CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- The country's oldest public university celebrated its 225th birthday by issuing an apology about slavery.
Slaves built and sustained the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, according to the Office of University Communications.
Chancellor Carol Folt spoke at Memorial Hall on Friday morning. In her speech she began by saying that she was thankful "to be the Chancellor of this special place on this special birthday."
She went on to talk about legislation passed 11 years ago by the North Carolina General Assembly. That legislation "explicitly urged universities 'to do all within their power to acknowledge the transgressions'" of the practice of slavery."
The apology comes 225 years after UNC was founded, and 153 years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery.
Folt said America's first public university must reconcile its past with its present and future.
"Our apology must lead to purposeful action, building upon the great efforts and sacrifices of those who fought so hard for much of what we value about Carolina today," Folt said. "If done with honesty, resolve and strength of purpose, our choices will help us come to terms with our past, and move us to a better future."
In a press release, Office of University Communications praised Folt for being the first Carolina Chancellor to issue an apology about slavery.After Folt, UNC History Professor James Leloudis detailed UNC's newest efforts to install signs and educational markers in McCorkle Place.Leloudis also said UNC will use extensive research to make sure that the plan to replace Silent Sam, the Confederate Memorial that was recently torn down, will "teach the history of the monument and the era of white supremacy in which it was erected."Oct. 12 is University Day at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. On that date in 1793 construction began on Old East.
Old East is the oldest public university building in the country. It's now a residence hall, but in the past it also functioned as a classroom building.
University Day is an annual tradition where UNC celebrates its history and looks to how the university will continue to serve the state.
During Friday's University Day, the school announced a new scholarship program aimed at helping middle-income students.
UNC System President Emeritus Erskine Bowles committed a $5 million donation to the Blue Sky Scholars program. The program aims to raise an additional $15 million.
The Blue Sky Scholars program aims to help North Carolina residents who qualify for financial aid but do not meet Carolina Covenant requirements.
Past University Day celebrations have featured speeches from honored visitors including distinguished faculty and honored visitors--some of the most famous including Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy.
In 1993, while celebrating the school's 200th birthday, alumus Charles Kuralt delivered one of the most memorable speeches in University Day history.
His speech begins at the 11:30 mark in the video below.