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Featured Interviews

Mark Chilton

During Mark Chilton’s time as an undergraduate at UNC in the 1980s and 1990s, recycling was not a priority of the campus or the administration. But, as a leader in Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), the current mayor of Carrboro worked incessantly to end this negligence. In this clip, Chilton recounts how he delivered a box of recycling materials directly to Chancellor Paul Hardin as a way to demonstrate the student activists’ unheard message about recycling.

In celebration of Earth Day, enjoy reading and listening to the entire interview with Chilton, which explores much of his involvement as a student with the Campus Y, by clicking here.

J. Randolph Taylor

Raised by Presbyterian missionaries, Dr. J. Randolph Taylor himself became a Presbyterian minister in 1956. However, not until his late twenties did he realize and address his own racism, which he describes as a product of his childhood in the South. In this clip, Taylor discusses how his interaction with African Americans eventually led to his helping found the Washington DC branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

To read and listen to the entire clip, click here.

Timothy Jacobs

native american flash mob

Timothy Jacobs in 2012

Timothy Jacobs, a member of the Tuscarora people in eastern North Carolina, has lived a life of activism fighting for his tribe’s rights. Famously, in February of 1988, Jacobs, along with Eddie Hatcher, took part in the armed seizure of the Lumberton, N.C., Robesonian newspaper to call attention to local corruption and mistreatment of Native Americans. In this clip, Jacobs describes his family’s history of activism and how it influenced his own views and actions.

To read and listen to the entire interview, which explores many other aspects of Jacobs’ activism, click here.

Daniel Pollitt

In many ways, the Speaker Ban controversy was a pivotal moment in UNC’s history. Not only was it emblematic of the political and social tumult of the 1960s, but it also became an important event in developing and strengthening student activism on campus. In this clip, Daniel Pollitt, a former professor of law at UNC, discusses the Speaker Ban and how he and other lawyers worked with the students to successfully challenge its constitutionality. To read and listen to the entire interview, click here.

This featured interview is part of the SOHP’s commemoration of its 40th Anniversary. Come join us at UNC’s Wilson Library this Friday from 1-6 PM to enjoy an oral history performance about the Speaker Ban as well as much more to celebrate the history of the SOHP! For more information, check out this schedule of events or visit the homepage of the SOHP’s website. We hope to see you Friday!

Mary Robertson

Mary Robertson knew all about the problems women faced in moving up in the industrial world of North Carolina’s Piedmont during the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout her long career as a union organizer, she witnessed discrimination against female workers in the context of the factory and the union. In this clip, she offers a few reasons for the lack of women in prestigious factory jobs and labor union leadership positions.

Click here to listen to the whole interview, which features lengthy discussion of her views on women’s role in Southern labor and society.

Joseph Herzenberg

Joseph Herzenberg had a long career of political activism in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, NC. Having worked as an advocate for sexual, environmental, and economic justice since the 1960s, in 1987 he was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council, making him the first openly gay elected official in North Carolina history.

Joseph Herzenberg

Joseph Herzenberg

In this clip, Herzenberg discusses Chapel Hill’s relatively liberal attitude towards gay men, also comparing it to other large college towns in the South.

Click here to listen to the rest of the interview, which details his political, social, and economic experiences as a gay man in a Southern town throughout the last third of the twentieth century.

Johnnie and Kathleen Bratten

During Hurricane Floyd, Johnnie and Kathleen Bratten, longtime residents of Tick Bite, NC, watched their community and their home ravaged by flooding. To make matters worse, the Brattens received virtually no government aid after the disaster, instead getting money, food, and supplies primarily from religious groups and volunteers. In this clip, Kathleen discusses the way in which her community was galvanized by the need to support one another.

In the rest of the interview, which can be read and listened to here, the Brattens illustrate some of the hardships caused by Hurricane Floyd and describe the relief efforts of volunteer and religious groups.

Benjamin Chavis

Dr. Benjamin Chavis (formerly known as Benjamin Chavis Muhammad) has led a notable life of civil rights activism, including working as an assistant to Martin Luther King, acting as leader of the Wilmington Ten, and becoming the Executive Director of the NAACP.

Dr. Benjamin Chavis

Dr. Benjamin Chavis

In this clip, Chavis describes his successful attempt as a thirteen year old to desegregate the local library in Oxford, North Carolina.

To read and listen to the entire interview, which details much of his activist work, click here.

