Cheek-Clark Building

Chris Baumann on reparations for Black citizens

Excerpt Description: Chris Baumann describes how the UNC Housekeepers’ Association made their reparations case for the descendants of enslaved and free Black persons in Chapel Hill, citing the privileges of whiteness and the legacy of the University’s racism.



Interviewee Name: Chris Baumann

Interviewer: Charlotte Fryar

Excerpt Transcript: “But as we got more involved, as we started to put the case together to prove racial discrimination in the way, in the nineties and still to this day, housekeepers are treated, a lot of the grad students started helping us, and just stories we had from Chapel Hill and even some of the older housekeepers that knew the stories, so we knew the 1960s struggle and talked a lot about that, and then we found out there had been another in the thirties very similar to what we had done. We kind of said it was every thirty years almost, right? It was kind of the thirties, the sixties, and the nineties that there had been—and I’m sure there was other ones in between, but those were kind of the big ones. And then we kept going back further, understanding that the university owned slaves, that Old East and Old West were built by slaves, and so that’s why we started arguing for reparations, right? People always say, “Oh, you can’t prove reparations.” Well, we felt that we could prove—we did prove reparations, and we would use my story a lot and I always talked about—we talk about white privilege.
So when I applied to UNC, and, of course, I was an out-of-state student, which is tough, but I got to go into the category of having been an alumni child, right, and I had all these family I could list on my application, which I did [laughs], like every piece you could get in. Well, we would share the story about Barbara and Marsha. They couldn’t even go to UNC, or it would have been almost impossible in the sixties and seventies, and so if their kids wanted to go into UNC, they’re not going to have the legacy that I had on that, right? And so all of this was institutional racism playing out to this day, and so that was our argument, is that the housekeepers couldn’t get in as students at the university, their kids couldn’t get in at the university, and then we traced it all the way back to slavery, that the university more than had a responsibility to pay reparations as well as make do justice in the early nineties to what should have happened. Yeah, so it was very much—and so the university, really, they didn’t want—and we were ready to put that whole story on trial, right? Al was putting that together, and I think ultimately that’s what scared them the most as we were getting ready to go to trial. We were going to put on for two weeks the whole horrid history of racism on UNC’s campus.”

Organization: UNC Housekeepers Association

Event Mentioned Date: 11/26/1995

Excerpt Length: 2:31

Interview Date: 12/22/2017

Interview Location: Tucker, Georgia

Campus Space: Cheek-Clark Building

Citation:  Interview with Chris Baumann by Charlotte Fryar, 22 December 2017, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.