On a mobile device? Visit http://www.lib.unc.edu/m/
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill University Libraries logo
University Libraries banner

Student Protest Movements

This guide is designed primarily for patrons using the North Carolina Collection, in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sarah Falls, a graduate student in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, completed the guide in December of 2001. The North Carolina Collection staff made revisions in May 2004.

This guide identifies books, theses, and archival sources useful in the further study of student activism at UNC-Chapel Hill in the 1960s.

Topic Headings:



From the mid- to late-1960s, students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill became increasingly vocal in their protests of local and national events. As on other campuses nationwide, students used marches, sit-ins, and strikes to express their opposition to what they perceived to be unjust policies.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, though there were voices of dissent throughout the decade, four large protests have received the most attention. The Speaker Ban Controversy (1963), Food Workers' Strike (1969), and anti-Vietnam protests in 1969 and 1970 provoked the largest reactions from students and the media.

Speaker Ban (1963-1966)
The "Act to Regulate Visiting Speakers" was passed by the North Carolina State Legislature in June 1963. The law specified that known members of the Communist Party, or those who had pleaded the Fifth Amendment when asked under oath if they were Communists, would not be permitted to speak at any of North Carolina's state-sponsored institutions. Many students, faculty, and administrators saw the bill as a direct attack on free speech and academic freedom on the UNC campuses. The law was challenged on several occasions, most notably when Herbert Aptheker and Frank Wilkinson spoke from a Franklin Street sidewalk to students gathered on campus on the other side of a low stone wall. A North Carolina court overturned the law in 1968.

Civil Rights Protests (1963-1964)
UNC-Chapel Hill students were often at the forefront of Civil Rights protests in Chapel Hill. Inspired by other acts of civil disobedience, such as the sit-ins begun by North Carolina A&T students in Greensboro in 1960 and the large-scale protests in Birmingham in the summer of 1963, a small group in Chapel Hill began to protest the town's segregated institutions. As the protests grew in size and in volume, many in the traditionally quiet, liberal town of Chapel Hill were surprised by the violent reaction to the protestors and the stubborn determination of several restaurant owners to retain segregated facilities. An effort to pass a public accommodations ordinance in early 1964 was narrowly defeated by the town council and Chapel Hill businesses remained formally segregated until the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act later that year.

Food Workers' Strike (1968-1969)
In late 1968, members of the Black Student Movement (BSM) at UNC-Chapel Hill began advocating on behalf of the university's low-paid and predominantly African American cafeteria workers. With the support of the BSM and other students, the dining hall workers went on strike. For several months, tensions rose between supporters of the strike and students increasingly angered by the difficulty in getting a meal on campus. Fearing a large outbreak of violence, the Governor asked the North Carolina National Guard to stand by in Durham in case they were needed on campus. The Guard was never called in, and the strike ended in late March when the food workers' lawyer and the governor reached an agreement that would raise wages for the university's lowest-paid employees.

Anti-War Protests (1969-1970)
Richard Nixon’s election and subsequent failure to curtail U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam led, by the fall of 1969, to mass demonstrations and protests by UNC-Chapel Hill students. By the spring of 1970, class boycotts targeting the U.S. war effort had become significant, and student protests culminated in a strike by graduate teaching assistants and a march by 2,000 students on South Building. Following the strike, university faculty and administrators met in May amidst student teach-ins and sit-ins to discuss the university’s policies toward the strikers and student protesters, demonstrating that campus discontent was no longer limited to the periphery of student life.

Library of Congress Subject Headings:

To begin your search using the library's online catalog (www.lib.unc.edu), select a "Subject" search and enter any of the following terms.

College Students--North Carolina--Chapel Hill--Political Activity

College Students--North Carolina--Chapel Hill--Political Activity--History--20th Century

Peace Movements--North Carolina--Chapel Hill

Protest Movements--North Carolina--Chapel Hill

Social Movements

Student Movements--North Carolina--Chapel Hill

Vietnam Conflict--Protest Movements--North Carolina--Chapel Hill

Sources on the UNC Student Movements:

Billingsley, William J. Communists on Campus: Race, Politics, and the Public University in Sixties North Carolina. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1999. C378 UE65.

    This is a very good overview of the Speaker Ban Controversy from the inception of the bill to court battles and negotiations between politicians and UNC administrators to the eventual dismissal of the law. University President William Friday and campus protests figure prominently in the discussion, as does television commentator Jesse Helms, whose increasing political influence becomes evident during the Speaker Ban debate. The book includes a couple of photographs of "Gov. Dan K. Moore wall" on Franklin Street.

Ehle, John. The Free Men. New York: Harper and Row, 1965. C326 E33f

    The Free Men is a first-hand account of the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement at UNC, discussing student protests and sit-ins and the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to pass a public accommodations bill in Chapel Hill. Author John Ehle was a professor at UNC during the early 1960s.

