Aycock Residence Hall

“In Memoriam:” Educational Governor or White Supremacist?

By: Emily Hightower


The Confederacy, White Supremacy, and Southern Memorialization

In 2006, David Gillborn released “Rethinking White Supremacy: who counts in ‘WhiteWorld,’” an article that explored the critical race theory, white supremacy, and ‘Western’ society. In his introduction, he stated:

“Most white people would probably be surprised by the idea of ‘WhiteWorld’; they see only the ‘world’, its white-ness is invisible to them because the racialized nature of politics, policing, education and every other sphere of public life is so deeply ingrained that it has become normalised – unremarked, and taken-for granted. This is an exercise of power that goes beyond notions of ‘white privilege’ and can only be adequately understood through a language of power and domination: the issue goes beyond privilege, it is about supremacy.”[1]

The past decade has challenged the invisibility of Gillborn’s ‘WhiteWorld’ as catalyzing events forced traditionally ignored issues into the public’s focus.

The Confederacy and southern historical memory came into the public’s sphere most notably in 2015 after the mass shooting at Emanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The Southern Poverty Law Center states: “When photos surfaced depicting the 21-year-old white supremacist with the Confederate battle flag — including one in which he held the flag in one hand and a gun in the other — Roof ignited something else entirely: a grassroots movement to remove the flag from public spaces. In what seemed like an instant, the South’s 150-year reverence for the Confederacy was shaken. Public officials responded to the national mourning and outcry by removing prominent public displays of its most recognizable symbol.”[2]

In the same article, the Southern Poverty Law Center compiled a history of the Confederate monuments across the United States, including how many monuments reside in each state, a timeline of the creation of the monuments and efforts to alter or remove the monuments.[3] A different New York Times article cataloged the removal of over two-dozen Confederate monuments from public spaces since 2015.[4]

A timeline of Confederate monuments in the South. Accessed from “Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy,” Southern Poverty Law Center (April 21, 2016). Click the image to view the story.

The removal of Confederate monuments inevitably sparked public outcry. Demonstrations for and against the removal of monuments, discussions on increased education at the site versus relocation to museums or cemeteries, and the debate of heritage versus manipulation of historical thought all centered on a single question: what is the purpose of these monuments?

Historians studied the impact and history of Confederate monuments in the south long before the resurgence of public interest in 2015. In 1993, Catherine W. Bishir published “Landmarks of Power, Building a Southern Past, 1885-1910” in the inaugural issue of Southern Cultures. In this essay, she detailed the history of Confederate memorialization in North Carolina and stated:

“Seen in the context of contemporary cultural and political events, the creation of symbolic sculpture and architecture by the southern elite functioned as part of their reclamation of regional and national power. As they placed monuments in prime civic spaces,… these leaders spelled out chapter after chapter of a saga of patrician Anglo-Saxon continuity, of order, stability, and harmony. The location of monuments in the state’s principal civic places lent authority to the version of history they represented, while at the same time the monuments claimed those public spaces and thereby defined the setting for public life. And, just as monuments commemorated specific heroes and events, so architecture commemorated and asserted the renewed continuity of the values and way of life those heroes represented.” [5]

Bishir believed that these monuments were meant to shape public perception of history, power, and politics. James F. Brooks summarizes the current debate saying, “Others argued these monuments served as enduring nostalgia for the ‘Lost Cause,’ while many pointed out the timing of their establishment…to evidence their purpose as not-so-subtle endorsements for the eras of slavery and white supremacy in the New South.”[6]

As the relationship between Confederate monuments and white supremacy developed, historians, scholars, and the public began to scrutinize other southern monuments and figures.[7] Placing memorials into the context of the area’s past and understanding the history of the memorial—including the reason for its construction and the persons involved in the creation of the memorial—can change the implications of the memorial and public’s perception of the figure memorialized.

One contentious figure from the past, Charles Brantley Aycock, the “Education Governor” of North Carolina from 1901-1905, is currently withstanding the public’s scrutiny. Memorialized across the nation, Ayock’s name and visage appear on highway markers, statues, buildings, and portraits. Predominantly memorialized in the south, he is also a representative figure for the state of North Carolina in Washington D.C.

UNC Board of Trustees Minutes naming Aycock Residence Hall (1928). Click on the image to explore more UNC Board of Trustees Minutes. Accessed on finding-aids.lib.unc.edu, File Name: “Oversize Volume 13: January 30, 1924-November 1930 (Reel 4): Scan 312.”

