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‘Free Men’ Reunion Recalls Chapel Hill Desegregation

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Participants in and witnesses to desegregation protests that rocked Chapel Hill in the 1960s will speak in a free public program at 5:45 p.m. Nov. 8 in UNC’s Wilson Library.

They will recall their experiences and celebrate republication of John Ehle’s The Free Men, a landmark book about the era that was first released in 1965. Winston-Salem publisher Press 53 reissued the book in February. Ehle will participate in the UNC program with:

  • Karen Parker ’65, an activist in the 1963-64 sit-ins and the first black female to graduate from UNC, now an editor with the Winston-Salem Journal and a member of the GAA’s Board of Directors;
  • Wayne King ’63, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist with the Detroit Free Press and New York Times, who covered the protests as an editor at The Daily Tar Heel. King wrote a new afterword for the new edition of Ehle’s book;
  • Jim Wallace ’64, a UNC alumnus and retired curator of photography for the Smithsonian, whose photographs appear in the book; and
  • Josh and Matt Dunne, sons of the late John B. Dunne ’65, a UNC undergraduate jailed for his protests.

Attendees will be able to examine archival selections from the manuscripts department in Wilson Library, home to the papers of Ehle, Parker and Dunne. On view will be photographs of events depicted in The Free Men; the journal in which Parker reflected on her experiences as a student and demonstrator in 1963-64 (“On Saturday the 14th, I decided to go to jail. It was no fun at all.”); and a 1964 letter Dunne wrote on a paper towel to his parents from the Orange County Jail, describing sentences imposed on him and conditions in the jail.

The Bull’s Head Bookshop will offer copies of The Free Men for sale at the program, co-sponsored by the library and Press 53. For program information, contact Friends of the Library at (919) 962-4207 or liza_terll@unc.edu. Information about an exhibit about the protests, “I Raised My Hand to Volunteer: Students Protest in 1960s Chapel Hill,” is available online.


Related coverage is available online:

  • Segregation’s Last Stand In 1963-64, the civil rights battle in Chapel Hill had the hatred and passion of any in the South, but it also was part of a plan to make the town a model for the country — a plan that failed.
    Cover story from the March/April 2006 issue of the Carolina Alumni Review, available online to GAA members.
  • Standing Up by Sitting Down
    One of the author’s happiest memories is New Year’s Eve in 1964, in a Chapel Hill jail cell among civil rights activists. The recollection is mixed, though, with other memories of fear and shame.
    Essay from the March/April 2006 issue of the Carolina Alumni Review, available online to GAA members.
  • Library Exhibit, Events to Explore Student Activism at UNC in ’60s
    News report from December 2006

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