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The New Southern University

The New Southern University: Academic Freedom and Liberalism at UNC

Charles J. Holden
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The New Southern University
    Book Description:

    Established in 1789, the University of North Carolina is the oldest public university in the nation. UNC's reputation as one of the South's leading institutions has drawn some of the nation's leading educators and helped it become a model of the modern American university. However, the school's location in the country's most conservative region presented certain challenges during the early 1900s, as new ideas of academic freedom and liberalism began to pervade its educational philosophy. This innovative generation of professors defined themselves as truth-seekers whose work had the potential to enact positive social change; they believed it was their right to choose and cultivate their own curriculum and research in their efforts to cultivate intellectual and social advancement. In To Carry the Truth: Academic Freedom at UNC, 1920--1941, Charles J. Holden examines the growth of UNC during the formative years between the World Wars, focusing on how the principle of academic freedom led to UNC's role as an advocate for change in the South.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3439-0
    Subjects: Education, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Anticipating a backlash against his controversial “Christmas Bombing” of North Vietnam in 1972, President Richard Nixon subjected his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, to yet another rant against all those he was convinced were conspiring against him. After singling out the press and “the establishment,” Nixon also added, “The professors are the enemy. . . . Write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it.”¹ In 2007, an outcry arose over Columbia University’s lecture invitation to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man seen by most Americans as dangerous, if not delusional. Clyde Haberman of theNew York Times...

  4. Part I. The 1920s

    • 1 “Race Was a Delicate Matter”: The Academic Study of Race Relations
      (pp. 25-48)

      In January 1921, the Ku Klux Klan came to Chapel Hill. They burned no crosses and administered no beatings. The UNC student newspaper, theTar Heel,reported that a “Mr. Smith” had arrived in town with the purpose of starting up a Klan chapter in Chapel Hill, having recently launched one in Durham. The “mysterious” Smith spoke to a meeting of “students and the town people” at the local schoolhouse, introduced by Jesse Harper Erwin Jr. of Durham. But, the story continued, “very little enthusiasm” greeted the Klan leader. Skeptics in the audience included the local chief of police, the...

    • 2 “Go Ahead and Do Harm”: The Academic Study of Labor Relations
      (pp. 49-72)

      In 1924, Howard Odum eagerly anticipated launching a new study of conditions in North Carolina’s textile industry and mill villages, under the auspices of the Institute for Research in Social Science (IRSS). The project’s scope fit perfectly within the core mission of the IRSS, which was to initiate a “cooperative study of problems in the general field of social science, arising out of state and regional conditions.”¹ Writing to his colleague Harriet Herring, Odum looked forward to the trust and cooperation he expected from the textile manufacturers: “I am sure no one would misunderstand us because we are working for...

  5. Part II. The 1930s

    • 3 “A Complex and Baffling Age”: Frank Porter Graham Ushers in a New Decade
      (pp. 75-86)

      UNC leaders, faculty, and students who embraced academic freedom as an institutional value in the 1920s assumed that its fruits would lead to useful change and a more progressive state and region. This was a formulation that did not strike them as controversial, because the South was in undeniably poor shape as the 1920s ended. UNC leaders and students in the 1930s increasingly invoked the term “liberal” to describe the political nature of the changes they hoped would come to the South. Frank Graham, for example, frequently conflated the values of academic freedom with liberal values, leaving behind the unfortunate...

    • 4 “A New Negro Is About to Come on the Scene”: Leadership vs. Caution in the Struggle for Racial Equality
      (pp. 87-118)

      On a crisp autumn afternoon in 1935, Paul Green, a famous UNC playwright and a dedicated liberal on race issues, decided to join a couple of faculty friends and take in the Duke-Auburn football game up the road in Durham. Green was well known for writing sympathetic African American characters into his plays and for presenting the grittier, uglier side of southern race relations. In 1930, for example, he staged an early version of his playPotter’s Field, based on the hardships of life in Chapel Hill’s black community, to help raise funds for the local African American school, the...

    • 5 “The Rankest Center of Communism”: The Left Comes to Campus
      (pp. 119-148)

      UNC campus events in the early 1930s seemed to confirm David Clark’s suspicions that the university was the “refuge of radicals and socialists.” In May 1931, British socialist Harold Laski, Frank Graham’s former professor at the London School of Economics, delivered a lecture at UNC. The same week, Norman Thomas, leader of the American Socialist Party, visited campus.¹ In September, a small UNC branch of the Socialist Party set a fall schedule of biweekly meetings and invited “everyone interested in the discussion of social, economic, and political problems from the socialistic viewpoint” to attend.² In October 1931, a handful of...

  6. Epilogue. “The University Must Go on Being a University”: Frank Graham and the World War II Era
    (pp. 149-164)

    The entrance of the United States into World War II in December 1941 presented Frank Graham and UNC with a dizzying array of new challenges. Graham had already begun in 1940 to anticipate the changes that war mobilization would bring to UNC. He was in the forefront of local preparedness efforts, pledging the university’s assistance to and cooperation with the federal government. At Franklin Roosevelt’s request, Graham threw himself into wartime service; he spent weeks in Washington, DC, serving on the War Labor Board. At the same time, Graham hoped the university would still adhere to its central mission, as...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 165-166)
  8. Notes
    (pp. 167-204)
  9. Index
    (pp. 205-218)