Student Publications

The Daily Tar Heel. 1893 - present. C071 T16

The Daily Tar Heel, the primary student newspaper, includes coverage of all student protests, editorials, and letters to the editor.

The Left Heel. October 1966 - January 1967. C378 UQLe

A publication of the UNC Students for a Democratic Society. The editors belong to the "New Left," and state, "We feel that for too long the voices of unreflective conservatism had retained a monopoly at this university." Content covers national issues -- especially civil rights and Vietnam (vol. 1, no. 3 is a "Special Viet Nam Issue").

Vietnam Viewpoints. November - December, 1967. Two issues. FCp378 UQv

The editors write, "Our primary objective is to provide a forum for the opinions of students and others on the war." The newspaper contains many reprints of articles from other newspapers as well as original material. There are many editorials as well as reports of protests and war news. Most of the viewpoints are strongly anti-war, though there are some dissenting opinions.

Protean Radish. 1968-1970. C071 P987.

The Protean Radish was a local counter culture, anti-war magazine. The North Carolina Collection holds bound copies of it, while it can be found on microfilm at Davis Library.

Clipping Files at the North Carolina Collection:

The North Carolina Collection has a large collection of newspaper clippings arranged by subject. University of North Carolina Clippings (call number: CR378 UE7) will be helpful for researchers searching for general material on UNC-Chapel Hill. See the Subject Clippings Index for a full description. There is a separate collection of newspaper articles on the Food Workers' Strike at the call number FCp378 UE9.

Ephemeral, Archival and Photographic Holdings including Finding Aids:

A variety of archival materials are available at the North Carolina Collection and the Southern Historical Collection. These include fliers, photographs and personal collections of materials.

    [Anti-War Materials from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill] [Manuscript]. 1967-1970. 80 items. Found at the NCC at FVC378 US13.

    Aycock, William Brantley. My Role in the Speaker Ban Controversy, 1963-1965. (1994). Photocopies of materials such as speeches, letters and newspaper articles dealing with the early years of the Speaker Ban. Found at NCC at FC378.9 N87a. Also found in the Law and School of Government Libraries.

    Photographs, Collection 4, Series P4 in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives documents the Anti-War activities on Campus.

    Aycock, William Brantley. Records of the Office of the Chancellor: William Brantley Aycock Series, 1957-1964. Held in the Manuscript Department, UARS records, items 1-24600. Electronic Finding Aid available at: http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/uars/40020.txt

    Friday, William C. The records of William Clyde Friday, president of the Consolidated University of North Carolina, 1957-1972, and General Administration of the University of North Carolina, 1972-1986. Inventory to the William C. Friday records, 1957-1986. Chapel Hill, N.C. : University Archives and Records Service, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1991. Found in the NCC at C378.1 UC29.

    Sitterson, J. Carlyle. Papers, 1930s-1999s [manuscript]. Held at the Manuscripts Department, records SHC 4770, items 1-10000. The electronic finding aid is available at: http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/s/Sitterson,J.Carlyle.html

    Sitterson, J. Carlyle. Records of the Office of Chancellor : Joseph Carlyle Sitterson series, 1966-1971 [manuscript]. Held at the Manuscripts Department, records UARS Records, items 1-39600. The electronic finding aid is available at http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/uars/40022.txt

Master's Theses:

Several master's theses have been written on the student protest movements at UNC-Chapel Hill. These all have thorough bibliographies, including many helpful citations to Daily Tar Heel articles.

Floren, Gillian Dae. Speaking Freely: UNC-CH Administrators Respond to Freedom of Expression, 1963-1970. Master's Thesis, School of Journalism, 1989. C378 UO2 1989 FLOREN, G.D.

This is a concise look at of the movements focused on in this pathfinder, the Speaker Ban, Food Worker's Strike, and the Anti-War Strike of 1970. The thesis is helpful in setting the events at UNC into the national context.

Thorpe, Judith L. Study of the Peace Movement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Viewed within the Context of the Nation 1964-1971. Master's Thesis, School of Education, 1971. C378 UO2 1972 THORPE, J.L.

Thorpe's work focuses on the anti-war movements at UNC. The author argues that while UNC-Chapel Hill was thought to be "the liberal bastion of the South," students were not as politically active as those on other campuses.

Weiner, Terry S. Sources of Student Activism. Master's Thesis, School of Sociology, 1972. C378 U02 WEINER, T.S.

This is a concise, useful source on the sociological aspects of the student movements, using the Foodworker's Strike as a case study. Written just after the strike, the author was able to interview many of the people involved.

Williams, J. Derek. "It Wasn't Slavery Time Anymore:" Foodworker's Strike at Chapel Hill, Spring 1969. Master's Thesis, Department of History, 1979. C378 UO2 1980 WILLIAMS, J.D.

This is a nice complement to Terry Weiner's 1972 thesis. While Weiner looked at the students involved in the food worker's strike, Williams discusses all of the participants, including the cafeteria workers and members of the Black Student Movement.