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UNC Student Body President Paul Dickson introduces speaker Frank Wilkinson at the McCorkle Place wall Click on the above image to go directly to the documents and photographs for Episode 2. (Above: UNC Student Body President Paul Dickson introduces speaker Frank Wilkinson at the McCorkle Place wall; Photograph Copyright Jock Lauterer)

Part 2: Speaker Ban Controversy

The Speaker Ban controversy reflected many of the dynamics of social and political turbulence in 1960s North Carolina and provided a focus for developing student activism at UNC-Chapel Hill. The controversy, which persisted from 1963 to 1968, began when legislators, particularly from eastern and rural areas of the state, were faced with efforts by students and others to challenge age-old patterns of race relations and the hierarchy of power. On 26 June 1963, legislative leaders orchestrated the quick passage of what came to be known as the Speaker Ban bill, which forbade individuals who were known to be members of the Communist Party or had invoked the Fifth Amendment in connection with congressional investigations of Communist activities from speaking on the campuses of the University of North Carolina.

Student activists played roles at a number of points in the complex and fascinating Speaker Ban story. Students from Chapel Hill, including Patrick Cusick, a leader in the Chapel Hill desegregation efforts, along with others from North Carolina State, St. Augustine's, and other area colleges, demonstrated against segregated establishments in Raleigh in summer 1963. These actions sparked the ire of legislators, as well as of Jesse Helms, then a conservative commentator on WRAL-TV. William Billingsley, author of Communists on Campus: Race, Politics, and the Public University in Sixties North Carolina, notes that former UNC student activist Allard Lowenstein was instrumental in these demonstrations, which appear to have stimulated Clarence Stone, Thomas White, and other legislators to push through the act.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had developed a reputation for its progressive and even liberal leanings around the state and the region. The memory of President Frank Porter Graham, himself a UNC graduate and a supporter of numerous leftist causes, still rankled many conservative North Carolinians in the early 1960s. Although there appears to have been little, if any, Communist activity on campus in 1963, the anti-Communist spirit of the day, which came to be associated with opposition to racial and other social change, combined with the beginnings of 1960s student unrest, influenced legislators to focus on Communism in their efforts to control the University.

Two UNC-Chapel Hill students with suspected leftist sympathies were disciplined by the University administration in 1965. Larry Phelps made a trip to Communist Cuba and then was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) after his graduation. After an informal visit to campus, he was officially proscribed from speaking. Gregory Bateson was a psychology graduate student from Great Britain. When his leftist leanings became a point of discussion by Jesse Helms and others, the Chancellor decided to withdraw Bateson's teaching fellowship. Then apparently unable to support his academic work at UNC, Bateson returned to England.

In 1965, the Speaker Ban was amended to preserve the University's accreditation. Many students and others (including the state's major daily newspapers) felt, however, that the amended version simply passed the mandate to control campus speakers from the legislature to the University administration and trustees. A chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was formed in May 1965 and was instrumental in organizing student protests of the speaker policy. Eight hundred students attended a rally in February 1966 and, soon after, 1,300 filled Memorial Hall.

The culmination of the Speaker Ban episode began with invitations to speak made by the UNC SDS chapter to Frank Wilkinson and Herbert Aptheker. Wilkinson had invoked the Fifth Amendment before HUAC, and Aptheker, a widely published historian, was an avowed Communist. Wilkinson spoke to about 1200 students from the Franklin Street side of the stone wall at the edge of campus. A week later, student leaders orchestrated what Billingsley called "a bit of political theater" with Aptheker, which resulted in UNC Police Chief Arthur Beaumont confronting Aptheker as he began to speak on McCorkle Place near Franklin Street and forbidding him to speak on campus. He, too, crossed to the other side of "[Governor] Dan Moore's Wall" to give his address, "The Negro Movement: Reform or Revolution." This event formed the basis for Dickson, et al. v Sitterson, et al., involving Student Body President Paul Dickson and Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson.

After two years of consideration by the Federal District Court in Greensboro, Dickson, et al. v Sitterson, et al. was decided for the plaintiffs. Although the court's opinion found the Speaker Ban law and policy unconstitutional, it also gave hope to conservative lawmakers and Jesse Helms by expressing the sentiment that "extremist" speakers (H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael were cited) did not further the educational experience. The debate, on both the Left and the Right, continues on this campus and in this state, and students continue to have opportunities and challenges to play significant parts in it.


Documents and Photographs
[Note: Due to copyright issues, some documents and photographs have not been made available online. To research these documents further, please visit the Manuscripts Department's website for more information.]

