In my last year of undergraduate study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I participated in an oral history project interviewing white male alumni of the University, who in the mid-1960s led a movement to protect the right to free speech on campus. Their movement, organized around the goal of overturning what became known as the “Speaker Ban”—a law which forbade communists, self- or state-identified, from speaking on the campuses of North Carolina’s public universities—occurred in the years immediately after a heightened period of civil rights demonstrations and protests in Chapel Hill. Narrators explained to me and my colleagues at the Southern Oral History Program (SOHP) that conservative state legislators had designed the Speaker Ban to punish the University for its liberal approach to civil rights. The reputation of the institution had been damaged by the law, they explained, and the only way to reestablish its status as a progressive university would be to challenge the law and expose it as right-wing inanity.1
The narrators’ characterization of the University as a beacon of liberalism in the South, distinctive for its racial tolerance, commitment to free expression, and the absence of anti-Black violence aligned with the major histories of the institution I read, but it did not mirror what I saw on campus, particularly after I returned for graduate school in the fall of 2014. That year, I witnessed the University’s administration, leaning on its progressive reputation, use the language of tolerance and civility to undermine a movement led by Black student organizers against anti-Black violence within the University’s culture and campus. As I discussed this contemporary movement with white peers and faculty members, many of whom believed the organizers did not understand the University’s liberal traditions, including the history of student activism around the Speaker Ban, I returned to a question still lingering from those interviews: what was the true relationship between the legacy of Black-led social movements in Chapel Hill and white students’ and administrators’ obsession with restoring and maintaining the University’s liberalism?
The idea for this dissertation began with the moral partition between the University’s reputed liberalism, its treatment of Black students and workers, and white students’ and administrators’ support for a form of institutional liberalism which permits, and even directs institutional racism. As I began to learn the long history of Black students’ and workers’ leadership of racial justice movements in Chapel Hill, I turned, at the direction of Black alumni I interviewed, to the physical landscape of the campus to understand how organizers made sense of their own legacy in place. With an increased comprehension of the spatial elements of these movements, I better understood my own spatial experience of Chapel Hill, which has always been predicated on the privileges I have as a white, straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied woman. I understand my experience within the campus landscape, an experience I share with so many others, to be primarily directed by the persistent fact of the institution’s white supremacy, a cultural condition which the institution’s liberalism serves to mask. In this dissertation, I have sought to advance a history of Black freedom striving in Chapel Hill, orienting these narratives within the landscape where they first were created, from McCorkle Place to South Campus. In doing so, I seek to remap the experience of the campus landscape for an audience of Chapel Hill citizens, approximately seventy-five percent of whom are white.2
James Baldwin famously explained in the New Yorker in 1962 that “whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.”3 This dissertation is predicated on a similar explanation: because white Chapel Hill citizens do not know the history of Black freedom striving that suffuses the campus landscape, they do not know or will not recognize their own history of investment in the institution’s anti-Blackness. Sociologist and educator Robin DiAngelo explains that anti-Blackness is “rooted in a lack of historical knowledge and an inability or unwillingness to trace the effects of history into the present.”4 By tracing the history of Black student- and worker-led racial justice movements in Chapel Hill into the present, my goal in part is to impel white people to recognize how their investment in liberal narratives of racial tolerance, non-violence, and civility supports and maintains white supremacy. It is also my goal to provide potential actions for us, a collective of campus actors, to take towards reparative racial justice for past and present Black Chapel Hill citizens.
This essay is an account of my dissertation process in pursuit of these goals, highlighting the tensions between academic and public work, and scholarly evaluation and public assessment. This essay is also a reflection of my commitment to transparency and accessibility to my research processes. It operates within this digital space as a brief documentation of my methodological processes, which I hope can serve as a provisional step towards a future when the practices and values of public digital humanities and oral history are integrated without dilution into the structures of universities, particularly in regard to graduate education and standards for knowledge production. It also gives contextual attention to the sources upon which this dissertation relies and digital tools and platforms on which it is built.
Oral History Methodology
This dissertation utilizes an interdisciplinary methodology from both oral history and public digital humanities and is designed for an audience of former and future Chapel Hill citizens and campus organizers. It is a product of consultation with oral history narrators (twenty interviewees, all former or current students, faculty, and/or workers) and a digital praxis that aims to address the needs of its audience in its design, framework, and content. This methodology aims not only to interpret the histories of racial justice movements at the University, but also to facilitate narrators’ stated goals to communicate their experiences within past racial justice movements with future organizers and for future organizers to reclaim histories of resistance in Chapel Hill.
