Monday, May 20, 2019

The Road that Divided the Campus - Walker Avenue and its closing

From the earliest days of the school, Walker Avenue had bisected campus, forcing students to cross the busy street (often multiple times daily) to access buildings on both sides. The dining halls, science building, home economics building, gymnasium, and many residence halls were all located north of Walker, while the library, Curry, McIver Memorial, student’s building, auditorium, and the administration building were all located south of Walker.
1943 Map of Woman's Collage campus showing buildings bisected by Walker Avenue
The only safe crossing of the busy avenue was at College Avenue.  Over the years, students would cross Walker Ave. via a succession of bridges built to enable foot traffic on College Ave. (running north and south). The bridges were constructed of wood, then iron, and finally concrete in 1928.

1920 aerial view of College Avenue with bridge over Walker Avenue
Walker Ave. became an increasing busy thoroughfare for autos during the 1940s, a situation that only got worse with the post-war boom. Indeed, Walker Ave. was one of the best east west corridors for residents on the western side of Greensboro seeking to drive to the city center.

So, the stage was set for an impasse when Woman’s College building plans included closing the part of Walker Ave. that bisected the heart of its campus, while the city’s residents wanted to maintain Walker Ave. as way to get to downtown from west Greensboro. In 1945, The Board of Trustees approved a plan of building expansion (more than $3,000,000 to be set aside for buildings) for the school that required Walker Ave. be closed, but they did not have the authority to do so.1 Indeed, the plan sited two new buildings, the library (now Walter Clinton Jackson Library) and an expansion to the home economics building (now Stone Building) directly astride the existing Walker Ave. The Greensboro City Council initially denied the request to close Walker Ave. in August of 1945. Next followed suggestions from closure opponents that the school expand westward or even that a 1,350 tunnel should be built from Tate St. to a point between Kenilworth and Stirling Streets.2 Westward expansion would not solve the problem of students needing to cross busy Walker Ave. (nor would it allowed the for the planned library and home economics building expansion) and it was not expected that the state would furnish another $1,000,000 (the estimated cost of the tunnel) to the millions already proposed to the school for expansion. Thus, the tunnel proposal died.

Image used by Dr. W.C. Jackson to promote WC campus after Walker Ave. closure

Still, proponents of the closure of Walker Ave. including Dr. Frank Porter Graham (president of the Consolidated University of North Carolina) W.D. Carmichael, Jr. (comptroller of the University of North Carolina) and Walter Clinton Jackson (chancellor of Woman’s College) among others, worked hard to convince Greensboro and the council to reconsider the closure of Walker Ave. Most arguments were centered around Woman’s College role in the Consolidated University of North Carolina (with Chapel Hill and NC State) and its role as a preeminent school for the education of women. Dr. Graham called Woman’s College the “greatest asset in the building of a greater Greensboro,” and cited closure of Walker Ave. as the “keystone in the college’s great plan for the future.” Carmichael warned that keeping Walker Ave. would block Woman’s College expansion plans and the institution would have no chance to remain competitive with other women’s colleges for growth.3 In a publication to the Greensboro City Council, Dr. Jackson said, “The authorities of the College have made plans for going forward in making this the great institution that it and Greensboro and the State deserve. They are planning great things. They are looking far ahead. They are thinking of the College as it shall be 25 and 50 years from now….It is of the highest importance that the campus we are planning should be a complete unit. The indispensable and fundamental change necessary in carrying out these plans is the closing of Walker Avenue from McIver Street to Forest Avenue.4
Bulldozer breaking up Walker Ave. near the College Ave. bridge
Eventually, the proponents for Walker Ave. closing won out. On June 7th, 1947, the City Council adopted a resolution setting the closing of Walker Ave. through Woman’s College on the date that the space was needed for actual construction of a building bridging the avenue. At 1pm on September 24, 1948, barricades were placed on Walker Ave. and work started a few days later on the Library which sits on the former site of Walker Ave.5

**Look for a future post showcasing views of the College Avenue bridge used to cross Walker Avenue!**

1- W.C. Jackson to City Council of Greensboro, March 5, 1946
2-"City Authorities Offer Avenue Tunnel Project" Greensboro Daily News, February 26, 1946
3-"College Request for Closing Street Taken under Advisement by Council" Greensboro Daily News, March 6, 1946 **Special thanks to Mark Schumacher for help in tracking down the date of this article!**
4-W.C. Jackson to City Council of Greensboro, March 5, 1946
5-"Walker Avenue Closed Today" Greensboro Daily News, September 24, 1948

Monday, May 13, 2019

1934 Illustrated Map Gives Hints into Student Life

*This blog's author, Sarah Maske, is a senior at UNC Greensboro, with a double major in history and archaeology. She is interning in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collection and University Archives for the spring 2019 semester.

