Monday, October 24, 2016

“Ready for Teddy:” Theodore Roosevelt's 1912 Campus Visit

While campaigning for the 1912 presidential election, Theodore Roosevelt embarked on a 22-town whistle-stop tour of North Carolina, arriving in Greensboro on April 22nd. Roosevelt’s exuberant and charismatic personality made him a natural campaigner, and he toured the country widely.

The Greensboro stop came only two months after he decided to "throw his hat into the ring" for the 1912 election. Roosevelt served as the 26th President of the United States, from 1901 to 1909, but opted not to run for another term. Instead, he groomed his close friend William Howard Taft to follow him in 1908. Yet after Taft won the presidency, Roosevelt became increasing frustrated by his conservative policies. He decided to challenge the incumbent for the Republican nomination during the 1912 presidential election cycle. Loosing the nomination to Taft, Roosevelt ultimately ran on the Progressive, or “Bull Moose,” Party ticket. His third-party candidacy split the Republican Party, allowing the Democrats to win both the presidency and Congress.

Theodore Roosevelt in Front of the Students' Building with State Normal President Julius Foust

But on this rainy April morning, Roosevelt was still a hopeful presidential candidate. Although his train was not scheduled to reach Greensboro until 2 o’clock, a crowd had begun to gather. As if on cue, when the train arrived at the station the rain stopped and by the time he began to speak, the sun was out. Addressing an audience of over 5,000 men and women, Roosevelt made a brief speech before traveling by car to the State Normal and Industrial College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro). In anticipation of his visit, 700 students donned their best white dresses and waited patiently in the auditorium of the Students’ Building. On his arrival, “Colonel Roosevelt” was introduced by his campaign manager, John Dixon. Perhaps a bit overwhelmed by his female audience, Roosevelt immediately stated, “I always had very great difficulty in speaking to young ladies.”

Theodore Roosevelt on a Later Whistle-Stop Tour to Greensboro, 1912*

Not surprisingly, he chose to talk about women’s education. Roosevelt praised the college for not only offering a teaching curriculum, but also business classes. Predicting that education would undergo significant changes during the next fifty years, he stressed the value of practical as well as cultural coursework for both young men and women. Typical of his pragmatic nature, Roosevelt believed that the goal was to be more efficient and “more fit to do the actual work of life.” Yet he also emphasized the importance of scholarship. An ardent naturalist, he specifically used the dogwood tree to make his point. Recounting his trip through North Carolina, he described the mountains as being “aflame with dogwood blossoms.” He counseled the students to appreciate nature and when possible, to put this appreciation “vividly and truthfully on paper, in books, and in magazines.” Before he departed, Roosevelt encouraged the young women to take advantage of their great educational opportunities, reminding them, “To you much has been given, and from you much will be expected.”

Students' Building at the State Normal and Industrial College

Roosevelt's choice to visit the State Normal was an interesting one, since his audience was not comprised of voters. It would not be until the 1920 election, following the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919, that women could actually cast a ballot for a United States president. But on the afternoon of April 22, 1912, Roosevelt captivated his audience with talk of women’s education, the importance of scholarship, and dogwood blossoms.

*Image courtesy of Greensboro Historical Museum

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sports at State Normal

While competitive athletics are a major part of campus life at UNCG today, early students had to fight for their right to play ball. From its founding, the school (known at the time as the State Normal) emphasized physical activity and personal health. Curriculum in the first year of the school’s existence (1892-1893) included the Department of Physiology and Heath, which had two objectives: instruction in hygiene and an individualized program of exercise. A course in Physical Culture was actually required of all students. The work included gymnastics, calisthenics, and other exercises that were meant to promote the student’s general health and strength. 

Letter from a student to President McIver asking permission
to start a campus Athletic Association, 1898
Students, however, wanted opportunities for athletic competition, not just physical activity. The graduating class of 1900 convinced school president Charles Duncan McIver of the need for a campus Athletic Association and purposefully-built athletic grounds. The campus Athletic Association was formally established in 1900 (15 years before the students established their own student government). By 1902, it had adopted the motto “Athletics and active college work go hand in hand.” In a space that is now the site of the Petty Science Building, the women of the Athletic Association cleared and prepared playing grounds, marked the fields, and installed nets on four tennis courts and basketball goals.

