sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Saturday, January 22, 2005

I read with interest the N&R article on Spencie and Marvin Love's defense of their great-grandmother, Cornelia Phillip Spencer, for whom UNC's Bell Award is named. I read more here and here, and have a couple of questions.

This is a very intriguing and complex subject, as UNC's history "is anything but simple. It's contested, contentious and full of significance for our time," said history professor Jim Leloudis.

In my mind, there are two major themes run through the story. The obvious one is what to do about the disturbing legacies of historical fugures. I'm certainly not saying that historians should not continue to dig, and that 19th-century values shouldn't be applied to 20th century standards.

But it's a difficult process. Were there any people in power in the 19th century who did not hold basic views of white supremacy? Not even Lincoln escapes, as evidenced by this statement in an 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas, pulled from The Real Lincoln:

"I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the black and white races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality."

The other subject I find interesting is how the university functioned immediately after the Civil War. Spencer is renowned for ringing the bell after UNC "reopened after being shut down for five years under a Republican administration, which had taken it over at the end of the Civil War."

So the way I read it is the administration of a public university was bascially taken over by force. What I would be interested to know is what academic changes did the Republicans institute? How did the university function under such an administration?

Like I said, it's a very interesting and complex situation, I just felt like working it out in my head. Any smart people out there, help me out.


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