“Dear Alma Mater, strong and great we never shall forget the gratitude we owe to you a never-ending debt; an honor to your name we give and love we pledge a new unfailing loyalty we bring o college dear, to you.”- Home Economics Map, 1934


Woman's College Campus Map, 1934
Among the unique items in the University Archives artifact collection is a 1934 hand drawn campus map created by Woman’s College (now UNC Greensboro) student Emma Lee Aderholdt and her “assistants.” The map of the Woman's College was sponsored by the Home Economics Club and represents campus buildings, providing insights into student life through comments and stick people illustrations.

The map includes buildings and events long forgotten, such as the Old Athletic grounds (now the location of the Petty Building), the Lantern Festival that took place in Peabody Park, and the May Day Festival held in Foust Park. Each building has associated comments by the students including; “Thar’s where my money goes,” “Trees and Squirrels,” and “What’s your I.Q?” The stick figures, which are placed throughout the map, not only show the events that took place at Woman’s College, but also humor, including a poor “Freshie” stick figure forced to clean the McIver Statue. The map also has a detailed border that is a timeline of types of transportation used by the students to travel to the college.

The 1934 map of Woman’s College campus reflects a different campus than we know today. There have been numerous modifications and expansions made to campus since the late 1930s, and this map includes including buildings and views that have long been forgotten.

Oriana McArthur (Class 1950) and Chancellor  Jackson on the Walker Avenue Bridge
Walker Avenue Divided Campus
Today, Walker Avenue is divided into two sections: the campus entrance at Tate Street which dead ends in the Stone Building and the campus entrance from Josephine Boyd Street (formerly South Aycock). But in 1934, Walker Avenue cut through campus as a major road carrying business to Tate Street. One side of Walker Avenue included Spring Garden Street, which held the first campus library (Forney Building), the Auditorium, the Administration (Foust) Building, and all academic buildings except the Home Economics Building. The other side of campus was all residential dorms, recreational facilities, and the Dining Hall. A pedestrian bridge crossed Walker Avenue at College Avenue for the students’ safety. In 1948, the city of Greensboro officially closed the campus section of Walker Ave and the pedestrian bridge was demolished in 1950 to make room for the new Library and Student Union. 1

Kirkland and Woman's Dormitories
Kirkland and Woman’s Dormitories
Located across from the Spencer Dormitory Dining Hall (now Fountain View Dining Hall), the Woman’s Dormitory opened in 1912.2 The building was named to honor the “Noble Women of the Confederacy,” but was more commonly known as “Senior Hall.” Kirkland Dormitory was built in 1914 and was named in honor of Lady Principal Sue May Kirkland who passed away unexpectedly that year. Both dormitories were built in the Craftsman Style and were demolished in 1964. Today, Fountain Plaza is located where the dormitories once stood, and the area has become a popular campus hangout.

The Y Hut
The Y.W.C.A. Hut
The Young Women's Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.) Hut was built in August of 1918 by a group of upperclassmen, “The Carpenterettes,” and three male workmen.3 The Y Hut was located on the edge of Peabody Park, adjacent to Guilford Residence Hall, and became the central hub for student life. The Y Hut was built in the Bungalow Style with board-and-batten siding and four large brick fireplaces.4 The interior was an open, multi-purpose floor plan with exposed rafters, wooden furniture, and a kitchenette. Each fireplace was reserved for one of the four student years (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) and the class colors hung on banners above the mantels. In addition, the Y Hut had modern amenities, including Edison bulb lighting, a gas stove, a refrigerator, and an “Army and Navy” model phonograph donated by Thomas Edison, Inc. The Y Hut was unique as it was the only building on campus to be managed and cared for by students. Some common events that were hosted in the Y Hut included dinners, luncheons, sing-alongs, dances, and “exam teas.” The Y Hut held a special place in the students’ hearts until it was demolished circa 1950.


