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Critical Race Theory

This guide provides an overview of research strategies and resources on the topic of Critical Race Theory at the UNC School of Law.

North Carolina Historical Resources

NCpedia is the online home of the North Carolina encyclopedia, created and maintained by the North Carolina Government & Heritage Library at the State Library of North Carolina. It contains more than 8,400 articles and more than 9,200 images relating to North Carolina and its history. Entries provide a brief overview of topics and often include recommendations for further reading.

North Carolina State Archives. Located in Raleigh, the NC State Archives preserve and manage government records of state, county, city and state university officials and collect, preserve, and provide public access to historically significant archival materials relating to North Carolina.

North Carolina Historical Review. Available in print and online. Published by the North Carolina Division of Historical Resources, the NCHR publishes articles about North Carolina history, as well as a yearly bibliography of books and dissertations about North Carolina.

Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University. The Rubenstein Archive was founded with an early emphasis on regional history and has expanded to a global perspective with a focus on both traditional academic disciplines and the transformative possibilities of interdisciplinarity.

Southern Oral History Program, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Since 1973, the Southern Oral History Program has worked to preserve the voices of the southern past. The SOHP has collected 6,000 interviews with people from all walks of life—from mill workers to civil rights leaders to future presidents of the United States. Made available through UNC’s renowned Southern Historical Collection online, these interviews capture the vivid personalities, poignant personal stories, and behind-the-scenes decision-making that bring history to life.

State Library of North Carolina. Established in 1812, the State Library of North Carolina (SLNC) provides access to information resources, including the Government and Heritage Library.

The University of North Carolina Press, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Established in 1922, UNC Press was the first university press in the South and one of the first in the nation. African-American history has been a focus of the press for several decades, as has southern and North Carolina history. More recently, the press has also pioneered work in the field of Indigenous Studies.

Wilson Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The Wilson Special Collections Library, located on Polk Place at the heart of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus, is home to the University Library’s North Carolina Collection, Rare Book Collection, Southern Folklife Collection, Southern Historical Collection, and University Archives and Records Management Services. The five special collections hold unique and rare books, organizational records, personal and family papers, photographs, moving images, sound recordings, and artifacts that document the history and culture of the University, the state, the region, the nation, and the world.

Selected Works on North Carolina History

Monographs and Collections

 

Blacks in Appalachia, ed. William H. Turner and Edward J. Cabbell. Available in print and online. Although southern Appalachia is popularly seen as a purely white enclave, blacks have lived in the region from early times. The selected readings in this new book offer the first comprehensive presentation of the black experience in Appalachia.

Brain Magnet: Research Triangle Park and the Idea of the Idea Economy, by Alex Sayf Cummings. Available in print. Cummings reveals the significance of Research Triangle Park to the emergence of the high-tech economy in a postindustrial United States. Placing the knowledge economy in a broader cultural and intellectual context, Brain Magnet offers vital insight into how tech-driven development occurs and the people and places left in its wake.

Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-twentieth Century South, by Robert R. Korstad. Available in print and online. Drawing on scores of interviews with black and white tobacco workers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Korstad brings to life the forgotten heroes of Local 22 of the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers of America-CIO. These workers confronted a system of racial capitalism that consigned African Americans to the basest jobs in the industry, perpetuated low wages for all southerners, and shored up white supremacy.

Corazon de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South Since 1910, by Julie M. Weiss. Available in print and online. This book is the first to comprehensively document the long history of Mexican and Mexican Americans' migration to the U.S. South. Corazon de Dixie recounts the untold histories of Mexicanos' migrations to New Orleans, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina as far back as 1910.

A Desolate Place for a Defiant People: The Archaeology of Maroons, Indigenous Americans, and Enslaved Laborers in the Great Dismal Swamp, by Daniel Sayers. Available in print and online. Sayers unravels the complex social and economic systems developed by these communities that thrived on the periphery. He develops an analytical framework based on the complex interplay between alienation, diasporic exile, uneven geographical development, and modes of production to argue that colonialism and slavery inevitably created sustained critiques of American capitalism.

The Faces of Poverty in North Carolina: Stories From Our Invisible Citizens, by Gene Nichol. Available in print and online. Since 2012, Gene R. Nichol has traveled the length of North Carolina, conducting hundreds of interviews with poor people and those working to alleviate the worst of their circumstances. Here their voices challenge all of us to see what is too often invisible, to look past partisan divides and preconceived notions, and to seek change.

