These interviews are now online in the Long Women’s Movement series in our database. They were conducted during summer 2013 as part of an undergraduate course combining internships throughout the community with oral history and other coursework, under the direction of Dr. Rachell Seidman and Joey Fink. For quick access, you can also search the database for interview numbers U-1002 through U-1010. For more about the Moxie Project, click here.
By Layla Quran for the SOHP
I sat in the massive lobby of the UNC Friday Center on October 31, 2013 waiting for Donald Boulton to enter. At 3:30pm on the dot a friendly-looking, professional dressed man walked in with a friendly smile. “You were right!”, I said to the receptionist as he had assured me Boulton would be there soon. Boulton and I walked into a smaller office and began the task of unraveling 26 years of student affairs at UNC, focusing on the creation of the Carolina Gay Association.
Boulton grew up in a small town and won a fellowship to travel after he graduated from a small university in upstate New York. The fellowship was for him to study religion in Germany, where he eventually became fluent in German and then traveled to the Middle East to live there for 2 weeks and study the newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls. Boulton says “I saw the world in many different cultures”. Upon returning to the US, he began his doctorate at Columbia where he would met gay and lesbian students kicked out of their families for their sexual orientation. I mention these experiences because they contributed to his understanding and approval of the Carolina Gay Association years later. As he studied different forms of love in an academic setting, he also began to ask others about their value systems, and if they had a basic spiritual love for all of human kind.
Boulton describes entering UNC was like entering a time warp as female students were just beginning to be accepted into the freshmen class, and there were separate deans from men and women(which he got rid of by creating deans of students). One of his responsibilities as Dean was to recognize student organizations, and when he mentioned this that began our discussion on the Carolina Gay Association.
He was called into the chancellor’s office after his recognition of the CGA, where the chancellor said to him, “Don, do you realize what you just did? This is Bible country”. Boulton responded to the chancellor as well as to the several letters he would eventually receive from alumni, parents, and some members of the Board of Trustees by saying that he did understand the Bible and he was responded to the ‘law of the land’. Several other universities, including University Virginia and University of New Hampshire would come to reject the recognition of gay associations and be appealed by federal courts for doing so.
Boulton describes the CGA as becoming more comfortable over the span of 15 years, from being a group that was understandingly defensive at first to having more students come out and be more open of their sexuality. Barry Nakel, who was the advisor for the CGA for 10 years, was a tremendous source of support and continuity.
Boulton also spoke on different forms of love today. He said that the problem with the decisions made by individuals is the dismissal of a value system where love is the main component.
He said, “It is the lack of love. And it has no place in a college campus. It has no place in society, but it shows you, as one of my professors said, there’s a cyclical view of history that we come to acceptance and then we revert, we tend to repeat. But then he said even though we repeat, we tend to make a little movement forward. Like people are saying racism is being to come back, well it never left. But it has moved forward.”
Come see the Southern Oral History Program interns at the Love House on December 5th, at 3pm to hear more stories on the Carolina Gay Association and the sexual revolution at UNC.
by Grace Tatter
Sherry Williamson cranked out much of Lambda, the newsletter for the Carolina Gay Association, from her Carrboro kitchen, brainstorming story ideas with fellow Carolina students and pounding articles out with a typewriter during the few spare hours she had after coursework for the journalism school.
Every month, she and fellow students in the Carolina Gay Association mailed the newsletter off in non-descript envelopes all over the Southeast; to other colleges, to underground gay bars in former milltowns, and, though Williamson would not meet her for years, to Williamson’s future wife, who was then a student at Radford College in Virginia.
Lambda was founded along with the CGA in 1974, and was the first publication geared toward sexual minorities in the state, and the only one for many years. Williamson spearheaded the newsletter from 1979 to 1980.
“It was really cool to know that the work that we were doing was affecting other people,” Williamson said when I sat down with her Nov. 7. “First of all, just to say that we’re here, and you’re not alone; there are other people here […] There was a sense that we were doing something bigger than just being a newsletter or a calendar of events of what was happening on campus.”
