This essay serves as an introduction to this dissertation, which examines how Black students and workers engaged in movements for racial justice at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1951 to 2018 challenged the University’s dominant cultural landscape of white supremacy— a landscape in direct conflict with the University’s mission to be a public university representative of and in service to the state of North Carolina.
This essay explores the history of the South Campus residence community as a Black student-created counter-space and how the space developed to challenge anti-Black institutional processes, while the University operated to control Black students within the space through overt discrimination and neglect.
Lenoir Hall and Manning Hall
The history of Lenoir and Manning Halls during the Foodworkers’ Strikes of 1969 are explored in this essay, with attention towards how the University ignores Black students’ and workers’ contestations of institutional power structures and eliminates spaces of community created by Black students and workers.
Upendo Lounge was the first formal Black student-created space on the campus, which opened in 1973. This essay explains that because of its status as a significant Black social space, the University’s white administrators and students deemed Upendo a hazard to the maintenance of white supremacy, and thus, it faced tremendous scrutiny and retaliation from the institution.
Beginning in the late 1980s, the Fishbowl (or Black Cultural Center) served as the foremost counter-space for Black students, combining for the first time the social and academic needs of Black students and drawing condemnation from white administrators. This essay explores the history of the campus movements that operated for and within the space of the Fishbowl, illustrating the ways in which the institution sought to control and contain Black life across the campus.
The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History
This essay argues that the Stone Center, as the final institutionally-recognized counter-space created by Black students, faced similar discrimination through anti-Black policies as prior Black counter-spaces, including Upendo Lounge and the Fishbowl. As a result of the institutional actions taken to diminish the potential for the Stone Center to serve as a space which supported Black culture against the University’s white supremacy, the Stone Center was never able to be included within the mainstream of the University’s dominant culture.
The Cheek-Clark Building, located on West Cameron Avenue, exists as a physical representation on the campus landscape of the housekeepers movement of the 1990s and their historic legal settlement with the University. This essay explores the history of the housekeepers movement, and how it reshaped the ways in which Black workers and students could utilize the history of Black freedom striving in Chapel Hill to forward contemporary movements for racial justice.
This essay argues that the movement to challenge Saunders Hall (named for a former leader of the state’s Ku Klux Klan), which began in the 1990s, marked a significant shift in racial justice movements towards the direct contestation of spaces which represented and enacted institutional white supremacy. As the movement against Saunders Hall continued into the 2010s, Black students began to develop a new sense of place for Chapel Hill, re-conceptualizing what it meant to use the institution’s own history as a tool to contest white supremacy.
Early movements based in McCorkle Place (the northernmost campus quad) against the Confederate Monument primarily contested the way in which the monument symbolized and honored white supremacy. This essay argues that following the installation of the Unsung Founders Memorial in the 2000s, movements shifted with a deepened knowledge of the long history of Black resistance to the University’s white supremacy that are manifest across the campus landscape, towards a reclamation of the institution and its history as directed by the legacy of Black freedom striving in Chapel Hill.