A People’s History of UNC-CH

January 15, 1795: University begins offering classes.

July 11, 1796: The first acting president, Rev. David Ker, is forced out office by student protests.

1796: Person Hall, the second building on UNC’s campus, begun.  It was almost completely built with slave labor. It served as the University’s chapel where attendance was mandatory.

1798: Cornerstone laid for South Building. Because of  construction deleays, students are forced to live in shacks for lack of housing.

1798: Opening of the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery which is the final resting place of over 800 black town residents, many in unmarked graves. The cemetery remains segregated today.

Spring 1799: Week long revolt against Principal James Smiley Gillaspie for unjustly expelling a student leaves only 70 students at the university and leads faculty to tender their resignations.

1805: “Great Secession:” A majority of students leave the university in protest of Trustees’ Ordinance empowering student monitors to preserve order. Monitors limit free speech and impose military discipline at meals.

1816: Robert Chapman, current UNC president, forced out of office by student protests due to his pacifist opposition to the war of 1812.

1832: Anti-slavery commencement speech by trustee William Gaston (a slaveholder).

Oct. 22, 1834: Dialectic Society debates “Ought Slavery to be abolished?” and determines “yes.”

1848: Chapel of the Cross: First church built in Chapel Hill, built with slave labor; balcony built by and for slaves remains to this day.

1856: Professor Hendrick ousted from the University by the state legislature for supporting Freemont, an outspoken opponent of slavery, in the presidential campaign.

1869-1870: The Klu Klux Klan murders at least five Blacks in Orange County. No one is ever brought to trial.

1871: Cornelia Spencer Bell leads the successful effort to close UNC in response to Reconstruction efforts to integrate black students and faculty into the University.

1875: Spencer Bell rings the bell to signify the reopening of the University after the white supremacist Democratic Party regains control of the state government and Board of Trustees, ensuring UNC will stay a whites-only institution.

Summer 1877: The first female students enroll at UNC for a summer school session for teachers.

1897: Women admitted to UNC but with restrictions.

1898: Sallie Walker Stockard becomes the first woman to earn a degree at UNC-CH.

June 2, 1913: Silent Sam erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy to commemorate the deaths of southern soldiers during the Civil War.

1915: Women enroll in the Med School for the first time.

1922: Ruffin and Saunders Halls are completed. Ruffin Hall is named after Thomas Ruffin, a chief justice of the NC Supreme Court who decided State v. Mann, which sanctioned the “absolute” power of a master over a slave. Saunders is named after William Laurence Saunders, Ku Klux leader and university trustee.

1925: The University opens the first domitory for women, the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Hall.

1927: Sallie Marks becomes the University’s first female professor.

1927: Playwright and professor Paul Green wins the Pulitzer Prize for his play focusing on black life and culture, In Abraham’s Bosom.

1930: Janitors’ Association founded.

1932: Professors Paul Green and Guy Johnson invite Langston Hughes to speak on campus. President Frank Porter Graham defends his right to speak, despite protests. Before his visit,Contempo, a local radical magazine, publishes some of Hughes’ poetry. That same year, philosopher Bertrand Russell speaks at UNC, also producing controversy.

1933: UNC President Frank Porter Graham overturns the Jewish quota for the Medical School.

1938: President Frank Porter Graham gives the keynote address at the Southern Conference for Human Welfare on the theme of “equal and exact justice to all”. He is criticized for addressing an audience including Blacks and members of the Communist Party.

1938: Pauli Murray, a descendant of a prominent Orange County white planter and a black slave, is denied admission to the graduate program in sociology. Her case draws attention from activists working to integrate higher education in the state.

1941: Richard Wright comes to Chapel Hill to work with Paul Green on adopting Wright’s novel Native Son for the stage. Because of segregation laws, Wright cannot stay in area hotels, so he boards with a black family in Carrboro. When the play opens on Broadway, it is a critical and commercial success.

1942: The ROTC armory opens.

1943: UNC Press publishes Dr. John Hope Franklin’s Harvard dissertation and first book, The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790/1860.