McIver Memorial Building
The McIver Memorial Building
Built in 1908, The McIver Memorial Building was named in honor of the College’s Founder, Charles Duncan McIver (1860-1906). It was the school’s main academic building and was located in the shadow of the Administration (Foust) Building. As the student population grew, the east and west wings were added in 1920 and 1922. The McIver Memorial Building was demolished in 1960, and replaced by a new McIver Building, which was demolished last year, spring of 2018. The area is now under construction for the new nursing building, which is planned to open in the summer of 2020.

Graduating Students on "The Saddest Day of All"
The campus has changed tremendously in the last 85 years and it continues to grow. The 1934 campus map gives a unique view of campus buildings, views, and traditions long forgotten. While this blog mentions a few noticeable differences to the campus, the map has small details seem to appear every time it is viewed. It is easy for the reader to spend hours staring at the stick figures and their comments.


1.  Allen W. Trelease, Making North Carolina Literate: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, From Normal School to Metropolitan University, (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2004) 150-151.
2.  Building, Grounds, and Views Subject File, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Greensboro.
3.  “Girl Carpenters Are At Work At Y House: State Normal College Students Undertaking to Clear Ground and Build a House,” Greensboro Daily News, August 30,1918.
4. Class in Community Organization, “The “Hut” Movement in Greensboro: “The Hut” at the North Carolina College for Women, the City Y.W.C.A. Hut and The Hut of the First Presbyterian Church. A Story of How the Huts Have Come to Meet the Real Community,” North Carolina Community Progress, November 5, 1921, vol. 3, no. 3, 1.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Happy birthday, Randall Jarrell!

Portrait of Randall Jarrell taken during his first year at Woman's College, 1947-48.

To honor Randall Jarrell’s 105th birthday, we are highlighting his life and career. One of UNC Greensboro's most famous faculty members, Jarrell was a renowned poet, author, critic, and instructor.

Jarrell was born on May 6, 1914, in Nashville, Tennessee. Jarrell’s parents, Owen and Anna Campbell Jarrell, divorced early in Jarrell’s life. His childhood was split between California and Nashville, Tennessee. Jarrell showed an interest in writing and the arts early in his life – while at Hume-Fogg High School in Nashville, he was active in drama and journalism.

L to R: Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, and
Peter Hillsman Taylor, lifelong friends.
Jarrell enrolled in Vanderbilt University in 1932. Continuing his interest in writing at Vanderbilt, he wrote for and later edited the Vanderbilt Masquerader, a campus humor magazine. Jarrell graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.S. in psychology in 1935 and an M.A. in 1938.

Both his undergraduate and graduate life were punctuated by major American literary figures, specifically poets. While an undergraduate student, Jarrell took courses from John Crowe Ransom and Robert Penn Warren, major American poets. As a graduate student, Jarrell befriended two more future acclaimed authors, Peter Hillsman Taylor and Robert Lowell. Jarrell was also beginning to distinguish himself as an emerging literary figure – in 1936, he received the Southern Review Poetry Prize.
Uniformed Jarrell posing with a cat.

After leaving Vanderbilt, Jarrell served as an English instructor at Kenyon College from 1937-1939. In 1942, Jarrell joined the U.S. Army Air Force. Initially, he served as a flying cadet, but washed out of being a pilot and became a celestial navigation tower operator until his discharge in 1946. Jarrell’s poetry was often influenced by World War II and his experiences in the armed forces.

Two books of Jarrell’s poetry were published during his time in the military. Blood for a Stranger, Jarrell’s first book of poetry was published in 1942. Jarrell’s second book of poetry, Little Friend, Little Friend, was published in 1945. Once discharged from the army in 1946, Jarrell served as the temporary editor of The Nation in New York City, taking over for Margaret Marshall.

After his stint at The Nation concluded, Jarrell moved to Greensboro, North Carolina. Jarrell joined the English faculty of the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro (now UNC Greensboro) in 1947. He remained a permanent member of the Woman’s College faculty until his death in 1965.

Mary and Randall Jarrell dancing, ca. 1960s.
In the early 1950s, Jarrell met and married his second wife, Mary von Schrader. Jarrell took several temporary teaching positions at universities across the country during the 1950s – including Princeton University, Indiana University, and the University of Illinois. Jarrell also served as the poetry consultant for the Library of Congress for two years.

