Further reading on Wyatt Outlaw, NC history and the cost of white supremacy

If you’ve already read today’s Policy Watch special report on the 1870 lynching of Wyatt Outlaw and its connection to the modern problems in Alamance County, you may want to read more.

Today’s piece is the first in a Policy Watch series on Alamance County that will include pieces on local government, the sheriff’s department, public schools and environmental justice.

But our initial story on Wyatt Outlaw and  the history and continuation of white supremacy in the state would not have been possible without the scholars and activists who spoke to us for the piece and the work they’ve already done. All of it is worth your time.

If you were intrigued by what  Duke University’s Dr. William Darity had to say about systemic inequality and the racial terror campaigns designed to preserve it, you should read  From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, Darity’s recent book with co-author A. Kirsten Mullen.

Dr. William Darity.

The Rev. Ervin Milton  talked with us about modern Alamance County and the connections to story of Wyatt Outlaw. He is a regular contributor at the Burlington Times-News. His columns, including this week’s on the meaning of Lent,  can be found here.

The Rev. Ervin Milton.

 

Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards, a developmental psychologist and assistant professor of Medicine at Duke, helped us with a closer look at the psychological aspect of white supremacist thinking and the cycle of violence it has perpetuated throughout our history. Her paper, How Does it Feel to be a Problem? The Missing Kerner Commission Report, is essential reading.

Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards.

For a deep dive into the life, death and legacy of Wyatt Outlaw, you need to read Dr. Carole Troxler’s “To look more closely at the man”: Wyatt Outlaw, a Nexus of National, Local, and Personal History She is a historian and professor emerita at Elon University whose work on the Outlaw story is widely considered definitive.

Dr. Carole Troxler.

North Carolina’s HBCU students are leaders in building a democracy for all

RALEIGH – One of the crown jewels of North Carolina is our world-class system of higher education. Among these stellar institutions are our Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

We are one of the top states for HBCU enrollment, with 10 schools serving 40,000 students. These HBCUs are essential to the strength of North Carolina, producing outstanding engineers, attorneys, educators, artists, entrepreneurs and leaders who help shape the destiny of our country.

As we celebrate Black History Month, we recall the rich legacy of brave student activists, of past and present, at North Carolina’s HBCUs who have played a crucial part in the civil rights and Black Lives Matter movements, championing equality and justice for all.

An early example came in February of 1960, when four freshmen at NC A&T State University sat down at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro to defy segregation. Their courageous act sparked a student-led, nationwide sit-in movement that challenged the evils of white supremacy.

That same year, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was founded on the campus of another North Carolina HBCU, Shaw University in Raleigh. The organization would play a central role in engaging young people in the cause of civil rights.

In these and countless other examples, HBCU students have changed the course of history. The torch is now in the hands of today’s generation. We wish the battle against systemic racism and oppression were things of the past, but we know they are not. We’ve seen repeated attempts at voter suppression in recent years, and new threats loom.

In 2013, after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a core part of the Voting Rights Act, the Republican-controlled NC General Assembly rammed through a bill that rolled back voting access in our state. A federal judge later noted that the proposal targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.” Thanks to a broad coalition of grassroots advocacy groups, students and everyday people standing up and fighting back, that voter suppression scheme was overturned in court.

In 2016, the GOP-led legislature once again gerrymandered our state’s voting maps. In doing so, lawmakers split the campus of NC A&T State University – the nation’s largest HBCU – into two different congressional districts, fracturing the voting power of that predominantly Black community. Students at NC A&T spoke out, organized and joined the effort to strike down the discriminatory district lines. In 2019, a state court case resulted in the maps being redrawn, and the NC A&T campus was reunited into a single congressional district.

Time and again, HBCU students have been at the forefront of defending democracy, but the work is not done. The former president and his most radical supporters continue to spread destructive lies about the 2020 election as a pretense to undercut ballot access for Black and brown Americans.

