Stories in the South
Hooper Schultz ‘14, a native of Raleigh, found his way back to North Carolina by way of working in marketing and media — first in New York City and later in Charleston, South Carolina.
As a former editorial assistant at Charleston Magazine and editor of an online alternative weekly publication, he found stories from older gay or lesbian people compelling, which sparked an abiding interest in how those stories were told — or not.
“I was pitching these stories because I thought they were important,” Schultz said. “I began to see that LGBTQ people had made an impact on Charleston and the South broadly, but those stories weren’t being told very often.”
Following his time at the publications, he pursued a master’s degree in Southern studies and a master’s degree in fine arts in documentary studies from the University of Mississippi.
“Books by John Howard and the late Randall Kenan meant a lot to me, especially as a gay North Carolinian,” he said. “That’s part of the reason I wanted to pursue my Ph.D.”
LGBTQ history at Carolina and beyond
Initially, Schultz considered queer literature in the South as an area of focus during graduate school, but after learning about the Invisible Histories Project, a repository of LGBTQ history in Alabama and beyond while pursuing his master’s degree, he became more interested in gay conferences throughout the Southeast — the first of which was held in 1976 on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.
“That turned my path from literature to history,” Schultz explained. The Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), formerly known as the Carolina Gay Association, hosted the largest and first-known conference of its time following its establishment in 1974.
Now a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History, part of the College of Arts and Sciences, his dissertation focuses on the history of gay liberation student activism on college campuses in the United States during the 1970s and the ensuing discrimination the LGBTQ community faced from government ordinances.
“The [Carolina Gay Alliance] is an amazing piece of Carolina’s history,” Schultz said. “It shows how LGBTQ people have had a lasting impact in our region and have worked with their governments to extend rights to more people, have asserted their personal rights […] which I think is a story that everyone can relate to — the push for greater citizenship.”
Schultz works as a graduate student under Katherine Turk as his advisor and gathers oral histories as a field scholar with the Southern Oral History Program as he hopes to influence the future of the South.
“The Southern Oral History Program is part of the Center for the Study of the American South — this charmed, interdisciplinary space on campus where all of these people care about the U.S. South and our state,” he said. “In North Carolina, we have such a deep history in our state. The dream is to have graduates of our Ph.D. program in history to do that historical interpretation and helping other North Carolinians understand their paths and therefore better understand their future.”
Schultz served as the instructor of record for undergraduates during the fall 2022 semester, which crystallized a love for teaching. His students produced eighteen new oral histories and got to meet several Carolina LGBTQ alumni.
“I’m an oral historian,” Schultz said. “Many of the people who were involved in early gay liberation activism are still living, and a lot of mainstream newspapers weren’t writing about it at the time.”
He said that the national climate indicates that people do care about history and how it shapes people and policies at the local and national level.
“The story of young people endeavoring to change their world is a story that needs to be told. It’s a story I wish I had known growing up, which is a huge motivator.”