In 2015, Aycock’s name was removed from campus buildings on Duke University and East Carolina University.[8] The trend was followed by UNC-Greensboro who removed Aycock’s name from their main auditorium in 2016.[9] Public schools and neighborhoods throughout North Carolina have also changed their names: a Guilford County middle school changed its name from Aycock to Swann in 2016 and a Greensboro neighborhood changed their name from Aycock to Dunleath in 2017.[10]

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also houses a building named for Charles Brantley Aycock. During the 1920s, UNC President Harry Woodward Chase and Board of Trustees Building Chair Person, John Sprunt Hill, used private and public funds to rapidly develop the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.[11] Part of the expansion included plans for a five-dormitory quad. Construction on four dormitories in the quad was completed in 1924 and the buildings were dedicated in 1928 under recommendation by John Sprunt Hill.[12] The dorms were named after Charles Brantley Aycock, John W. Graham, Dr. R. H. Lewis, and W. N. Everett.[13]

Aycock Residence Hall. Citation: “Aycock Residence Hall, 1924,” Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History , accessed December 4, 2017, https://museum.unc.edu/items/show/1428.

Aycock Building has served as a dormitory from its creation in 1924 until today. In 1996, a third floor breezeway was constructed to connect Aycock and Graham dormitories.[14] A breezeway was also constructed in Lewis and Everett dorms to continue the mirror-like effect on the quad. Since the completion of the breezeway in 1998, Aycock has served as an all-female dorm and Graham as an all-male dorm. The dormitory uses hall-style bathrooms and offers common rooms only in the third-floor breezeway area.

Before taking any action—notwithstanding the 16-year ban on altering building names on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus—UNC must understand the answers and implications of the following questions: who was Charles Brantley Aycock and what is his importance to southern history, white supremacy, and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Who was Charles Brantley Aycock?

Born to Serena Hooks Aycock and Benjamin Aycock on November 1, 1859, Charles Brantley Aycock was the youngest of ten siblings, though only nine grew to adulthood.[15] Charles came from a modest, but intensely political background. His father, Benjamin Aycock, owned a farm with 1,036 acres of land and 13 slaves along the Neuse River. He worked both on the farm and as a representative of Wayne County in the North Carolina Senate until the start of the Civil War.[16] Benjamin Aycock was among the radical minority that believed that the South should win the Civil War at any cost, including providing powers to the centralized Confederate government. This willingness, however, did not extend to providing any extra powers to enslaved persons during the war.[17] When the Civil War concluded, Benjamin never again took office, instead focused on expanding their farm during the growing recession using the labor force of his children and some hired persons to help manage the farm. Benjamin Aycock died at age 58 of heart failure, a condition he passed to at least four of his children including Charles Brantley Aycock.[18] Serena became head of the family following Benjamin’s death, but had previously managed the family farm while Benjamin served in the state Senate.

An image of Aycock as a young man. Citation: Connor, R. D. W. and Clarence Poe. The Life and Speeches of Charles Brantley Aycock. (New York: Doubleday, Page, and Company, 1912), 24. http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/connor/ill3.html

Early on in Charles Brantley Aycock’s childhood, education was at the forefront of his endeavors. He attended elementary school in Fremont alongside his siblings, then attended Wilson Collegiate Institute from 1872-1875, an academy in Kinston from 1876-1877, and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1877-1880, graduating in three years by taking a heavy course load.[19]

At Chapel Hill, he was initially received as competitive, serious, and ambitious, yet intensely sympathetic. After disrupting many of the social norms on campus, Aycock established friendships across socio-economic lines, befriending many men who later became influential politicians, writers, judges, and professors.[20] Among these colleagues include Edwin Alderman[21], UNC President and UVA President; Frank Arthur Daniels, who later opened a law firm with Aycock; James Y. Joyner, the future superintendent of North Carolina’s state schools; Charles D. McIver[22]; George Winston; Henry Horace Williams, and many other future leaders.[23] While at UNC, Aycock distinguished himself as a great orator and essayist, winning awards upon graduation and becoming the leader of various societies despite his lack of money and aristocratic upbringing.

Much of Aycock’s political beliefs were created in his youth, as he sat under the porch of his childhood home and listened to the adults discuss politics of the day. It wasn’t until he arrived at Kinston Collegiate Institute, where he developed his essayist skills and a fondness for reading, and UNC-Chapel Hill, where his oratory ability pushed him to the forefront of students, that Aycock’s political endeavors became more refined.[24]

In his last year at UNC-Chapel Hill, Aycock studied law with UNC President Kemp Plummer Battle. After leaving UNC, Aycock was approved to practice law in 1891, and moved to Goldsboro for an internship at the law office of A.K. Smedes. [25] Later, Aycock opened a Goldsboro law office with Frank A. Daniels, a childhood friend and a fellow UNC-Chapel Hill alum. Aycock’s oratory skills appeared in trial, and soon he began to apply his skills to his passion for politics.

