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Aptheker and Wilkinson Come to Campus

Aptheker and Wilkinson Come to Campus

In February 1966, the UNC Board of Trustees refused to allow Herbert P. Aptheker and Frank Wilkinson to speak on campus. On February 28, 1966, the Board of Trustees held a meeting to discuss the invitations of Aptheker and Wilkinson, during which they were persuaded by Friday and others to turn over responsibility of regulating campus speakers to the chancellor of each institution.

Letter, Students to Chancellor J.C. Sitterson, 14 March 1966, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Letter, students to Chancellor Sitterson, 14 March 1966, Chapel Hill, N.C., Joseph Carlyle Sitterson Records (#40022), University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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After the trustees' decision to give the chancellor power to regulate speakers, Paul Dickson, George E. Nicholson III, and Robert S. Powell of the Carolina Forum, James A. Medford of the YMCA, Eunice H. Milton of the YWCA, John A. Greenbacker, Jr. of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, Erin Van Loon of the Carolina Political Union, Ernest S. McCrary of the Daily Tar Heel, and Gary Waller and Stuart Matthews of the UNC-SDS signed a letter to Chancellor Sitterson seeking his permission to invite Aptheker and Wilkinson to speak on campus.

Chancellor Sitterson, however, felt bound by the trustees' previous decision and refused to approve the students' invitations to Aptheker and Wilkinson.

Photo, Frank Wilkinson at the McCorkle Place wall, 2 March 1963, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Photograph, Frank Wilkinson photographed by Daily Tar Heel photographer Jock Lauterer, 2 March 1966, courtesy of Jock Lauterer.

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Frank Wilkinson addressed over one thousand students in McCorkle Place across the wall from the sidewalk of Franklin Street. The wall was decorated with a sign that read "Gov. Dan K. Moore's (Chapel Hill) Wall." Wilkinson promised to return to campus at 7:30 pm to speak at Carroll Hall about the House Un-American Activities Committee.  When Wilkinson arrived at Carroll Hall, he was met by UNC Police Chief Arthur J. Beaumont, who would not allow Wilkinson to speak or even have a tape recording of him speaking played inside Carroll Hall.

Photo, Herbert Aptheker and Police Chief Arthur J. Beaumont, 9 March 1966, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Photograph, Herbert Aptheker and Chief Arthur Beaumont, Jock Lauterer Photograph Collection (# P0069), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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On 9 March 1966, Herbert Aptheker attempted to speak on campus but was confronted by Chief Beaumont.  According to an oral history conducted with James A. Medford, the president of the campus YMCA, Beaumont was asked by Medford to loudly threaten Aptheker with arrest so it could be clearly recorded in an effort to provide “irrefutable evidence” for the planned lawsuit. 

After the exchange between Beaumont and Aptheker, Dickson directed Aptheker and the students to proceed to the wall just as Wilkinson had done a few days earlier.