Breaking New Ground: A Deeper Look into Two of North Carolina’s Earliest Public Universities

Kiara D Hines


Higher education in North Carolina expanded dramatically in the nineteenth century. The advancement of white and black institutions differed due to a social hierarchy based on race and the white supremacy campaign that took form in the late 1800s. While several state colleges and universities attracted both black and white North Carolinian students, race circumscribed their respective pedagogical experiences. This research project explores the struggles and successes that UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University, the first white and black post-secondary institutions in North Carolina, respectively, encountered in a century’s time. In today’s society, individuals looking to further their education have a plethora of higher institutions to choose from. In North Carolina, there are seventeen public colleges and universities that comprise what is known as the University of North Carolina system, along with thirty-six independent universities and fifty-nine community colleges. However, it took the state legislature and North Carolinians years of hard work and determination to grow higher education into the entity it is now. In 1789, the first publicly funded institution in the state and first state institution of higher learning in the nation (specifically for white men at the time) was established at what is now known as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). It wasn’t until the 20th century that present-day North Carolina Central University (NCCU), the first public four-year liberal arts college for black students, obtained the capacity to accommodate a fraction of the students that other white universities received. The project takes a closer look at the differences in funding, curriculum, and recognition between UNC and NCCU, as well as what it took for the two to become a part of North Carolina’s intrinsic university system.


North Carolina, post-secondary education, race

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