Aycock worked in politics from 1880 until the end of his life, serving as orator for a number of candidates at all government levels including President Grover Cleveland in 1888, Elias Carr in 1892, Williams Jennings Bryan, and Cyrus Watson. He worked as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina from 1893-1897 as appointed by President Grover Cleveland and was instrumental to the ultimate downfall of the popular Fusionist party of the 1890’s.[26]

A Story of White Supremacy

Charles Brantley Aycock. Click the image to learn more about Charles Brantley Aycock and the Election of 1898. Citation: “Aycock, Charles Brantley (1859-1912),” UNC Libraries, accessed December 4, 2017, http://exhibits.lib.unc.edu/items/show/2262.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the state of North Carolina underwent major political change. After a period of Republican control at the conclusion of the Civil War, the Democratic Party had regained control of the state. This period saw the re-election of Zebulon Vance as Governor and the control of the Democrats in the legislature. Increased discontent among farmers, Populists, and Republicans lead to a fusion agreement between the political groups in the election of 1894. When the Fusionist party won a majority in the election, they shared elected seats among leaders from the Republican Party, the white Populist Party, the Farmer’s Alliance, and leaders of the newly enfranchised black voters.[27] In response to the victory, the Democratic Party made significant changes to their party platform, using the ideas from ardent party members like Josephus Daniels, Locke Craig, Cameron Morrison, Henry G. Connor, Claude Kitchin, and Charles Brantley Aycock.[28] The Democratic Party selected Furnifold Simmons, later elected Senator for North Carolina, to act as campaign manager in the upcoming 1898 elections.

By 1898, the Populists were interested in merging with the Democrats to prevent the Republicans and Farmer’s Alliance from regaining control of the government. Furnifold Simmons and other prominent Democrats rejected this merger and established a campaign that pitted men who believed in white superiority against those who put black persons into seats of power. The 1898 Democratic platform “denounced the Republican legislatures of 1895 and 1897…[and] it pledged the abolition of ‘Negro domination’ and promised ‘rule by the white men of the State.’” [29]

A 1898 political cartoon by Norman Jennett. Click on the image to view other political cartoons created by the Democratic Party. Citation: “A Warning. Get Back! We Will not Stand It.,” UNC Libraries, accessed December 4, 2017, http://exhibits.lib.unc.edu/items/show/2191.

Simmons engineered the campaign to focus exclusively on white supremacy. He employed orators to spread the Democratic message across the state and stir anti-black sentiments.[30] Aycock and Locke Craig, a fellow alumnus of UNC, were two of the most prominent orators to give speeches across the state.[31] Simmons also used the media to stir resentment towards the Populist and Republican parties. Josephus Daniels, and his position at the News and Observer, and Norman Jennett’s political cartoons were highly influential towards turning public sentiment against the Republican Governor, Daniel L. Russell, and the Fusionist legislatures of 1895 and 1897.[32]

During the election, the Democratic Party also instigated and relied on “red shirt campaigns.” Taken from successful Democratic elections in South Carolina, these campaigns were meant to intimidate both white Republicans and all enfranchised black persons from voting. H. Prather noted that Aycock didn’t wear a red shirt, but his speeches alongside South Carolinian Ben Tillman were key to the power of the red shirt campaign.[33]

Another 1898 political cartoon from Norman Jennett. Citation: “The Vampire that Hovers Over North Carolina.,” UNC Libraries, accessed December 4, 2017, http://exhibits.lib.unc.edu/items/show/2215.

This election illustrated a turning point in North Carolina history. By 1900, an amendment to the state constitution was proposed with the main purpose to disenfranchise black persons through literacy tests and poll taxes. Other laws included segregation in public areas.[34] Aycock ran in the 1900 gubernatorial election, travelling over 6,000 miles to give speeches across the state.[35] Like the 1898 election, Aycocks’s gubernatorial campaign employed Red Shirt tactics. Described by Prather, the red shirt tactics in Aycock’s campaign were a continuation of the 1898 election. Vance, however described Aycock and the red shirt tactics as follows:

