It is not enough to say that this dissertation would not exist without the generosity of the former students, faculty, and staff who invited me into their homes and offices to talk with me about their time in Chapel Hill. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill would not exist as it does now (or might in the future) without them. It has been one of the great privileges of my life to document their stories and share their contributions to racial justice movements in Chapel Hill with others. Every time I asked myself why am I doing this? during the doubtful process of writing, I returned to their stories for an answer. Every alumnus of the University owes these individuals and their peers thanks. I will go first. Thank you Omololu Babatunde, Chris Baumann, Donelle Boose, John Bradley, Blanche Brown, Michelle Brown, Renee Alexander Craft, Mars Earle, Chris Faison, Reginald Hildebrand, Carol McDonald, Tim McMillan, Tim Minor, Erica Smiley, Michelle Thomas, and Taylor Webber-Fields.
What a blessing to have worked with such excellent committee members during this process! I am glad to have had Seth Kotch serve as the advisor for this dissertation. His eye as an editor is as sharp as his conversational candor, and this work is better for his refusal to accept easy narratives about our shared hometown’s mythologies. Rachel Seidman stewarded me into the Southern Oral History Program not once, but twice—first, as an undergraduate intern, where I was spellbound by the potentials of oral history, and years later, as a field scholar, where I remained mesmerized. Altha Cravey offered feedback on early forms of this project before there were words on the page and brought her dedication to social justice and spatial literacies to the work. During my freshman year, I took my first course in American studies with Tim Marr, whom I have since come to know as one of the most enthusiastic champions of student scholarship in Chapel Hill. Dan Anderson has approached this work with a joyful curiosity that I aim always to emulate. Thank you all.
Other faculty and staff deserve special commendation here. In a meeting in her office my sophomore year, Marcie Ferris placed the seed of doctoral studies in my mind, and in part through her generosity, that seed sprouted. Anne Whisnant always worked with me as a colleague and friend, rather than a young graduate student, and from her, I learned to question any institutional structure that appears inviolable. Stewart Varner served as a committee member during my first years in graduate school, and I am grateful for his mentorship during that time. Other teachers have made an indelible impact on how I think about the South, oral history, social justice, and education. Thank you to Bill Ferris, Mary Beth Ferrell, Joey Fink, Della Pollock, Catherine Marshall, and Lora Cohen-Vogel.
I have never exited Wilson Library without feeling bowled over by gratitude for the expert assistance of the librarians and archivists in the North Carolina Collection, the Southern Historical Collection, and University Archives. I will single out for thanks Jennifer Coggins, Nick Graham, Aaron Smithers, and Jason Tomberlin, who each helped me dig deeper in the archive than I could have by myself. This work was financially supported by grants and fellowships from the Southern Oral History Program, the Chancellor’s Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History, the Center for the Study of the American South, the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, the University’s College of Arts & Sciences, and the University’s Graduate School. Thank you for helping me put beans in the pot.
Through the eight years I was a student at Chapel Hill, there have been people who have always provided critical feedback and loving encouragement. I am so glad that I asked Grace Tatter to be my freshman roommate. It has been a wonder to be Grace’s friend over the last decade and to witness our mutual interests in racial justice and education travel together. Samantha Luu has been a dear friend in everything from sixth grade frog dissection to fellowship applications; her devotion to racial equity in education and health care is deep within this work. To friends and colleagues who read drafts, took phone calls, answered tweets, and went to Linda’s after seminars, thank you. Jasmine Jackson-Irwin, Meredith Hamrick, Emily Myers, Jaycie Vos, Trista Porter, Meredith McCoy, Kimber Thomas, Danielle Dulken, Michaela Dwyer, Malina Chavez, Pam Lach, Jessica Kincaid, Elizabeth McCain, Anna Faison, Mairse Mazzocchi, and Blanche Brown are incredible women, and I am proud to have worked with them over the years in Chapel Hill.
Thank you to my family. I never supposed that my sisters—Caroline Fryar and Elizabeth Avalie—and I would ever all be students in Chapel Hill at the same time, but it happened! What a strange benediction to share as adults this place where we were born. My parents, James Taylor Fryar and Kathleen Gibson, have given me many gifts, but perhaps most relevant to thank them for here are our family’s deep roots in North Carolina and shared curiosity in all things common but unnerving. Annie Dillard Dog entered my life as I began work on this dissertation, and she has been a comically loyal companion in everything from early morning editing sessions to writing break hikes along the Potomac River. I met Eli McCrain my first day of college, right outside of Hinton James. Our partnership has been a wellspring of joy, knowledge, humor, and ethics. His dedication to his own studies steadied me through each stage of this process, and my memories of our time in Chapel Hill together grounds this work. How exactly shall I phrase it? My gratitude for his care for me and my work is prolific.