Our Public Mission & Commitment to Diversity
The Department of History is committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, staff, faculty, North Carolinians, and visitors. We believe that a broad definition of diversity is essential for the protection of human rights and human dignity. It is also essential for lively, creative, and engaged learning and scholarship.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is committed to equality of educational opportunity. The University does not discriminate in offering access to its educational programs and activities on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status.
On behalf of the History Department, Chair of the Department Professor Lisa Lindsay sent the following letter to the UNC Board of Trustees on June 22, 2021 regarding the tenure case of Nikole Hannah-Jones.
To read the letter in full, please click here. The letter is also printed in full below:
June 22, 2021
To Members of the UNC Board of Trustees:
As historians and members of the UNC academic community, we are gravely concerned by the extraordinary delay and obstruction in consideration of Nikole Hannah-Jones for a tenured appointment in the UNC School of Journalism. A distinguished alumna of UNC, Hannah-Jones earned a Pulitzer Prize for her outstanding journalism and was recognized with a MacArthur “genius” fellowship. She co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, dedicated to increasing the ranks of investigative reporters of color. Yet despite the recommendation of professors at UNC’s School of Journalism and the University’s provost, the Board of Trustees failed to consider her case for tenure.
Along with a wide range of other faculty members, students, and alumni, inside and outside of UNC, we object to the interference in academic freedom and self-governance exhibited in this case. Faculty and academic administrators must govern the tenure process if academic integrity is to be upheld. The Trustees’ inaction in this case threatens to plunge the University back to the damaging era of the Speaker Ban controversy of the mid-1960s, when political concerns overrode the values of free speech and intellectual inquiry.
The destructive consequences of the Board’s inaction are already apparent in the recent decisions by distinguished faculty of color to leave UNC or refuse to join it, based on the Board’s perceived double standard and political bias in its treatment of Ms. Hannah-Jones. These include the impending departure of our own esteemed colleague, Professor Malinda Maynor Lowery, for a chaired professorship at Emory University. The impact of the Trustees’ decision is therefore likely to nullify all the University’s efforts to recruit a more diverse faculty and student body, supposedly a major institutional priority. Instead, it is likely to create a highly toxic worldwide reputation for UNC among all students and scholars who value a demonstrable commitment to social justice, equity, and inclusion.
Additionally, as professional historians, we have informed perspectives on Ms. Hannah-Jones’s signature work, The 1619 Project. There is a legitimate and ongoing professional debate about the merits of some details of the 1619 Project document, but even the professional historians who have been most critical of some of Ms. Hannah-Jones’s assertions in The 1619 Project have affirmed its rigor and academic integrity and supported her qualification for tenure. Debates over the interpretation of evidence and the relative significance of various historical phenomena are intrinsic to the historical profession. As historians, we are especially sensitive to the obligation to revise narratives about the past as new evidence comes to light and as new perspectives illuminate formerly neglected issues. The historian who offers a sweeping reinterpretation of a large subject may generate argumentation and critique, but at the same time, this forces an entire field to question its standard assumptions and to engage in productive debate.
The 1619 Project upends comforting myths and redirects attention to the central role that racism has played in the ongoing American story. It has been an essential work during an unprecedented moment of reckoning in American history. The breathtaking intellectual ambition of The 1619 Project is inspiring; the range and quality of the arguments developed by Nikole Hannah-Jones and her collaborators were not only worthy of the Pulitzer but deserving of her tenured appointment at a prestigious school of journalism.
We urgently call on the Board of Trustees to set aside partisan agendas and respect the processes of shared governance and academic freedom by immediately offering Nikole Hannah-Jones the appointment with tenure originally recommended by our faculty colleagues and provost.
