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Collection Number: 04513

Collection Title: Joseph Felmet Papers, 1941-1989

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.

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Size 1.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 425 items)
Abstract Joseph Felmet received an A.B. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1942. He was arrested on numerous occasions for his pacificism during World War II and social activism later. Correspondence and files relating to various activities of Joseph Felmet. Photocopies of FBI files pertain to Felmet's actions as a pacifist and civil rights advocate as a University of North Carolina student and later. Correspondence pertains to Felmet's struggle to gain permission to take the bar exam in North Carolina. Also included are letters describing Felmet's position on civil rights and documents relating to his 1978 senatorial campaign in North Carolina.
Creator Felmet, Joseph, 1921-
Curatorial Unit University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Restrictions to Use
Retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Joseph Felmet Papers #4513, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Joseph Felmet of Winston Salem, North Carolina, in March and April 1988, and smaller accessions starting in 1989.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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Processed by: Robert J. Foster, April 1988; Roslyn Holdzkom, 1989

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Joseph Felmet was born in 1921 in Asheville, North Carolina. As a student, he was chair of the American Student Union, a group that was active in the effort to secure civil rights for blacks. Felmet's passion for civil rights led him to take part in the Journey for Reconciliation in 1947, an early attempt by civil rights advocates to test the Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation in interstate travel. During this demonstration, Felmet was arrested for violating Orange County's segregation laws. Felmet left the American Student Union for political reasons, and later joined the Workers Defense League to help promote civil rights. His activities with this group led to his arrest for protesting the treatment of black migrant workers in Miami, Florida.

Felmet's pacificism precluded military service in World War II. Obtaining a deferment, he was assigned to civil service duty. Believing that this assignment did not recognize his position as a conscientious objector to the war, he successfully petitioned for reclassification of his draft status. After being drafted, he refused to serve. Convicted of draft evasion, his sentence was suspended with the provision that Felmet work in a hospital for nine months.

Felmet's application to take the North Carolina bar exam was rejected in 1948, the Board of Law Examiners of the State of North Carolina believing that Felmet would not uphold the law in cases in which his moral convictions conflicted with the law. Felmet tried to rally support behind his appeal, but was unsuccessful.

In 1976, Felmet ran for Congress and was defeated. He attempted to mount a campaign for a Senate seat in 1976, but his unorthodox campaigning style made it difficult for him to obtain the funds and recognition required for a successful campaign.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

Series 1 consists of letters collected by Felmet that relate to his attempt to take the bar exam in North Carolina in 1948. Series 2 consists of photocopies of FBI files relating to Felmet's activities from 1941 to 1947. Also included in the collection, in Series 3, are two documents describing Felmet's 1978 senatorial campaign.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. North Carolina Bar Materials, 1948-1956.

147 items

This series focuses on the letters Joseph Felmet wrote in his attempt to be granted permission to take the North Carolina bar exam. They include board letters rejecting Felmet and his written appeals to friends to act on his behalf. In addition, there are copies of letters sent to the board on Felmet's behalf, and a letter from the board refusing to re examine the case. Other correspondence consists of letters dated after 1950 that relate to Felmet's reapplication to take the bar exam, that congratulate friends who passed the bar, and two letters in 1956 that relate to civil rights.

Folder 1

1948 Correspondence with board (rejection of application)

Folder 2

1948 Letters from Felmet (appeals for support)

Folder 3

1948 Letters to Felmet (acknowledging or denying support, recommending action)

Folder 4

1948 Appeals to board (re-evaluating case)

Folder 5

1948 Board rejections

Folder 6

1950-1956 Correspondence with board (reapplication)

Folder 7

1950-1956 "Summary of interview of Joe Felmet with North Carolina Board of Law Examiners, July 1948"

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. FBI Files, 1941-1948, 1977-1978.

273 items

These files reflect Felmet's activism in the 1940s, with an emphasis on his civil rights work with the American Student Union and Workers Defense League. In addition, there are files relating to Felmet's arrests for protesting the draft, segregation in interstate travel, and mistreatment of migrant workers. Felmet is also mentioned briefly in other files listed below. Felmet obtained copies of these files under the Freedom of Information Act. They were heavily edited by the FBI prior to their release.

Folder 8

Correspondence with the FBI, 1987-1988

Folder 9

FBI Files Communist Activities in North Carolina, 1941

Folder 10

FBI Files Joseph Felmet-Internal Security, 1941

Folder 11

FBI Files Fellowship of Reconciliation, 1941

Folder 12

FBI Files American Peace Mobilization, 1941

Folder 13

FBI Files American Student Union, 1941-1942

Folder 14

FBI Files Joseph Felmet (Selective Service, File #25-29779), 1943

Folder 15

FBI Files Joseph Felmet (Selective Service, File #25-7860), 1943

Folder 16

FBI Files Miami Arrest, 1944

Folder 17

FBI Files Frank Porter Graham (Atomic Energy Act), 1947

Folder 18

FBI Files Workers Defense League, 1948

Folder 19

FBI Files Miscellaneous FBI Documents

Folder 20

FBI Files Classified

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Other Papers, 1978-1989.

circa 10 items

Documents relating to Joseph Felmet's unsuccessful attempt to run for a Senate seat from North Carolina in 1978, biographical materials, an essay by Felmet titled "My Stance on the First Amendment," and other materials. Folder 22 contains photocopies of materials on file at the Archives of Labor History and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University about the Southern Workers Defense League.

Folder 21

Other papers, 1978-1989

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