The University of North Carolina Press (or UNC Press), founded in 1922, is a university press that is part of the University of North Carolina. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses (AU Presses).
The University of North Carolina Press (aka UNC Press), a nonprofit publisher of both scholarly and general-interest books and journals and the first university press founded in the Southern United States, operates simultaneously in a business environment and in the world of scholarship and ideas. UNC Press advances the University of North Carolina's triple mission of teaching, research, and public service by publishing peer reviewed books and journals for students, scholars, and general readers, earning a distinguished reputation by publishing work from the nation’s leading scholars, writers, and intellectuals and by presenting that work to wide-ranging audiences. It receives support from the state of North Carolina and the contributions of individual and institutional donors who created its endowment.
In 1922, on the campus of the nation’s oldest state university, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, thirteen educators and civic leaders met to charter a publishing house. Their creation, the University of North Carolina Press, was the first university press in the South and one of the first in the nation. Today, the Press is an affiliate of the 17-campus UNC System, and its purpose remains to advance scholarship and to serve the people of the state and the region.
UNC Press was the first scholarly publisher to develop an ongoing program of books by and about African Americans, beginning in the late 1920s. By 1950, nearly 100 such volumes had appeared under its imprint, including famed historian John Hope Franklin’s first book, The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790–1860, published in 1943. In the 1970s, the UNC Press was again in the vanguard, recognizing the emerging interdisciplinary field of women’s studies, taking an early lead in publishing feminist literary and historical works of distinction. Both African American studies and gender and women’s studies remain cornerstones UNC Press's publishing program today. And more recently, UNC Press’s publishing program has helped foster the growing significance of Native American and Indigenous studies, a field of national and global interest that has flourished over the last decade with the establishment of new scholarly associations and academic departments.
When UNC Press was founded, university presses published work strictly for scholars and by scholars, primarily those from the home faculty. Today, UNC Press authors come from all across the nation and around the world.
UNC Press partners with a variety of other leading institutions and public groups, including the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University, and the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.
In 2006, UNC Press started the distribution company Longleaf Services as an affiliate. Fulfillment for Longleaf is provided by Ingram Content Group. Through this wholly owned not-for-profit subsidiary, Longleaf Services provides economies of scale in back-end services for a growing group of university presses. Additionally, the Office of Scholarly Publishing Services is expanding its role within the 17-campus UNC System to support publishing originating at its diverse universities.
Since its founding, UNC Press has focused on the publication of scholarly works while also creating one of the earliest and strongest regional publishing programs in the country.
As it approaches the centennial of its founding in 2022, UNC Press has published more than 6,000 books and maintains an in print backlist of over 4,000 titles.
UNC Press has won many book awards, including the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize, Frederick Douglass Prize, and the top prizes given by leading scholarly societies and respected organizations like the American Bar Association; the American Institute of Architects; the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers; and the Royal Society of Canada. Over the years, UNC Press titles have won hundreds of major prizes in American and world history, religious studies, Latin American and Caribbean studies, American studies, gender and women’s studies, literary studies, music, architecture, human rights, and legal studies.
Notable UNC Press authors include historians such as John Hope Franklin, Gerda Lerner, Gordon Wood, Mary Kelley, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Nell Irvin Painter, Glenda Gilmore, Timothy Tyson, Gary W. Gallagher, William A. Darity Jr., Tiya Miles, Laurent Dubois, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Cedric J. Robinson, Robin D. G. Kelley, Kelly Lytle Hernández, and Louis A. Pérez Jr.; scholars of American and world religions including Carl W. Ernst, Catherine Brekus, and Anthea Butler; literary writers and critics such as Elizabeth Lawrence, Cleanth Brooks, Phillis Wheatley, Thomas Wolfe, Paul Green, and Wilma Dykeman; prominent scholars of the American South including Howard Odum to William Ferris; and North Carolina celebrities including David Stick, Bill Neal, Mildred (Mama Dip) Council, and Bland Simpson.
The press has published many multi-volume documentary editions, such as The Papers of John Marshall, The Papers of General Nathanael Greene, The Black Abolitionist Papers, and The Complete Works of Captain John Smith.
Notable published works of reference include the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, the North Carolina Architecture, and the Encyclopedia of North Carolina.