In 1922, UNC’s Board of Trustees honored alumnus William Laurence Saunders by naming a new classroom building for him. The board cited his service in the Confederate army; his contributions as a journalist, politician, historian, and fellow trustee; and his leadership of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina during the post-Civil War years of Reconstruction.

The trustees withdrew that honor in 2015 and renamed the building Carolina Hall. They did so on grounds that their predecessors had made a grave error in celebrating Saunders as the head of a “violent terrorist organization.”

Learning From The Past

Removing Saunders’ name was a vital step toward righting that error. The story told here invites a frank examination of our past, including the long and bloody battle over race and democracy that occurred in North Carolina following the end of the Civil War. The Carolina Hall exhibit points to the value of historical study in making a better university for today and tomorrow.

View the exhibit

North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

Who was William Saunders?

William Saunders was one of the most powerful men in North Carolina during the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction. He was educated at UNC (Class of 1854) and served in the Confederate army. He was also a journalist, politician and historian — as well as a prominent leader of the Ku Klux Klan. See the evidence 

How UNC Examined Its History