47. 6 June 1960: "Freedom of the University" speech by Chancellor William B. Aycock
Chancellor Aycock delivered this speech to an alumni luncheon in summer 1960. The speech met with a great deal of praise and letters of congratulations. Requests for copies of the speech poured in to his office.
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- William B. Aycock Series (#40020)

48. 14 June 1960: Letter from former UNC President Frank Porter Graham to Chancellor William B. Aycock
Frank Porter Graham congratulated Chancellor Aycock on his speech at the alumni luncheon: "Thank you again for your clear and forthright championship for the freedom of the University against any threatened or impending encroachment from whatever source."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- William B. Aycock Series (#40020)

July 1963: Chancellor Aycock's copy of House Bill 1395, with notes Catalog #49: July 1963: Chancellor Aycock's copy of House Bill 1395, with notes

49. July 1963: Chancellor Aycock's copy of House Bill 1395, with notes
Officially named "An Act to Regulate Visiting Speakers at State Supported Colleges and Universities," the so-called Speaker Ban denied the use of facilities for speaking purposes to anyone who was a known member of the Communist Party, advocated the overthrow of the state or federal constitution, or had ever invoked the Fifth Amendment before any judicial tribunal with respect to subversive activities. From Chancellor Aycock's notes, two of the common legal critiques of the wording of the Speaker Ban bill are clear: the ambiguity of the phrase "known member of the Communist Party" (evoking the question "known to whom?") and the absence of a clearly defined criminal penalty inherent in the language of the bill.
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- William B. Aycock Series (#40020)

50. 5 July 1963: Draft of the University's official policy on enforcing the Speaker Ban
These drafts show the uncertainty of the administration as to its role in enforcing the Speaker Ban on the campuses of the consolidated University of North Carolina. President Friday and Chancellor Aycock held the position that as state employees, they felt it their duty to uphold the laws of the State of North Carolina as enacted by the State Legislature under the mandate of the people of the State of North Carolina. Based on this rationale, the administration felt obliged to draft an official policy to be followed by everyone at the University, even if as individual citizens they personally opposed the bill. This stance was often the focal point of the criticism lodged against Friday and Aycock by faculty and student groups, such as Students for a Democratic Society, that felt that the administration owed its first allegiance to the intellectual freedom of its students, faculty, and scholars.
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- William B. Aycock Series (#40020)

51. 6 July 1963: Letter from John Dunne to Chancellor William B. Aycock
At home in Ohio for the semester break, student activist John Dunne wrote to Chancellor Aycock to voice his praise for the Chancellor's personal stand against the Speaker Ban: "Without the freedom to question, and to seek new truths, unfettered by legal, economic or social pressures, movements such as our present struggle for human dignity could not have been born." The letter also reaffirmed the staying power of Chancellor Aycock's 1960 address "Freedom of the University," which, as Dunne pointed out, was reproduced in the Chapel Hill Weekly on June 30, 1963.
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- William B. Aycock Series (#40020)

52. 5 August 1963: Letter from Chancellor Aycock to Jefferson B. Fordham
On 11 July 1963, the Daily Tar Heel announced that Chancellor Aycock would resign, effective September 1964, in order to return to his professorship in the UNC School of Law. Shortly after this announcement, Aycock wrote to Jefferson Fordham, then the dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, to express his disdain for the Speaker Ban. Aycock pointed out the complexities behind the law: "Frankly, it is going to be a long tough fight. The whole matter is tied in with racial demonstrations, politics, and widespread unrest throughout the state."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- William B. Aycock Series (#40020)

53. 21 September 1963: Letter from Michael H. Lawler to the student body presidents of the constituent campuses of the Consolidated University
Lawler wrote to call together a meeting of his fellow student body presidents to organize inter-campus student opposition to the Speaker Ban. He wrote, "We were concerned by the hasty passage of the bill and by its apparent lack of faith in the students of North Carolina."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- William B. Aycock Series (#40020)

54. 17 December 1963: Telegram, J. M. Mitchell to Chancellor Aycock
Mitchell's telegram to Chancellor Aycock is representative of North Carolinians in favor of the Speaker Ban: "Now read this for it is an unpleasant duty I feel. I am sick and tired of you extreme leftist which leads to egghead trouble making fanatic's always yapping about our so-called gag law. Accept this, or go to Harvard."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- William B. Aycock Series (#40020)

55. 20 May 1965: Telegram, Emmett B. Fields, Chair of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, to Chancellor Paul F. Sharp Catalog #55: 20 May 1965: Telegram, Emmett B. Fields, Chair of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, to Chancellor Paul F. Sharp