1944: UNC Press, despite obejctions from director W. T. Couch, publishes What the Negro Wants, a collection of essays by influential black leaders calling for the end of segregation. Edited by Rayford Logan, its contributors include Mary McLeod Bethune, W. E. B. DuBois, Sterling Brown, A. Philip Randolph, Langston Hughes and Roy Wilkins.

1949: Glen Lennox opens to house GI Bill students.

1951: First black students admitted.

Fall 1955: First black undergraduates admitted but with limited privileges.  They were denied access to the swimming pool and only allowed to sit in the end zone seats at football games.

April 5, 1963: The UNC chapter of the Student Peace Union begins picketing a segregated restaurant, the College Cafe. Within a month there are mass marches and picketing of segregated facilities. During the following twelve months, Chapel Hill authorities file 1500 charges against demonstrators, jail hundreds, and send four movement leaders to prison.

June 1963: North Carolina State Legislature passes the “Act to Regulate Visiting Speakers,” (the “Speaker Ban”) prohibiting known members of the Communist Party and those who pleaded the Fifth when asked if they were Communists, from speaking at any NC state-sponsored institutions.

1963: Karen Parker arrives as a transfer student to become the first black female student at UNC.  She is given a room to herself in Cobb Dormitory because the University fears dealing with a black-white living situation.

February 8, 1964: Floyd McKissick, the first black student at UNC, participates in a civil rights march down Franklin Street in an attempt to get Chapel Hill to fully desegregate restaurants, movie theaters, and other public accommodations. At 4:15 p.m., the protesters sit down in the middle of the street tying up traffic related to that afternoon’s basketball game against Wake Forest. Ninety-eight people are arrested.

Easter Week, 1964: Two black and two white activists start a fast in front of the Franklin Street post office to protest the town’s segregation of public facilities. That summer, Congress enacts the Civil Rights Act of 1964, banning segregation in all public facilities, and Chapel Hill complies.

1965: Students at UNC-CH form a chapter of the national organization Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

1966: In the most famous protest of the Speaker Ban, the UNC chapter of Students for a Democratic Society invite Herbert Aptheker and Frank Wilkinson to Chapel Hill.  They speak from the Franklin Street sidewalk to students listening from McCorkle Place.

November, 1967: The Black Student Movement (BSM) founded as a result of the slow growth of the Black population on campus and Black student dissatisfaction with the campus NAACP chapter.

1968: After student protests and a lawsuit, the Federal Circuit Court in Charlotte declares the Speaker Ban unconstitutional.

December 11, 1968: The BSM presents Chancellor Sitterson with a list of 22 demands to improve the academic climate for Black students on campus. Because of this list, many of the programs and curricula in place at the UNC-CH were established.

February 23, 1969: Black food service employees walk out to protest low pay, poor working conditions, and racist supervisors.  The strike spreads to all campus dining facilities. Only Lenoir Dining Hall stays open with temporary help.  The “Soul Food Cafeteria,” an alternative eating facility, is established in Manning Hall. The governor calls in the National Guard, and striking workers and student supporters face severe repression.

March 4, 1969: Student from the BSM and Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC), in support of the strike, attempt to shut down Lenoir by tipping tables.  At least seven students are arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

March 24, 1969: The strike ends after the administration meets many of workers’ demands, including an increase of the minimum wage to $1.60/hour.

May 6, 1969: Howard Lee is elected mayor of Chapel Hill, NC, the first black man to hold the position in a predominantly white city.

1969: BSM and other groups hold “counter-orientation.”

Spring 1970: Mass student demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, as part of the nationwide general strike at universities, include class boycotts, sit-ins, and teach-ins.  The efforts culminate in a strike by graduate teaching assistants and a march by 2,000 students on South Building.

Nov. 7, 1970: More than 200 cafeteria workers go on strike in response to management attempts to crush union organizing, including 12 firings in 2 weeks.

Dec. 8, 1970: Strike comes to an end: some previously fired workers regain their jobs, although the management retains the right to fire “unnecessary” employees, and the minimum wage is increased to $1.80/hour.

1971: UNC privatizes food services.

1974: Municipal Chapel Hill bus service, Tar Heel Transit, started.

