The school we now know as UNCG has been through a number of name changes since its founding in 1891.
February 18, 1891 – the General Assembly of North Carolina agreed to fund a “normal” school for women (State Normal and Industrial School for White Girls). This was the third time advocates had asked for the funding. First time was in 1887, when NCSU was funded instead. May 1891 – Greensboro chosen as site for the school (city gave $30,000 to help fund construction) October 5, 1892 – School opens with 176 students. By the end of the month, enrollment had grown to 198. There were a total of 223 at the end of the first school year. Mrs. McIver described the school as having “two buildings, ten acres of mud, and one tree.” Buildings (l to r): McIver house, Wooden dorm, Main Bldg (now Foust), Brick Dorm
State mandated single beds in dormitories after Typhoid fever swept campus in the Fall 1899 (source was the school’s central well and a leaky plumbing connection between the water closets and the main sewer). The epidemic closed the school for over two months. 13 girls (2.5% of the total student body) and one staff member died.
Charles Duncan McIver- staunch advocate for funding and first president of school. Strong believer in education for women. Only 31 when named president. Three courses of study: Normal (teaching), Commercial (shorthand), and Domestic Science, with courses available in vocal music, art, foreign language, and physical culture (falling under Normal). Majority of faculty were women, including a female physician (only second in the state) Teaching career after graduation was stressed. Tuition fee ($40) was cancelled if you agreed to teach in a NC school for two years after graduation
While the student body and the teaching faculty were limited to whites, nearly all support staff members (cooks, maids, janitors, handymen) were African American. There were as many as 42 support staff in 1894-95. Many of them living in a small segregated neighborhood several blocks west of campus. “Uncle Henderson” Feribault, served as head cook for several years, assisted and later succeeded by his son Edmund. Most prominent was Ezekiel Robinson, who came to the Normal from Peace Institute shortly after the McIvers and remained until his retirement in 1946. Only 25 at his arrival, he outlived the “Uncle” convention and was always known as Zeke Robinson. In the early years, he drove the college horse-and-buggy, rang the bell, got the mail, carried water, lit fires, planted trees, waited table at state dinners, and performed a multitude of other services for the school and the McIvers. As the institution expanded, he became head janitor and presidential chauffeur.
September 1906 – Charles McIver died while on his way back from Raleigh (he was 10 days shy of 46yo). Julius Foust named the next president – a role he held for 28 years (longer than anyone else). During his leadership, the campus grew tremendously, with many new buildings and programs being developed. When he became president in 1907, the school had only five hundred students. By 1931, it had grown to the third largest college for women in the country, with over 1760 students. Main Building, the only remaining “original” campus building, was renamed the Foust Building in 1960. During this time, the YWCA began sponsoring two-week conferences in Asheville that introduced many Southern students for the first time to interracial gatherings, interracial cooperation, and eventually integration. Foust was not particularly forward thinking when it came to race relations. While he did not object overly to students attending these types of interracial meetings when conducted elsewhere, he put his foot down when they asked to hold one on campus. He also refused use of the new Aycock Auditorium to African-American institutions, like Bennett College. When W.C. Jackson (a leading faculty member who followed Foust as head of the school) interceded in behalf of the A&T State College library across town to let their students occasionally borrow books from the library, Foust agreed. But at the same time he asked the campus physician, Dr. Anna Gove, to report what danger from disease his students might incur as a result of such use. Jackson actually served from 1938-1953 as chairman of the board of trustees at Bennett College. In granting him an honorary doctorate in 1949, Bennett called him a “pioneer in the field of better race relations.”