“Aycock was aware, no doubt, of the ruthless features of the campaign. For example, whenever a group of cautious blacks approached the polling places, serious fights broke out most unaccountably among the crowds of roistering white men gathered there—fights which were immensely dangerous to innocent black bystanders. Yet if Aycock must be classified as a Negro baiter, he was to prove a more honest man than his political associated had thought him.”[36]

Aycock won the election with one of the largest majorities in the state’s history.[37] His platform consisted of the recently passed “Grandfather Clause” that disenfranchised black voters, and a platform of increasing infrastructure in the state, promoting business, and equal education for all.[38]

While in office, Aycock developed a public school system where he placed his colleague, James Joyner at the helm. He instituted temperance and child labor laws, increased taxes, granted pardons, and developed roadways, which he considered to be important to developing industry and ensuring access to education. While Aycock ran on a white supremacist campaign, he also attempted to pass anti-lynching laws, believing the “mob” had no place in proper society.[39] While in office, he saw five successful lynchings and stopped nine by employing troops.[40] Aycock stated: “It shall be the earnest aim of my administration to foster good feeling and to enforce law and order throughout the state. The mob has no place in our civilization… I shall strive to be a just Governor of all the people, without regard to party color or creed. The law will be enforced with impartiality…my obligation is to the state and the state is all her citizens. No man is so high that the law shall not be enforced against him, and no man is so low that it shall not reach down to him to lift him up if may be and set him on his feet again.”[41]

While the disenfranchisement amendment was ratified in the same election that elected Aycock, Aycock believed, “the white people owe a high duty to the Negro. It was necessary to the safety of the state to base suffrage on capacity to exercise it wisely. This results in excluding a great number of Negroes from the ballot, but their right to life, liberty, property and justice must be even more carefully safeguarded than ever. It is true that a superior race cannot submit to the rule of a weaker race without injury; it is also true in the long years of God that the strong cannot oppress the weak without destruction.”[42]

After leaving office, Aycock continued to speak on behalf of creating universal access in public education systems. Many of his colleagues implored him to run for the United States Senate, and in 1912, he agreed. However, in 1912 while speaking to an Alabama crowd in support of universal education, Aycock suffered a heart attack, his last word: education.

A Story of Education

From his childhood, Aycock displayed a fascination and love for education. In his professional life, he worked in numerous positions to advance education in the state. In 1881, Aycock worked as a part-time county superintendent of a public institution. While he left the position in 1882, he helped create a tax to support public schools in Goldsboro with white persons’ taxes going toward white schools, and black persons’ taxes going towards black schools. By 1886, the tax was declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court, after Aycock worked to create a new taxation process. After creating the new tax, he was asked to serve on the newly created Board of Trustees for Goldsboro, the Wayne County Negro School District Board, and the State Normal School for Negroes Board of Directors. He was removed from the latter two boards in 1895 by the Fusionist Party but worked with the party to ensure the people in the area would adopt taxes to support the local schools.[43]

While as governor, Aycock created the Association for the Promotion of Public Education and used funding from the Southern Education Board to encourage educational progress. Aycock’s first treasury appropriations for public schools summed to $100,000—this led to the state’s first equalizing-fund, which reached $6,000,000 by 1930.[44] He worked with leaders in education, like Edwin Alderman, James Y. Joyner, and Charles D. McIver, to create the education program.[45] He advocated for a four-month school term, simple school buildings, expansion of teacher training, and special schools.[46]

Vance indicated that while in office, Aycock ‘killed’ any bill that attempted to further white education at the expense or without considering black education as well.[47] However, actual distribution of funds and teachers were not equal between whites and blacks during Aycock’s tenure as governor. A 1920 report on “Public education in North Carolina: a report by the State Education Commission” indicated that “since 1900, 5,070 new rural schoolhouses for white and 1,293 for colored children have been erected.”[48] This suggests Aycock’s policies spawned the initial creation of the highly segregated school system in North Carolina, where white schools were far superior to black schools, but because white and black schools are provided, equal access to education exists. Aycock’s education policy was consistent with a nascent version of “separate but equal” in public schools, policies which were not overturned until the 1950’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

“Outline for Governor Aycock’s Universal Education Speech.” Citation: Connor, R. D. W. and Clarence Poe. The Life and Speeches of Charles Brantley Aycock. (New York: Doubleday, Page, and Company, 1912), 322. http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/connor/ill7.html

In “Education, The South’s First Need,” one of Aycock’s speeches, he argued that public schools were essential to finding the future great leaders of the south, and the benefit of educating all would be to increase the competition and growth of youth. He argued that like the “aristocracy of the south,” democracy can be “trained” through universal education. “But how shall we be trained? Are we to forget the memories of the past; to break away from our traditions; to join with those who are clamoring for the adoption of the convictions which we have combatted for so many years? I think not.”[49] It is important to note the idea of competition in this speech and to ask what “convictions” was Aycock referring to. What was the purpose of Aycock’s underlying belief in universal education?

