On this dayNov 17, 1937
1,000 White Students and Faculty at the University of North Carolina Host Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan
On November 17, 1937, over 1,000 white students and faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gathered to attend a speech openly advocating for white supremacy by the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Dr. Hiram Evans. The UNC Political Science Department and the Carolina Political Union hosted the event, entitled “America and the Klan.” Amidst the rise of Nazism in Europe, Dr. Evans told students, “What America needs most now to restore the good old days when nations loved each other is a universal dose of the Ku Klux Klan.”
Dr. Evans said that “the Klan will continue to insist on white supremacy, for experience has shown that nations that have mixed breeds with the Black race have found themselves headed for destruction.” Dr. Evans also urged that “America had admitted too many foreigners” who were “responsible for most of our country’s social and economic ills,” and that “America must be dominated by Americans, not by Negroes or aliens.” He warned students of the rise of Black leadership in the South, urging white students and faculty to join the Klan to combat Black political power.
As Dr. Evans spewed racism and intolerance, the more than 1,000 white students and faculty showed support and enjoyment of racial insults and threats throughout the event.
Locals viewed Dr. Evans’ visit as an attempt to launch a new public KKK chapter. In covering Dr. Evans’ 1937 speech, the Daily Tar Heel, Carolina’s student newspaper, noted that since the chapter first launched privately in 1921, “The KKK has grown to the strongest secret organization in existence.”
Carolina’s ties to the Klan persisted well into the 21st century. In the 1920s, UNC named Saunders Hall, a campus building, after William Saunders, the leader of the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan.
Despite decades of student activism seeking to change this name, Saunders Hall remained the name on the building until 2015.