55. 20 May 1965: Telegram, Emmett B. Fields, Chair of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, to Chancellor Paul F. Sharp
This telegram formally established what the UNC administrators and the Board of Trustees had feared for some time: that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) was threatening to take away accreditation from the University due to the Speaker Ban. SACS felt that the Speaker Ban was tantamount to "political interference," which hampered educational pursuits. In their view, the ban removed the traditional and necessary authority of the Board of Trustees to handle speakers and, therefore, was an affront to academic freedom. This telegram gave notice that SACS would determine the fate of UNC's accreditation at their next meeting in December of 1965.
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- Paul F. Sharp Series (#40021)

56. 5 July 1965: Letter from Barry H. Schwartz '68 to Dean of Men William G. Long
After the announcement that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools would be reconsidering UNC's accreditation, many current students, prospective enrollees, and applicants began writing the administration with great concern. "I am very anxious to learn the results ... as are my parents," wrote Schwartz. Other letters indicated how the uncertainty about loss of accreditation would play a factor in decisions to apply or enroll.
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- Paul F. Sharp Series (#40021)

57. 14 August 1965: Letter from Professor William S. Newman to Chancellor Paul Sharp
The accreditation threat quickly spurred Governor Dan K. Moore to put together a special legislative commission (called the Britt Commission after the committee's chair, David M. Britt) to work on amending the law. Hearings began in late summer 1965 and continued through the fall. In this letter, Professor Newman advised Chancellor Sharp to consider including Carolina students as witnesses before the Britt Commission. He also defined several argumentative strategies, reminding the commission that regardless of the threat from "all those celebrated communists" in earlier years, "Dan K. Moore, Watts Hill Jr., Terry Sanford, Clarence Stone, and all the other prominent state officials ... seem to have survived [as students at Carolina]."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- Paul F. Sharp Series (#40021)

58. 9 September 1965: Transcript of the Britt Commission Hearings
On 8 and 9 September, the Britt Commission allowed student representatives to speak on behalf of their respective schools. Representing UNC-Chapel Hill were Bob Spearman (a recent graduate and former student body president) and Paul Dickson (the student body president at that time).
-- From James G. Hanes, Speaker Ban Commission Papers (#3765)

Bob Spearman and President William Friday testifying before the Britt Commission Click here to view this photograph. Catalog # 59. Bob Spearman and President Wiliam C. Friday testify before the Britt Commission. Photograph from the 1966 Yackety Yack.)

59. 9 September 1965: Photograph, Bob Spearman and William C. Friday
Appearing alongside President William C. Friday, past-Student Body President Bob Spearman answered questions before the Britt Commission on behalf of his fellow students at Carolina.
-- From the 1966 Yackety Yack

60. 19 November 1965: Letter from Senator Gordon Hanes to Chancellor Sharp
Senator Hanes was one of the actors behind the original passage of H.B. 1395 in the 1963 session. After months of discussion, the Britt Commission concluded that the law should be amended. Here Hanes wrote, "I hope you won't feel now that the fight is over just because we have amended the 1963 law. Actually it has just begun."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- Paul F. Sharp Series (#40021)

61. 8 December 1965: Report from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Following the amendment that came out of the Britt Commission, the Board of Trustees almost immediately adopted a policy to restore their power to accept or deny campus speakers. In so doing, the threat of loss of accreditation was effectively lifted. This report affirmed "that the affected state institutions of higher learning in North Carolina continue to be accredited by and hold membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Inc."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- Paul F. Sharp series (#40021)

62. 22 September 1965: Letter from Dean of Student Affairs C.O. Cathey to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover
Cathey wrote, "Within the last two months a chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society has been organized on this campus. ... I should like to have your comments as to whether this organization is presently on the subversive list."
-- From the Records of the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

29 September 1965: J. Edgar Hoover to C.O. Cathey Catalog #63: 29 September 1965: J. Edgar Hoover to C.O. Cathey

63. 29 September 1965: J. Edgar Hoover to C.O. Cathey
Hoover responded to Cathey's request for information by stating that he could not comment specifically on information held by the Bureau, but that he was enclosing official messages "which pertain to the issues you mentioned." One of these bulletins stated, "This academic year will undoubtedly see intensive Communist Party efforts to erect its newest facade on the Nation's campuses to draw young blood for the vampire which is international communism."
-- From the Records of the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

64. 7 February 1966: Excerpt of minutes from special meeting of the Board of Trustees
The minutes of the Board of Trustees meeting recorded the rejection of the invitations to Aptheker and Wilkinson to speak on campus. Furthermore, the minutes showed their intention to return the power of choice to each chancellor of the constituent campuses regarding use of University facilities. The Board met again on 28 February 1966 to formally adopt this policy.
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- Paul F. Sharp Series (#40021)

65. 10 February 1966: Resolution in Support of Free Speech from Student Government
This unanimous resolution in favor of the Aptheker and Wilkinson invitations stated, "We believe it is educationally desirable for us to hear and scrutinize persons representing any and all ideologies and philosophies of government."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- Paul F. Sharp Series (#40021)

66. 24 February 1966: Flyer for mass assembly in support of free speech
This event was held at Memorial Hall in support of the Aptheker and Wilkinson invitations. The flyer urged, "[T]his is an orderly way of showing your support for the University. We hope you will wear a coat and tie or the like."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

Photograph of Paul Dickson Catalog #67: Photograph of Paul Dickson. Click here to read a short biography of Paul Dickson.

