me was the lack of hostility — you don’t
meet a group of angry blacks, seething and
desiring their freedom. … And we didn’t
find a lot of absolute stupid cracker white
people. Crackers have a way these days of
cleaning up what they say when they’re in
front of the TV camera. We found a system
that was working — doesn’t mean it was
good, but it was working — [and] we
explored how some of the parts of that
The film has gone beyond either Unks’
or Gillenwater’s expectations. Although he
intended it as a teaching aid for students,
Unks now has shown the film to community groups, including a showing at the
historically black Northside community.
Recently, UNC-TV, the local PBS affiliate,
selected The Town Before Brown to showcase
as part of its “Visions” independent film
series. The station will air the film in May.
Unks says that making the film also was
a boon to him personally, and he plans to
produce more films that deal with race and
segregation in Chapel Hill in the future,
including one that would chronicle the
1966-67 school year in which Chapel Hill
High School was desegregated.
“It’s a new area of scholarship to me,
and I like it, I really like it,” he said.
And Unks says he’s not too worried if
he steps on some toes along the way.
“In my teaching, my goal is not to
make people comfortable. I like to make
people feel uncomfortable. That’s my job.
I’m borrowing this from journalism, but
you can sum up what I’m up to by the
following: ‘I see my job as comforting the
afflicted, and afflicting the comforted.’”
— Katherine Evans
ONLINE: The Review’s March/April
2006 cover story,“Challenge to the Old Order,”
included a first-person essay by Charles L.
Thompson ’ 67, who participated in early sit-ins
of the civil rights protests, and “Segregation’s Last
Stand” about the battle for civil rights in Chapel
Hill in 1963-64. The coverage is available
online to GAA members in the Review’s
online archives at alumni.unc.edu/cararchive.
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