Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy Holidays!

The staff of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives wishes everyone a happy holiday season! We're taking a break this week, but please join us on Monday, January 9th for a new Spartan Story.

Woman's College student Mary Frances Thompson dressed as Santa, 1960

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Rise of Campus Dramatics (Part I): The State County Fair

Dramatics was an important part of early campus life at the State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro). Plays and skits were not only a creative outlet for the students, but also an ideal way for classmates from across the state to get to know each other better. In addition to obvious social benefits, the earliest campus productions drew attention to the new school during a time when the North Carolina Legislature was making important appropriation decisions for the state’s colleges. The first State County Fair was held on November 30, 1894, as part of a Legislature’s Education Committee visit to assess State Normal’s buildings, grounds, and administrative management.

The "Bevy of Sailor Girls" from New Hanover County, 1894

The College’s president, Charles Duncan McIver, appointed four students to plan the auspicious event. The program included State Normal students entertaining the Committee and the general public with a rendering of the state song and a competition to present the most creative skit featuring significant local products and notable historic figures from the girls’ home counties. The event took place in the auditorium, or “chapel,” of the Main Building (now the Foust Building), and included elaborate costumes and props, as well as cleverly titled banners. The skits varied greatly in size, depending on how many students were from a certain county. A particularly large group from Yadkin County incorporated corn shucks and a large bottle with a banner reading, “Yadkin furnishes corn in all its forms.” Particularly singled out were the “bevy of sailor girls” from New Hanover County who who sang a rollicking version of “A Sailor’s Wife a Sailor’s Star Should Be.” Only one “plucky” girl represented Greene County, but she did so with great flair, wearing a garland of corn and holding a squealing piglet on her back. It’s hard to imagine that the piglet, as well as her banner which read, “hog and hominy,” did not push her into the winner’s circle. Yet, the victorious county was Rockingham, which represented a cradle holding a sugar-cured ham and students carrying shields representing four governors from that area of the state. Their banner declared, “Nursery of Our Governors.” For winning the day, the Rockingham girls were awarded the Grand Prize of a framed picture of Pilot Mountain. The event was a notable success and hailed as “one of the most unique entertainments ever given in the state.” Afterwards, the girls were feted with oysters and hot chocolate.

"Nursery of Our Governors," the Rockingham County Entry, 1894

When the Education Committee returned to the campus in February of 1897, McIver chose to feature the State County Fair event again. This time he requested that the Elocution Department plan the activities for the important occasion. The program began with a costumed student chorus representing the three departments of the school - Business, Domestic Science, and Pedagogy. Subsequently, there was a presentation of the counties. The Mecklenburg County offering, which represented students dressed as hornets, was very well received. But, the high point of the pageant was a mock legislative session presented by thirty-five State Normal students, during which the College’s appropriation budget was increased by $100,000. The 1897 State County Fair also stands out for being the year that students from Durham allegedly sewed cigarettes into their costumes, which they promptly smoked after the event and consequently were severely reprimanded by the faculty. Whether this is a true story or only a rumor, it remains part of the unofficial college lore.

The Mecklenburg Hornets, 1897
By the time the Committee visited again in February 1899, the student productions had taken on a more political theme, most likely due to the Spanish-American War. The “tableaux vivants” included representations of “E Pluribus Unum – American Types,” “Way Down Yonder in Dixie,” and “Justice.” Also featured was a scene symbolizing the “School of Education,” in which Uncle Sam played by E. J. Forney, the College’s treasurer and professor of business, gave the Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Cuba instruction in self-government. This was a common theme after the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, and reflected political cartoons of the day, which showed Uncle Sam attempting to teach a new class of unruly American territories. The production was met with “deafening applause,” and considered a rousing success. The presentation ended with a “tableau vivant” of the Great Seal of North Carolina surrounded by representatives of all of the counties singing “The Old North State.” Although these early State County Fairs were very obvious attempts by President McIver to sway the State Legislature, dramatic activities on campus continued to grow in popularity and increasingly came under the direction of the school’s Literary Societies.

