Current exhibition

striking employees

Food workers strike on the UNC campus, 1969

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

February 21 – May 31, 2019

On Sunday, February 23, 1969, UNC food service employees staged a walkout at Lenoir Dining Hall. The workers, mostly African American, were frustrated by University administrators’ failure to respond to workers’ grievances over low pay and unfair practices. The strike ushered in a period of campus protests that pitted the workers and their allies against the UNC administration and North Carolina officials. Participants in the dispute ranged from the governor to local high school students.

Energized by labor protests by black workers elsewhere in the South, the strikers refused to yield until administrators met demands for increased wages and better working conditions. The food workers’ efforts in 1969 drew attention to the plight of the University’s service employees, a concern that continues to spark discussion today.


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For information on previous exhibitions, see our past exhibitions page.