Sincerely, and on behalf of my Department of History colleagues,
Lisa A. Lindsay
Professor and Chair, Department of History
Cc: Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz
Chair of the Faculty Mimi Chapman
The Department of History strongly condemns racist violence, intimidation, and discrimination in all forms, including those against Asians and Americans of Asian descent, with whom we stand in solidarity. On March 16, 2021, a white gunman killed eight people—six of them women of Asian descent—at an Asian American-owned business outside of Atlanta. The United States has a long history of racism, xenophobia, hatred, and violence toward Asians and Asian Americans. We condemn anti-Asian actions, words, and ideologies in all forms and stand with our friends and colleagues in the UNC Asian American Center, Carolina Asia Center, and the wider Asian and Asian American community.
Below are some useful resources from our Asian and Asian American studies colleagues to help Carolina students, faculty, and staff in this difficult moment.
Lisa Lindsay, Chair
Events and Statements
“Asian Americans and the Movement for Black Lives” (Workshop). March 31, 2021 7 p.m.
“Yellow Peril and Anti-Asian Prejudice in the Shadow of Coronavirus” (Seminar Recording, Carolina Asia Center)
Message from University Leadership in Support of Our Asian American Community,
Asian and Asian-American Community Organizations and Campus Centers
Asian American Center. Asian American Center (unc.edu)
Carolina Asia Center, https://carolinaasiacenter.unc.edu/
Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (unc.edu)
North Carolina Asian Americans Together. North Carolina Asian Americans Together (ncaatogether.org)
Resources for Counseling and Psychological Services and Reporting Hate Crimes (Asian American Center)
Readings and Teaching Resources
Brockel, Gillian. “The Long, Ugly History of Anti-Asian Racism and Violence in the U.S.” The Washington Post, March 18, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/03/18/history-anti-asian-violence-racism/
Ho, Jennifer. “Anti-Asian Racism, Black Lives Matter, and COVID-19.” Japan Forum, DOI 10.1080/09555803.2020.1821749. https://doi.org/10.1080/09555803.2020.1821749.
Ho, Jennifer. “To Be An Asian Woman in America.” CNN, March 17, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/17/opinions/to-be-an-asian-woman-in-america-ho/index.html
Hsu, Madeline. Asian American History: A Very Short Introduction.2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2016.
Lee, Erika. The Making of Asian America: A History. Simon & Schuster 2015.
Lopez, Ian Haney. White By Law: the Legal Construction of Race. 10th Anniversary edition.NYU Press 2006.
Maeda, Daryl. Chains of Babylon: the Rise of Asian America. University of Minnesota Press 2009.
Ngai, Mae. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton University Press 2014.
The-UNC-Chapel Hill History Department Working Group on Equity and Inclusion has written the following Statement Concerning the 2020 Murder of Mr. George Floyd and the 2021 Trial of His Killer. If you would like to sign the statement, please follow this link.
Below is the statement in full:
The image of a hunter with his knee on the neck of his prey will long be in the memory of millions around the world. The hunter, a police officer, however, was not snuffing the life out of a deer he had just shot, but rather slowly killing George Floyd as Mr. Floyd politely said, “Officer, I can’t breathe.”
Unlike those in Simi Valley who heard the arguments in defense of policemen who beat Rodney King, we will not accept being told that we did not see what we saw in a video of the assault.
A Black man without any gun – man, as in human being – was killed by a police officer who could have taken George Floyd into custody alive but chose instead to treat Mr. Floyd as an animal.
We strongly and unequivocally condemn the killing of George Floyd.
We do not seek that the officer be treated as an animal. We know the difference between human beings and animals, no matter how reprehensible a person’s actions might be.
We Demand Justice.
The immunity and the excuses available to police officers have resulted in very few convictions. In rare cases, if an officer of color kills a white person he has been convicted and given prison time.
Multiple generations of people of every race and color with eyes to see and the humanity to count all members of the human race worthy of drawing breath and living un-oppressed on the earth saw that George Floyd was neither an animal, 3/5ths of a man, nor a man using deadly force against his killer.
The policeman has an attorney to plead his case in a court with 12 impartial jurors and two alternates. Whatever defense is mounted three facts are indisputable. First, George Floyd was alive on the ground having been restrained by a policeman. Second, that policeman pressed his knee on the neck of George Floyd for more than 9 minutes until he died a painful death calling for his mother. Third, George Floyd was murdered by this officer; and his fellow officers did nothing to take George Floyd into custody alive.