The early Athletic Association, however, was purely intramural, with sponsored tournaments between the freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior classes. As a student noted, “We were taught very strongly the evils that would come from interscholastic sports. This emphasis on winning at any cost was the worst.”

But, in spite of potential evils, a “College Team” was created in 1905 to bring together the best athletes regardless of class. That team, however, didn’t play outside of campus until 1907. Then, they traveled across town for basketball and tennis match-ups against teams from the Greensboro Female College (now Greensboro College). According to the student newspaper, “Fine playing was done by both teams … [but] both the games of Basket Ball and of Tennis resulted in victories for our teams.” This, however, was a one-time event.

Freshman hockey team, 1913
For the most part, team sports were limited to on-campus competitions between the classes. And the Athletic Association led the way in sponsoring these activities. By 1914, the group offered events in basketball, tennis, field hockey, baseball, cricket, golf, camping, and gymnastics. They also sponsored May Day, Field Day, and various sports tournaments throughout the year. Through their dedication and persistence, the women of the Athletic Association ensured that athletics would be a strong component of their college life.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bringing a Little of Paris to Petty

Do you know of a prominent UNC Greensboro campus structure that incorporates features from a Parisian landmark into its overall design and function? Any ideas? Hint—think of a structure that connects to College Avenue. Still not sure? Take a look at the ninety-five foot bridge that links the Petty Building with the College Avenue pedestrian walkway. The bridge, completed in 2007, is a replica of the Pont des Arts that spans the Seine River in Paris.

Design for 2007 Bridge
The Petty Building (known at the time as the Science Building) was opened to students in 1940. Facing a growth in programs and students, this Public Works Administration-funded building was designed to meet the needs of the College’s Chemistry, Biology, and Physics departments. The building also contained dark rooms for the Photography Department and x-ray equipment for the X-Ray Department, as well as space for animals that were used in experiments. A wing was added to the original structure in 1952. In 1960, the building was named in honor of Mary Petty head of the Chemistry Department from 1893 to 1934.

Science Building, ca. 1959

In 2006, UNC Greensboro embarked on a $15.4 million dollar renovation project of the Petty Building. The primary focus of the project was to renovate the building’s electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems. Besides upgrading key systems, the project also sought to convert the science building to classrooms and offices for the departments of Physics and Astronomy, Mathematics and Statistics, and Computer Science.

During the planning phase of the project, members of UNCG’s Facilities, Design, and Construction Department and architect Jody Peer (Jenkins-Peer Architects) considered different options to improve access to the nearly 70 year old building. The design team struggled with the fact that the building stands ten feet below the road grade of College Avenue. Additionally, access to the building’s main entrance required walking up one of the two matching curved staircases. The planner’s dilemma was how to maintain the original neo-Classical features of the building while providing special needs access for students, faculty, and visitors. During one of the design team’s brain-storming sessions, Jody Peer showed the group a photo that he had taken of a pedestrian bridge that he had seen in Paris. After a review of some sketches, the design team embraced this creative and visually striking solution.

Pont des Arts

Between World War One and World War Two, the University experienced a massive building boom. A great deal of the expansion occurred along College Avenue and Spring Garden Street. By the late 1930s, space along College Avenue was filling up with dorms, administrative offices, and classrooms. One of the remaining open spaces was the school’s athletic fields, which were designed for both the College and the Curry Training (Practice School). The actual playing fields were surrounded by earthen berms that served as open air seating. Visitors could sit and view student teams compete against each other. After selecting this space for the new science building, the College inexplicably decided not to raise the overall level of the building site to meet College Avenue. While other school building were built at the level of College Avenue, this building’s first floor would be constructed well below the level of the roadway. As a result, students were forced to walk down a flight of stairs from College Avenue to access this new building.