The next installment of “Campus Dramatics” will feature early Literary Society productions, the establishment of the school’s Dramatic Club, and pageants staged as part of the campus mobilization efforts for World War I.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Chancellor Jackson Retires in Style

When Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson stepped into the role of Chancellor of the Woman's College (now UNCG) in 1934 he had big shoes to fill.   Dr. McIver had built the State Normal & Industrial School from the ground up and President Foust had kept it growing and expanding after McIver's death, but Dr. Jackson brought with him a strong belief in the importance of education that would serve him well in his new position with the college.
Dr. Jackson, undated
Dr. Jackson was born and raised on a cotton farm near Hayston, Georgia.  His mother was a big proponent of education and encouraged her son to pursue an advanced degree.  He entered Mercer University at the age of 16, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in 1900.  He taught in public schools in both Georgia and North Carolina before coming to Greensboro in 1905 to serve as the Principal of Greensboro High School (Now Grimsley High School).

In 1909, Dr. Jackson joined the faculty of State Normal as a professor in History.  He was a popular teacher and students flocked to take his course on "Representative Americans."  In fact, so many students took this class that chairs had to be brought in from other classroom to accommodate the size.  His passion for the history showed in his teaching and the past came alive for those he taught.  So much so, that one former student recalled a day "when his enactment of a duel brought forth from a girl, at whom he lunged his imaginary sword, a piercing and hysterical scream."

Throughout his years at State Normal (and then Woman's College), Dr. Jackson moved into new and in more responsible roles.  Shortly after coming to the college, he became head of the History Department.  From 1915-1921 he served as Dean of the College, before taking the newly created position of vice president in 1922.  He left Woman's college in 1932 to serve as the dean of the school of public administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but returned to Woman's College later that year to serve as the Dean of Administration after Dr. Foust retired.

Dr. Jackson had been groomed for the position and was the obvious choice as Dr. Foust's replacement. Dr. Frank Porter Graham, president of the consolidated university, said that Dr. Jackson was the unanimous choice of faculty, students, and alumnae.  Porter spoke with a number of people at the college, and finally conferred with Zeke, who had been at the school since the very beginning. Virginia Vanstory reported the encounter:
When Dr. Graham spoke to Zeke, the venerable staff member confessed that he had been praying over the matter.  
'With what results, Zeke?' Dr. Graham asked.
'Well, the Lord's on Mr. Jackson's side,' Zeke replied, and that, Dr. Graham felt made it unanimous. 
Over the sixteen years that Dr. Jackson served as chancellor, he saw the school through many changes, including including the expansion of the student body to more than double (2200 students) at his retirement in 1950.

Dr. Jackson was a well liked and well respected chancellor.  In his welcoming address to the Freshman class each year, he advised students to come by his office to see him, if only to say 'hello.'  And Freshman took him up on his offer, showing up at his door to report how happy they were with the college or how homesick they felt.

Perhaps the students love for Dr. Jackson was best expressed in the generous retirement gift that the alumnae presented him with, a brand new car!
Car presented to Dr. Jackson by the alumnae in May, 1950.
L to R: Jane Wharton Sockwell, Betty Brown Jester, Dr. Jackson, Jane Summerell, Laura Weil Cone

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

75 years ago: "Pearl Harbor Letter" from Ella

Part of the Women Veterans Historical Project collections, this letter was written by "Ella" to her family  on 13 December, 1941, six days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We don't know anything about Ella except from what we can infer from the letter itself. She was a nurse with either the Army Nurse Corps at Tripler Army Hospital or with the Navy Nurse Corps at Naval Hospital Pearl Harbor.

In her letter, Ella comments that her family "maybe would be looking for a letter" from her.  I do hope she had already let them know that she was not a casualty of the December 7th attack, rather than making them nervously await news for a week!

Ella types:

" Yes, it happened here; the thing that everyone in the country predicted - that is everyone but the people living in Hawaii. We sat her smugly satisfied that nothing could happen to Oahua - of course not; we were so well fortified - ? - Well, something went wrong somewhere, evidently. Honolulu was caught sleeping and a most terrible thing happened here last Sunday."

