In 1922, the UNC Board of Trustees named one of the newly constructed buildings after alumnus William Laurence Saunders in order to honor him as a Confederate veteran, UNC-Chapel Hill Trustee, and leader of the state Ku Klux Klan. Building on decades of student-led activism bringing attention to Saunders’ infamy, activists renamed Saunders Hall for Black author Zora Neale Hurston in 2015. That same year, after mounting pressure, the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees decided to rename Saunders Hall due to its namesake’s ties to white supremacy, but rather than Hurston Hall, chose the name Carolina Hall. The Board also voted to enact a 16-year moratorium on renaming campus buildings and landmarks.
Many biographical sketches of William Saunders were published in the decades following the Civil War and can be found in the North Carolina Collection. While these publications are not particularly recent, they can be useful for researchers interested in obtaining a basic outline of Saunders's life and association with UNC.
Cobb, Collier. "Colonel William L. Saunders." University of North Carolina Magazine 24, no. 3 (January 1907). CpB S252c
Hoyle, T.C. "Col. William L. Saunders." Trinity Archive (June 1896). CpB S252h
Waddell, Alfred Moore. "The Life and Character of William L. Saunders: An Oration Delivered Before the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina." 1892. CpB S252w
Jones, H.G. "William Laurence Saunders and the publication of 'The Colonial Records of North Carolina.' " 1965. CpB S252j
Researchers will find that newspapers and periodicals are especially helpful in researching William Saunders' life and career, the construction of Saunders Hall, connections to student activism at UNC, and the ultimate renaming of the building to Carolina Hall.
Carolina Alumni Review
The Carolina Alumni Review is published six times a year to inform readers about Carolina and is published by the General Alumni Association. The digital archive presents complete issues dating to October 1912.
The Daily Tar Heel is the main student publication at UNC. Published daily during the academic year, the newspaper is a good resource for information on the reaction to the "The Student Body" statue. In addition to news articles, editorials and letters to the editor may be useful. This title is available on microfilm in the North Carolina Collection. DTH issues from 1893 to 1992 are available online through two sources: Newspapers.com, a subscription service available to users affiliated with UNC-Chapel Hill and to patrons in the library buildings, and the Digital Heritage Center, which is freely available and accessible off-campus. Visit the Daily Tar Heel website for articles dating from about 2005 to present.
The long-running publication of the Black Student Movement at UNC is another good resource. Copies of the paper from 1969 to 2013 can be found in the North Carolina Collection. The paper can also be accessed online. Issues from 1969 to 2001 are available through DigitalNC and issues published from 2009 to 2013 can be found at the group's website.
In addition to student publications, the North Carolina Collection holds a large number of newspapers from around the state. Many of these, such as the Raleigh News & Observer and the Durham Herald-Sun, report on campus news and controversies. In particular, Newspapers.com and America's News are recommended for researching Saunders, Saunders Hall, and the renaming controversy.
Wilson Special Collections Library holds large numbers of photographic material documenting the physical landscape of the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. Collections with photographs of UNC within Wilson's North Carolina Collection are listed here, while the portal to digitized photographs in the NCC is here.
Saunders Hall under construction, 1922
William Laurence Saunders Papers, 1712-1907. Southern Historical Collection. Collection # 02658.
William Saunders was a colonel in the Confederate Army, member of the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees, secretary of state of North Carolina, and leader of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina. This collection includes letters and papers related to Saunders's military service and two items pertaining to the Ku Klux Klan.
John Kenyon Chapman Papers, 1969-2009. Southern Historical Collection. Collection # 05441.
Chapman was a social justice activist, organizer, and historian focused on workers' rights and African American empowerment in central North Carolina. Chapman was intimately involved in the discussion about race and UNC and helped organize campus groups on this topic. Records in this collection document the debate surrounding Saunders Hall as well as other related issues.
Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina Records, 1789-1932. University Archives. Collection # 40001.
The Board of Trustees, elected by the North Carolina General Assembly, was the governing body of UNC from its chartering in 1789 until 1932, when the consolidated University of North Carolina system was created. Records include minutes of the Board of Trustees and files of the Building Committee. A discussion of Saunders Hall and William Saunders appears in Oversize Volume 12 of the Board of Trustee minutes on page 234.
Board of Trustees minutes from 1990 to 2015 can be found online through the Board's online archive. In particular, the May 2015 resolutions related to the teaching of UNC history and the renaming of Saunders Hall can be found through this site.
Southern Oral History Program Racial Justice Activism project
Interviews pertain to the history of racial justice movements at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1991 to 2018, with a focus on the student-led movement for a free-standing Black Cultural Center (Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History) from 1991-1993 and the 2014-2015 movement led by the Real Silent Sam Coalition to create Hurston Hall. Interviews include discussions of personal experiences with institutional racism, reflections on the racialized landscape of the campus, workers' movements and labor activism in Chapel Hill, and the legacy of past racial justice campus organizing for contemporary movements. Other topics discussed include the housekeepers' movement of the 1990s, early efforts to challenge Saunders Hall in the 1990s and 2000s, the role of collegiate athletics in racial justice movements, the impact of the University's academic-athletic scandal on Black students and faculty in the 2010s, black women's leadership in campus organizing, and the legacy of the University as a site of enslavement.