Overview: Free Speech at UNC Between the World Wars
In the years following World War I, North Carolina experienced an era of remarkable growth and change. Progressive state leaders pushed for reforms in health, sanitation, and education in an effort to modernize North Carolina. The University of North Carolina benefitted greatly during this period, receiving record appropriations from the state legislature, federal funding through New Deal programs, and significant private donations, all of which allowed the University to attract high-caliber teaching faculty and increase student enrollment. This growth was coupled with a new mission to utilize the University’s collective expertise in service to the state. UNC presidents Harry Woodburn Chase (1919-1930) and Frank Porter Graham (1930-1949) frequently voiced their support for academic freedom at the University, seeing this freedom as a tool for social and cultural uplift in North Carolina. In the 1920s and 1930s, faculty and students tested the limits of academic freedom and expression through their writings in student publications, course offerings, invitations to off-campus speakers, and through personal involvement with the labor movement and issues of race relations.