The False Cause: Fraud, Fabrication, and White Supremacy in Confederate Memory, by Adam Domby. Available online. The False Cause focuses on North Carolina to examine the role of lies and exaggeration in the creation of the Lost Cause narrative. In the process the book shows how these lies have long obscured the past and been used to buttress white supremacy in ways that resonate to this day.

Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920, by Glenda E. Gilmore. Available in print and online. In this work, Gilmore places black women at its center of southern political history. She explores the pivotal and interconnected roles played by gender and race in North Carolina politics from the period immediately preceding the disfranchisement of black men in 1900 to the time black and white women gained the vote in 1920. Gender and Jim Crow argues that the ideology of white supremacy embodied in the Jim Crow laws of the turn of the century profoundly reordered society and that within this environment, black women crafted an enduring tradition of political activism.

Greater Than Equal: African American Struggles for Schools and Citizenship in North Carolina, 1919-1965, by Sarah Caroline Thuesen. Available in print and online. During the half century preceding widespread school integration, Black North Carolinians engaged in a dramatic struggle for equal educational opportunity as segregated schooling flourished. Drawing on archival records and oral histories, Sarah Thuesen gives voice to students, parents, teachers, school officials, and civic leaders. She explores how African Americans pressed for equality in curricula, higher education, teacher salaries, and school facilities; how white officials co-opted equalization as a means of forestalling integration; and, finally, how black activism for equality evolved into a fight for something "greater than equal"--integrated schools that served as models of civic inclusion.

The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives, by Bryant Simon. Available in print and online. Eighty years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, industrial disasters were supposed to have been a thing of the past. After spending several years talking to the survivors of the fire in Hamlet, North Carolina, Simon has written an account of this place and of this time that shows how cheap labor, cheap government, and cheap food came together in a way that was bound for tragedy.

Indecent Assembly: The North Carolina Legislature's Blueprint for the War on Democracy and Equality, by Gene Nichol. Available in print. Indecent Assembly lays out in detail, and with no small dose of passion, the agenda, purposes, impacts, and transgressions of the Republican North Carolina General Assembly since it came to dominate life in the Tar Heel State. Nichol argues that North Carolina today is not presented with the mere give and take of normal politics; it struggles over its meaning as a commonwealth and its future as a democracy.

Julius Chambers: A Life in the Legal Struggle for Civil Rights, by Richard A. Rosen and Joseph Mosnier. Available in print and online. Born in Mount Gilead, North Carolina, Julius Chambers (1936-2013) escaped the fetters of the Jim Crow South to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s as the nation's leading African American civil rights attorney. Following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Chambers worked to advance the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's strategic litigation campaign for civil rights, ultimately winning landmark school and employment desegregation cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lethal State: A History of the Death Penalty in North Carolina, by Seth Kotch. Available in print and online. Kotch recounts the history of the death penalty in North Carolina from its colonial origins to the present. He tracks the attempts to reform and sanitize the administration of death in a state as dedicated to its image as it was to rigid racial hierarchies.

Louis Austin and the Carolina Times: A Life in the Long Black Freedom Struggle, by Jerry Gershenhorn. Available in print and online. Louis Austin (1898-1971) came of age at the nadir of the Jim Crow era and became a transformative leader of the long black freedom struggle in North Carolina. From 1927 to 1971, he published and edited the Carolina Times , the preeminent black newspaper in the state. Gershenhorn chronicles Austin's career as a journalist and activist, highlighting his work during the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar civil rights movement.

Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation, by Malinda Maynor Lowery. Available in print and online. With more than 50,000 enrolled members, North Carolina's Lumbee Indians are the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River. Malinda Maynor Lowery, a Lumbee herself, describes how, between Reconstruction and the 1950s, the Lumbee crafted and maintained a distinct identity in an era defined by racial segregation in the South and paternalistic policies for Indians throughout the nation.

The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle, by Malinda Maynor Lowery. Available in print and online. As the largest tribe east of the Mississippi and one of the largest in the country, the Lumbees have survived in their original homelands in North Carolina, maintaining a distinct identity as Indians in a biracial South. The Lumbees' journey as a people sheds new light on America's defining moments, from the first encounters with Europeans to the present day.

