CHAPEL HILL – It doesn’t actually have anything to do with the Confederacy, or the Civil War, or Slavery, but because people from North Carolina happened to refer to themselves as Tar Heels during the War Between the States, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill must change the name. Because racism.
“The Tar Heels has been the UNC-Chapel Hill nickname for as long as many people can remember – but now a group wants to change that.
The group, called the Union Soldier Campaign, argues that Tar Heels are associated with Confederate soldiers and they want the name changed.
The group gathered at Bennett Place in Durham on Tuesday where they held a small protest before forming a caravan to head to UNC to demand they change the name.
According to UNC’s alumni website, the name Tar Heel dates back to when the state was the leading producer of supplies for the naval industry, such as tar, and workers would get tar on their heels.
During the Civil War, North Carolina soldiers did call themselves Tar Heels as an expression of state pride.
The Union Soldier Campaign wants that name changed because of its connection to Confederate soldiers.
The group left Bennett Place at 12:30 p.m. to head to UNC where they hope officials will agree to change the nickname.”
This author fondly remembers listening to a lecture from a UNC history professor, a respected North Carolina historian and author, about the origination of the term ‘Tar Heels.’ There are all sorts of stories about how the moniker came about, but only one with historical truth to it.
As mentioned in the excerpt above, the pride of North Carolina, from all the way back in the colonial era, was it’s vast naval resources. Our immense pine forests were utilized to build and seal ships and ropes, among other products, adding depth to our history as a maritime state.
To extract the oils and saps — used to seal ship hulls, strengthen ropes, and waterproof sails — workers would build a pile of felled pines, cover it with earth, and burn it like an oven. Before hand they would have dug trenches beneath the piles, leading out from it’s center. As the pile cooked in its earthen oven, the saps and resins would be cooked out of the wood, flowing into the trenches and out to where workers would collect it.
It was tar, turpentine, gum, pitch, and rosin. It was valuable, useful stuff, and the woodsers inevitably got it all over their feet as they worked the piles and collected the byproducts. They were Tar Heels.
North Carolina was famous for the production of naval stores from it’s huge pine forests, and North Carolinians from many of the Old North State’s forestry epicenters were known as Tar Heels for these reasons.
This is the reason Confederate era North Carolinians, and, yes, soldiers, sported the Tar Heel label. The name itself has nothing to do with the slavery, or the racism, or even the wokeness of 2020. Not that reality has any real bearing on what such woke groups believe or act upon.