Doris Derby

As part of a celebration of Black History Month, enjoy this clip from an interview with Doris Derby, an African American activist from New York City who worked extensively with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other Civil Rights organizations in the 1960s and 70s. In the clip, Derby explains her conception of black power and what it meant for Civil Rights activists at the time.

Click here to read and listen to the whole interview, which explores in more detail her life of activism as part of the SOHP project on the 50th Anniversary of SNCC.

Isabella Cannon

Isabella Cannon led a truly remarkable life. In the 1950s and 60s, she became one of Raleigh’s leading white civil rights activists, working with the United Church of Christ to bring in speakers such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt. Then, in 1977 at the age of 73, she became the first female mayor of Raleigh. In this clip, which was taken from a 1989 interview, Cannon discusses the personal significance to her of being mayor as well as her views on the ability of women to obtain positions of power in North Carolina at the time.

Click here to read and listen to the whole interview, which touches on her civil rights activism, her work as mayor, and her assessment of gender equality in North Carolina after she left office.

William Gordon

Having been born and raised in the South in the first half of the twentieth century, William Gordon was familiar with Jim Crow segregation. In fact, he had been acquainted with the system of sharecropping as a young boy when he worked in the fields with his parents in Betonia, Mississippi. In this clip, Gordon briefly describes that experience and provides a chilling anecdote that gives insight into the reality of living and working as a sharecropper.

With experiences such as these deeply affecting him at a young age, Gordon would later go on to be a journalist in Atlanta who formed close friendships with white anti-segregationists, including Ralph McGill and Herman Talmadge. The whole interview, which you can listen to here, provides interesting perspectives into the South in the 1940s and 1950s.

Jesse Helms

In 1974, at the beginning of his long-tenured career as a Senator for the state of North Carolina, Helms gave this interview, which explores various aspects of his political platform and personal views. An especially interesting topic that is discussed is the fundamental transition of the Republican Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which Helms describes in terms of his own experiences becoming a staunch Republican after defecting from the Democratic Party. He also provides insight into his views on politics in North Carolina at the time and how the era’s major cultural and political shifts might affect that situation.

Read and listen to the whole interview here.

Paul Green

455px-Paul_Green

Paul Green

Paul Green, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and activist who undoubtedly left an indelible mark on UNC and its history, is well known for his plays depicting complex stories of poverty and race in the South as well as his activist work dealing with these important issues. In forming the basis of many of these plays as well as his core ideologies of social activism, Green incorporated his childhood memories of growing up in Harnett County, North Carolina, at the turn of the twentieth century. In this 1975 interview with Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Green speaks to the way in which his observations of life in the pre-World War II South interacted with and helped to formulate his artistic vision and dramatic productions in many intriguing ways. Throughout the interview, Green also provides engaging anecdotes that demonstrate his spirit for direct activism and his various involvements in striving for social justice in North Carolina.

Read and listen to the entire interview here.

Strom Thurmond

The well-known–notorious?–South Carolina politician gave this interview in 1978. In it, he discusses his personal background and the development of his states’ rights political philosophy. And of course he talks about race. During the interview, he describes his admiration for Pitchfork Ben Tillman, who whipped crowds into frenzies of racial hatred by summoning up imagery of black men assaulting white women. Thurmond says he admired Tillman’s effectiveness without admiring the content of his words and offers some thoughts of his own on the Brown v. Board of Education decision and slavery.

Read the interview’s transcript here.

Anne Queen

Anne Queen was wrong. She had always thought that “poor people couldn’t go to Yale,” but there she was, earning a divinity degree in the late 1940s. Queen, who worked for a decade at the Champion Paper and Fibre Company in her home town of Canton, North Carolina, would take leadership of the University of North Carolina’s YMCA in the 1960s. She steered what would come to be called the Campus Y to the forefront of campus activism, from anti-war protests of the Vietnam era to the university’s foodworkers’ strike. Queen’s long tenure working as an advocate of social justice, particularly for the labor movement and the civil rights movement, Queen is able to offer a comprehensive assessment of the changing social landscape of the South during the middle of the twentieth century. In so doing, she offers insight into the leadership abilities of southern women, the process of integration at two major southern universities, and the nature of politics in North Carolina.

In this excerpt, Queen considers North Carolina’s carefully cultivated–but not entirely accurate–reputation as progressive. Read and listen to the whole interview here.