The methodology of this dissertation has been informed by the notion of a “usable past,” that is, the concept that histories can and ought to contribute to the creation of a collective consciousness, perhaps particularly when available institutional histories offer no “living value” for the questions we struggle with in the present.5 Oral history provided the most useful and obvious methodology to counter ineffectual institutional histories, which largely serve to uphold white supremacy by protecting narratives of institutional liberalism. The oral history narrators for this project collectively created a counter-narrative to what the institution has termed “student activism,” histories that support a theme of racial progress through assimilation and community-building.6
The institutional narratives of “student activism” can be found in the institution’s archives, which includes the dozens of archival collections housed in University Archives in Wilson Library, as well as hundreds of interviews with administrators and faculty that largely comprise the University History projects of the SOHP Interview Database. In these documents the histories of “student activism” are visible largely in materials and stories that illuminate administrative responses to Black-led movements. Because Black students and workers were overwhelmingly excluded from the University’s dominant culture, their stories were never included as a significant part of the University’s history, and thus were not documented in institutional archives. Before the addition of several essential collections donated or digitized in the last decade (and dozens of powerful oral histories conducted by other students with former campus organizers), one of the only places to look in institutional archives for information on Black student organizing was in a series of slim folders in several Chancellors’ papers, titled “Campus Disorder,” “Negro Students,” and “Student Discipline.”7 Anti-Blackness is, therefore, one of the constitutive values the University enacts in institutional documentation of its own history.
The idea that oral history can supplement or contradict such hegemonic institutional histories is not new, but for this dissertation, the operation of oral history as a counter-narrative to institutional archives was a crucial element, not just of the development of a methodology, but for the continued development of racial justice movements in Chapel Hill. Despite the University’s erasure of Black experiences from institutional histories, Black students and workers continued to construct and share with each other an informal counter-history of Chapel Hill, which operated against a dominant narrative of the University’s reputed liberalism, and served as a model for future movements. The counter-history of resistance to institutional anti-Blackness in the late twentieth century had not been substantially recorded, documented, or archived, but nevertheless, it remained a part of continued efforts to build racial justice campaigns through everyday counter-storytelling, challenging the hegemony of institutional archives.
By conducting oral histories, I aimed to record, document, and archive a part of this counter-history, with a goal to democratize access to these dynamic histories of resistance to anti-Blackness. As I contacted potential interviewees, I described to them the framework and goals of a potential oral history interview, one of which was archiving their stories in the Southern Oral History Program Interview Database, which is part of the Southern Historical Collection in Wilson Library. I explained to interviewees that in this online institutional archive, current and future students could access their interviews, listen to their stories, and perhaps, even be motivated to organize for social change in Chapel Hill. In my explanation, I placed what oral historian Linda Shopes calls the “archival imperative” of oral history within my oral history praxis: a merging of practice and theory that uses narrators’ personal experiences as a starting point for conversation to build a shared understanding of institutional oppression and resistance to those oppressions.8
This practice lies somewhere between two traditions in oral history to view the interview either essentially as a document or as a text. The “archival imperative” is central to documentary oral history, which focuses on preserving the interview and recording “what happened.”9 In the textual oral history tradition, the words of interviewees and “the ways these words are deeply implicated in structures of meaning that refer outward to broader cultural constructions” are the focus of analysis.10 As Shopes and other oral historians have explained, there is no way to employ oral history methods without considering intersubjectivity or the fundamental experience of aurality, nor is there a way to co-construct an interview text without attention to its historical contexts. Most oral historians practice their method somewhere between these two traditions, and the ethical struggle between them remains the most consistently trodden ground in the field.11
From my perspective in the interviews, I understood myself to be present not just as an interviewer, but as a representative stand-in for current and future students at the University. Oral historian and Chapel Hill organizer Della Pollock explains this situational fact and feeling, writing that “the interviewer is him/herself a symbolic presence, standing in for the other, unseen audiences and invoking a social compact: a tacit agreement that what is heard will be integrated into public memory and social knowledge in such a way that, directly or indirectly, it will make a material difference.”12 The shared implicit agreement that our interviews could “make a material difference” was emphasized by narrators’ agreement to participate in an oral history interview largely because of the “archival imperative” of our future conversations.13 I learned in initial phone calls and emails that narrators’ consent to be interviewed had little to do with their interest in the research project or the SOHP, and had almost everything to do with their wish to see their stories become part of the institutional archive, where, crucially, future students, faculty, and workers might access them. But the “archival imperative” of our conversations also presented a potential ethical problem: what would archiving these interviews in an institutional archive mean for the possible co-optation of Black students’ and workers’ stories by the institution? Would these interviews, within which some narrators clearly state their anger and hurt from the way they had been treated by the University, be used by the institution in a performance of its own anti-racism?
