University News

A message from the chancellor: James Cates Memorial

A permanent memorial will be installed on campus this year to honor the life of James Lewis Cates Jr.

The Bell Tower at sunset

Dear Carolina Community:

I am pleased to share important progress in Building Our Community Together, the first initiative in our strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good. Our work to be a more diverse and inclusive University takes time, and I appreciate our community’s devotion to these efforts.

As part of learning from Carolina’s past, in 2020, we announced an initiative to tell the story of the death of James Lewis Cates Jr. Cates was a 22-year-old Black man from the Chapel Hill community who was stabbed outside the Student Union in 1970 and died as a victim of racial violence. For 50 years, many in our community were not even aware of his death. Several scholars, members of the Cates family and officials from the Town of Chapel Hill have worked to continue to shed light about what happened that tragic night on the Center for the Study of the American South website.

Today, I am honored to announce another way that the University will remember James Cates. Later this year, we will install a permanent memorial in the Pit to honor his life. We have developed this memorial based on input and advocacy from students, faculty, staff and in close partnership with the Cates family. I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for approving the memorial and to the Town of Chapel Hill for its support. I’m pleased that we are able to announce this prior to our fall semester. We will share details for the dedication when they are available, and I hope you will join us for this historic event.

The Cates Memorial builds on other key milestones from the past year, including renaming buildings for Hortense McClinton, our first Black professor, and Henry Owl, our first American Indian student. We opened the new Asian American Center on Cameron Avenue, giving Asian students, faculty and staff a place of their own. And we’re continuing to diversify our faculty and post-docs through increasing support to the VITAE program and the Carolina Postdoctoral Fellows for Faculty Diversity.

I thank our faculty, staff and students who have contributed to these efforts and so many others that help us be a place where everyone truly belongs.


Kevin M. Guskiewicz