Jarrell returned to Woman’s College and resumed teaching in 1958. In 1960, while teaching at Woman’s College, Jarrell published one of his most famous books of poetry: The Woman at the Washington Zoo. The book received the National Book Award for poetry in 1961 and the University of North Carolina’s Max O. Gardner Award in 1962.

Despite being known for poetry, Jarrell also published a novel and a number of children’s books during the 1950s and 1960s. A lifelong lover of cats, Jarrell dedicated one of his children's books, The Animal Family, to his cat Elfi. Fly by Night, another children’s book, was published posthumously in 1976.

An edited sheet from Jarrell's  poem,
"The End of the Rainbow," from his papers.
The Lost World, Jarrell’s last book of poetry, was published in 1965. At the time, Jarrell was living in Chapel Hill and teaching at UNC-Chapel Hill. While walking along a road in October, Jarrell was struck by a car and killed. Mary Jarrell never remarried after Jarrell’s death and worked tirelessly to preserve both his personal and literary memory. 

Jarrell was instrumental to the history of UNC Greensboro, particularly the creative writing and English programs, and remains a beloved figure on campus. Randall Jarrell’s papers – including manuscripts of his poetry, photographs, translations of plays, and more – are housed at the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives.


Monday, April 29, 2019

The History of the Spartan Tartan!



*Sarah Maske is a senior at UNC Greensboro, with a double major in history and archaeology. She is interning in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collection and University Archives for the spring 2019 semester.

While tartan is a popular pattern in clothing today, it has an important place in North Carolina’s history. In the early 19th century, North Carolina held the largest population of Scots outside of Scotland.(1) After the failed Jacobite rebellions led by the Bonnie Prince Charlie ended in 1746, Highlanders and other Scots moved to North Carolina to start a new life. This new life included the freedom to wear their tartan, which was outlawed in the Scottish Highlands by the British Government under the Dress Act of 1746 as a way to strip the Highlanders of their identity and clan affiliation.

UNC Greensboro Official Tartan Recording

It is not surprising that UNC Greensboro would have its own official tartan celebrating the Scottish heritage of University founder, Charles Duncan McIver. On August 12, 2005, UNC Greensboro’s tartan (number 6265) was officially placed in the International Tartan Index. (2) Commissioned by the former Chancellor Patricia A. Sullivan and Associate Vice Chancellor Helen Dennison Hebert, the tartan took three years to create and gain official recognition by the Scottish Tartans Authority. (3) The University worked with the International Association for Tartan Studies in Pennsylvania and designer Dr. Phil Smith Jr. to develop a tartan in the University’s colors of blue, gold, and white. The goal was to design a tartan that would promote tradition and school pride among the students, alumni, faculty, and staff.

Commemorative Tartan Blanket

The Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives houses a variety of artifacts and textiles commemorating the tartan project, including two commemorative  tartan blankets, which were presented to major donors during the Students First Campaign.(4) The wool blankets have the patterning of the UNC Greensboro official tartan in blue, gold, and white with Minerva embroidered on the front. The textile collection also includes Chancellor Sullivan’s pleated UNC Greensboro tartan skirt. The University Archives’ artifact collection holds the tartan certificate presented to the University by the Scottish Tartan Authority honoring the recording of the UNC Greensboro tartan in the International Tartan Index.

Chancellor Patricia Sullivan's Tartan Skirt
So whether you are an upcoming participant in the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in July, a fan of the Outlander television series, or just a lover of tartan prints show your Spartan pride with the UNCG Official Tartan.

1. Beach, Kathryn., “The Highland Scots,” NCPEDIA, 2006.https://www.ncpedia.org/highland-scots
2. Tartan Certificate, UA 100-0608, Artifact Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina Greensboro.
3. Withers, Lanita, “Begorra, It’s a Custom Spartan Tartan For UNCG the Specially Created Tartan Features a Blue and Gold Plaid.” Greensboro News & Record, February 11, 2005. https://www.greensboro.com/begorra-it-s-a-custom-spartan-tartan-for-uncg-the/article_73cc0d7d-e08b-544c-8bb9-f457b5a82272.html
4. UNCG Spartan Tartan Blanket, UA 107-0164, Textile Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina Greensboro.
5. Patricia Sullivan’s Pleated Tartan Skirt, UA 107-0155,  Textile Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina Greensboro..

