History commission discusses recognition of Barbee lands and cemetery


The History, Race and Way Forward Committee discussed updates on the recognition of University lands, “The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of College History” and the status of Barbee Cemetery at their Monday meeting.

What’s new?

Commission Co-Chair James Leloudis opened the meeting by discussing the University’s land recognition updates.

  • The commission has been in contact with North Carolina Indian Commission Executive Director Gregory Richardson and Triangle Native American Society member Danny Bell, Leloudis said.
  • Leloudis said the commission wants to identify and invite tribal leaders to help draft, review and present the University’s land acknowledgment to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.
  • The commission meets next week with the American Indian Center. They are currently working to schedule a meeting with the First Nations Graduate Circle, Leloudis said.
  • The FNGC created a petition last year asking the University for official land recognition before Indigenous Peoples Day 2022. The petition has been signed by over 600 people.
    • “It certainly seems like a deadline that we have to meet, and in fact we hope we can do it before the end of the semester,” Leloudis said.
    • The University issued a proclamation in October that it would officially recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day. The proclamation also acknowledged that the UNC was built on land originally owned by the Eno, Occaneechi, Shakori, and Sissipahaw peoples.

Nicholas Graham, Board Member and University Archivist, spoke about the current and future state of “The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History.”

  • The virtual museum was created in 2006 with temporary funding, Graham said. Once funding ended, the site was transferred to university libraries, which were not given the resources to maintain the project, he said.
    • Partly due to inactive maintenance, the website is out of date with respect to historical accuracy and other parts of the University’s past, Graham said.
    • “While it’s not completely inaccurate in any case, it’s not the story we would stand for and want to represent here as the story of UNC-Chapel Hill,” Graham said.
    • Graham proposed that the website be archived and republished when the content is completely updated. He said the potential update should involve both the commission and university libraries to identify a new plan that accurately shares the campus’s history.
  • Graham offered to hire a consultant or consulting firm with experience in public history and anti-racism.

Leloudis spoke about the status of Barbee Cemetery, the burial place of many enslaved people in the Chapel Hill area.

  • A ground-penetrating radar survey was recently carried out on the Barbee property in an effort to map the graves and understand the property more fully, he said.
  • The committee also discussed potential community roles for descendants of enslaved people in the University area to be involved in the ongoing conservation and stewardship of the Barbee property.
  • “There seems to be an opportunity here for a really significant step forward in thinking about how the University manages this property, and how we together tell the life story of the people buried there, and the stories of their descendants in the chapel-community of Hill Carboro,” said Leloudis.
  • Leloudis also announced that commission members Seth Kotch and Dawna Jones will step down from their leadership roles on the cemetery committee. The committee will be looking for people to fill these positions.

To close the meeting, the commission discussed renaming college buildings with known white supremacist namesakes.

Who is on the committee?

The University Commission on History, Race, and the Way Forward advises the chancellor and other university leaders on how to acknowledge UNC’s racist history.

And after?

The next History, Race, and Way Forward meeting will be on March 21 at 3:30 p.m.

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