During the fall 2007 term, workers prepared the ground for the new bridge that would connect College Avenue and the renovated Petty Building. Huge steel tresses to support the bridge’s walkway were lifted into place by a crane. Unlike its Parisian cousin, the “deck” of the UNC Greensboro bridge would not be made of wood, but instead it would be constructed of translucent glazed glass bricks. Below the walkway, lights were installed pointing up towards the under-belly of the bridge. At night, these lights shine up towards the glass pathway and create a wondrous glow.
You might be wondering why a nineteenth-century French bridge was selected over other bridge designs. It seems to have been driven by functionality and elegance of design. The Pont des Arts was the first metal bridge to be installed in Paris. This 1804 pedestrian bridge links the Institut de France and the Palais du Louvre. Unlike the heavy Paris stone bridges that span the Seine River, this metal bridge exudes a lightness and simplicity. For many visitors to the city, it is a quiet sanctuary from the bustle of traffic and a wonderful spot for expansive views of the city. Interestingly, around the time of the installation of the UNC Greensboro bridge in 2007, Parisians began to see tourists attaching padlocks to the railings and side grates of the Pont des Arts and throwing the lock’s key into the river. The locks had the names of each couple written or engraved on them. This new “tradition” was to represent a couple’s committed love. By 2015, the city of Paris citing safety concerns began to remove the estimated one million locks from the bridge.

Locks Attached to the Pont des Arts

Monday, October 3, 2016

The W.C. Informer: Read, Think, and Act!

"This is a personal letter to every Woman's College student. The Informer has talked to you before about action: it isn't enough to read and think. We must act. You have written you congressmen. You have spoken as a citizen. Here is your chance to get other citizens to act with you ...

"Soon you yourself will be able to vote. And you will be able to influence your family to vote, to exercise their duty as citizens in a democracy. Do you know how to go about exercising that privilege? By distributing this information, you will acquaint yourself as well as others with the procedure of voting. It has been said that the youth of today is the last home for a peaceful world today and tomorrow. We have been talking too much and sitting in our ivory tower too long. Here is something concrete and immediate that all of us can tackle."

Political cartoon in issue #4 of the W.C. Informer
This statement -- typed in all capital letters -- was distributed by the students who produced the W.C. Informer in the Spring 1946 semester. The W.C. Informer, a newsletter published between March and May of 1946, was created and distributed by the Woman's College chapter of the Committee for North Carolina, a progressive organization affiliated with the Southern Conference for Human Welfare.

Founded in 1938, the Southern Conference for Human Welfare (SCHW) was an organization based in Birmingham, Alabama that "tried to bring long-overdue New Deal-inspired reforms to the South" (for more, see the SCHW entry in the Encyclopedia of Alabama). Meetings of the SCHW included both white and African American Southerners and focused largely on issues such as labor relations, education, and civil and constitutional rights. Many of its stances, however, led to accusations of communism and communist sympathies, and, in 1948, the organization disbanded due to internal schisms over whether to support Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace or Democratic nominee Harry S. Truman in the presidential election.

The W.C. Informer published only 11 issues of its newsletter, but these issues highlight many of the topics of concern to progressives in the South during this time period. The second issue highlights the organization's chief political concerns: "fair employment practices, extension of Social Security, wider education - higher standards, equal suffrage rights for all citizens, a statewide health program, higher minimum wages, better living standards, federal and state aid to agriculture."

Issue #5 includes a piece about an African American military veteran in Columbia, Tennessee, who was assaulted by "a white man over an insult to the veteran's mother" and then arrested. The piece tells the story of the aftermath of "an armed mob of 50 to 75 whites [who] stormed the jail on a lynching party." The piece concludes as many of the W.C. Informer pieces do -- with a call to action. "Citizens of Woman's College! Can we afford to let this happen in America? The tragedy in Tennessee must not be shrugged off! Civil rights of American citizens have been violated! Write the Attorney General demanding an investigation."

While the issues were not necessarily published anonymously (it was made clear that the publication was affiliated with the W.C. chapter of the Committee for North Carolina), it was not until issue #6 that the names of the editors were included in the publication. This issue notes that they had "been asked to publish the named of the editors of the W.C.I. formerly revealed in the Cary [referring to The Carolinian student newspaper]." Those listed as editors include "Nancy Siff, Marjean Perry, Lyn Brown, Gracia Broadbooks, Edda Mae Trostler, [and] Nina van Dam." Most were members of the Class of 1947 or the Class of 1948.