Monday, April 22, 2019

Bring Back the Double Beds! Alumni Response to the Formation of the Gay Student Union

The initial meeting of UNC Greensboro’s first LGBTQ+ student group, the Gay Student Union, occurred in September 25, 1979, but the first meeting as a university-recognized organization occurred one month later, on October 25th.(2) Immediately after the front page announcement for the Gay Student Union in The Carolinian was published, letters began coming into university administration from disgruntled alumni. The tone of all letters preserved in university records is negative, perceiving campus administration as encouraging the practice of homosexuality by allowing a student group:

I write in protest the use of facilities of a tax-supported university by such an organization as that reported in The Carolinian excerpt. I also protest the official status given the organization by the administration, the participation by a faculty member as “faculty adviser,” and any other activity by which the administration or faculty may be encouraging homosexual activity among university students or others at the university.”(3)

Various arguments were written against the permitting of the formation of the Gay Student Union, some more coherent than others. There were two prominent themes among the letters. The first is that homosexuality is a perversion leading to the collapse of civilization:

Oh, yes, homosexuality is chic now in many parts of our land. It has always become fashionable in every nation turned decadent -- thus preferring ‘gay’ irresponsible sterility to the sober source of its strength -- the family and the home.”(4)

The second argument is that by joining the Gay Student Union, young people would be stunting their maturity(5), and if the students isolated themselves, they would never be able to adapt to living in heterosexual society:

The point that I am making, and I think it is incontrovertable [writer’s spelling] is that, if they separate themselves from the rest of the college community into a ‘gay’ organization they will have tremendously difficult time changing to the ‘straight’ community if they should wish to do so later. The idea is that a college should open doors, not close them. I know that when I went to N.C.C.W. then a woman’s college, many girl’s had crushes. They ran their course and were usually over before the senior year. Many, many young people do have a terrific orientation of affection to someone of the same sex during these years. I think that a great many of the girls who had ‘crushes’ then would have joined such an organization if it had existed at the time [space added] Later, with his or her picture appearing as ‘Treasurer of the ‘Gay’ organization or becoming known as a faithful attendant of its meetings and social events, the person would be pigeonholed and freedom of choice la ter [space original to letter] on made extremely difficult.”(6)

Although the letters were addressed to different individual(7), James H. Allen (Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs) was the person who responded to the letters. The same reply was used for all of the letters, emphasizing that UNC Greensboro as an institution,

“... has always sought to maintain an open atmosphere in which various ideas and movements which are influencing our society may be carefully studied and discussed in the belief that knowledge and understanding provide the surest foundation upon which we may build a stable society.”(8)

Allen continued to write that the Gay Student Union met the same requirements of any official student organization, and that aside from the university recognizing the organization, the only resources allocated to the Gay Student Union by the school was a place to meet and that their activities could be listed on the university’s calendar. The letters end by citing several federal court cases in which LGBTQ student organizations won suits against universities for withholding official group status.

It should be noted that most of the people writing in complaint were alumna from the 1920s. Through most of their lives, homosexuality was a mental disorder. Theirs is not a surprising response to the formation of a LGBTQ student organization, nor would their written protest be the worse dissent with which the LGBTQ students of UNCG would contend.


1. "Bring Back the Double Beds" the phrase refers to how students would sleep two to a bed when the campus first opened in 1892. Students could pay $4 extra to have their own bed. After the campus Typhoid Epidemic in 1899, students were assigned their own single beds due to health regulation.
2. "Corrections," The Carolinian, Nov. 6, 1979, UA42.4.01, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
3. Mattie Erma Parker, Letter to Dr. William C. Friday, Nov. 12, 1979, MS. PRIDE!, Student Organizations, UA 51.27, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives and Manuscripts, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
4. Katherine G. Rogers, Letter to Trudy Walton Atkins, Feb. 1, 1980, MS. PRIDE!, Student Organizations, UA 51.27, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives and Manuscripts, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
6. Julia Blauvelt Crum, Letter to Dr. James H. Allen, Jan. 20, 1980, MS. PRIDE!, Student Organizations, UA 51.27, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives and Manuscripts, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
7. Letters were sent to James H. Allen, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UNCG, William Friday, President of the UNC System, as well as editors of the UNCG Alumni News and the Greensboro News and Record.
8. James H. Allen, Letter to Julia Blauvelt Crum, Feb. 13, 1980, MS. PRIDE!, Student Organizations, UA 51.27, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives and Manuscripts, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Counseling for the “Crush,” Key L. Barkley and Early Lesbian Students

