Manning Hall was first opened in 1923 and named after John Manning, a professor of law at UNC. It is nestled on the lower quad between Murphy Hall and Carolina Hall and now holds the School of Information and Library Science. The building has an important role in the history of civil rights at UNC as it was the center of the desegregation debate in the 1950s and the location of the Food Workers’ Strike of 1968-69.
Manning Hall was built as part of a two-year, $1.5 million project aimed to increase space for classrooms and student housing. The building would be the new home of the Law School and was named Manning Hall after John Manning, a professor and long-time Trustee of the University. Renovations to the building began in 1949 to make room for the growing population of the Law School. New additions included a student lounge, a library, new offices, study rooms, and a courtroom.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Law School drew national attention. In a time when “separate but equal” still ruled, black students applied to UNC’s School of Law rather than the assumed destination for black students: the North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University). Although the Board of Trustees released a statement that applicants’ race would not be considered when determining admission, black students felt they were wrongfully denied. The School of Law was taken to court by black students, including Floyd McKissick, with the support of the NAACP. The court sided with the University and UNC President Gordon Gray said he would not support black students in any undergraduate, graduate, or professional school at UNC. The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the University could not deny admission to the plaintiffs. In 1951, four black students were admitted to the UNC School of Law.
Almost two decades later, Manning Hall was back in the center of a controversy. By the mid-1960s, UNC’s black student population was less than one percent. The Black Student Movement (BSM) was created to push the university toward more diverse admission practices and to educate black high school students about public institutions of higher learning. In 1968, the BSM began supporting the cafeteria workers who were underpaid and mostly African-American. Cafeteria workers had compared paychecks and noticed that they weren’t getting paid a consistent salary for the same amount of work. In December 1968, the BSM released a list of twenty-three demands about admissions and Afro-American studies and the cafeteria workers began a strike in Lenoir Hall, the cafeteria on campus. Students and workers met in the now vacant Manning Hall. The building was used as the “Soul Food cafeteria,” serving donated food to students who were boycotting Lenoir Hall. State Troopers were sent in by the North Carolina governor after several strikers turned over tables in Lenoir Hall. In March of 1969, the governor and the General Assembly agreed to raise the salary of non-academic employees by ten percent and increase the minimum wage of public university workers to $1.80.