As a segment of UNC’s 2018 Week of Welcome, the UNControllables delivered a story of oppression and activism on campus dating back for over a century. The talk was officially titled “What UNC Doesn’t Want You to Know: Inside the University’s dirty history of exploitation, scandal, and racism.”
The UNControllables, UNC’s radical political group, began their talk by urging students to consider the importance of omitted information in the University’s history. Throughout the event, they displayed pictures and records from the school’s archives alongside information released from the University.
This event marked three years since the talk’s inception and was one of many to be hosted by the UNControllables during their “Radical Rush Week.” The UNControllables also provided free stickers and literature, ranging in topics from decolonization to community watch areas. About three dozen people attended the event in the Student Union.
During the first segment of the presentation, called “Dixie Be Damned,” the presenters recalled series of conflicts in the South throughout the past century, with a specific emphasis on instances in Chapel Hill. At the forefront of the segment was a chronicle of the erection and protest of Silent Sam, which was toppled by demonstrators Monday.
Silent Sam was erected as a Confederate monument in 1908 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, nearly 50 years after the end of the Civil War. The UNControllables displayed pictures of Silent Sam, beginning with the first instance of the statue being vandalized in 1968, to more recent photos of the statue being blindfolded with a Confederate flag and tagged with statements “Black Lives Matter” and “Who is Sandra Bland?”
The UNControllables also discussed the history of other structures on UNC's campus.
One building researched by the UNControllables was the previously-named Saunders Hall, named after 19th-century leader of the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan, William L. Saunders. The building was renamed Carolina Hall in 2015, but many students called for the building to be renamed “Hurston Hall,” after Harlem Renaissance poet and African-American UNC student Zora Neale Hurston. The name “Carolina Hall,” however, has a 16-year moratorium which prevents a name change.
Other topics included the student fight for gender-neutral housing, free speech policing and labor organizing on campus. The UNControllables recalled labor movements surrounding Lenoir Dining Hall, beginning with UNC staff during the 1969 Lenoir Dining Hall worker strike and continuing up to recent protests regarding marketing methods and prison-feeding policies of the University’s current dining hall contractor, Aramark.
A common theme woven throughout the presentation was the importance of collective remembrance. The UNControllables urged students to take a more critical look at the University's history. Members of the UNControllables denied requests to be interviewed on the record.
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