Oral histories conducted with early UNC Greensboro campus faculty provide rare glimpses into the lives of LGBTQ students, if only illustrating the population’s need to remain hidden for survival. An interview with Professor Key L. Barkley(1) reveals that early students were having lesbian encounters. Barkley (1900- 2001) was a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at the Woman’s College (now UNC Greensboro) from 1931 to 1949. Students would seek counseling from him because there was no office on campus where students could unburden themselves by discussing significant life events with any assurance of confidentiality. Barkley was hired as teaching faculty, not clinical faculty(2), but at the time of Barkley’s hiring there were no professionally trained mental health professionals on campus. Eventually, he would successfully petition for a professional psychiatrist position.

Students occasionally would seek guidance from Barkley about lesbian encounters with other students. Openly admitting to a lesbian experience or identifying as a lesbian on campus was dangerous. It is known that students were aware that homosexuality by some definition existed, but had no campus support they could trust to understand their personal experiences in context. As a psychological disorder(3), homosexual behavior could be used as pretext to expel a student as suffering from a mental disorder that could not be treated by campus medical staff. Barkley, before the hiring of a campus psychiatrist, was the closest to a mental health care professional bound by patient-doctor confidentiality available on campus, and students trusted him for his expertise and discretion.

Word spread that Barkley was providing counseling to students, and the Dean of Women(4) interrogated him. To her horror, Barkley admitted that some students were seeking counseling from him about their lesbian encounters. The Dean reported this information to Chancellor Walter Clinton Jackson. Jackson demanded that Barkley cease counseling the students, stating, "Why, young girls ought not to be talking to young men about this sort of thing."(5)  Barkley told Jackson that he refused to turn away a student coming to speak to him in need. After Barkley’s interaction with the chancellor, he was pressured by the Dean and his department head to seek a position elsewhere, which he would in 1949.

Barkley, as a professional, never divulged the secrets of the students who sought his advice, but in his oral history from 1991, he did offer his generalized opinion relating to lesbian experiences among students. In his own words,

… you had three or four thousand women shut up over there in a coop. They were sexual as the dickens, at a time when probably they were probably burning as highly as they'd ever burn in their lifetimes. And there they were, highly sexual people with no normal sexual outlets. So there grew up a practice on that campus, as well as many other places, on allowing women a great deal of leeway with respect to homosexual expression with respect to each other—hug each other, kiss each other, caress each other, and so on. Innocent as you please… I told them in my estimation that these girls here are not extensively homosexual in nature, although I had quite a number of episodes involving such. I said, ‘These girls here are not homosexual. They’re just simply sexual with no heterosexual opportunity for expression… I believe that if they just get a chance for them to have heterosexual expression, in most cases their homosexuality will go “poof.’’"(6)

It is interesting to observe that Barkley’s description of the students’ sexual development reflects the model found in the 1921 lecture notes. Throughout most of his career, Barkley taught and practiced with the perspective that homosexuality was an abnormally stagnated stage of sexuality interfering with an individual’s maturation into heterosexual adulthood. This standpoint would be central to whatever advice he conveyed to student. Additionally, for students who took classes with homosexuality discussed as a topic, this would have been possibly the intellectual viewpoint from which they would characterize same sex attraction. It is very likely that Barkley’s assessment was correct in that some of the students experienced lesbian encounters as opposed to dedicated lesbian relationships. What may never be known(7) is how many students would have remained or continued in lesbian relationships if a definition of homosexuality as a natural form of sexuality was accepted at this time.(8)    


1. Oral history interview with Key L. Barkley, 1991, UNCG Centennial Oral History Project, OH003, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA. 
2. Barkley did operate a private psychiatric practice when he was working at the University of Illinois.
3. The American Psychiatric Association did not remove homosexuality as a mental disorder from its diagnostic manual until 1973. The World Health Organization designated homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1992.
4. Harriet Elliott was most likely the Dean of Women at the Women’s College during this encounter (1935-1947), but Barkley does not provide the exact date of the event. 

