A Black photographer says he’s being censored after UNC cancelled plans to display his works

By Jade Wilson

In a photo that UNC officials rejected from Cornell Watson’s “Tarred Healing” exhibition, UNC Vice Chancellor Clayton Somers is pictured during a 2021 Board of Trustees meeting. Protesters line the walls to demonstrate against the Board’s handling of the tenure decision of prominent Black journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. (Cornell Watson)


This week brought a new controversy concerning the treatment of Black people at UNC. On the same campus that has seen big disputes about the Silent Sam monument and the process of hiring Black journalist Nikole Hannah Jones, the latest controversy involves photographs of those things.

UNC leaders abruptly canceled an exhibition by Durham photographer Cornell Watson that documented Black life and Black activism in Chapel Hill. They said some of the images detracted from the message of “reverence” for the Black community that they hoped the exhibition would convey.

Watson calls the decision censorship.

Jade Wilson reports.


In another rejected photo, Julia Clark of the UNC Black Student Movement leads a 2021 campus protest. (Cornell Watson)
Dolores Clark (center) sits with her children and great-grandchildren in the home her great-grandparents, Toney and Nellie Strayhorn built around 1879 in Carrboro. The Strayhorns had been freed from slavery. (Cornell Watson)

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