Ella recounts how she left her quiet morning shift at the hospital that day to attend 8 a.m. mass and that she was in church when the attack began. Ella then rushed back to the hospital and she relates the events there that day. She then discusses the differences in Honolulu now that the area was under martial law. 

Ella describes the how the hospital nurses "have rallied to the age-old call of service, and probably have the same spirit that prompted old Florence N[ightengale] to go to Crimea."

The letter ends with:

"We are all well and busy - it gives no time to think, so it is better that way. There is lots to do and Honolulu has quieted down to something one would never recognize, but we are all in this war. Things don't look any too cheerful, but we aren't going to let it get us down."

On this 75th anniversary of the "day that will live in infamy", the Women Veterans Historical Project salutes the service of military nurses.

You can read the entire letter below:

Monday, December 5, 2016

Chancellor Patricia A. Sullivan: Encoded in the DNA of UNCG

UNCG opened its doors in 1892 as a publicly-supported school for women from across North Carolina (and beyond) to receive a higher education. But it would not be until the 103rd year of the school's existence that a woman would serve as the university's highest-ranking administrator. On January 1, 1995, Dr. Patricia A. Sullivan officially became the 9th Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the first woman to hold the chief executive position on campus.

Patricia Sullivan was born in Staten Island, NY, and received degrees in biology from Notre Dame College of St. John's University (B.A., 1961) and New York University (M.S., 1964 and Ph.D., 1967). Her work experience included research positions with the National Institutes of Health as well as faculty positions at Wagner College, Wells College, Texas Woman's University, and Salem College. She also served as Dean of the College at Salem College from 1981 to 1987, and as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Texas Woman's University from 1987 until her hiring at UNCG.

During her time at UNCG, the campus underwent a number of major changes that helped it become the institution it is today. Under Sullivan's leadership, enrollment at UNCG reached an all-time high, while academic standards for admissions also increased. Enrollment of students from underrepresented communities also increased significantly during this time. As JoAnne Smart Drane, one of the first African American students to attend the school, noted in a tribute to Sullivan, "she valued the University's diversity as strength."

Sullivan also led a charge to move UNCG to its current classification as a Research University with High Research Activity. Funded research grew 180% during her years as chancellor, from $12.7 million to $36 million. Additionally, numerous doctoral programs were established during this time, including Ph.D. programs in nursing, geography, economics, information systems, special education, community health, communication sciences and disorders, history and medicinal biochemistry. UNCG also established partnerships with North Carolina A&T University to found both the Gateway University Research Park and the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

Not only did the academic landscape of UNCG change under Sullivan's leadership, but the physical landscape changed as well. Sullivan diligently advocated on behalf of the North Carolina Higher Education Improvement Bonds, which was the largest bond referendum for public education in United States history. Ultimately, the passage of the bond referendum provided $3.1 billion for construction at state universities and community colleges across North Carolina. UNCG received $166 million from the referendum for construction and renovations. The Science Building that would later be named in Sullivan's honor was constructed as a result of that referendum. Numerous other buildings - including the Brown Building, Forney Building, and the UNCG Auditorium - were also renovated and modernized.

Sullivan with former Chancellor Moran at moving of Chancellor's Residence
Through the bond referendum, successful fundraising campaigns, and other donations, approximately $500 million total in new construction and renovations were added during Sullivan's time as chancellor. In addition to the Science Building, the Gatewood Studio Arts Building, the Moore Humanities and Research Administration Building, and the Spring Garden Apartments residence hall were constructed during her tenure. Also, in a collaboration with Preservation North Carolina, the historic Chancellor's Residence was moved, renovated, and reopened as the Armfield-Preyer Admissions and Visitor Center.

