In 1976, the first Southeastern Gay Conference in the United States was held on UNC's campus.
More than four decades later, the Carolina Pride Alumni Network has raised over $90,000 to preserve the history of the University’s LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff through “The Story of Us,” a collaboration with the Wilson Library and the Southern Oral History Program.
University Archivist Nicholas Graham said the experiences of marginalized or underrepresented students are often missing from archives.
“This is a way to make sure their experiences become a part of the permanent record of UNC’s history,” Graham said. "If a student approaching the archives now wants to know what it was like to be gay at Carolina in the 1970s, they will have access to interviews and archival documents to learn that history."
Launching a historic initiative
The stirrings of the project that would become “The Story of Us” first appeared in spring 2019, when the Carolina Pride Alumni Network reached out to the Wilson Library and the Southern Oral History Program to begin hiring necessary staff and researchers.
The project was publicly announced in May of that year. They sought to raise $92,000 in order to hire archivists and researchers, as well as maintain a permanent collection of LGBTQ+ testimonies at Wilson Library.
Hogan Medlin, a 2011 graduate, former student body president and current CPAN president, said the fundraising effort was highly successful, with many alumni who identify as LGBTQ+ or are allies happy to contribute to important historical research.
“There are direct benefits for current students, both undergraduate and graduates, who will in the future be able to access this archive, find themselves in it, find inspiration from it and hopefully see that they too fit in and they count at Carolina,” said Medlin, who is also pursuing a master's in public administration at UNC. “It’s incredibly important for any marginalized community, but in particular this community, given that our history has not yet been captured.”