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Slavery In Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

While Chapel Hill has a reputation for being a progressive and liberal place, it was not long ago when slaves were a fundamental part of the town and University. Many of the town's building including The Chapel of the Cross were built with slave labor. Also many students had their personal slaves with them while attending the University.

Runaway Slave Reward, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 1939

Twenty-Dollar Reward. 1839

Ran off from the university, on the night of the 20th instant, a negro man by the names of JAMES, who has for the last four years attended at Chapel Hill in the capacity of a college servant. He is of dark complexion, in stature five feet six or eight inches high, and compactly constructed; speaks quick and with ease, and has the habit of shaking his head in conversation. He is of doubtless well dressed, and has a considerable quantity of clothing. He is presumed that he will make for Norfolk or Richmond with the view of taking passage for some of the free states, or of going on and associating himself with the Colonization Society. It is supposed that he has with him a horse of the following description: a sorrel roan, four feet six or seven inches high, hind feet white, with a very long tail, which where it joins the body it white of flax colour. A premium of twenty dollars will be given for the apprehension of said slave. The subscriber would request any one who may apprehend the boy to direct their communication to Chapel Hill.

In 1790 there were 2060 slaves living in and around Chapel Hill. By 1860 fully one third of the population of Orange County were slaves. In Chapel Hill most slaves did household work or labored in carpentry and construction. The University also had slaves as cooks and maintenance workers.

On the positive side, almost a quarter of a century before the Civil War, on October 22, 1834, the largest student group at UNC, the Dialectic Society, said that slavery should be abolished. Three years later, on March 11, 1937, they even proclaimed that the slave-holding states of the South should not secede from the Union.

A fascinating fact of North Carolina history is that even when slavery was legal there was a sizable free black population in the state. More than 20,000 of the free blacks even had the right to vote until 1835.

University of North Carolina students and black servant 1876, Chapel Hill

UNC Students in 1876 with black servant sitting in front

By 1876 slavery was illegal. Students now had "Negro servants" who did exactly the same work as student slaves had done before the Civil War.



Sangit      12:19 PM Sat 6/25/2011

Nancy,<br \>There were many places even in the South where blacks technically had the right to vote before the civil war--however, they were prevented from doing so, under threats of lynching. So the numbers are pretty much meaningless, and the fact that there were &quot;free&quot; slaves in NC doesn&#39;t mean much.

Nancy Ray      8:13 PM Fri 4/17/2009

It is amazing that during slavery there were so many free blacks in North Carolina, and that many had the right to vote. The entire population of the state was under 500,000 at this time, and I believe only about 120,000 could vote.

Michael2011      8:49 AM Fri 4/17/2009

I am a black sophmore at UNC on an academic scholarship. I had never heard until I read your piece that students at UNC onetime had slaves and servants of my race.

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Chapel Hill is located on a hill whose only distinguishing feature in the 18th century was a small chapel on top called New Hope Chapel. This church was built in 1752 and is currently the location of The Carolina Inn. The town was founded in 1819, and chartered in 1851.



What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.

-- Charles Kuralt



Dark Side of the Hill -- Pink Floyd, the creators of the most popular album in history, Dark Side of the Moon, took the second half of their name from Floyd Council, a Chapel Hill native, and great blues singer and guitarist. He once belonged to a group called "The Chapel Hillbillies".



Check out Charly Mann's other website:
Oklahoma Birds and Butterflies


We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.





There would probably be no Chapel Hill if the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees in 1793 had not chosen land across from New Hope Chapel for the location of the university. By 1800 there were about 100 people living in thirty houses surrounding the campus.



The University North Carolina's first student was Hinton James, who enrolled in February, 1795. There is now a dormitory on the campus named in his honor.





The University of North Carolina was closed from 1870 to 1875 because of lack of state funding.





William Ackland left his art collection and $1.25 million to Duke University in 1940 on the condition that he would be buried in the art museum that the University was to build with his bequest. Duke rejected this condition even though members of the Duke Family are buried in Duke Chapel. What followed was a long and acrimonious legal battle between Ackland relatives who now wanted the inheritance, Rollins College, and the University of North Carolina, each attempting to receive the funds. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and in 1949 UNC was awarded the money for the museum. Ackland is buried near the museum's entrance. When the museum first opened, in the early sixties, there were rumors that his remains were leaking out of the mausoleum.



The official name of the Arboretum on the University of North Carolina campus is the Coker Arboretum. It is named after Dr. William Cocker, the University's first botany professor. It occupies a little more than five acres. It was founded in 1903.



Chapel Hill's main street has always been called Franklin Street. It was named after Benjamin Franklin in the early 1790s.



We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.



Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill Junior High were on Franklin Street in the same location as University Square until the mid 1960s.



The Colonial Drug Store at 450 West Franklin Street was owned and operated by John Carswell. It was famous for a fresh-squeezed carbonated orange beverage called a "Big O". In the early 1970s, I managed the Record and Tape Center next door, and must have had over 100 of those drinks. The Colonial Drug Store closed in 1996.



Sutton's Drugstore, which opened in 1923, has one of the last soda fountains in the South. It is one of the few businesses remaining on Franklin Street that was in operation when I was growing up in the 1950s.



Future President Gerald Ford lived in Chapel Hill twice. First when he was 24, in 1938, he took a law couse in summer school at UNC. He lived in the Carr Building, which was a law school dormitory. At the same time, Richard Nixon, the man he served under as Vice President, was attending law school at Duke. In 1942, Ford returned to Chapel Hill to attend the U.S. Navy's Pre-Flight School training program. He lived in a rental house on Hidden Hills Drive.



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