The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics: The Personalities, Elections, and Events That Shaped Modern North Carolina, by Rob Christensen. Available in print and online. Christensen navigates a century of political history in North Carolina, one of the most politically vibrant and competitive southern states, where neither conservatives nor liberals, Democrats nor Republicans, have been able to rest easy. This text argues that this climate of competition and challenge that enabled North Carolina to rise from poverty in the nineteenth century to become a leader in research, education, and banking in the twentieth.

Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power, by Timothy B. Tyson. Available in print and online. In the late 1950s, as president of the Monroe, North Carolina, branch of the NAACP, Williams and his followers used machine guns, dynamite, and Molotov cocktails to confront Klan terrorists. Advocating "armed self-reliance" by blacks, Williams challenged not only white supremacists but also Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights establishment.

Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South, by John Egerton. Available in print and online. Egerton's account of the early struggle for desegregation in the South starts in the Depression and ends in the mid-'50s with the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision. Speak Now Against the Day covers the whole South, but also pays close attention to North Carolina and the history of UNC in particular.

To Right These Wrongs: The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America, by Robert R. Korstad and James L. LeLoudis. Available in print and online. Governor Terry Sanford established the North Carolina Fund in 1963 as a way to provide a better life for the "tens of thousands whose family income is so low that daily subsistence is always in doubt." Korstad and Leloudis describe how the Fund's initial successes grew out of its reliance on private philanthropy and federal dollars and its commitment to the democratic mobilization of the poor.

Upbuilding Black Durham: Gender, Class, and Black Community Development in the Jim Crow South, by Leslie Brown. Available in print and online. Using interviews, narratives, and family stories, Leslie Brown animates the history of Durham from emancipation to the civil rights era, as freedpeople and their descendants struggled among themselves and with whites to give meaning to black freedom.

The Wilmington Ten: Violence, Injustice, and the Rise of Black Politics in the 1970s, by Kenneth Robert Janken. Available in print and online. In February 1971, racial tension surrounding school desegregation in Wilmington, North Carolina, culminated in four days of violence and skirmishes between white vigilantes and black residents. Kenneth Janken examines the dramatic story of the Ten, connecting their story to a larger arc of Black Power and the transformation of post-Civil Rights era political organizing.

Essays

 

Heather Menefee, "Black Activist Geographies: Teaching Whiteness as Territorality on Campus," South: A Scholarly Journal, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Spring 2018). Menefee examines the campus of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill from the perspective of a Black geographer.

Donna Nixon, "The Integration of UNC-Chapel Hill -- Law School First," 97 N.C. L. Rev. 1741 (2019). Nixon's article tells the story of the five Black students who integrated Carolina Law, and thus UNC, in 1946.

North Carolina Creative Work

Nonfiction, Memoir, and Autobiography

Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story, by Timothy B. Tyson. Available in print and online. After the murder of a black man in Oxford, North Carolina, in the summer of 1970, the town became engulfed in protest. Tyson's father, a local preacher, attempted to bridge divides but failed. Decades later, Tyson returned to Oxford to write the story of that summer.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet A. Jacobs. Available in print and online. Jacob's work is one of the few slave narratives by a woman, offering a unique perspective on the complex plight of the black woman as slave and as writer. Detailing her years as a slave in Edenton, North Carolina, Jacobs' classic work explores her childhood, experiences with a mater who sexually harassed her, and attempts at escape.

Memoir of a Race Traitor: Fighting Racism in the American South, by Mab Segrest. Available in print and online. Against a backdrop of nine generations of her family's history, Segrest explored her experiences in the 1980s as a white lesbian organizing against a virulent far-right movement in North Carolina.

The Mind of the South, by W.J. Cash. Available in print and online. Published in 1941, Cash's The Mind of the South tried to explain white southern culture in the wake of the Great Depression, exploring everything from the region's economic problems to its imagined character. Cash drew on his personal observations from growing up in South Carolina and working as a journalist for the Charlotte Observer. Though many of his arguments are dated, this work was influential on the Civil Rights Movement and remains an important historical document.

Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin, by John Hope Franklin. Available in print. Franklin's autobiography explores everything from his childhood growing up under segregation to his Civil Rights activism, scholarship on African-American history, and monumental achievements in academia. Though he was not from North Carolina, he did teach at several North Carolina universities, including North Carolina Central and Duke, and this work examines some of those experiences.