Masthead of issue #8, featuring the tagline "Read, think and act!"
The recurring tagline for most of the W.C. Informer issues is "Read, Think, and Act!" This is a mindset that the student activists who produced the newsletters tried to encourage. Issue #6 stated, "The main purpose of the W.C.I. is to present the facts which would arouse student interest and activity in world affairs, whether the specific opinions of the editors are agreed with or not." Through their publication of the W.C. Informer, these students actively worked to engage their classmates in discussion of these important world-wide topics.

***The 11 issues of the W.C. Informer have all been scanned and are available online.***
***The deadline for registration to vote in North Carolina in the November 2016 election is October 14th. For more information on how to register to vote in North Carolina, please see the State Board of Elections website.***

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Liberty Ship, S.S. Charles D. McIver

On May 23, 1943, the North Carolina Ship Building Company, located in Wilmington, North Carolina, launched its 100th Liberty Ship, the S.S. Charles D. McIver. As founder and first president of the State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro), and a fierce advocate of public education for women, McIver was a natural choice for a commemorative Liberty Ship. He was one of several North Carolina educators to have this honor. Initially named after notable deceased Americans, the ships names’ eventually included men and women, of all ranks, who were lost in the war. Naming opportunities came to those who raised two million dollars in war bonds.

The S.S. Charles Duncan McIver, 1943*

On the day that the S.S. Charles D. McIver was launched, high-ranking representatives of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, along with local dignitaries, gathered for the festivities in Wilmington, which was broadcasted on the radio. The shipyard band played as the newly christened ship slipped into the water. For glamor, Hollywood actress Constance Bennett was in attendance to present the shipyard with an award for its exceptional purchases of war bonds. Launching its first Liberty Ship only hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Wilmington shipyard was considered one of the best producers of these types of ships in the United States. The yard boasted over 20,000 employees and the ability to deliver up to ten ships per month.

Actress Constance Bennett attends the launching ceremony at the Wilmington Shipyard, May 25, 1943**

Based on a British design, Liberty Ships were basic cargo vessels built by the United States Maritime Commission during World War II. The first of these “Emergency Cargo” ships was launched on September 27, 1941, with President Franklin Roosevelt in attendance. Named the S.S. Patrick Henry, who is well remembered for his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, the president expected these ships to bring liberty to Europe and they were dubbed accordingly. Liberty Ships were meant to be quickly and economically mass-produced, with parts manufactured throughout the country and then assembled at shipyards on the east and west coasts, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Eighteen shipyards built over 2700 ships during the years between 1941 and 1945. Considered the “ugly ducklings” of the naval fleet, the Liberty Ships averaged 441 feet long with a crew of forty-four, holding almost 10,000 tons of cargo in addition to tanks, planes, and ammunition. Built to last only through the war, many of these ships survived, with over 800 incorporated into the United States cargo fleet, and others sold to Italy and Greece. Several ships continued to serve into the 1970s, and currently, two are used as museums. Sadly, the S.S. Charles D. McIver did not fare as well. On March 22, 1945, it sank after striking a mine as it left Antwerp, Belgium. A full rescue was made by a British motor minesweeper and a motor torpedo boat, which rescued the Merchant Marine crew and the armed guard also on board. The S.S. Charles D. McIver was later written off as a total loss.

*Image from the Charles D. McIver (Liberty Ship) subject file
** Image from The North Carolina Shipbuilder, June 1, 1943

Monday, September 19, 2016

Desegregating WC: Tillman, Smart, and the Long Road to Integration

This Fall semester marks the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of the student body at the Woman's College (now UNCG). In the previous two weeks, we explored previous issues related to integrating campus facilities and services. Classes in Fall 1956 began on September 20th, and this week we will look at the debates over desegregation at Woman's College and in the UNC Consolidated University. 

On September 20, 1956 -- 60 years ago this week -- Fall semester classes began at Woman's College (now UNCG). And for the first time in its history, the WC student body included two African American women. JoAnne Smart and Bettye Ann Davis Tillman enrolled in the Fall of 1956 as freshmen at WC, becoming trailblazers in the desegregation of the WC campus. Both graduated with the Class of 1960.

