UNC’S FORGOTTEN SON
umphant reopening of UNC. But an annual
award for women given in her name was
retired in 2005 because of concerns about
her white-supremacist rhetoric and her role
in closing UNC.
DONNA LEFEBVRE ’ 75
James and Charles Phillips, and Charles’ son — all UNC faculty members — are the namesakes of Phillips Hall, home of the math department.
When Research Becomes Personal
DONNA LEFEBVRE ’ 75 (JD), a senior lecturer in the political science department who
teaches law-related courses to undergraduates,
has been at UNC since 1984. She has won
13 teaching awards, including two Tanner
Undergraduate Teaching Awards and three
Students’ Undergraduate Teaching Awards,
and she has won the UNC Bryant Public
Service Award for extraordinary service to the
University community. She was elected to
Order of the Golden Fleece, UNC’s highest
and oldest honor society, in 1998 for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education.
ONLINE: In her extensive research, the
author cites public records found in various
places in England, personal visits to sites in
England, books about Chapel Hill’s history,
and 19th-century court cases, among others.
A complete list of references is at
When Donna LeFebvre first saw Sam Phillips’ name in a transcript of the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson civil rights case a few years ago, a minor
obsession was born. Maybe not minor.
She applied for a fellowship that gave
her some time off from teaching. When it
came with a travel stipend, she was off to
England to see for herself some of the
haunts of Phillips’ father, James — the
county offices that held the records, the
churches where his father had been vicar
and the house where he grew up in modest
means but under his father’s extensive tutelage before reinventing himself in America.
Her research left her convinced UNC
had neglected an important son — “It’s
injustice,” LeFebvre said — and she won-
dered how she could make Sam Phillips’
story appealing to her students. In the early
days of the freshman seminars, she designed
one around the saga of Homer Plessy, teach-
ing the politics of 19th-century New
Orleans and then having the students write
and perform 10-minute plays about him. She
also made sure they learned who Phillips was
— the class, taught every two years, visits the
Phillips home places on Franklin Street.