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The New Southern University

Academic Freedom and Liberalism at UNC

Charles J. Holden

Publication Year: 2011

Established in 1789, the University of North Carolina is the oldest public university in the nation. UNC’s reputation as one of the South’s leading institutions has drawn some of the nation’s leading educators and helped it become a model of the modern American university. However, the school’s location in the country’s most conservative region presented certain challenges during the early 1900s, as new ideas of academic freedom and liberalism began to pervade its educational philosophy. This innovative generation of professors defined themselves as truth-seekers whose work had the potential to enact positive social change; they believed it was their right to choose and cultivate their own curriculum and research in their efforts to cultivate intellectual and social advancement. In To Carry the Truth: Academic Freedom at UNC, 1920–1941, Charles J. Holden examines the growth of UNC during the formative years between the World Wars, focusing on how the principle of academic freedom led to UNC’s role as an advocate for change in the South.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: New Directions in Southern History


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p. v

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pp. 1-22

Anticipating a backlash against his controversial “Christmas Bombing” of North Vietnam in 1972, President Richard Nixon subjected his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, to yet another rant against all those he was convinced were conspiring against him. Aft er singling...

Part I: The 1920s

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pp. 23-72

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1. "Race Was a Delicate Matter": The Academic Study of Race Relations

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pp. 25-48

In January 1921, the Ku Klux Klan came to Chapel Hill. They burned no crosses and administered no beatings. Th e UNC student newspaper, the Tar Heel, reported that a “Mr. Smith” had arrived in town with the purpose of starting up a Klan chapter in Chapel Hill, having recently...

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2. "Go Ahead and Do Harm": The Academic Study of Labor Relations

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pp. 49-72

In 1924, Howard Odum eagerly anticipated launching a new study of conditions in North Carolina’s textile industry and mill villages, under the auspices of the Institute for Research in Social Science (IRSS). The project’s scope fit perfectly within the core mission of the IRSS...

Part II: The 1930s

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p. 73

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3. "A Complex and Baffling Age": Frank Porter Graham Ushers in a New Decade

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pp. 75-85

UNC leaders, faculty, and students who embraced academic freedom as an institutional value in the 1920s assumed that its fruits would lead to useful change and a more progressive state and region. Th is was a formulation that did not strike them as controversial, because the South...

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4. "A New Negro Is About to Come on the Scene": Leadership vs. Caution in the Struggle for Racial Equality

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pp. 87-118

On a crisp autumn afternoon in 1935, Paul Green, a famous UNC playwright and a dedicated liberal on race issues, decided to join a couple of faculty friends and take in the Duke-Auburn football game up the road in Durham. Green was well known for writing sympathetic...

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5. "The Rankest Center of Communism": The Left Comes to Campus

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pp. 119-147

UNC campus events in the early 1930s seemed to confirm David Clark’s suspicions that the university was the “refuge of radicals and socialists.” In May 1931, British socialist Harold Laski, Frank Graham’s former professor at the London School of Economics, delivered a lecture at...

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Epilogue: “Th e University Must Go on Being a University”: Frank Graham and the World War II Era

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pp. 149-163

The entrance of the United States into World War II in December 1941 presented Frank Graham and UNC with a dizzying array of new challenges. Graham had already begun in 1940 to anticipate the changes that war mobilization would bring to UNC. He was in the forefront of local...

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pp. 165-166

I have been very fortunate to have had the assistance of a number of talented St. Mary’s College of Maryland students over the years. Thanks go to Jonathan Robins, Jeremy Young, Carly Swaim, Lisa Beth Carey, and Brianne Coons Carter for their patient reading of microfilm and their...


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pp. 167-203


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pp. 205-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780813134390
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813134383

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 13 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: New Directions in Southern History
Series Editor Byline: Peter S. Carmichael, Michele Gillespie, & William A. Link See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 778339932
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The New Southern University

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • University of North Carolina (1793-1962) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Higher education and state -- North Carolina.
  • Educational equalization -- North Carolina.
  • Academic freedom -- North Carolina.
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