On December 6, 2007, Chancellor Sullivan announced that she would retire, effective July 31, 2008. At the time, she was the most senior chancellor among the UNC System. In remarks to the UNCG Board of Trustees upon announcing her retirement, Sullivan noted, "as with any journey, each year during which I've served as chancellor has been marked by great strides and great successes. Many inspiring challenges and surprises. Times when my heart felt great pain from the tragedies we had to overcome. And times when my heart swelled with pride at the accomplishment of our people. It has been, after all, a very beautiful voyage ... and I shall always understand what UNCG means."

Following the Spring 2008 Board of Trustees meeting - her final meeting as chancellor - a ceremony was held in which the Science Building constructed with the bond referendum funds that she diligently worked for was renamed the Patricia A. Sullivan Science Building. Board of Trustees Chair Steve Hassenfelt noted, "I think we found a way to encode Pat Sullivan and her tremendous leadership into the DNA of UNCG for many years to come." During the ceremony, UNC President Erskine Bowles also presented Sullivan with The Old North State Award, which recognizes "dedication and service beyond expectation and excellence to the Great State of North Carolina."

At her retirement, Sullivan was also fighting a battle with pancreatic cancer. On the morning of August 20, 2009 after a two-year battle with the disease, she passed away at the age of 69. A campus-wide service was held in her memory on September 14, 2009, with remarks from numerous UNCG alumni, faculty, and administrators. As the following Chancellor Linda Brady remarked in closing the ceremony, "there is a void on our landscape. But it is just a physical void. Pat's engaging smile and encouraging spirit - her intellect and reason - is on every hallway, in every building - in each classroom, studio, and laboratory. It's in the Weatherspoon, the library, the Elliott Center, on the athletic courts and fields ... Her spirit lives on in the hearts of all of us who hold UNCG dear ... and who continue the commitment to advancing the University that she dearly loved."

Monday, November 28, 2016

The McIver House: Hospitality on Campus

In 1952, just sixty years after it was built, the McIver house was torn down to make room for new construction on campus.  Located on the corner of Spring Garden Street and College Avenue, the house held a central location on campus for more than half a century.
McIver House, c. 1900

Much of what we know about the McIver residence was recorded in several articles published by Woman's College graduate Virginia Terrell Lathrop (class of 1923) in the Carolinian, Greensboro Daily News, and Alumnae News.  Recently, SCUA archivists rediscovered her articles which contain interesting stories about the house and it's inhabitants.  Here are some highlights from her account.

In 1891, while the first buildings (Administration and Brick Dormitory) were erected on the site of what would soon by State Normal and Industrial School, Dr. McIver and his family lived in Benbow hotel in downtown Greensboro.  The NC legislature had not planned for a home for the McIvers, but in 1892 the Board of Directors approved money for an addition to the dormitory to house twenty-two more students and the construction of the President's home.  It was built using left-over materials from the construction of the Administrative Building and the Brick Dorm.  The building was completed in just six weeks.

At the time the college was built, it was at the outskirts of Greensboro and had no nearby housing for faculty.  The McIver family let some of them board in their home, which raised some question as to whether it was appropriate for the McIver's to let others stay in a home that wasn't theirs.  However, Lathrop uncovered reports to the Board of Directors that showed Dr. McIver paid $15 a month in rent, and one newspaper defended him, saying "so long as he paid his rent it was his own business whether he took boarders or not."

Ms. Lathrop described the house as a "spacious two-story ten room frame house" that "stood just inside the main gate of the college."  It was a place where the McIver's hospitality could extend far and wide.  They took in anyone who needed a place to stay, from visiting dignitaries to "Valentine," a tramp who jumped from a passing freight train on the on the February 14th.  He came to the McIver house offering to cut wood for a meal and stayed for a year, leaving as mysteriously as he came.

Other more distinguished guests to the McIver home included, Walter Hines Page founder of the State Chronicle newspaper in Raleigh, who delivered a speak at the auditorium entitled "Forgotten Man," and George Peabody, philanthropist and educator for whom Peabody Park is named.  Ms. Lathrop speculated that Governor Aycock spent the night with the McIvers when he visited campus after the Brick Dormitory fire in 1904.  He came to campus the day after the fire and was pleased to find the students "fully clothed and in their right minds."