Sports and physical activity were stressed. Top left – field in front of Petty Bldg. Top right – South Spencer gym (wool uniforms) Dr. Gove established an hour-long walking period each day – girls were required to open their windows and go walking around campus (in full Victorian garb!) – At 4:30, a bell would signal the start of walking period Early physical culture classes included gymnastics, calistenics, and other exercises. Athletic competition was typically between classes. Basketball and field hockey were particularly popular. Interestingly, a campus Athletic Association was formed in 1900 – 15 years before the Student Government Association
Social and political activism was common on campus even during the early years. The women’s suffrage movement proved to be one of the first movements that really galvanized students. One of the campus literary societies held a debate over suffrage in 1909. Interest and support grew to the point that in 1915, 250 students staged a suffrage parade that ended in speeches in front of Spencer Dorm. Anna Howard Shaw, the former president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association (who Shaw Dorm is named after), spoke on campus a number of times – including 1919 graduation. And in 1918, 575 (of 800) students signed a petition to the governor supporting women’s right to vote (which was ratified in 1920).
“Service” was adopted as the official motto of the school in the 1910s. Students observed meatless, wheatless days, and took classes in food conservation, donated clothing and other possessions to the War Relief Fund, knitted, and made surgical dressings. The farmerettes (10 in total) worked on a farm outside Greensboro to grow thousands of bushels of wheat, corn, tomatoes, and beans. The carpenterettes worked to build a YWCA hut in Peabody Park, just beyond the end of College Avenue.
Greensboro was a busy city during WWII. For two months in the fall of 1941, the Army sent several thousand men to train in town. Then in 1943, a training camp was established. While the college’s first instinct was to close off the school, administrators eventually allowed heavily chaperoned campus dances and other activities. The women were eventually allowed to attend events on the base and downtown – but they weren’t allowed to ride in cars with the soldiers without their parents’ consent. The campus also continued its “Service” motto with a campus War Service League that supported knitting clothing, conducting paper drives, rolling bandages, and raising money for various war-related causes. A few of the students and faculty members actually left to join the female military services.
A number of faculty members displayed a grouping and increasingly vocal commitment to racial equality in the 1950s. For years, some met regularly for lunch at the YMCA with faculty members from A&T. Foremost among these was philosophy professor Warren Ashby, who publicly endorsed school desegregation in a letter to the Greensboro Daily News and led a faculty council resolutions supporting the desegregation of UNC campuses in 1955. Student leaders also spoke out against segregation, with The Carolinian in 1952 proclaiming segregation to be “legally, morally, and practically wrong.” Another change for campus came in 1956 when JoAnne Smart and Bettye Ann Davis Tillman arrived on campus. While administrators stressed that the two African American students be welcomed, it wasn’t exactly with open arms. The two were housed by themselves with their own segregated bathroom in Shaw Dormitory, occupying the whole first floor of the east wing (a situation that lasted three years). The acting chancellor at the time informed students during convocation that they had been admitted under duress, and the director of admissions insisted on referring to African American applicants as “Supreme Court Models.” For the most part, the early African American students were accepted by other students and faculty members. They often felt a great pressure to do well academically and be model citizens, feeling that if they misbehaved or flunked out it would receive as much publicity as their original admission. They never felt totally included on campus, though. And most preferred to socialize at A&T. * Bettye Tillman died eight years after graduation. JoAnne Smart Drane went on for a master’s degree at Duke and became a public school official in Raleigh. In 1990 she was elected vice president of the UNCG Alumni Association, and in 1996 to its board of trustees.
About three and a half years after Smart and Tillmann began their studies, the civil rights movement came front and center to Greensboro. On Monday, February 1, 1960, four A&T students staged a sit-in at the lunch counter in the Woolworth’s store downtown. By Friday, the original four had grown to over 300 students from several local campuses. On Thursday, February 4, 1960, the third day of the sit-ins, three WC students- Ann Dearsley, Eugenia "Genie" Seaman, and Marilyn Lott-joined students from A&T and Greensboro College in the demonstration at Greensboro's F.W. Woolworth store. Much of the national press attention was paid to the three white female students who participated in the sit-in while wearing their class jackets. After conferring with the three students the following day, Chancellor Gordon W. Blackwell convinced them not to continue participating in the protest. Blackwell was opposed to the sit-ins, and addressed the university at large on Tuesday, February 9, expressing his concern over the possibility of violence and of setting back the civil rights movement, and also for the employees and economic welfare of the dime store chains. Blackwell urged WC students not to participate in the protests, citing the possibility of a "chain reaction" of hostility due to WC student involvement. Blackwell also worked behind the scenes in the first days of the demonstrations to arrange a two-week "truce" announced on Saturday, February 7.