Michael Spencer

We must act now to protect voting rights and our Constitution. In North Carolina, we must demand that legislators reject efforts to enact barriers to the ballot box.

At the federal level, Congress should immediately pass the For the People Act. This is a transformative and comprehensive bill that addresses voting rights and election administration, money in politics, government transparency and ethics. The For the People Act includes provisions for automatic voter registration, strengthening ballot access and establishing independent redistricting commissions to end racial and partisan gerrymandering.

The eyes of history are upon us. We must carry on the legacy of standing against suppression and pursuing justice. Together, we can build a democracy that so many dreamed of and worked for – a democracy for us all.

Michael Spencer is the College Outreach Program Manager with Common Cause NC, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.

Legacy of white supremacy continues to create barriers for workers, especially during COVID-19

Black History Month could just as easily be called “American present February.” Nothing in the U.S. is ancient history. Someone who will graduate college this year at age 23 has been alive for nearly 10% of U.S. history, and anyone lucky enough to reach 80 has personally witnessed one-third of the American experience. The presence of the past is particularly plain to see during COVID-19. The mold of the past year was shaped by generations of social and economic policy that layered the burden of COVID-19 most heavily on communities of color.

As a small part of reckoning with our history and celebrating the lives of Black people who have struggled for justice, we’re releasing a few resources over the next few weeks that can be food for thought and reflection.

An overview of what each includes is provided below, but here’s how to skip straight to the resources themselves:

Read more

UNC-Chapel Hill halts diversity hiring program due to budget concerns

As UNC-Chapel Hill eyes its budgets due to the financial hit of COVID-19, one of the early casualties is its minority hiring program VITAE (Valuing Inclusion to Attain Excellence).

The program seeks to “attract accomplished and talented new faculty members from underrepresented and other groups for tenure track or tenured appointments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

There was faculty concern when word got around that the program had been halted. But that isn’t intended to be permanent, university Provost Bob Blouin told a meeting of the Faculty Executive Committee on Monday.

“As my office also is having to wrestle with the budget challenges, I have in talking to [UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz]…we decided just as we put so many other hiring initiatives on pause until we have a better idea of the financial ramifications, I put that program on pause,” Blouin said.

UNC-Chapel Hill Provost Bob Blouin speaks to the school’s Faculty Executive Committee Monday.

According to UNC-Chapel Hill, the VITAE program is part of the campus’ effort to create a more diverse faculty.  Hires “may include individuals who grew up in economically disadvantaged circumstances, individuals with substantial professional experience working with minority and economically disadvantaged populations; individuals doing significant research on issues that disproportionately affect minority and disadvantaged populations; and individuals whose teaching or research specialty is in a field that is currently underrepresented in the University faculty.”

The program provides “up to full-salary for a period of up to 4 years at the discretion of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost,” but only $100,000 per year is available through the program. The university expects the unit into which the employee is hired to assume the full cost after an initial four year period.

The names of those hired through the program are kept confidential “so as to create a climate of equity among the faculty.”

Blouin said the decision to pause the program isn’t ideological or a reflection of the university’s commitment to diversity.

“I need to be sure we have the resources to support those hires,” Blouin said.

“This is a temporary issue,” Blouin said. “I want to be very clear — this is not an attempt on the part of South Building walking away from our VITAE hiring program. It’s been a critical program for us as a university, to contribute toward the diversification of this university. It’s just for a few months. We have to take a break and not make any additional financial commitments out of the provost’s office until we have a much clearer view of where we stand. Then it is my hope that we will start that up sooner than later.”

Programs like VITAE are part of the UNC System’s overall diversity efforts.

In November, the UNC System offered a first look at the work of its Racial Equity Task Force — results from online surveys of students, faculty and staff as well as information from virtual town halls.

At its first meeting the task force heard a report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion survey results that found the system falling below its benchmarks. In fact, the results were worse than those from 2018.

The UNC System has specifically set a goal to improve “equity in hiring, promotions, tenure and compensation.”