1975: The Carolina Indian Circle founded through the Campus Y as a support group for Native American students.

1976: The curriculum in Women’s Studies in founded.

1976: LAMBDA, “the voice of UNC’s gay and lesbian community” first published, becoming the nation’s oldest student-run LGBTQ publication.

1980: Housekeepers hold protest when 60 workers are disciplined for not coming to work after a big snowstorm. The University fires some of the outspoken leaders and the remaining housekeepers respond with a walk-out. They present nine demands, including the reinstatement of the fired workers and the removal of supervisors known to sexually harass female employees.

1981-82: The Energy and the Environment Committee was established. It later changed to the Society of Environmentally Concerned Students (SECS) in 1987. In 1988, it changed to theStudent Environmental Action Committee (SEAC).

November, 1983: Housekeepers form the Housekeepers Association and begin organizing for higher wages.

1986-1987: Students construct a shanty-town in front of South Building to protest apartheid in South Africa.  The University divests from South Africa in 1987.

July 1, 1988: Black Cultural Center established (later renamed the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History).

Summer 1991: Housekeepers officially form the UNC Housekeepers Association and set three principal goals: higher wages, fairer treatment, and beneficial training programs. In the fall, students join the housekeepers by organizing fundraisers. The administration threatens Honor Court charges against student leaders, claiming it is illegal for students to give money to UNC employees. Eventually housekeepers and students win the right to hold fundraisers.

September 18, 1992: More than 250 people participate in a noontime march down Franklin Street and through campus to voice their concerns about the University administration’s lack of action for the housekeepers.

1993: Sit-In for Black Cultural Center to get a free standing building.

December, 1996: The Housekeeper Association wins a historic lawsuit against the University, with Chancellor Hooker agreeing to a settlement worth more than $1 million, including pay raises, back pay, recognition of the HKA as the representative of the housekeepers, and substantial backing for career training, child and elder care, a public health study, and the establishment of a historical commission.

1997: Housekeepers protest the University’s failure to uphold the settlement for the previous year.

1998: As part of an organizing drive by the United Electrical, Machine and Radio Workers of America (UE), housekeepers in Chapel Hill lead a major campaign at UNC-CH, NCSU, UNC-Greensboro, and NCCU to organize housekeepers into a collective voice in the wider UNC system. As the housekeepers create a statewide Local UE150, graduate teaching assistants form UE150a and represent graduate teachers and adjunct faculty on the statewide Executive Committee as dues-paying members.

Nov. 14, 1998: BSM celebrates its 30 year anniversary with a rally in support of the housekeeper and groundskeeper struggle and present Chancellor Michael Hooker with a list of 22 new demands.

April, 1999: UNC students affiliated with the national organization United Students Against Sweatshops stage a 72 hour sit-in in South Building, pressuring the University into enacting a code of conduct governing conditions in factories of licensees producing UNC apparel. These codes ensure adequate health and safety conditions, the right to organize and freedom from discrimination. UNC becomes a member of both the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) to monitor factories to ensure compliance with the codes.

2001: Old East and Old West, the two oldest and most prestigious residence halls on campus, opened to female students.

2001: UE150a successfully pushes for the State Employee’s Credit Union to allow graduate teaching assistants and research assistants to open accounts, recognizing that such knowledge workers are state employees.

September 21, 2001: UNC’s Progressive Faculty Network hosts a teach-in “Understanding the Attack on America: An Alternate View”. The speakers include a number of UNC professors: Catherine Lutz from the anthropology department, Charles Kurzman from the sociology department, Sarah Shields from the history department, and Rashmi Varma from the English department. Other speakers include authors and activists William Blum, Stan Goff, and Rania Masri. Approximately 700 people attend the event.

October 1, 2001: The Progressive Faculty Network hosts a second teach-in related to the Sept. 11 attacks, “What is War? What is Peace?” Speakers include, Curtis Gatewood, president of the Durham NAACP chapter; David Gilmartin, professor of South Asian history at NCSU; Wahneema Lubiano, professor of Literature and African American Studies at Duke; Elin O’Hara Slavick, professor of art at UNC-CH; and Scott Kirsch, geography professor at UNC-CH.

