Karen L. Parker, the first African-American woman undergraduate to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was born in Salisbury, North Carolina and grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Parker worked for the Winston-Salem Journal before attending UNC-Chapel Hill. She majored in journalism, was elected vice-president of the UNC Press Club, and served as editor of the UNC Journalist, the School of Journalism's newspaper in 1964. After graduating in 1965, Parker was a copy editor for the Grand Rapids Press in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She also worked for the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers before returning to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Ellyn Bache used Parker's diary when conducting research for her 1997 novel The Activist's Daughter about student activists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1963.