TO THE EDITOR:
Zora Neale Hurston was crucial to the Harlem Renaissance, and her lasting influence in the literary world is undeniable. But there are far more appropriate candidates for the renaming of Saunders Hall.
Specifically, Karen L. Parker, the first African-American female undergraduate student enrolled at the University. To my knowledge (and all the fact-checking I’ve done), Hurston was never enrolled at the University, but may have secretly taken classes taught by Paul Green, with whom she developed a close relationship with while teaching at NCCN starting in 1939.
Parker transferred to UNC Chapel Hill as a junior in the fall of 1963. During her time here she took part in several civil rights demonstrations (for which she got arrested twice) and was editor of the UNC Journalist.
She also served on the Board of Directors of the General Alumni Association for some time. The diary she kept during her time as a student is available through Wilson Library’s Southern Historical Collection, and is a truly moving piece.
One excerpt that really struck me was, “This is a beautiful, wonderful place — despite its faults. What hurts me so much is that I cannot and will not ever become a part of it.”
For both her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and all her achievements as a student, we should honor her by making her name a physical part of the University.