A second round of sit-ins escalated in Greensboro in the spring of 1963, primarily targeting restaurants and theatres. One of the most visible leaders was A&T student body president Jesse Jackson. This new wave of sit-ins hit the students of WC a bit closer to home. On March 13, 1963, SGA passed a resolution urging Chancellor Otis Singletary to "use his authority and influence as a college official" to convince owners of two restaurants-the Apple House and the Town and Country-and the Cinema movie theatre on Tate Street, the campus commercial district-to desegregate their facilities. The SGA rationale expressed in the resolution was that WC was now an integrated campus, and that Tate Street was considered to be "on campus" as well. Singletary disagreed that he had any authority over the private businesses on Tate Street, but did make an unofficial request to the business owners that all students be served. The chancellor also warned that some sort of student protest might be forthcoming otherwise, and that the administration would not foster such demonstrations but also could not prevent them. On Thursday, May 16, the same day as the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants Association passed resolutions calling for equal access in local businesses, the WC SGA issued a call for "selective buying campaign" directed at the Tate Street merchants.2 Coinciding with a week of massive marches and demonstrations by the African American community, approximately two dozen UNCG students picketed the offending businesses they considered part of their campus community. As a result of the Tate Street pickets and those downtown, the remaining Tate Street businesses desegregated in fall of 1963.
UNCG officially became UNCG in July 1963. But there was much concern about coeducation, and the first make undergraduates weren’t admitted until Fall 1964. Many students and alumnae were adamantly opposed to coeducation – to the point that when the class of 1966 held its tenth reunion in 1976, the male student government president was actually hissed when he got up to make welcoming remarks. Interestingly, in the 25 years beginning in 1970, all but five of the SGA presidents were men. Larry McAdoo, believed to be the first male African American student to graduate from UNCG, appeared in the 1966 UNCG yearbook, Pine Needles. Interestingly, in an interview years after his graduation, Charles Cole, an African American man who arrived on campus in 1965, recalled more difficulties from being male than from being black.
On November 1-3, 1967, the SGA sponsored a Black Power Forum, one of a series of programs on controversial issues that also included drug use, urban issues, and the Vietnam War. The Black Power Forum, which included panel discussions and lectures on aspects of the burgeoning Black Power movement, was the subject of statewide controversy. It was criticized by some, including Lieutenant Governor Robert Scott, for providing a forum for "revolutionary" figures, such as Howard Fuller, a controversial movement leader who had recently been appointed to the faculty at UNC Chapel Hill. There was also some discussion in the news media and elsewhere that most of the attendees were not UNCG students; in addition, several members of the Ku Klux Klan were present, but were denied admission by UNCG campus police. In the face of criticism, Chancellor James Ferguson defended the educational value of the forum, if not all the sentiments expressed at it. His public and vocal defense earned him considerable support within the university community. That academic year also saw the founding of the Neo-Black Society (NBS). It was established with three major goals: "1) to help in voter registration drives, 2) to work with the Greensboro United Tutorial Service (a community group aimed at connecting college students with community educational efforts), and 3) to try to help establish an Afro-American history course on this campus.”