67. 1966: Photograph of Paul Dickson
-- From 1966 Yackety Yack

68. 28 February 1966: Letter from student representatives to Acting Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson
Immediately following the Trustees' decision of 28 February 1966 to amend the speaker policy, ten students drafted and signed this letter officially to ask Acting Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson to allow Frank Wilkinson and Herbert Aptheker to speak the following week. Note the words "Exhibit 'A' - p.1" at the bottom. This copy of the letter comes from the papers of McNeill Smith, the attorney representing the students in the ensuing court challenge to the law.
-- From McNeill Smith Papers (#4990)

69. 3 March 1966: Letter from Melicent Huneycutt to Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson
Speaking in support of Chancellor Sitterson's decision to deny Wilkinson and Aptheker the right to speak on campus, Huneycutt wrote, "As a graduate student who is deeply concerned that the administration not be swayed by pressure tactics, I should like to congratulate you on your eminently sensible and incidentally courageous decision."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

70. 2 March 1966: Transcript of events surrounding Frank Wilkinson's speech
This typewritten transcript of the exchange between Student Body President Paul Dickson and UNC Police Chief Arthur Beaumont revealed the events of 9 March 1966 when Frank Wilkinson attempted to speak in Carroll Hall.
-- From McNeill Smith Papers (#4990)

71. 3 March 1966: Letter from William Phillips Shively to Chancellor Sitterson
"I am writing this letter to you as a concerned student," Shively wrote. "I heard Mr. Wilkinson speak at the Hillel House last night, and he was a lucid, informative speaker. I am sure that if you had heard him speak, you would have found him more moderate politically than many of the professors on this campus."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

72. 7 March 1966: Letter from Chancellor Sitterson to James B. Craven III
Responding to one of the many letters received from current students, Sitterson defended his decision to deny the Wilkinson invitation: "I can only claim for the decision that it was 'the least bad one' available to me. The perspective of time over the next months and several years will indicate whether this judgment is correct or not."
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

73. 2 March 1966: Photograph, Paul Dickson introducing speaker Frank Wilkinson from Franklin Street side of McCorkle Place stone wall
-- From the North Carolina Collection; Photograph Copyright Jock Lauterer

74. 14 March 1966: Letter from student representatives to Acting Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson
By March 1966, student representatives had for several months been receiving the counsel of attorneys, including alumni McNeill Smith and Duke Law School Professor William Van Alstyne. This counsel advised the students that in order to set up a court challenge, they should extend a second round of open-ended invitations to Aptheker and Wilkinson, so that the defendants in the case could not claim that the denials were merely due to scheduling conflicts. This letter represents the second invitation.
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

75. 1 April 1966: Summons in a Civil Action from United States District Court in Greensboro
The second invitation was denied by Chancellor Sitterson. Within an hour of his decision, students filed papers with the United States District Court in Greensboro to begin the court challenge to the Speaker Ban law. Fourteen plaintiffs joined the suit, including, among others, Dickson, SDS, and Campus Y student leaders. The defendants named were Sitterson, President Friday, the Board of Trustees, and the Consolidated University.
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

76. 19 February 1968: Order of the United States District Court -- Greensboro
A three-judge panel declared the Speaker Ban law to be "unconstitutional and null and void" and enjoined further enforcement of the law.
-- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor -- J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

Promotional Transcript of 'Viewpoint' editorial from Jesse Helms of WRAL-TV Catalog #77: 26 November 1968: Promotional Transcript of a televised "Viewpoint" editorial from Jesse Helms of WRAL-TV.

77. 26 November 1968: Promotional transcript of a televised "Viewpoint" editorial from Jesse Helms of WRAL-TV
Following speaking appearances by controversial civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael on several campuses of the University in fall 1968, Jesse Helms declared in this editorial, "The appearances ... also supply a measurement of the responsibility -- or the lack of it -- of college administrators who loudly condemned the 1963 legislature for what was claimed to be an invasion of 'academic freedom.'" He then encouraged the men and women of the 1969 General Assembly to do their "duty to step in" to resurrect the Speaker Ban.
-- From the North Carolina Collection

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