The President's home served as a gathering place, but was first and foremost a home for Dr. McIver's family.  Two of the McIver children, Verlinda, who died in childhood, and Mrs. John Dickinson, where born in the house.  Mrs. Dickinson was married in the house and a wedding reception for the McIver's older daughter, Mrs. James Young, was held in the two living rooms.

After Dr. McIver's death in 1906, the legislature offered the home to Mrs. McIver for her lifetime. Ms. Lathrop says that Mrs. McIver would offer a place every year to one or two students at the college to help defray the costs and make the college experience more affordable.  She also claimed that, "over a long period of years [Mrs. McIver] gave a room and meals to a succession of students at the Negro A and T college, always keeping in touch with them after they finished college and when a number of them became teachers of their own race."  Following Mrs. McIver's death in 1944, the house was used as a dormitory for service-women returning after WWI to attend college on the G.I. Bill.

The McIver house was demolished in October of 1952.

McIver House in 1951, shortly before demolition

Monday, November 21, 2016

“A Noble Idea:” The History of Peabody Park (Part One)

Take a look at a campus map.  What strikes you about the physical layout of the school and its use of green spaces?  It is a campus that is filled with looping walkways, clusters of enormous oaks and pines, manicured gathering places, secluded benches and gardens, and pristine playing fields.  The largest open space at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) is Peabody Park. The history of the Park’s development, design, and use mirror the school’s own growth.

Students Relaxing in Peabody Park

When the college was founded in 1891, UNCG (known at the time as the State Normal and Industrial School) was situated on ten acres of former farm land.  Recognizing the rapid growth in student enrollment and the need to construct future classrooms and student housing, the school’s administration made the decision to purchase 112 acres adjoining the property’s original footprint.  In 1895, the North Carolina Legislature appropriated monies to improve the condition of this new area, allowing for “the expansion of the institution on the only side not already occupied by residences.”  The Legislature also mentioned that a portion of the new land could be used as a park for open-air exercise, as well as for the study of horticulture.  Yet, the Legislature only approved half of the school’s request for $22,000 of improvements.  Nevertheless, the College immediately began to use this wooded space.  Under the direction of Dr. Anna Gove, the school’s physician, students were required to devote sixty minutes each day to walking in the new park.
Strolling in Peabody Park
The fortunes of the school and the newly acquired property changed in 1901 with the announcement of a gift of $10,000 made by George Foster Peabody, a distant relative of the more well-known George Peabody, whose Peabody Education Fund supported Southern public schools.  The New York financier designated $5,000 to be used for the development of an educational park and an additional $5,000 to meet other needs of the College. The donated monies were to be spent on beautifying the existing space and creating several miles of well-graded walking paths.  Moreover, the plan was that every hill, spring, or bench would be dedicated to a great educational leader or historic event.  Each location would be marked by a granite block with an appropriate description.  It was imagined that other private donors would give monies to create additional markers, as well as pavilions and rustic benches.

George Foster Peabody
In an October 1901 letter to President McIver, George Foster Peabody was pleased to hear that the Park would be officially named “Peabody Park.”  He modestly hoped that people would realize that it was in honor of his relative and philanthropist George Peabody, and not himself.  A number of North Carolina newspapers praised the construction of the educational park at the State Normal. The Raleigh-based newspaper The News and Observer declared that the Park was a “noble idea” that would forward the “civilization” of the state!  The Park project envisioned that students would be benefit from both open-air exercise and the educational content provided by the educational markers.  In turn, the well-educated women of the State Normal would enhance the civic life of North Carolina.

The next installment of “A Noble Idea:” The History of Peabody Park will cover the evolution of the Park from a place of strolling and reflection to one of recreational activities, open-air theatrical performances, and finally, institutional encroachment.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Faculty Service During World War II

On March 19, 1942, the News Bureau at Woman’s College (now UNCG) released a letter to faculty stating that the organization was “compiling information on the college’s contributions to the war effort.” The letter went on to request that faculty members respond with a list of their individual involvement in the war effort as well as the names of any relatives who were serving in the United States Military. The responses varied in their tone and complexity.

