Early in its history, the Center began to outgrow its 900 square-foot space in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union. The need for a freestanding center became a top priority. In 1993, after active urging by a coalition of students, faculty and staff, the Board of Trustees approved a site for a freestanding center. The much-anticipated groundbreaking took place in April of 2001. The tri-level 44,500 square-foot, freestanding Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History opened in August of 2004.
Since its inception in 1988, the Center has focused its efforts on the interdisciplinary examination of African diaspora arts, cultures, literatures and histories. The Center’s current focus is on integrating cultural development with community development, and on building ties to communities and institutions in the African diaspora in the Americas. The Center’s Mission is:
To encourage and support the critical examination of all dimensions of African-American, African and African diaspora cultures through sustained and open discussion, dialogue and debate, and to enhance the intellectual and socio-cultural climate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and in communities beyond the campus boundaries.
The Stone Center works with numerous departments and units of the University to help promote interdisciplinary inquiry, as well as focused examinations from various interdisciplinary and disciplinary perspectives. The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History:
Is a Center for culture, research, outreach and service;
Questions what it means to be of African descent in the Americas and how Black identities, cultures and histories in the diaspora are constructed; and
Critically examines the role that culture and identity play in social change and community development.
As a graduate student, Stone did extensive work with the Northeastern Illinois University Department of Inner City Studies, acting at various times as its director, chairman and as an assistant professor. She came to UNC-CH in 1974 as an assistant professor and was the director of the Curriculum in Afro-American studies until 1979. She was named an associate professor in 1984.
Founder and former director of the Southeastern Black Press Institute, Stone served on numerous committees related to the black movement and wrote extensively on the subject. In 1981, the NAACP named her Woman of the Year. An admired teacher, she won the Favorite Faculty Award from the Class of 1990. That same year, she was the first recipient of the Outstanding Black Faculty Award from the UNC-CH General Alumni Association. Her many other honors included the Black Student Movement’s 1983 Faculty Award, its 1980 Award for Excellent Academic Achievement, the 1982 N.C. Alumni and Friends Coalition Award for Achievement in Higher Education, and the 1978 National Council for Black Studies Dedicated Service Award.
Stone was the adviser to the Black Student Movement from 1974 to 1980 and was active in promoting the minority presence on campus and expanding the Afro-American studies curriculum. She was a member of the Black Cultural Center Planning Committee and the Campus Y advisory board, among others. Additionally, Stone was a member of various professional and honorary organizations, including the National Council for Black Studies, the NAACP, Women’s Equity Action League and the N.C. Association of Educators. Stone died in 1991. She is survived by two children, Precious (M.A. ’90) and Robert.