#CelebratingUNC: Trailblazers

This week at Her Campus, we're celebrating UNC. This year marks UNC's 225 anniversary. In 1789, UNC was chartered and on October 12, 1793, the university's cornerstone was laid. It's this date that we mark as UNC's anniversary, though doors did not open for students until 1795. To truly celebrate UNC, we must look back at our history and previous trailblazers, including Sallie Walker Stockard.

You might be thinking, "Who is Sallie Walker Stockard, and why is she important?" Well, dear readers, Sallie Walker Stockard was the first woman graduate from our university! Stockard graduated in 1898 for her undergraduate degree and then got her masters at UNC as well. In January of 1897, UNC opened it's doors to women for postgraduate studies. 102 years passed between the year our university opened their doors for students to when they allowed women on this campus. Even then, the university wasn't actually prepared for a woman to graduate along with any of the male students.

Along with Stockard, four other women were accepted into UNC, but only Stockard graduated. In 1898, UNC was not expecting that any of the five women would see their education through to graduation. Stockard was excluded from all the ceremonies, including the presentation of degrees and class pictures.

Despite Sallie Walker Stockard being removed from her graduation ceremonies, she continued to study here and obtain her master's degree. I can only begin to speculate why. Maybe it's because UNC had (and still has) strong programs, amazing professors and a beautiful campus. Maybe it was the simple fact that Sallie Walker Stockard could go here, so she did.

Keep in mind that just because Sallie Walker Stockard was admitted into UNC, other marginalized groups, such as African Americans, were not admitted until years later. Fifty four years after Stockard's admittance into UNC, the first black students were admitted in 1951. Harvey Beech, J. Kenneth Lee, Floyd McKissick and James Lassiter all attended the law school starting in June of 1951. That same year, Gwendolyn Smith decided to pursue her doctorate at UNC, but her acceptance was revoked because of her race. Smith filed a lawsuit, and UNC reversed their decision and allowed her to take classes. It was not until the fall of 1955, 160 years after UNC admitted their first students, that the first black undergraduate students, John Lewis Brandon, LeRoy Benjamin Frasier Jr. and Ralph Kennedy Frasier were enrolled.

From left to right: Floyd McKissick, J. Kenneth Lee, Harvey Beech and James Lassiter

Being a student at UNC is such an amazing opportunity. Not only are we meeting new people, being active members in the community and generally having the time of our lives, we're also working towards a degree from one of the most respected universities in the country. To celebrate our school, we must also celebrate alumni and prior UNC students like Sallie Walker Stockard, Harvey Beech, Gwendolyn Smith, John Lewis Brandon and more that helped pave the way for women, people of color and the intersection of those two to attend UNC.