Monday, April 29, 2019

The History of the Spartan Tartan!



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

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

UNC Greensboro Official Tartan Recording

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

Commemorative Tartan Blanket

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

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

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

Monday, April 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, April 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Monday, April 8, 2019

LGBTQ+ Topics in the Early College Curriculum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 1, 2019

LGBTQ Pioneers on Campus: Dr. Thomas K. Fitzgerald


To kick off PRIDE! month at UNC Greensboro, Spartan Stories is highlighting Dr. Thomas K. Fitzgerald, a prominent gay faculty member in the 1970s through 2004.

Thomas (Tom) K. Fitzgerald was born in Lexington, North Carolina. He attended UNC-Chapel Hill, graduating with an A.B. in Anthropology in 1962. Although he originally intended to study Latin and Greek at UNC-Chapel Hill, he was fascinated by anthropology after taking a class early in his college career.

After his time at UNC-Chapel Hill, Dr. Fitzgerald studied in Paris and Stanford before returning to North Carolina. He received a Fulbright Certificate from the Institute of Ethnology at the University of Paris in 1963, and an M.A. in Anthropology from Stanford University in 1964. 

Dr. Fitzgerald’s time spent in France was particularly formative, as recalled in his oral history interview. Being among other LGBTQ individuals in France and California helped him understand his identity and feel more comfortable coming out. After his studies internationally and nationally, Dr. Fitzgerald received his doctorate from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1969.

Dr. Thomas K. Fitzgerald, ca. 1970s.
Dr. Fitzgerald’s research initially focused on cultural anthropology and shifted to psychological anthropology. He often focused on questions surrounding identity: he introduced many interdisciplinary courses meant to examine identity. 

Chief among those identities, and controversial at the time, was the LGBTQ identity and communities. Early in his career, Dr. Fitzgerald was publishing pieces on homosexuality. As an undergraduate student, Dr. Fitzgerald completed a study of homosexuality as an honors thesis – the most read thesis at the library. The paper posited that anthropology had insight into the human condition and experience of different sexualities. 

Dr. Fitzgerald first came to UNC Greensboro as an assistant professor 1970. In 1974, he transitioned to an associate professor. Upon coming to the university. Dr. Fitzgerald recalls the closeted nature of the campus faculty, despite a fair number of faculty in the anthropology department identifying as such. Although the campus as a whole remained closeted, Dr. Fitzgerald was out upon his arrival at the university.

During his time at UNC Greensboro, Dr. Fitzgerald frequently introduced homosexuality as a topic of study in his courses. Initially, he began by showing films with LGBTQ themes for discussion. The films and topics were well-received by students, but Dr. Fitzgerald was anxious about the overall campus reception to this taboo subject. 

UNC Greensboro promoted Dr. Fitzgerald to full faculty member with tenure in 1980. Although not without contention and some pushback from administrators, Dr. Fitzgerald became the youngest full professor at UNC Greensboro at that time.

In the mid-1970s, Dr. Fitzgerald made history by introducing the first approved college course focused on homosexuality in North Carolina. The course made UNC Greensboro a destination for scholars interested in homosexuality as a topic of study, and individuals traveled from across the state to take the course. The reception was not entirely positive, as Dr. Fitzgerald notes. Any advertisements for the course were ripped down, religious tracts would be left in his mailbox, and he felt pressure from some university administrators.

Dr. Fitzgerald was also crucial in the formation of the Gay Academic Union (GAU) in the 1970s, a community group intended to educated others about homosexuality and provide a safe space for LGBTQ individuals in the Triad community. Initially, the group met in private homes and churches, and later on campus. Dr. Fitzgerald noted that the student population on campus, and in North Carolina, was very receptive to discussing sexuality in an honest and forthright manner, even if administrations were not.

In addition to his work surrounding LGBTQ issues and identities, Dr. Fitzgerald also worked extensively to explore issues of race, both within America and worldwide. He spent two years studying the Maori culture and race relations in New Zealand. Based on his work with the Maori, he proposed that genealogical research and a better understanding of your family and culture’s past were an effective means to overcome racism. 

Dr. Thomas Fitzgerald (left) and Bill Johnston (right).
 Dr. Fitzgerald retired from UNC Greensboro in the 2003-2004 academic year, with 30.5 years of service to the university. He currently lives in Greensboro with his partner, ceramic artist Bill Johnston. If you are interested in learning more, you can view/listen to the oral history with Dr. Fitzgerald and Bill Johnston here.