According to the following speech passage, if provided the equal opportunity, universal education would only indicate the superiority that Aycock and his colleagues believed true:

“Let the negro learn once for all that there is unending separation of the races, that the two peoples may develop side by side to the fullest but that they cannot intermingle; let the white man determine that no man shall by act or thought or speech cross this line, and the race problem will be at an end. These things are not said in enmity to the negro but in regard for him. He constitutes one third of the population of my State: he has always been my personal friend; as a lawyer I have often defended him, and as Governor I have frequently protected him. But there flows in my veins the blood of the dominant race; that race that has conquered the earth and seeks out the mysteries of the heights and depths.”[50]

In a letter to Walter Clark on October 22, 1900 before his inauguration as governor, Aycock wrote that universal education was key to establishing some future equilibrium in politics and enfranchisment:

A letter from Charles B. Aycock to Walter Clark, 1900. Accessed on finding-aid.lib.unc.edu, File Name: “Folder 1: 1880-1920: Scan 23.”

“My idea is that we have promised and must fulfill it to educate the children in the State and certainly we have reached the time when our duty demands that we shall have an election law so fair that the opposition party will admit its fairness. With the elimination of the negro[51], we ought to have a greater freedom of opinion in the State and that opinion out to be given adequate and exact expression at the polls.” [52]

In 1951, the Asheville Citizen wrote an article titled “Aycock Hoped to Admit Negroes, Graham Says.” The article’s author quotes F. P. Graham extensively in the following excerpt:

“Graham…said Aycock’s educational program ‘envisioned Federal aid to education, abolition of the poll tax and admission of Negroes to graduate schools.’ Other aims of Aycock [Graham] said, ‘were the abolition of the poll tax as a requirement to vote, acceptance of the right of Negroes to vote in primaries and elections, and… the employment of workers on the basis of competence rather than race.’ Aycock, Graham continued, ‘declared war on ignorance, poverty, privileged education, and the political exploitation of illiterate Negroes.’”[53]

And in response to a colleague and close friend, Josephus Daniels, who stated that the 1900 disenfranchisement amendment was a settlement of the “Negro question for all times,” Aycock responded: “Joe, you are badly mistaken…I hope we have settled it for 25 years. Every generation will have the problem on their hands, and they will have to settle it for themselves.”[54]

From these writings, it is clear that Aycock believed in white superiority over black persons and that white and black people should be separate in society. While Aycock believed in universal education, or equal access to education, he did not necessarily believe that the education between races should be equal in quality, only that every person should have the opportunity to access education. “Equal! That is the word! On that word I plant myself and my party— the equal right of every child born on earth to have the opportunity to burgeon out all that there is within him.”[55]

A Story of Memorialization

Statue of Charles Brantley Aycock created by Charles Keck in U.S. Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill. Accessed on “Charles Brantley Aycock,” Architect of the Capitol (updated April 2016), https://www.aoc.gov/art/national-statuary-hall-collection/charles-brantley-aycock.

Aycock died in 1912, with the last word he spoke as education.[56] Before the end of the year, an Aycock Memorial Committee was established and persisted until well into 1950. It is unclear who initiated the organization, when or where they first met. However, the roster of the committee varied over the years and appeared in newspapers and North Carolina General Assembly minutes. Members included, but are not limited to, Dr. Joyner, Nathan O’Berry, George H. Royall, Judge Frank Daniels, George C. Kornegay, Frank K. Borden, A. H. Edgerton, Lionel Weil, E.C. Brooks, R. D. W. Connor, Clarence Poe, Judge R. D. Winston, S. C. Brawley, Josephus Daniels, A. D. MacLean, Mrs. T.W. Bickett, Dr. Thompson, Dr. F.P. Graham, R. M. Hanes, Dr. Rose, Paul Borden, Gertrude Weil, Frank Andrews, Ben Aycock, Jesse Aycock, Henry Belk, Gertrude Carraway, Roland Dail, Charles Doak Hugh Dortch, Joseph Eagles, Mrs. Harrell, Cameron Morrison, M. E. Robinson, Mrs. Stenhouse, Dr. Crittenden, Dr. Carroll, George Ross, and Hardy Talton.[57] The 1949 General Assembly of North Carolina listed some of these names in conjunction with the renewal of the Aycock Memorial Commission for 1950.