Negroes with Guns, by Robert F. Williams. Available in print and online. First published in 1962, Negroes with Guns is the story of a southern black community's struggle to arm itself in self-defense against the Ku Klux Klan and other racist groups. Frustrated and angered by violence condoned or abetted by the local authorities against blacks, Williams explores the small community of Monroe, North Carolina, which brought the issue of armed self-defense to the forefront of the civil rights movement.

Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family, Pauli Murray. Available in print and online. Originally published in 1956, Pauli Murray tells the story of her grandparents, delving into the realities of slavery, survival, and miscegenation in the pre-Civil War/Reconstruction era in the South.

Song in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage, by Pauli Murray. Available in print and online. Murray's second autobiography, this text focuses on her life growing up in segregated Durham, lifelong activism, legal career with the NAACP, and struggle with her sexual and gender identities.

Fiction

 

The Conjure Stories, by Charles Chesnutt. Available in print. This collection of Chesnutt's short stories explores folklore, superstition, voodoo, race, and social identity in the South following the Civil War.

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead and Other Stories, by Randall Kenan. Available in print and online. Kenan's collection of short stories, brought together in the style of a novel, brings to life the hopes and fears of the people of fictional Tims Creek, North Carolina, from the time of slavery up to the present day.

Folly, by Maureen Brady. Available in print and online. Folly is a working-class, lesbian novel about black and white women who go on strike in a North Carolina factory town--and two of them fall in love.

The Marrow of Tradition, by Charles Chesnutt. Available in print. Inspired by the 1898 Wilmington Riot and the eyewitness accounts of Charles W. Chesnutt's own family, this novel captures the astonishing moment in American history when a violent coup d'état resulted in the subversion of a free and democratic election.

A Visitation of Spirits: A Novel, by Randall Kenan. Available in print and online. Horace Cross, the 16-year-old descendent of slaves and deacons of the church, spends a horror-filled spring night wrestling with the demons and angels of his brief life. Brilliant, popular, and the bright promise of his elders, Horace struggles with the guilt of discovering who he is, a young man attracted to other men and yearning to escape the narrow confines of Tim's Creek.

Poetry

 

All the Songs We Sing: Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Carolina African-American Writers' Collective, ed. by Lenard D. Moore. Available online. Individually, these poems, stories, and essays have helped these Carolinians voice their experiences, remind us of our history, and insist on change, and gathered together, their chorus is turned all the way up and demands to be heard. These writers have shaped the modern literary landscape of the Carolinas for the last twenty-five years and will continue to influence and inspire African-American writers for generations to come.

The Poetical Works of George M. Horton: The Colored Bard of North Carolina, by George Moses Horton. Available online. Horton was a poet from Northhampton County, North Carolina. He was enslaved in his early life and gained freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation. His poetry explored his life in slavery as well as other topics, and his work was the first book published in North Carolina.

Conjure Blues: Poems, by Jaki Shelton Green. Available in print and online. Green is the current poet laureate of North Carolina. Born in Alamance County and currently serving as a professor at Duke, she has published eight books of poetry, many of which, including Conjure Blues, explore aspects of race in the South.

Special Projects at UNC

Asian-American Digital Politics: A Community Survey on Asian-American and Pacific Islander Online Political Formations. This survey assesses the landscape of Asian American and Pacific Islander politics in relation to contemporary social movements and digital technologies. This is a collaborative project between 18 Million Rising & Dr. Rachel Kuo (Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) and supported by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University.

The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the nation's oldest state university, with a rich history of more than two centuries. This virtual museum retells that history much as a physical museum might do, with texts and images arranged in a series of roughly chronological exhibits.

Names in Brick and Stone: Histories from UNC's Built Landscape. This digital map and exhibit was produced by the students in History/American Studies 671: Introduction to Public History taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by Dr. Anne Mitchell Whisnant in 2015 and 2017 and assisted in 2015 by American Studies Graduate Research Assistant Charlotte Fryar.

On the Books: Jim Crow and Algorithms of Resistance is a UNC text mining project with the goal of discovering Jim Crow and racially-based legislation signed into law in North Carolina between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement (1866-1967). This website lists and contextualizes North Carolina segregation laws for educators and researchers interested in Southern and African American History during the Jim Crow era. The project is a collaboration between UNC libraries and UNC scholars who specialize in African American history, special collections, digital research, data analysis, and data visualization.