Guy Lyle
“As you know I am serving as state director of the Victory Book Campaign.” Library Professor Guy Lyle reminded crisply. “This takes up pretty much all of my leisure time.” Professor Lyle’s background as a librarian at numerous academic and public libraries made him an obvious choice for leading an organization whose mission was to boost the spirits of troops by providing them with reading materials.

Sociology Professor Mereb Mossman was even briefer in her response: “I am training chairman of the Greensboro C.D.V.O.” She was referring to the Civilian Defense Volunteer Office which was established in 1941 to keep up public morale and involve ordinary citizens in defense planning.

Mereb Mossman
Hygiene Professor Victoria Carlson wrote a long, detailed response to Nell Craig, director of the News Bureau. She explained that her brother was in the service and that she lectured to eight sections of her Home Hygiene and Care of the Sick classes. This class was modified to reflect wartime caveats. Many professors altered their classes during World War II in order to offer students and community members the skills that were needed for a nation at war.

In the same vein, Ruth Fitzgerald lamented that she was “physically unable to take on any extra work.” A professor of education, she joined Professor Carlson in increasing her work load on campus. These increases were sanctioned by Frank Porter Graham, President of the University of North Carolina System, who believed that heavy sacrifice was demanded of everyone in the university from the top down due to the war.

While some professors joined or led organizations and others taught additional classes, faculty contributed to the war effort in a myriad of ways. These paths to service could be as simple as knitting clothes for soldiers, planting a victory garden in the community, or as involved as joining the military themselves, something a few Woman’s College faculty actually did.

Victoria Carlson
This outpour of faculty support for the war effort, encouraged and facilitated by the university administration, is significant for two reasons. First, there is noticeable (public) unity among the faculty about the nation’s involvement in and goals for World War II, a feature that would be lacking in more recent wars, mostly noticeably the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the involvement of students and faculty alike at an all-girls college demonstrates the social effects that the War brought to the United States. Necessity would shatter glass ceilings as women raced to fill the positions left behind by drafted men. Additionally, involvement of faculty in reaching and helping laymen and women on the home front enforced the image of Woman’s College as a source of civic communitarianism. The school’s service as a bridge between the citizens of the community and a wealth of intellectual, yet practical knowledge helped ready the school for its transition into a co-ed university in 1963, and will guide the university’s future well into the twenty-first century.

This post was written by UNCG alumni Joseph Winberry (Class of 2013).

Monday, November 7, 2016

William Jennings Bryan and His Unlikely Connection to UNCG

William Jennings Bryan was a politician and orator from Nebraska, but his name would become inextricably linked to the history of the State Normal and Industrial College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro). His connection to this Southern women’s college may seem unlikely as Bryan is best known for his role as a perennial presidential candidate for the Democratic Party (he was the nominee for the 1896, 1900, and 1908 elections), as well as his involvement with the “Scopes Monkey Trial” (The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes).

William Jennings Bryan, ca. 1896
His deep, commanding voice and passionate delivery, contributed to his reputation as one of the most celebrated orators of the era. But Bryan is associated with the College’s history because he delivered the commencement address to the class of 1894, and more importantly, because he witnessed the death of the school’s founder and first president, Charles Duncan McIver. The two men had met in 1894, two years before Bryan gave his famous “Cross of Gold” speech, securing him the Democratic nomination for the 1896 presidential election. McIver was so impressed with Bryan, that he asked him to speak at the school’s commencement exercises in May. Although McIver truly admired Bryan, he also believed that this “advertising scheme” would result in increasing student interest in his new college. His plan was successful, as the following semester State Normal received hundreds more applications than the previous year.

For the 1894 commencement ceremony, Bryan would share the stage with John B. Gordon, a Confederate General who had seen action at Antietam and Gettysburg and had led the last charge at Appomattox. Greensboro was thrilled at the news that the “silver-tongued orator” was coming to their town, and bedecked homes, storefronts, and streetcars in the school colors of yellow and white. The College’s flower, the daisy, was also used liberally for decoration.

