Title: Oral History Interview with Ashley Davis, April 12, 1974. Interview E-0062.
Interviewer: Rymer, Russell
Interviewee: Davis, Ashley
Subjects: Strikes and lockouts--North Carolina--Chapel Hill University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Black Student Movement
Abstract: Ashley Davis arrived as a student at University of North Carolina in 1968 and became involved with the Black Student Movement (BSM). Still in its infancy, the BSM was a growing force on campus, and in 1969, the food workers at UNC asked the BSM for its support in their strike. Davis describes how leading up to the strike, Preston Dobbins, leader of the BSM, had gathered funds to hire Otis Light to work with service workers on campus. Primarily African American, service workers on campus often faced poor working conditions and low pay. By 1968, workers in the cafeteria had become especially discontent with low wages, split shifts, and unpaid overtime work. In the spring of 1969, the cafeteria workers, led by a group of women who worked in the Pine Room at Lenoir Hall, decided to go on strike. Davis emphasizes throughout the interview that the food workers led their own strike and that any assistance the BSM provided was supportive only. The BSM was there from the beginning, says Davis, helping to slow down service in the cafeteria by holding up the lines, thereby giving food workers the opportunity to walk out and begin their strike. During the rest of the strike, the BSM helped by boycotting and picketing outside of Lenoir Hall. In addition, the BSM raised funds in order to set up an alternative "soul food cafeteria" in Manning Hall so that food workers could continue working and so that students boycotting the cafeterias had somewhere to eat. Davis describes how the Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC) was one of the BSM's main outlets of support during the food workers strike. According to Davis, however, the BSM's support of the striking food workers led to tensions between African American students and conservative white students. He describes how a series of confrontations led Governor Terry Sanford to call in state troopers to mediate the situation, and he explains how the presence of these troopers ultimately worked in favor of the strikers. In addition, Davis discusses at some length the reaction of Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson to the BSM and the strike. He concludes by offering his thoughts on the outcome of the strike and the impact of the BSM's role in the conflict.