In 1964, UNCG eliminated its in-house food service program and contracted with ARA-Slater (now Aramark), a national provider, to provide its on-campus food service. This relationship would last for forty-five years, but not without controversy. The first strike against ARA-Slater occurred later in 1964, when black full-time employees objected to a proposed pay cut, even though they were already being paid only ten cents an hour more than primarily white part-time student employees. By 1969, tensions had increased. Following strikes at UNC-Chapel Hill and at North Carolina A&T, ARA-Slater employees at UNCG-including some who were students at A&T-went out on strike on March 26. The issues included the hourly wage, lack of overtime pay, sick and holiday pay, performance reviews, and dismissal procedures. A flyer noted that the "demands must be met as soon as possible but no later than immediately." While not overtly related to race, the workers' grievances underscored the differences in opportunities and expectation afforded to the university's primarily white students and the primarily black staff that served them. As Chancellor Ferguson would later recall, "Initially, the strike was not a black and white issue, but in time an element of race conflict was involved because most of the workers were black." Following the walkout, the SGA voted to support the striking workers and to call for a boycott of the cafeteria. In a controversial move, SGA also voted to use student funds to hire an attorney to represent the striking workers. On the night of March 31, a crowd of approximately 1200 students, including activists from A&T, demanded that Chancellor Ferguson answer their demands. Ferguson agreed to address the campus the next day, at which time he stated that he must remain neutral. Behind the scenes, however, Ferguson was involved in the negotiations between ARA-Slater and well-respected black attorney Henry Frye. In the end, ARA-Slater offered the striking workers even more than they had requested, and the strike ended April 2. Despite calls for competitive bidding, ARA-Slater's contract was renewed for the following year.
From the outset, there were tensions with the NBS; some students accused NBS of reverse racism, and there is some suggestion that the organization "bullied" the campus media to obtain more favorable coverage. Despite this, NBS was recognized by SGA and was eventually given office and lounge space in the student union following a petition drive in 1971. By 1973, however, the allocation of student funds to NBS was questioned by several white students who claimed that the organization was in violation of the SGA constitution and by-laws because it discouraged white membership. The SGA committee on classification of organizations found no merit in the allegations, but the matter was taken up by the full student senate anyway, and on March 27, the senate voted to strip NBS of its funding and status as a recognized student organization. In the following days, a peaceful sit-in was held in the university administration building, and there was considerable discussion of the issue in both campus and community media. In response to an appeal of the senate decision, Chancellor Ferguson convened a faculty council that ultimately recommended reversing the decision and restoring status to NBS due to procedural issues and faulty evidence. Ferguson agreed and did so, prompting several members of SGA to appeal his decision to the board of trustees, saying that the chancellor did not have this authority involving student organizations. In a controversial (and questionably legal) move, SGA retained legal counsel for the appeal, but the UNCG board of trustees later ruled that the chancellor had acted appropriately. On April 30, five UNCG students filed suit in U.S. District Court requesting the NBS be forced to integrate or be barred from receiving state funds. On October 2, 1973, the SGA committee on classification of organizations approved a new constitution for NBS which contained wording stressing that the group was open to all UNCG students without regard to race. Funding was restored, ending both the SGA's concerns and potential legal challenges.
One of NBS's stated goals was the establishment of an African American studies program at UNCG. There were calls for such a program at least as early as 1968, when NBS was first established. While there was faculty support for such a program (tempered by a "lack of student interest"), there was also some resistance. While there was considerable discussion of a black studies program through the 1970s, an official interdisciplinary minor was not offered until 1982. In 1986, UNCG offered its first Black Studies specific courses -- BKS 100: Blacks in America and BKS 110: Blacks in American Society: Social, Economic, and Political Perspectives. In 1992-1993, the Black Studies Program officially changed its name to the African American Studies Program. On February 8, 2002, the Board of Governors approved UNCG's require for authorization to establish a Bachelor of Arts degree in African American Studies. In Fall 2009, the Program began offering a Post-baccalaureate certificate in African American Studies.
In April 2010, former University Archivist Betty Carter with the blessing of Dean of the University Libraries Rosann Bazirjian established the African American Institutional Memory Project as part of the UNCG Institutional Memory Collection. As of September 24, 2012, we have interviewed 24 African American alumni. Many of these alumni have told us that this project has been a great healing instrument. It brought back both positive and negative memories about their student days at Woman's College/UNCG.
Neo Black Society History Presentation
A History of UNCG and the
Neo Black Society
• State Normal and Industrial School (18911919)
• North Carolina College for Women (19191932)
• Woman’s College (1932-1963)
• The University of North Carolina at
Greensboro (1963- )
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University Archives Online
Civil Rights Greensboro
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• Digital Library on American Slavery
• N.C. Runaway Slave Advertisements
• African American Institutional Memory
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