In last year’s round of surveys, more than four in 10 faculty and staff members said they feel opportunities for leadership roles, tenure track or promotions are, at best, “only sometimes” equitable.

The same surveys found that more than half of faculty and 41 percent of staff would describe the UNC System leadership as not very or at all committed to creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive system.

 

“Recruiting and retaining diverse faculty & staff” and “investigating & correcting inequities in tenure, promotions and compensation” were both top three priorities for faculty and staff, according to the surveys.

UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees votes to remove white supremacist names from buildings

The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to remove the names of three white supremacists from buildings on the school’s campus.

The names of Charles B. Aycock, Julian S. Carr and Josephus Daniels will all be removed from the buildings that have long held their names, beginning Wednesday afternoon.

“Aycock, Daniels, and Carr led the Democratic Party’s white supremacy campaigns of 1898 and 1900,” the school’s Commission on History, Race & A Way Forward wrote in its resolution on the issue. “Aycock was a key strategist in both campaigns and ran as the party’s gubernatorial candidate in 1900; Daniels, editor and publisher of the Raleigh News and Observer, served as chief propagandist; and Carr, a Durham industrialist and leader of the United Confederate Veterans in North Carolina, provided financial backing.”

“Together, they fought to disenfranchise black men and to establish the regime of Jim Crow,” the commission wrote. “Which for more than half a century denied black North Carolinians equal justice and the fundamental rights of citizenship

The name of Thomas Ruffin Sr. will also be removed from a building on campus. Ruffin Sr. was a North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice. Known as a particularly cruel enslaver, he used his legal position to ignore legal precedents and grant more power to his fellow enslavers and expand their ability to brutalize enslaved people.

“His ruling in State v. Mann is known as ’the coldest and starkest defense of the physical violence inherent in slavery that ever appeared in an American judicial opinion,’” the Commission on History, Race & A Way Forward wrote in describing his legacy.

A portrait of Ruffin Sr. was recently removed from the historic Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough.

But the building named for him at UNC will still carry the Ruffin name. It was also named for his son, Thomas Ruffin Jr. The trustees found that there wasn’t enough evidence about Ruffin’s son to remove his name, but signs on inside and outside the building will make clear it is named for Thomas Ruffin Jr.

Thomas Ruffin Sr.

Students and faculty quickly criticized that decision, pointing out that historical evidence indicates Thomas Ruffin Jr.  — a Confederate officer and one-term legislator —  also held white supremacist views. He publicly argued for amnesty for Ku Klux Klan members charged with murder in Alamance County in 1873.

Charles B. Aycock was a prominent UNC alumnus and governor of North Carolina whose political career was built on white supremacist rhetoric. Other schools, including UNC-Greensboro, have already removed his name from buildings.

Julian Carr, a wealthy industrialist and UNC trustee, was also Ku Klux Klan member who publicly bragged about beating a black woman during his speech at the dedication of the Silent Sam Confederate monument in 1913. That statue was toppled by protesters in 2018.

Josephus Daniels

Josephus Daniels was publisher of The News & Observer, a position he used to promote white supremacist policies and stoke violence against Black communities in North Carolina. A statue of Daniels was recently removed from Nash Square in downtown Raleigh, where it stood across from the former News & Observer building.

Speaking at Wednesday’s board meeting, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said continuing to honor Aycock, Carr and Daniels threatened the integrity of the university and its goal of creating a diverse, inclusive community.

The men’s views and actions did not merely reflect a different time, Guskiewicz said.

“The actions of these individuals were egregious even for their time,” Guskiewicz said. “and their conduct was central to their careers and lives as a whole. There is no evidence their views moderated or changed in their lifetimes and the accounts of their behavior are supported by documentary evidence.”

New permanent names for the buildings have not yet been announced.

The Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward will continue its work.

“We believe that other names on the landscape warrant action,” the commission wrote in its resolution. “We will make additional recommendations based on archival research and engagement with stakeholders on campus and in the broader community.”