5.Barkley was forty years old at the time.
6. Oral history interview with Key L. Barkley, 1991, UNCG Centennial Oral History Project, OH003, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
7. It is possible in the future that personal papers (diaries or letters) or oral histories of alumnae from this time period may offer evidence, but none have yet been found.
8. Max Hirschfeld, at the Institute for Human Sexuality in Berlin, had already accepted the normality of sexual variation in the modern sense from approximately the 1910s onward. See Elena Mancini, Magnus Hirschfeld and the Quest for Sexual Freedom; a History of the First Sexual Freedom Movement (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.


Monday, April 8, 2019

LGBTQ+ Topics in the Early College Curriculum

As any researcher of LGBTQ+ history is aware, tracking a hidden population through the historic record relies upon extracting a narrative from rare and frequently cryptic fragments of information. Even though UNC Greensboro began as a college for women with records dating to the school’s chartering in 1891, unearthing even a passing mention of a LGBTQ-related topic in the official records of the university in its earliest years constitutes a major discovery. The first mention of homosexuality found in the historical record of UNC Greensboro (at this time, the North Carolina College for Women) appears in lecture notes from the Department of Physical Education dating to 1921. The content of these notes is crucial not only as early evidence that some students were taught a vocabulary to describe homosexuality, but also in understanding the model of sexuality students would be applying to their own identities.

The lecture notes (1) present a then plausible developmental model of sexuality. It is maintained that from ages 1 to 10, humans exist in a state of bisexuality, described in the notes as “... curiosity age. A trying out, a seeking and testing of parts of the body.” Homosexuality, which is defined in the notes as “Auto eroticism, or love of self,” occurs between the ages of 10 to 22, after which an individual will fully mature into a state of heterosexuality. Homosexuality, as an abnormal state, occurs when that developmental stage is arrested by same sex sexual gratification during the homosexual stage, not allowing an individual to grow into a healthy, heterosexual adult.

The notes focus intensively on the concept of “The Crush” among young women, in which a younger, more submissive woman might be attracted to an older, more confidant woman. Although it is stated that “Love between people of the same sex may be very beautiful,” the lecture warns that the woman with the crush could be drawn into “a condition of submission” or “a condition of weak-willness.” As future educators, the NCCW students receiving this lecture were advised to sublimate the infatuation with someone of the same sex through involvement with social groups and community organizations. Essentially, if a teacher was to observe homosexual behavior that would arrest a young woman’s growth into heterosexuality, they were to redirect the woman’s energy and work it out of her. To reiterate that homosexuality is merely a transition state to heterosexuality, it is asserted that there is “no truly homosexual individual in the world.” (2) In any case, the abnormal state of homosexuality should not be encouraged because it “is immature, non-developing [and] non-constructive,” as “No new life can come from it.”

Homosexuality, then, was an abnormally arrested state of development, and therefore, an illness. Homosexuality was designated a psychological disorder until 1973, sequestering much of the official record of lesbian relationships on this campus among students to the security of student health records. Even before the health record protections of FERPA, student health records were among the most confidential records on campus, and were not transferred to the University Archives as part of the institution's record retention policy. In other words, the records with the potential to be the richest sources for LGBTQ+ history at a university are the most restricted.

In terms of non-medical institutional records and private records, documenting non-heterosexual relationships among students presented a significant danger to both the early institution and the students. It is unlikely a university at that time would retain records documenting instances of discovered homosexual relationships among students for fear of scandal and damage to the institution’s reputation if such records became public knowledge. Personal diaries and letters in which students describe same-sex relationships constituted a great risk for a student, as such material, if discovered, could lead to expulsion from school (and perhaps far more severe consequences at home). For students and administrators at a small women’s college in the Bible Belt, discretion in documenting matters of sexuality was paramount, which is why such little information exists on the LGBTQ history of UNC Greensboro in its early years.

1. The faculty teaching from the notes is not identified. Lecture Notes. Physical Education Department (prior to 1920-1963) Subject File, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives and Manuscripts, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.2. The underlined word is underlined in the original material.