October, 4: 2001: The Campus Y, the Division of Student Affairs and Sangam bring Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, to speak on campus. He reiterates a call for a nonviolent response to the attacks on New York and Washington.

October, 2001: Amy Goodman gives the keynote address at the Students United for a Responsible Global Environment (SURGE) conference.

2002: UE150a forces the UNC-CH administration to raise the minimum stipend level for teaching assistants and plays an instrumental role in revising the university’s child-care policy as it relates to graduate teaching and research assistants.

October 2002: Students and faculty occupy Representative David Price’s office overnight to protest his support of the Iraq War Resolution. Three people, including two students are arrested. The following week, David Price votes against the resolution.

Fall, 2003: Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickeled and Dimed, the year’s summer reading book for incoming students, speaks in front of South Building at a UE150 sponsored teach-in along with housekeepers, grounds crew, janitorial staff, and teaching assistants.

2003: UE150a holds a “grade-in” on the main quad at UNC-Chapel Hill to have teaching assistants’ labor become more visible as such.

January, 2003: Students occupy the main Quad, camping in the snow for a week, in opposition to the impending invasion of Iraq.

February 12, 2003: Three students and one alumni arrested protesting against the imminent invasion of Iraq at the UNC v. UVA basketball game.  Two protesters are convicted of disorderly conduct.

March 20, 2003: Hundreds of students participate in a walk-out in opposition to the invasion of Iraq. That night, 7000 people march down Franklin Street to protest the invasion, stopping traffic and blocking the Franklin St./Columbia St. intersection.

Spring 2003: The Green Energy Campaign is successful in guaranteeing renewable energy purchasing university-wide.

2003: Bill Schuler, long time organizer, is fired from his job as UNC housekeeper after speaking out about the unsafe chemicals workers are required to use. Housekeepers were not provided with proper safety equipment, and many suffered nosebleeds and headaches from exposure to dangerous cleaning chemicals.

August, 2004: Free standing Sonja Hanes Stone Center for Black Culture and History opens. 

Fall 2004: University begins the Sexuality Studies and the Latino/a Studies minors. 2004: Lezlie Sumpter, an Aramark employee at Lenoir, is fired after speaking out publicly about sexual harrassment by male supervisors. No action is taken against the managers. In response, Boiling Point magazine publishes a searing expose on the issue and Student Action with Workers organizes rallies in support of Lezlie’s reinstatement.

January, 2005: Aramark employees in UNC’s dining halls begin an organizing drive with the Service Employees International Union. Aramark kicks student activists out of the cafeterias and sends anti-union letters to all of their employees, threatening retaliation for workers who join the union.

2005: Vel Dowdy, a vocal pro-union organizer, is arrested and suspended by Aramark. Vel Dowdy had worked in Lenoir for six years, and was well known and liked by students. After she becomes active with the union, Aramark asks the police to investigate claims that she had let students into the cafeteria without paying. She is taken out of Lenoir in handcuffs and charged with felony embezzlement over the allegation that a handful of students had eaten without paying. SAW organizes a protest of over 300 workers and students who march from the pit, through Lenoir and into South Building.

May 11, 2005: Unsung Founders Memorial installed.

Fall 2005: Students re-occupy the main Quad in opposition to the continuing war in Iraq.

September 6, 2005. Labor Day holiday gets canceled. Students, teachers, library staff and other knowledge workers have to work while upper level administration gets the day off.

May 1, 2006. National strike for immigrant rights. Different activities on the university and in town.

April 16-May 2, 2008: Student Action with Workers occupies South Building in support of the Designated Supplier Program, which would improve the working conditions for workers making the university’s licensed apparel. Chancellor Moeser refuses to sign on and five students are arrested.

April, 2009: Students and faculty protest the Board of Trustees meeting calling for more transparency in the budget cuts and for the university to cease laying off low paid workers.

More resources to check out:
SAW’s UNC Labor History
The Carolina Story
A Virtual Museum of University History
Student Protests in 1960s Chapel Hill

History is never complete, email us at countercartographies(at)gmail.com to add more!