Several narrators considered these questions with me in our interviews. In December 2017, I shared the following exchange with Omololu Babatunde, an organizer in the movement for Hurston Hall in the mid-2010s:
Omololu Babatunde: “I don’t think people realize even when they are trying to get something out there, that the way that they’re doing it may still be in cooptation of a violent structure of how we are supposed to relate to each other.
Charlotte Fryar: Yeah, and I want to—I mean, if there’s anything that I worry about or feel quaky about in this process it’s the archival process, because you do become part —this interview, if you want to sign the papers I have, it will become part of the Southern Historical Collection.
OB: Which I’m really—I want that to happen.
OB: Like, I’m someone that believes deeply in archives specifically because I know the power they hold…And it’s very painful, this process, but I want to participate in sharing my voice, because even though a lot of my name is attached to a lot of things, like in a lot of articles, they’ll be like, “Omololu said—,” and I didn’t say that, or I did say it, but that’s only a piece of what I said. So I like this idea of an interview, because I get to say in relationship to you and what you’re asking, investigating, a full sense of what happened, and I’m really done being chopped up and parsed out by white institutional spaces, and if I’m going to be in there, then I feel like I have to come to terms with the fact that without my consent, I have been placed in an archive of sorts. Without my consent, I have been held and ossified in a type of history.”14
Omololu explains in this exchange the way in which good-intentioned people, in their attempts to document movements for social change, can still participate in the co-opting of narratives of Black students’ and workers’ resistance to the institution’s persistent anti-Blackness, such that histories of Black resistance to white supremacy become histories of racial progress. Institutional appropriation of Black student- and worker-created narratives suffuses the history of racial justice movements. Speaking to Scalawag in January 2019 about the toppling of the University’s Confederate Monument, Taylor Webber-Fields, an organizer in the Hurston Hall movement, explained clearly the phenomenon of institutional plagiarizing: “Carolina is going to co-opt that story as their story…A story of triumph over history. It’s going to come out that they were somehow supportive of it…I would encourage folks to record your history. UNC will have a whole other story, a whole other spin.”15 In our shared interviews and in public conversations with other writers, Omololu and Taylor describe the way in which the institution can appropriate the goals and strategies of student and worker-led movements to support institutional claims to ideological and racial diversity, in effect performing anti-racism without enacting it.
Incorporating these oral history interviews and narratives of resistance in an institutional archive presented a potential avenue through which the institution might co-opt their stories. In consultation with several narrators, I decided to move forward with processing interviews to archive with the SOHP, but the potential threat of institutional appropriation remains present, particularly as the University seeks a tidy end to the student organizing that led to the total removal of the Confederate Monument from campus in January 2019. While debating the issues presented by possible institutional appropriation, I sought a more precise methodological tradition to move this project from institutional power structures (that is, as much as I could manage for this dissertation as I remained an employee and student of the University). Eventually I found a methodological home for this project in the concept of oral history practice as a “public or civic enterprise” and “a medium for public engagement with the past.”16 It has been and remains the goal of this work, in sharing these oral histories on this website and in the SOHP institutional archive, to make clear the relational connections between what Shopes calls the “‘I’ of the interview and the “we” of the rest of the world.” Thus, the oral history methodology employed in this dissertation seeks to share the interview “outward into the public arena,” refusing to occlude the cultural processes that shaped the interview or the potentials for civic engagement with the counter-histories created by narrators.17
Public Digital Humanities
This approach to oral history as a civic-minded methodology found a partner in public digital humanities, the methodological intersection between “public work, digital work, and humanities work.”18 This definition is intentionally vague, suggesting that public digital humanities work is focused far less on the product outcome of scholarship, and more so on the possibilities of conversation that might arise as part of the research process. This focus on process, rather than product, is often incompatible with the academic purpose of scholarship, particularly dissertations, which are usually focused on the interpretative and methodological contributions scholars offer to the future and growth of their discipline.19 My interest in public digital humanities as a methodology for this dissertation has not solely been towards the production of research in new forms, but also the ways in which “the digital reshapes the representation, sharing, and discussion of knowledge.”20 Therefore, portions of this website, the Archive, in particular, constitute knowledge re-production, and the digital platform itself exists as a way to distribute knowledge production and reproduction. The portions of this dissertation that constitute reproduction should not be evaluated as ancillary, and instead, should be assessed as equivalent to the written text, which, for the time being, continues to be the standard of scholarly knowledge production.
