The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has history stretching back 221 years. Just as the university has an expansive history, many of the surrounding schools have important stories that have helped shape North Carolina and the nation itself. President Abraham Lincoln’s influence radiates throughout the nation appearing in many places for the average consumer as well as bestowing his namesake on many institutions. Lincoln’s presence in these spaces illustrates various ways processual Lincoln memory is useful to Americans today.
In 1908, UNC professors were trying to find a way to improve education in the community. In 1909, the Chapel Hill graded school district was created . The first Chapel Hill School was in operation from 1909-1916, located two blocks behind the Carolina Inn. Students had to pay tuition to attend for more than three or four months, while teachers had to forgo raises to keep the schools open . African American education remained under the authority of the Orange County school district. After the Orange County Training School burnt down, it was reopened as Northside High School . Finally, in 1948, the parents did not think the name represented the academic rigor they desired for their children so they demanded that it be renamed Lincoln High School . Abraham Lincoln represented a continuation of freedom from slavery. He was chosen as the school’s namesake because he emphasized the drive for a better, more equal community in the nation.
At the time, many African Americans associated Lincoln’s memory with a symbol of freedom from slavery. Shortly after the end of slavery, African American schools began to open. Although there were many segregation laws enacted, African Americans began to take advantage of these schools . Unfortunately, since bus systems were segregated and there were no buses for African Americans to take, some had to walk five miles to get to school.
In Chapel Hill, the Orange County Training School opened in 1916 at the future site of Lincoln High School and eventually Chapel Hill High School. The Lincoln High School Alumni have collected mementos, artwork, yearbooks, and photos as a material memory timeline of the school and the fight for a more equal and better education. Some of the alumni have taken the time to record an oral history by interviewing some of the students who attended the Orange County Training School or Lincoln High School.
Dolores Hogan Clark described her mother’s experiences living in Carrboro and her experiences at the Orange County Training School (OTCS). She informs the interviewer that most of their experiences were pleasant . There was a lot of obvious segregation, but as long as she accepted the segregation as a normality she did not have any problems. Buses were made available to blacks in the 1940s and she rode a bus for the first time when she was 14 . She described that she loved being in school and although she had second hand things, the overall experience was good. Her interview illustrates the confidence that Lincoln influence provided African Americans. Although there was still work to be done, he provided them with a first huge step to assuming greater equality. The full interview is available here.
Gloria Register Jeter described her experiences growing up in a time closer to the civil rights movement in this oral interview. She was part of the first class of the merged Chapel Hill High School and Lincoln High School. Gloria did not agree with the merger policies. She pointed out, “When you merge two things you bring something from both and put them together. Well they forgot to do that. They brought the mascot, the colors, everything from Chapel Hill High School, nothing from Lincoln” . As she continues to describe her experiences with the school, she fails to mention the presence of Lincoln memory at the school. Her recollections indicate that Lincoln memory was fading as the start of the Civil Rights movement began.
On the Lincoln High Alumni site, members of the community have collected material memory of the Orange County Training School and Lincoln High School and preserved it electronically. The site has a compilation of photos from year books and important dates in the history of the school. This form of collective timeline provides a part of history that was important to the members of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community. Material pieces of this timeline used to be on display at the Chapel Hill Museum, but it is now closed. All of these pieces have photos on the Alumni site.
In addition to these memories preserved electronically, the Lincoln High, Northside Elementary, and Orange County Training School Alumni built a memorial to the school’s memory that is now located at the Chapel Hill High School Administration Building . On the memorial are the names listed of alumni and room for more to be added as they want. Lincoln High was one of the first schools in the Chapel Hill area to allow African Americans to receive an education. The alumni from the school continue to show their pride for the opportunities that they received at the school. The actions of the alumni to preserve memories from their times at Lincoln High indicate the strong desire to keep the memories alive . The Lincoln High history has become a strong rallying point for equality in the school systems and reminds the African Americans that attended of the obstacles that they overcame for education.
The beginning of the Civil Rights Movement coincided with the desegregation of many high schools throughout the south including Lincoln High. In 1966, Lincoln High merged to become Chapel Hill High School, which still stands today. Lincoln High’s history spanned for a very short time before the civil rights movement picked up and the school was desegregated. The new emancipator, Martin Luther King Jr., renewed the fight for African American rights, virtually placing Lincoln in the background of his fight. Although many believe in Lincoln’s history as a hero, “there remained nagging doubts about the fullness of Lincoln’s commitment to racial equality” . Many people have started to view Lincoln’s actions toward freeing blacks from slavery as a mere coincidence of the time . Just as much of Lincoln memory at Lincoln High fades into history, so does Lincoln’s reputation as an advocate for equality.
1. “Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools District History Videos.” Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, 18 Aug. 2008. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <http://www.chccsdistrict.blogspot.com/>.
2. CHCCS – The Beginning (1909-1929). By Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. YouTube. YouTube, 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWPjGjPlOUk>.
3. CHCCS – Desegregation (1954-1961). By Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. YouTube. YouTube, 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC0whuj7ZlM>.
4. CHCCS – The Rise of African-American Schools (1916-1953). By Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. YouTube. YouTube, 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYdb4lqyWis>.
5. CHCCS – Unprecedented Growth (1962-2009). By Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. YouTube. YouTube, 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrlWQ4TbsJ0>.
6. Clark, Dolores H. “Oral History Interview.” Interview by Jackie Helvey. Lincoln High Alumni Association, 18 Nov. 2008. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <http://lincolnhighalumni.org/interviews.shtml>.
7. dBest Church Solutions. “The Legacy Continues!” The Official O.C.T.S. – Lincoln High School – Northside Alumni Website. O.C.T.S. – Lincoln – Northside Alumni Association, 2008. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <http://www.octs-lincolnalumni.org/index.asp>.
8. Gilgor, Bob. “Oral History Interviews: Lincoln High School.” Documenting the American South. The University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <http://lincolnhighalumni.org/interviews.shtml>.
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