School is starting again here in Chapel Hill. The students have returned, and a whole bunch of them are brand-new. They shine with eagerness and curiosity these first couple of weeks, until the workload and tests begin to cover that luster little-by-little. I talk to them in class about their "spark," telling them to protect it, to cherish that openness, that curiosity that wells up from inside like the primordial urging of Life.
100 years ago, a young man just like them came here, eager and ready to learn, his spark bright. He was a little older—22 at the time, but afire with longing to learn and to grow. He had worked two years to raise money back home in Harnett County, about 50 miles south of Chapel Hill. Young Paul Green had been warned of this place by a well-meaning teacher and minister. Even then it seems UNC excited suspicions of liberal thinking, as if it were a gateway to godlessness. The man pointed to a field and told him, "I'd rather see you taken out there in your coffin and buried in that ground than to go to the University of North Carolina and run the risk of burning in the fires of hell hereafter."
(This blog was first posted as "UNC’s Paul Green: a like-mind in a different time" in Sept 2015.)Read More