Public digital humanities offers a flexible methodology that will continue even after this dissertation’s scholarly evaluation. By “using the digital [the dissertation platform] to learn from the public [a]s a listening practice, one that yields more efficacious and engaged public humanities work,” this dissertation relies on public input to potentially contribute to movements for social change.21 Historian Sheila Brennan explains in her essay, “Public, First,” that “doing any type of public digital humanities work requires an intentional decision from the beginning of the project that identifies, invites in, and addresses audience needs in the design, as well as the approach and content, long before the outreach for a finished project begins.”22 I recognize the process of this project to be “more public” at certain stages of work than others, proving the difficulties inherent in attempting to make a public digital humanities project that reaches the necessary goals of demonstrating knowledge production required of dissertations within the standard timeline of graduate education. The tension between public input and the strain of time was particularly pronounced during the last stages of producing the website, during which I made innumerable design and organizational decisions that might have changed the interface dramatically if those decisions had been made in concert with multiple people.
There are significant limitations to the ways in which public digital humanities can build the capacity for users to organize for social change, and it is naive to suppose that public scholarship is always a public good. Because public digital humanities is an ever-evolving nexus of practices, it is important to say here what this dissertation is not. It is not community-engaged nor collaborative in its methodologies and products, which would rely on the flexibility of an open timeline, which dissertations are not conducive vehicles for. As Wendy Hsu explains in “Lessons from Public Humanities from the Civic Sphere,” the public digital humanities process “requires a much longer time scale, one characterized by what Rita Felski has described as ‘painstaking inquiry.’” But the methodology of this dissertation did allow in some ways “for the public to participate in the design and development of a project.”23 As I spoke with narrators, I asked them what tools, digital or otherwise, they might have utilized in the past or in the present to better understand the legacy of past racial justice movements. Narrators drew out charts and detailed their dream toolkit for organizing against white supremacy, ideas which informed the organizational scheme and outline for this website.
For example, in our March 2017 interview, Renee Alexander Craft, a former organizer in the Black Cultural Center movement and current faculty in the Department of Communication Studies remembered:
“So it’s [the University] like a maze you’re moving around, and you need a guide every once in a while to say, “Nope. We’ve been down that way. Don’t go there. That’s a dead end. We need to go this way, because we’ve never done that before.” So, just both voices and help with institutional memory so you have a sense of closed and open doors and can move appropriately and effectively.”24
Craft’s description of the University as a maze informed the creation of the distribution of tags for organizations across archive and map posts, which show which organizations across the campus have been consistently involved in movement-making across the decades. Though the use of these tags does not constitute a clear visualization of “closed and open doors” across the institution, it does provide users with a sense of which organizations have been continually active in racial justice movements at the University, operating as “open doors” for social change. This dissertation makes only limited claims to be a public digital humanities project, though the ideal continues to inform the process of this dissertation.
The primary sources this dissertation relies on reveal as much about what stories the University preserved as it does about stories the University silenced. University Archives, in particular those few collections which document student life and movement-making in Chapel Hill, have been invaluable resources. If not for the staff of University Archives’ commitment to sourcing and digitizing collections that document histories of Black student and worker-led organizing, this dissertation could not have been completed. For example, without access to the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History Records, donated, indexed, and digitized by January 2016, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to tell in any detail the history of the Black student-led movement to create the free-standing Stone Center. In these records—unlike those of the Chancellor at the time, Paul Hardin, which operate as a counter-text to the Stone Center records—researchers find the perspective of student leaders of the Black Cultural Center movement. But even despite the tremendous efforts from the staff of University Archives to increase access to collections related to student activism and the Black freedom struggle, there remain major absences, particularly around the “everydayness” of Black student life.25
Two major student publications—Black Ink and The Daily Tar Heel—provide some documentation of the lived experience of Black students and workers in Chapel Hill. Black Ink, as the publication of the Black Student Movement, supplied the most valuable primary source material for this dissertation to tell a history of Black freedom striving, focused on the everyday actions taken by Black students and workers to resist institutional white supremacy. For example, at the start of my research, I had not intended to look at the history of South Campus as the primary location for on-campus housing for Black students, because it did not pertain to the project’s focus on major social movements. But as I read through Black Ink, the issue of housing segregation on South Campus remained a constant through three decades of reporting by and for Black students, revealing the necessity to write about the University’s role in perpetuating housing segregation.
