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Sunday December 5th

History, Race and A Way Forward commission discusses Memorial Hall and Barbee Cemetery Project

The History, Race, and A Way Forward virtual meeting is screenshotted on Aug. 30.
Buy Photos The History, Race, and A Way Forward virtual meeting is screenshotted on Aug. 30.

CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to add additional context about the Barbee Cemetery Project.

The Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward met Monday to discuss collaborations with Carolina Performing Arts, Arts Everywhere and the UNC General Alumni Association. They also spoke on the Barbee Cemetery Project and the Unsung Founders Memorial. 

What’s new? 

  • Commission Co-Chairperson Patricia Parker said that the commission will be adding more student commissioners to its roster. Appointments are made by Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.
  • The commission discussed updates on the Memorial Hall project it has been working on with Carolina Performing Arts. At the request of CPA, the commission hired Ben Fortun as a graduate research assistant to compile a comprehensive history of Memorial Hall. 
    • Memorial Hall includes more than 100 marble tablets commemorating people connected to the University, made up primarily of pre-Civil War elite enslavers. The theater also includes a roster of the University's Confederate dead. 
    • The commission plans to bring forward a set of recommendations, which includes contextualizing the 100 tablets and memorial.
  • Next, the commission discussed a collaboration with Arts Everywhere and the UNC General Alumni Association. 
  • Jim Leloudis, co-chairperson of the commission, said they discussed creating an app that would include information about the history of the University’s campus.
  • "That would allow people to, as they walk around the historic center of campus, to learn the history and see the histories of those people and dive in as deeply as they would like to go," Leloudis said. 
    • Earlier this year, there was a similar project about Chapel Hill town history. Arts Everywhere wants to expand the content to the University's history. 
  • Parker said she and Leloudis had a meeting earlier this week with Guskiewicz to discuss the building naming resolution that was passed in April 2021 that encouraged students to submit options for building renaming. Parker said the Chancellor approved the resolution and will be appointing a committee of faculty, staff, trustees, alumni and students to review the project. 
  • The Commission then discussed updates on the Barbee Cemetery Project. Approximately 100 enslaved people are buried in the cemetery, located at the Rizzo Center in Meadowmont. 
  • Seth Kotch, director of the Southern Oral History Program, said they are continuing the research phase of the project under University Archivist Nicholas Graham’s supervision. Descendants of the Barbee family are part of a community advisory board for the project and are partnering with the commission on different fronts, including plans to conduct an oral history project.
  • Kotch added that the project is also working with the UNC Archeology program and other outside entities to perform a scan using ground-penetrating radar. Kotch said the last scan was in 2006 and suggested the existence of uncovered gravesites. 
  • "This is a family-led project that's really being ongoing for generations and generations already and we're catching up as we can and doing our best to learn from the family not just about what to do, but also how to do it," Kotch said. 
  • Dawna Jones, director of the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture at Duke University, gave updates on the Unsung Founders Project. She said the plan is to have a two-part webinar series. The first installment will be informative and discuss the history behind the project. Following sessions will be opportunities for community members to share their opinions and make their voices heard. 
  • "I think many of us will agree that some of the biggest challenges with the Unsung Founders Memorial have been that the community hasn't had a voice in the process to date, and so now we are hoping to create an opportunity to understand what has happened and then to have a community discussion or several about what should happen next," Jones said. 

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