A commitment to helping others imbued Williamson’s love of journalism and had informed decision to come to Carolina the semester before taking over Lambda.
As a child, Williamson had looked at airplanes flying over the tobacco fields of her native Columbus County, and promised herself she would go wherever those planes were going — far away. She loved her community and supportive family, but was inspired by the books she devoured, like Johnny Tremaine and Heidi, to travel beyond the rural tidelands. So, upon graduating from high school, Williamson headed across the state to Appalachian State University; the first person in her family to leave the Columbus-Robeson county area for school. One day, two reporters from the Charlotte Observer came to visit her English class in Boone.
“[Journalism] was certainly a way to do what I wanted to do, which was to write, which was to try to make a difference in the world,” she recalled. “And journalism can give you that opportunity, to put information in front of people, and with the hope that if people have information they can make, you know, good decisions.”
Her motivation to transfer to Chapel Hill was journalism, but she realized it was a chance to grow personally, too. She was sitting on her bed at Appalachian, flipping through the bulletin of activities at Chapel Hill, when she saw a listing for the Carolina Gay Association. The CGA was one of the only such organizations in the Southeast at the time, and Appalachian did not have a group for gay students. Besides, Williamson was not even sure if she was gay.
“I made a joke: ‘ I’m going to join the Carolina Gay Association!’ And everyone laughed, because you know, their own homophobia. And it was my own internalized homophobia, and I was just kind of testing the waters, to see a little bit how people would respond. But I knew internally that that was one of the things I was going to do, because I was starting a new life where no one knew me, and I was starting again.”
The Carolina Gay Association gave Williamson a community in which to grow, and an audience to hone her writing. But because she was concerned about the implications Lambda might have for her career outside of Chapel Hill, Williamson always used a pseudonym while on campus. Now she works at the Office of Communications at the Duke Divinity School, and can finally get the long overdue credit for hours spent on Lambda during her undergraduate career.
To hear more of Williamson’s story, and learn more about the early days of the Carolina Gay Association (now SAGA), come see the Southern Oral History Program interns perform at the Love House, Dec. 5, at 3 p.m.
By Corinne White
Basketball is as much of a symbol of UNC as the Old Well. Tied up in the school’s rich basketball legacy are a complicated history of integration, alumni and administrative pressure, and, of course, victory and defeat.
The Tar Heels play in their first regular season game against Oakland University this Friday. As players and fans prepare for tip off, we listened to Ann McColl’s 1991 interview with civil liberties lawyer — and key player in the integration of UNC basketball — Daniel Pollitt.
Pollitt, who was also the faculty advisor for the university’s NAACP chapter, recalled memories of Charlie Scott, UNC’s first black scholarship athlete in 1966.
“He broke the color bar,” Pollitt said.
Pollitt also pointed to the trouble the school had at the time with attracting black applicants. “The question was, ‘how do we encourage people to come here?’ We thought there should be role models, and that is sort of a maybe racist attitude, but we thought athletics is… We’d start there. It seemed like a logical thing to do, so maybe you should have a learned surgeon instead, but the reality of the world then at least, was that the role models were basketball players and football players.”
Davidson College was the first to recruit Scott, a top high school prospect, under Coach Lefty Driesell. But when Scott visited the school, a town restaurant refused to serve him.
“Charlie decided he didn’t want to go to a town where he couldn’t eat in the restaurants,” Pollitt said.
Pollitt accompanied 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Coach Dean Smith to Laurinburg, N.C. on UNC’s first attempt to recruit Scott, along with a UNC medical student because Scott had pre-med aspirations.
“Dean Smith wanted the best basketball players he could get, but he also wanted to break the color bar,” Pollitt said.
Scott endured hateful chants from opposing fans, but still remembers fondly lessons from Smith.
“What he did more than anything else was to give me someone to look at in a different skin color that I could accept and see that everyone was not like the bigots, or like the racists,” Scott said in an August 2013 interview with the Raleigh News and Observer.
“He could not take away the words of those individuals, or the way those individuals acted towards me. Those things were there. What he did was give me a barometer to look at outside of the racism and bigotry.”