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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

Benjamin Smith (1756-1826)

The university's antebellum trustees were typically large slaveholders. Of the original forty trustees appointed in 1789, at least thirty owned slaves. Among them, Benjamin Smith of Brunswick County owned the most with 221. In 1851, the university named a library for Smith that is now known as Playmakers Theatre. Other trustees with substantial numbers of slaves included Stephen Cabarrus, Samuel Johnston, Willie Jones, and Richard Dobbs Spaight. In addition to being trustees, Spaight signed the U.S. Constitution for North Carolina, and Johnston was the state's first U.S. senator. Johnston, Smith, and Spaight also served as governors of North Carolina.