This committee helped to memorialize Aycock across the state on public school buildings, commissioned statues, and even appealed to UNC President Venable for a memorialization to Aycock on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus. For the first few years, the committee saw limited success, though by 1920, there was a clear upswing in monuments and building names. In 1924, a statue of Aycock was unveiled near the state’s capital city.[58] In 1928, UNC-Chapel Hill dedicated a new dormitory in Aycock’s honor.[59] In 1929, a tablet was dedicated to Aycock in Goldsboro.[60] In 1929, the state opted to put Aycock alongside Zebulon Baird Vance in the Statuary Hall in the National Capitol, with the statue unveiled in 1932.[61] A painting of Aycock was approved for the Hall of the House in North Carolina and installed in the 1950s. The memorialization continued well into 1960, including the publication of a number of articles and testimonials praising Aycock’s accomplishments in the News and Observer, owned and operated by Josephus Daniels until 1948.

In 1965, the Durham Morning Herald released the first newspaper article critical of Aycock: “Aycock Branded Here As Racist.” The article described the lecture of Dr. H. Shelton of Duke that indicated Aycock’s universal education policies and support of disenfranchisement were “mythology” as Aycock “fomented” the violence and hatred against black persons in his campaigning.[62] This marked the decline of Aycock’s mention in the news until recently.

Charles Brantley Aycock, Memorials, and White Supremacy

Aycock Memorial Association Pamphlet. Accessed at finding-aids.lib.unc.edu, File Name: “Folder 0099: Aycock, Charles Brantley (1859-1912): Scan 1.”

At the start of a recent article in The Atlantic, “The Language of White Supremacy,” author Vann Newkirk II poses a simple question: what is white supremacy? [63] Placed in the context of the most recent presidential election, the question “what is white supremacy?” has invaded current political and cultural thought.

In their articles, both Gillborn and Newkirk reference a Frances Lee Ansley quote from 1997:

“By ‘white supremacy’ I do not mean to allude only to the self-conscious racism of white supremacist hate groups. I refer instead to a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.”[64]

Newkirk emphasizes that while Ansley’s quote is only 30 years old, it is still relatively new and poorly applied to race in politics today. In his article, Newkirk II concludes, “the only way to be identified as a white supremacist is to say you are one.”[65]

There has been a shift in the public’s perception of Aycock and his memorialization. With today’s society delving into the history of each monument or memorial, many details about Charles Brantley Aycock and his involvement in establishing white supremacy, Jim Crow, and the segregated south are coming to light. As universities and public spaces work to understand Aycock’s involvement in the area’s history, it is important to note that efforts to memorialize Aycock were not among the Confederate memorialization efforts from 1880-1900.[66]

Aycock’s memorials comprise an entirely different subset of memorialization in the South. Many of those involved in the original Aycock memorialization efforts were colleagues and supporters of Aycock during his lifetime, tied to him through family, political party, or acquaintance. As they memorialized Aycock, they removed mention of his involvement with the white supremacy campaign, his aid in the disenfranchisement of black voters, and his ideology of separate but equal. Without clear markers to major white supremacist movements and an unclear definition about white supremacy, how will the public interact and engage with memorial and monuments for non-Confederate, white supremacist leaders?

An author suggests that it is likely that the white supremacy campaign of 1898 would have been just as successful without Aycock’s participation.[67] While a talented orator, he was not the only orator employed in the campaign nor was he considered the mastermind of the campaign itself, a title generally attributed to Furnifold Simmons. His universal education ideals, equal in ideation and separationist in implementation, were shared among many who graduated from UNC within the 1880-1883 period, including Dr. Joyner, Dr. Alderman, and McIver, all of whom may have contributed more greatly to institutions of learning in and out of the state. Alderman’s policies were more inclusive and more equal than those implemented by Aycock during his time as Governor.[68]

Board of Trustees Memoriam of Charles Brantley Aycock. Accessed on finding-aids.lib.unc.edu, File Name: “Oversize Volume 11: May 1904-September 1916 (Reel 4): Scan 367.”

In 1933, Vance wrote: “The leaders in the movement to disfranchise the Negro, we are led to believe, have been stricken by an enlightened public from the calendar of Southern saints. No doubt they were the saviors of the country, but under the stress of circumstances, the allowed zeal to outrun discretion…[but] Once there was a man named Aycock, and he was better. So much better was he that a later generation has paid him the tribute of forgetting that he led a racial movement.”[69]

Now, we must ask why. Why was Aycock memorialized as a state representative alongside Zebulon Vance, the beloved Civil War Governor? Why was Aycock memorialized on UNC’s campus alongside names like Saunders, Graham, Everett, Murphy, and Lewis? Why was Aycock selected for memorialization over his other colleagues?

