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Carolina Magazine Controversy

Carolina Magazine Controversy

In October 1926, the University of North Carolina student publication, Carolina Magazine, published a short story titled "Slaves," written by the magazine's assistant editor, R.K. Fowler. In the final scene of the story, the author alluded to an incident of interracial sex between two of the characters, one a young white girl and the other the son of an African American servant. The story caused an uproar on campus and across the region. Letters poured in to President Harry Woodburn Chase, condemning Fowler's exploration of what was thought to be a taboo subject. Soon after publication, the UNC Student Council asked that the magazine’s editor, Julian Starr, step down and ruled that Fowler be dismissed from the University altogether. In response, President Chase formed a faculty committee to review the incident. The committee ultimately voted to overturn the Student Council's decision and ruled that Starr and Fowler could remain.

Photograph of Carolina Magazine staff, 1927

Yearbook page, Carolina Magazine staff, Yackety Yack, 1927, Chapel Hill, N.C., North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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This page from the 1927 UNC yearbook, the Yackety Yack, shows the editorial staff of the Carolina Magazine, including R.K. Fowler, who wrote the controversial story.

Report, Special Faculty Committee to President H.W. Chase

Report, Special Faculty Committee to President H.W. Chase, 26 October 1926. Records of the Office of the President: Harry Woodburn Chase (#40005), University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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An excerpt from the special faculty committee's report:

"The committee, while considering the story 'Slaves' to be improper for publication in the Carolina Magazine, does not deem its publication an act of personal misconduct on the part of the persons involved, but rather as an act of bad taste and faulty judgment in their capacity as contributor to, and editor of, the Magazine."