- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - In the early decades of the University of North Carolina, servants kindled fires in students’ rooms and cut wood to fuel stoves.

The 216-year-old school, which takes pride in being the nation’s oldest public university, is using records and photographs that archivists have uncovered to present a more complete story of the role of slavery in the school’s beginnings.

“This university was built by slaves and free blacks,” said Chancellor James Moeser. “We need to be candid about that, acknowledge their contributions.”

The University of North Carolina, chartered in 1789, is among several institutions that have tried to set the record straight on their historical ties to slavery and the slave trade.

North Carolina archivists were researching the university’s first 100 years when they found records that confirmed slaves helped construct campus buildings. Other records showed that both faculty and university board members owned slaves.

That research is displayed in “Slavery and the Making of the University: Celebrating Our Unsung Heroes, Bond and Free,” an exhibit that includes photographs, letters and documents such as bills of sale for slaves.

Other universities that have shed light on their historical ties to slavery include the University of Alabama, where the faculty senate last year apologized to the descendants of slaves who were owned by faculty members or who worked on campus in the years before the Civil War. The school also erected a marker near the graves of two slaves on campus.

A committee at Brown University in Rhode Island is examining the school’s past ties to the slave trade and recommending whether and how the college should take responsibility.

“We clearly do live in a society that has a persistent pattern of racial disparity, and I think most people would agree that that has something to do with our history,” said James Campbell, a history professor at Brown and chairman of the committee.

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