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Wednesday May 25th

UNC commission discusses University's historical narrative

<p>Guest speakers Deloris Clark and Lorie Clark speak about their family connection to Toney and Nellie Strayhorn, former slaves in the 19th century during a meeting of the UNC Commission on History, Race, and A Way Forward.</p>
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Guest speakers Deloris Clark and Lorie Clark speak about their family connection to Toney and Nellie Strayhorn, former slaves in the 19th century during a meeting of the UNC Commission on History, Race, and A Way Forward.

The UNC Commission on History, Race and A Way Forward discussed changing the narrative of history through storytelling during its meeting on Oct. 6.

The commission discussed its framework that centers around narrative change, racial healing and relationship building at its Tuesday meeting. 

The charge of the commission is to "explore, engage and teach the University’s history with race, and provide recommendations to the Chancellor on how we as a University community must reckon with the past," according to its website.

“What kinds of stories do we tell about our past, about our history," Patricia Parker, chairperson of the Department of Communication, said at the beginning of the meeting. "Who gets to tell those stories and to what ends?”

The Barbee Family Cemetery 

Jim Leloudis, co-chairperson of the commission, said focusing on the proper curation of the Barbee family cemetery space is of important concern to the University and town. 

Brandon Bayne, director of undergraduate studies, presented his research on the Barbee family at the meeting. 

Bayne said the Barbee family enslaved over 100 people in the 1800s who are buried in the family cemetery, a short distance from the Rizzo Center. The family owned 221 acres of land that occupies UNC’s central campus.

“We have an opportunity to work with our colleagues in the Kenan-Flagler Business School and in UNC facilities to recover what has been, for too long, a silenced history, at least in the official narrative of the University," Leloudis said. 

Sharing the SNCC’s story

Danita Mason-Hogans shared her work with veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, founded in 1960. Mason-Hogans serves as the project coordinator for critical oral histories at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. 

Some of SNCC’s accomplishments include raising Black voter registration, starting freedom schools in the South for undereducated Black children and inspiring the women’s movement, according to Mason-Hogans.

“As one SNCC veteran has noted, ‘Most of the stories important to understanding SNCC and its legacy have not yet been told,'" Mason-Hogans said. “So our goal was to develop the methodology of the Critical Oral Histories to elicit from SNCC veterans a new wealth of information.”

Conversation with the Clarks

Guest speakers Deloris Clark and Lorie Clark shared their family connection to Toney Strayhorn, a former slave in the 19th century.

“They were really hard workers, but they thrived,” Deloris Clark said. 

Toney and Nellie Strayhorn were both born in Orange County and married in 1876, Deloris said. They built a one-room log cabin, which was expanded into a farmhouse around 1879, where Deloris still lives today.

“My great-grandparents were really pillars in the community,” Deloris Clark said. 

Deloris said Toney Strayhorn taught himself how to read and write and became a minister, a magistrate and one of the founders of the First Baptist Church in Chapel Hill.

“We are very proud of our legacy and the work that our ancestors have and the contribution they have made to this community," Lorie Clark said.

The commission is scheduled to meet next on Nov. 5.

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