for War Training brochure, 1942.  From the Records of the Vice President for Finance, #40011, University Archives.
College for War Training brochure, 1942. From the Records of the Vice President for Finance, #40011, University Archives.

While Memorial Day might traditionally mark the beginning of the Summer Season for vacationers, it is also an important day of remembrance for the United States.  Every year, we remember everyone who has died in the service of our country.

Order of Gimghoul, 1944.  From the Records of the Order of Gimghoul, #40262, University Archives.
Order of Gimghoul, 1944. From the Records of the Order of Gimghoul, #40262, University Archives.

Established in the wake of the Civil War, Memorial Day was set aside as a day of remembrance for both Union and Confederate soldiers who had died in the conflict. However, as time went on, Memorial Day was extended in order to honor all Americans who had died in armed conflicts since the Civil War.

We are proud of all of Carolina’s students and their family members who gave their lives in service to their country.

Do you remember anyone special on Memorial Day?  

Swim to Graduate

"Intramural: swimming, group of ten," 5 October 1961.  From the UNC Photographic Laboratory Collection, P00031.
“Intramural: swimming, group of ten,” 5 October 1961. From the UNC Photographic Laboratory Collection, P00031.

We’re so proud of everyone who graduated yesterday! Congratulations! But did you know that up until 2006, all undergraduates were required to pass a swim test in order to graduate? Well, the swim test was not unique to Carolina. It used to be a requirement at many colleges and universities across the country. But where did the requirement come from exactly?

The legend at UNC, and many other campuses, starts with the death of a student by drowning. The student’s family decided to give a large endowment to the University after the incident but with the condition that all students know how to swim. This theory is nothing more than a myth though since many colleges and universities established swim tests during WWII when campuses became designated training programs.

In 1942, UNC was designated as a pre-flight training program by the US government, and the university was awarded funds to construct several structures on campus including the ROTC building, the outdoor pool, and the indoor track.  Of course, the midshipmen who were a part of the pre-flight training program had to learn to swim. During and after the war, national debates and discussions centered on whether America’s youth were fit enough to defend our country. So a compulsory swim test was implemented at UNC for men in 1944 and women in 1946.

The swim test remained unchanged until the 1970s when it was altered so that undergraduates had to swim 50 yds and tread water for 5 minutes. The test remained in place through the spring of 2006 when it was officially ended as a requirement for the fall semester.

"Swimming Physical Education," 31 October 1960. From the UNC Photographic Laboratory Collection, P00031
“Swimming Physical Education,” 31 October 1960. From the UNC Photographic Laboratory Collection, P00031

Did you have to take the swim test?  We’d love to hear about your experience!