The Daily Tar Heel, the major student newspaper for over a century, also served as an indispensable resource, documenting the procedural facts regarding involvement of faculty and staff in student-led movements. However, The Daily Tar Heel consistently provides coverage of events relevant to the interests of white students, sometimes at the expense of reporting on events relevant to Black student life, and it has often served as a platform for white students and faculty to share their racist beliefs. For example, this bias towards white perspectives, many of them racist, is clear when comparing coverage of the move of Upendo Lounge within Chase Hall in The Daily Tar Heel and in Black Ink.
It is a mistake to assume that archival or newspaper records tell a complete story, which is why this dissertation relies on oral histories with former students, faculty, and workers to tell the history of Black freedom striving in Chapel Hill. As described earlier in this essay, oral history interviews and later conversations with narrators profoundly shaped the organization, content, and purpose of this dissertation. Narrators, in explaining how their movements relied on the work of previous movements, referred constantly to the campus landscape to explain how they made sense of the legacy of their organizing. By the time I had completed just five interviews, I had learned to understand the campus landscape as racially bounded and movements happening within the campus landscape as spatially-oriented. This dissertation’s spatial organizational scheme is a product of these early oral history interviews. Narrators shaped the subject material of this dissertation more than any other source; I could not have told the history of the Fishbowl or Upendo Lounge without hearing stories from alumni who knew and cared for those spaces. Narrators proposed potential objectives for this project that I had not yet considered, and their ideas eventually shifted the purpose of this dissertation from a vague goal of documenting past racial justice movements towards a determined objective of compelling white people to understand the moral imperative of disinvesting from the University’s white supremacy.
Digital Platform and Tools
This website is built on a WordPress platform, which provides more flexibility for hosting and data storage than other common content management systems. I did not use the University’s WordPress web publishing service (web.unc.edu) for several reasons. First, I remain concerned about institutional co-optation of student narratives of resistance against the institution; building this site on a platform not owned by the University provided one way to remove this work from institutional ownership claims (although there are multiple other ways in which the institution may claim ownership over the narratives this project advances). Second, I needed to ensure long-term access to the site, which was not guaranteed on the University’s web publishing service. And third, I also needed to use multiple WordPress plugins (a piece of software that can extend functionality or add new features to a WordPress site), which the University’s web publishing service does not allow for.
The archive visualization is built using one of these plugins, Content Views, which allows users to build a grid or list of WordPress posts that operates independent of the website theme. I did not use a scholarly digital archive platform (e.g. Omeka, Collective Access). These archive platforms, built for scholarly audiences, insist on a rigid exhibit structure which displays on what in general I perceive as a tedious interface. Using a WordPress plugin, rather than Omeka, required me to establish my own set of metadata standards and build my data set within the WordPress infrastructure, rather than simply importing it into a platform like Omeka. Content Views is simply a different way to display posts in WordPress; it does not offer the functionality to export post data in a useful way nor does it offer support for digital preservation workflow. These are changes that I have made independently of the archive platform, but ultimately, this extra work has been worth it to create an interface for the archive data that is simple, attractive, secure, and linked to other parts of the project.
The digital items and metadata for the Archive are compiled from oral history interviews, archival collections, and digitized publications. For the oral histories I conducted, I transcribed and indexed the interviews, clipping segments from the interview audio file which described specific campus spaces, major events, significant individuals, or reflected on the spatial legacy of past movements. I approximated three to four clips for each interview, but some interviews are of course, longer or more descriptive than others. During archival research, I took photographs (with my iPhone and unprofessional hands, so shadows and blurs are present) of documents relevant to my research questions and organized these documents by archival collection in Zotero, a reference management software. University Archives also scanned and digitized a number of folders in certain collections, creating images which I downloaded at a high resolution. Throughout the process of saving and organizing images of documents, I used a consistent naming schema.
