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Student Protest Movements at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Civil Rights Protests (1963-1964)

Civil Rights Protests at UNC-Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill students were often at the forefront of civil rights protests in Chapel Hill. Inspired by other acts of civil disobedience, such as the sit-ins begun by North Carolina A&T students in Greensboro in 1960 and the large-scale protests in Birmingham in the summer of 1963, a small group in Chapel Hill began to protest the town's segregated institutions. As the protests grew in size and in volume, many in the traditionally quiet, liberal town of Chapel Hill were surprised by the violent reaction to the protestors and the stubborn determination of several restaurant owners to retain segregated facilities. An effort to pass a public accommodations ordinance in early 1964 was narrowly defeated by the town council and Chapel Hill businesses remained formally segregated until the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act later that year. 

Books and Theses

Ehle, John. The Free Men. 1965. C326 E33f

Ehle's book offers a first-hand account of the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement at UNC-Chapel Hill. The author discusses students protests and sit-ins and the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to pass a public accommodations bill in Chapel Hill. Ehle was a professor at UNC during the early 1960s. 

Coleman, Jeffrey. In Every Village and Every City: Civil Rights Protest in Chapel Hill and Greensboro, North Carolina, 1960-1964. 1997. C378 UO7 1997 v.1

Coleman discusses civil rights protests in Chapel Hill. His work begins with a description of the town and the University in the decade preceding the outbreak of protests. Coleman also describes student protests and the reaction of local citizens to civil rights activities. The relationship between student protesters at UNC and student movements at other universities in the state is also discussed. 

McCurry, Douglas. The Ideological Conflict Over Race: Chapel Hill in 1963-64, 1968-69, and 1991-93. 1994. C378 UO7 1994 v. 5 

McCurry examines three crucial periods in Chapel Hill's racial history with a focus on the different ideas of race. He discusses the ideologies of early Chapel Hill civil rights demonstrators and their opponents, the goals of the groups involved, and the way in which the issues and goals important to protesters changed over time. 

Wallace, Jim. Courage in the Moment: The Civil Rights Struggle, 1961-1964. 2012. C326 W191c

Wallace's book documents civil rights activities in Chapel Hill and the surrounding area through photographs taken at the time. The images show both University of North Carolina students and local citizens participating in a variety of protests and illustrate the interaction between the police and protesters. The reaction of the Ku Klux Klan to the call for civil rights is also documented. Photographs are accompanied by text. 

Chapman, John Kenyon. Black Freedom and the University of North Carolina, 1793-1960. 2006. C378 UO2 2006 CHAPMAN, J.K

Chapman's work examines the the relationship between the UNC-Chapel Hill and African Americans beginning with the founding of the University and a discussion of slavery's role in the school's early development and ending with a discussion of Jim Crow and the civil rights struggle at the University in the 1960s. Student protests are included in this discussion. This volume provides historical context for events in the late 20th century and early 21st century. 

Archival Resources

Archival materials are an excellent resource for researchers interested in the civil rights protests at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The UNC University Archives and the Southern Historical Collection, both located in Wilson Library, contain a wealth of primary source material on this subject. The following are just a few examples of the archival resources that can be found on this subject. 

John B. Dunne Papers, 1943-1984

John Dunne was a civil rights activist in Chapel Hill and a student at the University of North Carolina. While at UNC, Dunne helped establish a chapter of the Student Peace Union, a student group involved in a number of civil rights demonstrations in the area. This collection includes material, such as correspondence and newspaper clippings, about Dunne's activities in Chapel Hill as well as elsewhere in the South. 

Floyd B. McKissick Papers, 1940s-1980s

Along with Harvey Beech, James Lassiter, and J. Kenneth Lee, McKissick was one the first African Americans to attend law school at UNC-Chapel Hill. He was a well-known civil rights lawyer and activist in North Carolina connected to several demonstrations in Chapel Hill. Papers related to the cases of individuals arrested during demonstrations in Chapel Hill are included in the collection. 

Office of the President of the University of North Carolina (System): William C. Friday Records, 1957-1986

William Friday was the president of the University of North Carolina System for over three decades. This collection contains records related to a number of important events at UNC-Chapel Hill including the desegregation of the University, campus demonstrations, and the implementation of civil rights legislation.