Service, Not Servitude: The 1969 Food Workers’ Strikes at UNC-Chapel Hill

March 1, 2019

Update: This exhibition has been extended through June 9, 2019

Fifty years after one of the longest labor actions in University history, a new exhibition at the Wilson Special Collections Library looks back at this tumultuous moment of campus life.

“Service, Not Servitude: The 1969 Food Workers’ Strikes at UNC-Chapel Hill” uses photographs, news articles and administrative documents to capture this period of campus protest that pitted workers and their allies against the University’s administration and state officials.

On Sunday, February 23, 1969, 16 food service employees staged a walkout at Lenoir Dining Hall. The workers, mostly African American, were frustrated by the failure of University administrators to respond to grievances over low pay and unfair labor practices.

One of the first actions of the newly formed Black Student Movement was to lend support to the strikers. Many students boycotted Lenoir and some even operated an alternative cafeteria in nearby Manning Hall so as not to cross the picket lines.

By the strike’s end on March 21, the governor of North Carolina had called the Highway Patrol to campus and mobilized the National Guard nearby in Durham. Days later, the University contracted all dining operations to SAGA Food Services, resulting in a second strike to protest SAGA’s management practices.

“Service, Not Servitude” will be on view in the North Carolina Collection Gallery of the Wilson Special Collections Library through May 31 June 9. It is free and open to the public.

On March 20, 2019, actors from PlayMakers Repertory Company will perform “Voices from the Archives: The 1969 UNC Food Workers’ Strike,” drawing from oral histories and archival documents at the Wilson Special Collections Library. The program will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Wilson Library, following a reception and exhibition viewing at 4:30 p.m. Learn more.

Service, Not Servitude: The 1969 Food Workers’ Strike at UNC-Chapel Hilll
North Carolina Collection Gallery
Wilson Special Collections Library
On view through May 31 June 9, 2019
Free and open to the public
(919) 962-3765 or

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