Bryan spoke to an over-capacity crowd in the auditorium of the campus’ Administration Building (now the Foust Building). The stage was decorated with the Seal of North Carolina, and on either side of it, the seals of Nebraska and Georgia, honoring the speakers’ home states. Bryan’s political celebrity, charismatic personality, and reputation for dramatic speeches drew a record audience. The young women who attended the College were particularly thrilled with his appearance, as they thought that there was a strong resemblance between Bryan and McIver, their college president. Bryan spoke for almost two hours on one of his favorite themes – the reinstatement of silver coinage.

William Jennings Bryan (center) and Charles Duncan McIver (far right), ca. 1896

During the years after the 1894 commencement, McIver and Bryan continued to keep in contact. The men always met when Bryan visited North Carolina, and McIver made a point of being present at his friend’s speaking engagements when possible. In August of 1906, McIver traveled to New York to attend a reception honoring Bryan at Madison Square Garden hosted by the Commercial Travelers Anti-Trust League. It was at this event that McIver suggested that Bryan visit North Carolina in September for a whistle-stop tour of the state in September. Bryan had made whistle-stop campaigning popular during his presidential campaign of 1896, and his previous visit to the state had included over twenty North Carolina towns, where he gave political speeches from the back of a train.

Commercial Travelers Anti-Trust League Badge

On September 17, 1906, McIver caught the early morning train to Raleigh to meet the group who was traveling with Bryan back to Greensboro. The train stopped in Durham for Bryan to make a campaign speech and for the party to have lunch. After lunch, McIver complained of indigestion and acute chest pains, and returned to the train to rest. He died shortly afterwards. Bryan rushed to him when he heard the news and he, like his other companions, was “paralyzed with grief.”

Death Mask of Charles Duncan McIver

From the time that McIver died until the train reached Greensboro, the planned politically-based whistle-stop tour became a funeral procession. As there were many people awaiting Bryan at each scheduled stop, it was decided to continue the tour, but instead of campaign speeches, he spoke of McIver’s legacy to the state and to education.  When the train finally reached Greensboro, Bryan visited Lula Martin McIver to pay his respects and gave a memorial tribute for his friend that evening at the city’s opera house. The eulogy included an admirable portrait of McIver as an advocate of women’s education, and pointed to the college that he founded as his greatest monument. From that day on, Bryan’s name has been linked with McIver’s, and with the history of the College.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Ghosts of UNCG: A Special, Spooky Spartan Story!

To celebrate Halloween, we repeat this blog post, originally posted in October 2012 by Hermann Trojanowski, who retired from Special Collections and University Archives in 2013. We hope you enjoy this extra spooky Spartan Story.

Spencer Residence Hall
Tales have long circulated about the ghosts that allegedly haunt the campus.  In the late 1960s, the Spencer Residence Hall ghost was known simply as "The Blue Ghost" or "The Woman in Blue." In the early 1980s, students gave her the name "Annabelle," possibly alluding to the subject of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem "Annabel Lee."

Legend has it that Annabelle is the spirit of a student who hanged herself many years ago in one of the building’s bell towers; however, no such suicide has ever been documented.  A member of the residence hall staff reported that Annabelle had "appeared as a blue shadow" on two occasions in the Spencer’s main parlor and when the building was closed for the Summer in 1976, the same staff member heard the ghost "dragging something on the floor out in the lobby." There have been other reports of a blue haze passing by a second-floor laundry room and of objects being flung across rooms.

In South Spencer in the early 1980s, an apparition reportedly awakened two different staff member on two separate occasions by walking into their rooms. The building had been closed for vacations both times. It is not known whether this was Annabelle or another ghost or ghosts.

