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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies

Watch fob, 1850s

Antebellum college students found more flexibility within their debating societies than in their curriculum, and the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies became important parts of a student's identity. More than just social fraternities, these organizations gave students an opportunity to think and write about political, cultural, and social issues. Students met weekly to compose essays and orations about topics of their own choosing. Most students took their society duties seriously and paid fines for failing to perform them.