At the end of my time in the archives, I duplicated the documents in another Zotero folder, and tagged them with numbers one through three to specify how well they supplied demonstrative evidence for certain arguments, illustrated through photographs or drawings certain spaces or individuals, or provided exceptional documentation of racial justice movements. Documents tagged with one were added into the final data list; documents tagged two were reviewed one more time for inclusion in the final data list; and documents tagged three were not incorporated. The decisions I made about what documents to include in this archive follow my own interests and biases, as well as my desire to reproduce and share documents which illustrate the remarkable legacy of Black student- and worker-led movements. There are thousands of documents which I photographed but did not include. The archive is not a comprehensive catalog of all pertinent documents and interviews; it is a collection curated by one person.
The metadata schema I established for the archive is based on, but not a duplicate of, the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set, a basic set of fifteen elements for describing digital resources. I established this schema with an audience of former and future students in mind; certain elements of the Dublin Core Metadata Set, such as Language or Format, would be obvious to users. Some of these more obvious elements are present in the data files for the archive, but not in the WordPress posts accessible to users. For certain data facets, such as Document Type, I developed a concise number of broad categories into which documents could be organized. Document and Excerpt Descriptions are sourced in part from the text of essays.
The map is built using an ArcGIS Story Map, a simple web application that allows users to combine geographic data with narrative text, images, and audio-visual materials. I am able to access ArcGIS through University Library’s contract with ESRI, which permits users with a university login to use ArcGIS mapping tools. My use of ArcGIS, therefore, is bound to my connection to the University; I will lose access to my ArcGIS account in early 2020. Though I have concerns about the underlying software or platforms connected to the institution that this project might rely on, I chose to use ArcGIS largely because the alternatives for free mapping tools are so limited and restrictive. Story Maps provided the simplest interface with the greatest flexibility for data input and inclusion of text and images.
Location data for the map is compiled from transcripts of oral history interviews. I indexed each transcript for location data, compiling a list of approximately eighty campus and town spaces, including buildings, meeting rooms, bars, and private homes mentioned by narrators. The purpose of the map is to orient users within the racialized campus landscape. With this purpose in mind, I pared down the index list of locations to include approximately fifty buildings and spaces in Chapel Hill that relate across multiple scales and decades to the history of racial justice movements. The decisions I made to abridge the spatial history narrators’ provide is, of course, subjective, and users who might wish to learn more about spaces on the campus and in town for organizing and socializing can listen to oral histories with former students and workers to broaden their own spatial perspective of movement-making in Chapel Hill. Like the archive, the metadata schema I established for the Map is based on the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set for geographic data.
While the reality of the map meets it intended, albeit finite, purpose to orient users within the racialized campus landscape, I am skeptical of the map as an interface for visualizing the division between white institutional power and Black student and worker power on the campus landscape. Specifically, I remain dubious of layering counter-narratives within the normative representation of cartographic space as bound and fixed, as this Map currently does.26 In its current form, the map cannot differentiate between spaces that represent power relations across multiple scales, nor does it fully take up the task laid out by Kim Gallon in her call for Black Digital Humanities to “highlight how technology, employed in this underexamined context [Black studies or Black geographies] can further expose humanity as a racialized social construction.”27 The map represents a tension in a public digital methodology between building for our public(s) and building for our subjects; in its current (March 2019) iteration, the map may orient users within the racialized campus landscape, but does not illustrate the ways in which the campus is racially constructed, with Black students and workers forced beyond the University’s cultural boundaries. While the inclusion of narratives of resistance may be one way to destabilize the limiting representations of cartographic space in the map, I recognize it does not operate in a way for users to re-conceptualize the racially bounded space of the campus or imagine ways to subvert the subject of Black alterity.28
This essay has been a brief accounting of my dissertation process and a way to practice my commitment to honesty regarding the strengths and flaws of the current (March 2019) form of Reclaiming the University of the People. As part of that commitment to honesty, I will conclude this essay by stating that I have known from the beginning of this process that there would inevitably be limitations on my ability to understand and interpret Black-led social movements at the University because I experience the institution from my perspective as a white woman. Throughout this process, my goal has been to compel white people see the work of eradicating anti-Blackness in the University’s culture as their responsibility, refusing to permit a passive form of support for past social movements as constitutive proof of white people’s disinvestment in institutional white supremacy.29 It is my hope that this dissertation can become a resource for organizers to challenge white supremacy in Chapel Hill and that other writers will build upon the research presented here to help guide the University towards a future of reparative racial justice.
Download the Author Statement as a PDF.