These are questions that, with context, may help decide Aycock’s role in history and the resulting question of should Charles Brantley Aycock be memorialized on campus and within the nation. Aycock is an UNC alumnus, a North Carolina Governor, a supporter of universal education, and a white supremacist. His policies were progressive for his party and era, yet they helped establish a system that both allowed the creation of Jim Crow laws, and created the loophole that led to the eventual overthrow of those laws.

Who is Charles Brantley Aycock? What do his memorials mean within historical context?

Charles Brantley Aycock. Click the image to learn more about Charles Brantley Aycock and Aycock Residence Hall. Citation: “Charles B. Aycock (1859-1912),” Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History , accessed December 4, 2017, https://museum.unc.edu/items/show/1079.



Further Reading:

Charles Brantley Aycock:

Education in North Carolina:

History of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

White Supremacy:



[1] David Gillborn, “Rethinking White Supremacy: who counts in the ‘WhiteWorld,’” SAGE Journals 6, no. 3 (September 2006): 318-304, https://doi.org/10.1177/1468796806068323.

[2] “Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy,” Southern Poverty Law Center, April 21, 2016, https://www.splcenter.org/20160421/whose-heritage-public-symbols-confederacy#findings.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jess Bidgood, et al. “Confederate Monuments Are Coming Down Across the United States. Here’s a List,” The New York Times, August 28, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/16/us/confederate-monuments-removed.html.

[5] Catherine W. Bishir, “Landmarks of Power, Building a Southern Past, 1885-1910,” Southern Cultures, 1993, http://www.southerncultures.org/article/landmarks-power-building-southern-past-1885-1915/.

[6] James F. Brooks, “Monumental moments,” National Council on Public History: History @ Work, September 2017, http://ncph.org/history-at-work/monumental-moments/

[7] For more interpretations of historical memory through monuments, see: https://www.historians.org/news-and-advocacy/everything-has-a-history/historians-on-the-confederate-monument-debate.

[8] “Former NC Gov. Charles Aycock’s Name Will Be Removed from UNCG Auditorium,” WFMY News, February 18, 2016, http://www.wfmynews2.com/news/local/former-nc-gov-charles-aycocks-name-will-be-removed-from-uncg-auditorium/51702112

[9] Natalie Conti, “Aycock creates controversy across the state — but the name remains at UNC,” Daily Tar Heel, March 29, 2016, http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2016/03/aycock-creates-controversy-across-the-state-but-the-name-remains-at-unc

[10] “Guilford County school board approves renaming Aycock Middle School,” Fox8 News, August 25, 2016, http://myfox8.com/2016/08/25/guilford-school-board-votes-9-2-to-change-the-name-of-aycock-middle-school/; Margaret Moffett, “Greensboro’s Aycock neighborhood name changed,” News & Record, August 15, 2017, http://www.greensboro.com/news/local_news/aycock-neighborhood-name-changed/article_3698e817-0543-5846-b3be-467ff1caada6.html

[11] Arthur Stanley Link, “History of the Buildings at the University of North Carolina” (PhD diss., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1941), 72–220.

[12] Board of Trustees Minutes, 1928: online at http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/40001/#ovolume_13#1, January 30, 1924-November 1930 (Reel 4): Scan 312

[13] Link, 72-220.

[14] See planroom.unc.edu for more information.

[15] Oliver Orr, Jr., Charles Brantley Aycock (North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1961), 5.

[16] Oliver Orr, Jr., “Aycock, Charles Brantley,” NCpedia, accessed October 08, 2017, https://www.ncpedia.org/biography/aycock-charles-brantley

[17] Orr, “Aycock.”

[18] Orr, Charles Brantley Aycock, 5.

[19] Orr, Charles Brantley Aycock, 20.

[20] Orr, Charles Brantley Aycock, 20-34.

[21] See http://unchistory.web.unc.edu/building-narratives/alderman-residence-hall-2/ for more information about E. Alderman.

[22] See http://unchistory.web.unc.edu/building-narratives/mciver-residence-hall/ for more information about C. D. McIver.

[23] Gregory P. Downs, “University Men, Social Science, and White Supremacy in North Carolina,” The Journal of Southern History 75, no. 2 (2009): 267-304, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27778937.

