A Role Model for Change

Paving the way for generations of future Tar Heels

Karen Parker

Paving the way for generations of future Tar Heels

Karen Parker made history when she arrived in Chapel Hill in 1963 as the first African American undergraduate woman to enroll at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Having grown up experiencing segregation and social injustice firsthand, Parker continued to fight for her rights as an African American woman while earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism. While she was driven and determined, she knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

“I knew going in that it was going to be tough,” said Parker. “Our [high school] guidance counselors singled out some students who they believed could make it academically and were tough enough to survive in an unfriendly environment. And of course we knew that was not going to be any fun. We knew we were going to meet the same kind of prejudices we saw every day of our lives.”

While at Carolina, Parker worked tirelessly to excel and prove to others that she was not inferior and deserved to be there just as much as they did — and she did just that.

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