By law there are supposed to be consequences for killing another human being who is defenseless.
We demand a fair trial during which all of the evidence will be presented.
There is video evidence that cannot be ignored; it shows –surrounded by eye witnesses – the policeman on trial killing George Floyd.
There cannot be in this trial any denial of one indisputable fact: George Floyd is dead because the policeman on trial killed Mr. Floyd.
Once again – as in repeatedly over centuries – a policeman treated a Black life as if it did not matter.
With multitudes of persons who know Black people are human beings, not animals, and
with many of every race and color who know that in the United States there is a history of those in power and American law not only failing to abolish systemic racism, violence and terror against people of color – Indigenous people, Latinx persons and persons of Asian and African descent – but also in particular failing to hold accountable and punish law enforcement officers who kill defenseless Blacks,
We demand a conviction for the killing of George Floyd. It is unacceptable that there be no consequences under the rule of law in this nation for this policeman’s murder of George Floyd, a fellow human being.
We Demand Justice.
UNC-Chapel Hill History Department Working Group on Equity and Inclusion
Genna Rae McNeil
Malinda Maynor Lowery
Miguel La Serna
The History Department, along with Sociology, Political Science, and Peace, War & Defense have started the process of renaming Hamilton Hall. Our motivation for renaming the building is rooted in the history of our University and Professor Hamilton’s role in shaping it for the benefit of white supremacy. Ample evidence of this is available in the historical materials available below. Our motivation for selecting Pauli Murray is powerful and clear. As the faculty and student committee that developed our proposal wrote:
“Born in 1910 and raised in Durham, NC, Murray was a black descendent of one of the university’s original trustees, James Strudwick Smith. In 1938, Murray applied to the Ph.D. program in sociology but was denied admission because, as university officials wrote at the time, ‘members of your race are not admitted to the university.’
Undeterred, Murray would go on to achieve prominence as an outspoken scholar whose academic scholarship continues to make major contributions to numerous disciplines. Murray was a gifted orator, author, attorney, historian, priest, and activist who advocated for the rights of all members of society. Murray’s legacy more fully encapsulates the values we cherish in a modern society and the University of North Carolina claims to uphold. ”
Pauli Murray represents the immutable spirit of scholarship and public service, as she made major contributions to our society in the face of nearly insurmountable resistance. She also represents a path not taken for UNC at an important point in the history of our disciplines and departments. Naming our building after Pauli Murray will serve as a reminder of what is lost, what could have been, and what can be as we move forward.
Our letter to the Chancellor outlining this request and the reasons for it may be read here.
Writings by and about Pauli Murray
- Pauli, Murray, Song in a weary throat: Memoir of an American pilgrimage (Liveright Publishing, 2018).
- Glenda Gilmore, “Before Brown: Pauli Murray and the Desegregation of Higher Education,” Rutgers Race & L. Rev. 6 (2004): 247.
- Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, “Admitting Pauli Murray,” Journal of Women’s History 14, no. 2 (2002): 62-67.
- Rosalind Rosenberg, Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray (Oxford University Press, 2017).
Writings about Joseph Gregoire de Roulhac Hamilton and the naming of Hamilton Hall
- John Herbert Roper Sr., “Ransack Roulhac and Racism: Joseph Gregoire de Roulhac Hamilton and Dunning’s Questions of Institution Building and Jim Crow,” in The Dunning School: Historians, Race and the Meaning of Reconstruction. Ed. John David Smith and J. Vincent Lowery (Lexington : University Press of Kentucky 2013)
- Carlyle Sitterson, “Joseph Gregoire de Roulhac Hamilton, 1878-1961,” Documenting the American South, http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/hamilton/bio.html.
- Matisha H. Wiggs, “Ransacking the South: J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton and the Founding of the Southern Historical Collection,” (Master’s thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2012)
The Department of History’s archive of public statements can be found here.