Bettye Ann Davis Tillman
Bettye Ann Davis Tillman was a 19-year-old student from Wadesboro, NC. She graduated from the Anson County Training School, a segregated school aimed at providing education for rural African Americans. Tillman was voted "most likely to succeed" by her classmates and graduated as salutatorian of her class.

JoAnne Smart of Raleigh entered WC as a 17-year-old. She was president of her class at the segregated J. W. Ligon School, where she was also a cheerleader and member of the glee club. More on JoAnne Smart (later, Drane) and her experience as a student at WC can be found in this earlier Spartan Stories post.

School officials noted in articles released to media outlets that Tillman and Smart were two of seven African American women who applied for admission to WC. Two applicants did not complete their application in full, and three others "failed to meet scholastic requirements."

The road to desegregation of the WC campus was not a smooth one. Starting in 1950, public discourse on segregation practices became more common. On the WC campus, a number of faculty members were quite active in encouraging desegregation – of the school and of local businesses. Warren Ashby, a philosophy professor, publicly endorsed school desegregation in a letter to the Greensboro Daily News and led a faculty council resolutions supporting the desegregation of UNC campuses in 1955. He also organized a group of faculty members who regularly met for lunch at the YMCA with faculty members from A&T. WC student leaders also spoke out against segregation, with The Carolinian in 1952 proclaiming segregation to be “legally, morally, and practically wrong.”

Bettye Ann Davis Tillman and JoAnne Smart, 1956
In 1951, the Supreme Court ruled that white professional schools had to admit African American students if there was not a comparable segregated black school. Under a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals, three African American men were granted admission to UNC’s School of Law in 1951.

The UNC Consolidated University -- which then consisted of UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and WC -- fought against desegregation of the undergraduate colleges, and it would take lengthy court battles to win African American students access to North Carolina’s predominantly white universities. In 1951, NC State’s Chancellor Harrelson sent a letter detailing instructions for processing the applications of African American students to all of the college’s deans. He noted that while students applying for programs that were not available at historically black colleges had to be considered regardless of their race, African Americans students would not be accepted if they could attend a program at a segregated college.

In a unanimous 1954 decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, the U.S Supreme Court declared that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” But, this case failed to immediately bring about the admission of African Americans to undergraduate programs in North Carolina because higher education was not specifically discussed in the case. In fact, in early 1955, the year after the Brown decision was made and after a number of applications from potential African American students had been received, the Consolidated University System’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution affirming that all three institutions would not accept African American undergraduate students.

JoAnne Smart's letter of acceptance to WC, 1956
In a response to questions from UNC President Gordon Gray, NCSU Chancellor Carey Bostian drafted a form letter, which could be sent to any African American applicant to the UNC schools denying them admission solely on the basis of race. It stated that “The Board of Trustees of the Consolidated University of North Carolina has decided that applications of Negros to the undergraduate schools at the three branches of the Consolidated University will not be accepted. We trust that you will be able to pursue your education at another college."

On September 16, 1955, however, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of three African American men from Durham who had filed a lawsuit against the UNC Board of Trustees after being denied admission to the undergraduate program in Chapel Hill. They enrolled in 1955. Both NCSU and WC first admitted African American students in Fall 1956.

In discussing why she chose to attend Woman's College, JoAnne Smart Drane noted, "once I was aware of Brown v. Board of Education, it just seemed to offer a lot of hope for doing things that had not been done previously. And so I realized that this was an opportunity that could be had. So why not pursue it?" She recognized that she had an opportunity due to others who had gone before and fought against the leadership. When asked if she considered herself a trailblazer, she responded, "only in the sense that the opportunity to do what I did could have been done by so many others before me. But those doors were closed, and they did not have the same opportunity ... If they had the same privilege, [they] could have gone through the same doors and done even more."

Monday, September 12, 2016

African Americans and WC Library Use Prior to Desegregation

This Fall semester marks the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of the student body at the Woman's College (now UNCG). Classes in Fall 1956 began on September 20th, and next week we will look at the debates over integration and the process of desegregating the student body. But this week, we are re-sharing a post from 2014 that will help provide context for next week's post. 

