Interviews with Chapel Hill Residents

Welcome! Below is a list of interviews with Chapel Hill residents. To listen, click on the name of the interviewee or the title of the interviewer. The interview will open in a new window or tab, and you can choose to listen to the interview while you read along, or to just read it. When you are done, please close the new window. Enjoy!


Interview with Rebecca Clark
by Bob Gilgor

Living and Working in Segregated North Carolina
Rebecca Clark recalls living and working in segregated North Carolina. She finished her schooling in all-black schools, so the bulk of her experience with white people in a segregated context took place in the work world. There she experienced economic discrimination in a variety of forms, and despite her claims that many black people kept quiet in the face of racial discrimination at the time, she often agitated for, and won, better pay. Along with offering some information about school desegregation, this interview provides a look into the constricted economic lives of black Americans living under Jim Crow.


Interview with Anne Queen
by Joseph Herzenberg

From Factory Floor to Yale: A Life Dedicated to Social Justice
Anne Queen spent ten years working for the Champion Paper and Fibre Company in North Carolina before continuing her education at Berea College and Yale Divinity School during the 1940s. In this interview, she describes her life as a worker, her advocacy of social justice causes, her experiences in higher education, and her work at University of Georgia, with the Friends Service Committee, and the YWCA-YMCA at University of North Carolina.


Interview with Elizabeth Brooks
by Beverly Jones

An African American Woman Discusses Her Role in the UNC Food Workers Strike of 1969
Elizabeth Brooks was one of the leaders of the UNC Food Workers Strike of 1969. As a new worker in the Lenoir Dining Hall, Brooks helped to organize the food workers with the help of Preston Dobbins and the Black Student Movement. This interview focuses on the first strike, which was sparked by the unexpected firing of one worker, low wages, and withheld overtime pay.


Interview with Anne Barnes
by Kathy Nasstrom

Overcoming the Barriers: One Woman’s Fight against Racial and Gender Stereotypes in North Carolina’s Political System
From 1981 to 1996, Anne Barnes sat in the North Carolina House of Representatives for Orange County. While there, she focused on issues of social justice, especially poverty, education, prison reform, civil rights and women’s rights. In this 1989 interview, she explains her motivations to become involved in the political arena and discusses some of the political campaigns she has been associated with, including her own.


Interview with Charles Jones
by John Egerton

A Presbyterian Pastor Loses His Job Because of Racial Activism and Liberal Views on Faith
Charles Jones led the First Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill as pastor in the late 1940s. He describes his education and ministry in this interview, the controversies during his time at the church, and his eventual expulsion.


Interview with Fred Battle
by Bob Gilgor

Fighting for an Uncertain Legacy: Race and Rights in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Fred Battle reflects on race and protest in segregated Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


Interview with Sam Crawford
by Judith Wheeler

Local Activist Describes the Formation and Activities of the Cane Creek Conservation Authority
Sam Crawford describes the formation and activities of the Cane Creek Conservation Authority in their battle against the Orange Water and Sewer Authority’s effort to build a reservoir on Cane Creek in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He focuses on the grassroots nature of the CCCA’s actions and offers commentary about what he views as the exploitative nature of land development.


Interview with J. Carlyle Sitterson
by Pamela Dean

UNC Chancellor Reflects on Tumultuous Changes During the Civil Rights Era
J. Carlyle Sitterson discusses his tenure as University of North Carolina chancellor during the 1960s and 1970s. He describes the difficult balance he struck between the Board of Trustees and the student body on issues of student rights.


Interview with Julius Chambers
by William Link

Civil Rights Lawyer Reflects on the Desegregation of North Carolina’s College System
Julius Chambers served on the UNC Board of Governors from 1972 to 1977. He recalls the tensions between the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare’s federal objectives and the University of North Carolina Board officials’ control over the desegregation process at post-secondary educational institutions.


Interview with John Snipes
by Brent Glass

Life and Work in the Farming, Textiles, and Timber Industries in North Carolina
John W. Snipes grew up in an agricultural family during the early twentieth century and worked on a farm, in a cotton mill, and in the timber industry. He offers a unique perspective on various industries, and he describes in vivid detail various aspects of workers’ lives and culture.


Interview with James Atwater
by Jennifer Nardone

Segregation in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
James Atwater discusses life in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from the 1930s to the 1950s. He describes the black community, the impact of segregation on schools and neighborhoods, and experiences of African American staff at the university.


Interview with Harvey E. Beech
by Anita Foye

A Black Educational Pioneer’s Quest for Legal Justice

Harvey E. Beech describes his journey to becoming a lawyer fighting for legal justice. In 1951, he was one of five students who made up the first group of African Americans to attend the University of North Carolina School of Law. Beech assesses the racial changes since the mid-twentieth century and discusses racism in contemporary America.


And finally, we have nine interviews with civil liberties activist and attorney Daniel Pollitt, conducted with Ann McColl. Please browse these links to see more.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9


These interviews are part of the Southern Oral History Program (SOHP) collection, housed at the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They are available online through “Oral Histories of the American South,” a joint project of the SOHP and Documenting the American South.


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