Mary Foust Residence Hall
Build in 1928, Mary Foust Residence Hall was named for Mary Foust Armstrong, daughter of the college’s second president, Julius Isaac Foust.  Mary was a member of the class of 1920 – she died in childbirth in 1925. Some believe that her ghost took up residence in the dormitory that bears her name, because rumors have floated around for years about random "unexpected crying" and "funny noises" on the hall’s second floor.  Mary Foust’s portrait, which had hung above the fireplace, disappeared some time back without a trace.  Another rumor about Mary Foust Hall was that in the 1950s, three nursing students hanged themselves from the rafters in the attic.  Investigations have shown that the structure of the beams would make hanging very difficult but still the rumors persist.

The campus' most well documented ghost reportedly inhabits UNCG (formerly Aycock) Auditorium, which opened in 1927.  An interview with Raymond Taylor who taught drama and play presentation and was the director of dramatic activities on campus from 1921 until his retirement in 1960, reveals that Taylor not only believed in the ghost of UNCG Auditorium, but recounts his personal experiences with the ghost. 

Raymond Taylor
According to Taylor, "at one time a sort of colonial mansion stood on the corner where Aycock is.  There dwelt in this mansion an old lady all-alone.  After a while she became extremely unhappy about her lonely state and went up in the attic and suspended herself from a rope on the rafters.  Having committed suicide there, she determined to stay on as a ghost.  When they tore down the building, she haunted the area for a long time until Aycock was finally built, and then she adopted that for her home.  She seemed, when I knew her to delight in the upper reaches of Aycock foyer where she assumed the guise of lights that flitted from ceiling place to ceiling place and dragging chains and clanking objects over the floor down in the lobby up to my office door."

Taylor goes on to tell the story of an incident that occurred one afternoon when he and the auditorium's janitor were working on the set for a play.  The whole building was locked up, and since it had been an extremely hot afternoon, he and the janitor undressed down to their briefs to work.  Taylor had left his clothes neatly in a pile.  During the afternoon, a storm came up that raged and roared for quite a while and after the storm was over, Taylor went upstairs to dress and found that his clothes had been disarranged.  He had been wearing a vest with a watch chain across it, and his watch chain had been arranged on the table in the form of a cross.  His other clothes were "helter skelter all over the place." Taylor just knew this was the work of the ghost of UNCG Auditorium.
UNCG Auditorium

Many nights, while working in the auditorium, Taylor would hear all sorts of strange noises.  He tried to explain some of them by saying that they were the echoes of passing cars or the reverberations of the passing trains shaking the building, but one night he and a colleague, Jimmy Hogue, were sitting in his officer around midnight talking.  Hogue was sitting with his back to the door.  All of a sudden the door opened, and a cold air came in, and they heard the receding clank of chains.  They got up and turned on the lights in the hallway and looked all over, but could never find an explanation for that occurrence.

Jane Aycock
Students have given the auditorium's spirit a name, Jane Aycock, and say that she is the daughter of the man for whom the auditorium was previously named; but Governor Charles Brantley Aycock, whose two wives bore him nine children, had no daughter by that name.  Supposedly she killed herself in the auditorium, a noose around her neck, her body dangling from the fly-loft over the auditorium stage. But the only deaths the auditorium has witnessed have been those acted out on stage, not over it.

According to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal in 1977, written when the auditorium was 50 years old and was getting ready to reopen after renovations, the drama majors were so attached to the specter that it became something of a tradition to introduce her to new students. "An unsuspecting freshman would be handed a lighted candle and shown the stairway leading to the attic, reportedly the ghost’s favorite turf.  Then the drama majors… would solemnly watch as the flickering flame floated away into the gloom.  They knew there was a certain spot in the attic where a draft always blew out the candle.  It would take a few minutes for the novice spook chaser’s eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Then, the victim would see a shape – a human shape – shimmering in the inky blackness.  The drama majors always got a kick out of hearing the screams that usually followed.  It’s surprising what a coat of luminescent paint can do for a manikin borrowed from the theater’s prop shop."

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 D. 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 (polka dot dress) 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.

The launching of the S.S. Charles D. McIver**

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 courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library, North Carolina Room

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."