[24] Orr, Charles Brantley Aycock, 20-34.

[25] Ibid.; Orr, “Aycock”

[26] Orr, Charels Brantley Aycock, 35-60; Rupert B. Vance, “Aycock of North Carolina,” Southwest Review 18 (Spring 1933): 288-306.

[27] Nicholas Graham, “The Election of 1898 in North Carolina: An Introduction” UNC Libraries, last modified June 2005, http://exhibits.lib.unc.edu/exhibits/show/1898/history

[28] Helen G. Edmonds, The Negro and Fusion Politics in North Carolina: 1894-1901 (North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 137-138.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Graham, “The Election.”

[31] “Charles Brantley Aycock (1859-1912) and Aycock Residence Hall,” Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History, accessed October 08, 2017, https://museum.unc.edu/exhibits/show/names/aycock-residence-hall

[32] Graham, “The Election.”, H. Leon Prather, “The Red Shirt Movement in North Carolina 1898-1900,” The Journal of Negro History 62, no. 2 (April 1977): 174-184.

[33] Ibid.; Visit https://exhibits.lib.unc.edu/exhibits/show/1898 for more information about the Election of 1898.

[34] “Charles Brantley Aycock (1859-1912) and the New South,” Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History, accessed October 08, 2017, https://museum.unc.edu/exhibits/show/newsouth/charles-b–aycock–1859-1912-

[35] Vance, 7.

[36] Vance, 8.

[37] Prather, 182.

[38] Orr, “Aycock.”

[39] Orr, “Aycock.”

[40] “On Preventing Lynchings,” Greensboro Daily News, May 28, 1947.

[41] Clyde R. Hoey, Speech to General Assembly of North Carolina, January 15, 1951.

[42] Hoey, Speech.

[43] Orr, “Aycock.”

[44] Clyde R. Hoey, Speech to General Assembly of North Carolina, January 15, 1951.

[45] Vance, 14.

[46] Robert B. House, “Aycock and Universal Education,” North Carolina Historical Review 37, no. 2 (April 1960): 211-216.

[47] Orr, “Aycock.”; Vance, 8-11.

[48] Robert Herring Wright, Public education in North Carolina: A report by the State Educational Commission prepared under the direction of the commission by the General Education Board, (Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton Printing Co, 1920).

[49] Charles B. Aycock, “Education, The South’s First Need,” The National Magazine, April 1905, 42-46.

[50] R. D. W. Connor and Clarence Poe, The Life and Speeches of Charles Brantley Aycock, (New York: Doubleday, Page, and Company, 1912), 161, http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/connor/connor.html#p161

[51] The “elimination of the Negro” could mean the disenfranchisement of blacks in the 1898 and 1900 elections, or could mean future disenfranchisement.

[52] Charles B. Aycock to Walter Clark, October 22, 1900.

[53] “Aycock Hoped to Admit Negroes, Graham Says,” Asheville Citizen, April 10, 1951.

[54] Tim Tyson, “Gov. Aycock and the tug-of-war over NC history,” The News and Observer, March 13, 2015, http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article14060240.html

[55] Hoey, Speech.

[56][56] Hoey, Speech.; Orr, “Aycock.”; Vance, 16-17.

[57] R.F. Beasley, “Aycock Statue Unveiled Before Admiring Throng in State’s Capital City,” Goldsboro News, March 14, 1924.; “Unveil Tablet to Governor Aycock,” Goldsboro News, November 1, 1929.; “Erect Memorial Honor of Aycock,” 1929.; “Keck to design Aycock’s Statue,” News and Observer, November 18, 1930.

[58] Beasley, “Aycock Statue.”

[59] Link, 72-220.

[60] “Unveil Tablet.”

[61] “Keck to design.”; H. E. C. Bryant, “Aycock Statue Unveiled with Fitting Tributes,” News and Observer, May 21, 1932.

[62] “Aycock Branded Here As Racist,” Durham Morning Hearld, November 3, 1965.

[63] Vann Newkirk II, “The Language of White Supremacy,” The Atlantic, October 6, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/10/the-language-of-white-supremacy/542148/?utm_content=bufferb60e2&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

[64] Newkirk II, “Language.”

[65] Newkirk II, “Language.”

[66] Bishir, “Landmarks.”; “Whose Heritage?”

[67] Downs, “University Men.”

[68] See Alderman Residence Hall on Names in Brick and Stone: http://unchistory.web.unc.edu/building-narratives/alderman-residence-hall-2/

[69] Vance, 1.