In February 1951, UNC System Trustee (and vocal segregationist) John W. Clark contacted Woman’s College Chancellor Edward Kidder Graham to inquire about faculty members’ support of integration and college policies regarding campus facilities and resources. In investigating Clark’s questions, Graham found that the Library (which had just moved in to its new building) allowed limited use by African-American students from neighboring colleges, and that Librarian Charles Adams had recently conducted an internal discussion with his staff regarding use of the Library by African Americans.
Entrance to the newly-constructed library, 1951

Adams’s library was relatively open to African Americans – both students and faculty at neighboring colleges and select community members. Full access to the public catalog as well as use of books from the closed stacks (via call slip), from the open shelves in the reference and periodical rooms, or through interlibrary loan was permitted. Visiting African-American librarians from neighboring colleges and students in the Library Training program at Bennett College were given full tours of the Library facilities. Reference services were “given liberally on request and considerable effort has been made to help them graciously and fully in locating material for their study or research.” Only the reserve reading room, which housed required reading for WC students, was not open to use by the African-American visitors.

After a face-to-face meeting with Adams regarding library policy in early April 1951, Graham wrote a tense letter outlining what he saw as the leading issues related to the use of Library resources by African Americans and chastising the librarian for his decisions to construct and apply Library policy without first consulting the chancellor. Graham argued that it was Adams’ responsibility to bring this matter to his attention before creating an internal policy, stating that “any procedure or practice, or any policy question, bearing on the use of College facilities by Negroes should be brought to my attention.” He added that any policies relating to use of College facilities must conform to Trustee regulations (which required segregated facilities), and that, because Adams did not involve him in the discussion regarding use policy sooner, “we now find ourselves in an unhappy position.”

WC Chancellor Edward Kidder Graham
Graham sought a formal policy specifically restricting African-American use of the library facilities. Adams, however, notably avoided a creating a policy that limited access based on race, choosing instead to develop a policy that more uniformly limited library access for all non-WC college students. Adams insured that use of the WC Library by non-WC students would continue, but only with a new requirement in place. All students from outside of the Woman’s College would now be required to present a letter of introduction or a card of identification from their home institution’s library.

While these new restrictions satisfied Chancellor Graham, Trustee Clark continued his assault on WC. In February 1952, he once again argued against use of the Library by African Americans, proposing a movement “that the Woman’s College Library be reserved for the students for whom it was built, and that if the Negro students do not have a sufficient library, one be built for them.” Trustee Laura Cone, a graduate of WC, pointed out the existing policy that required all non-WC students to present documentation from his or her own college librarian stating the student’s research needs. But, the remaining Trustees voted to refer the issue to the Executive Committee (which no longer included Clark) and request a full report at their meeting on April 19.

Adams once again avoided producing a policy with constraints solely based on race. His March 1952 policy statement specifically targeted “the use of Library materials by non-college persons” – never specifically placing restrictions on use by African Americans, students or non-students. Instead, it required all people who are not WC students or alumnae to present clear evidence of their need for the use of the WC Library. As noted in Adams letter from the previous summer, the policy required students from other colleges in Greensboro to “present a card or letter from their librarian requesting books or services not available at their institution.” Unlike the policies at State College and Chapel Hill, the WC policy allowed non-WC students – regardless of race – to borrow books as long as they provided the required letter of need from their home institution.

WC Librarian Charles Adams
On May 12, 1952, Graham took the finalized policy for use of the library by non-WC students to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. His report, along with reports provided by his counterparts at State College and UNC Chapel Hill, was presented by President Gray. Trustee Laura Cone made the initial motion to close the investigations, stating that “the Executive Committee is satisfied that the use of the library by Negroes is properly restricted and conducted at the three institutions.” With that, the major discussion of the issue at the Board level was resolved. Restrictions against library use by non-WC students were formally and firmly in place, but were to be equally applied to all non-WC students, regardless of the patron’s race.

The debate over African-American use of Woman’s College resources touched upon many key topics prevalent in North Carolina in the 1950s. While administrators of the Consolidated System fought against desegregation and the forced admission of African-American students to the University campus in Chapel Hill in 1951, Charles Adams and the librarians of the Woman’s College stepped forward to commit to access to information and Library resources, regardless of the color of the patron’s skin.