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Miscellany readers may recall this post from 2015 about an old photo, purchased for $10 at a Fletcher flea market, that the buyer thought depicted Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett.

By golly, it looks like he was right.

 

“In later showings [of ‘The Birth of a Nation’] some Southern blacks became more demonstrative in their opposition….According to the Chicago Defender, ‘a near riot was precipitated’ in Salisbury, North Carolina, in the 1920s when black spectators in the balcony applauded and cheered at what the white spectators deemed inappropriate moments….Whites threatened ‘vociferous’ blacks that they would ‘come up there and get you,’ to which some black spectators replied, ‘Come on up.’

“When it played again in Salisbury several years later, the theater didn’t advertise ‘until the last minute’ so that protesters would have ‘no time to form an organization.’ City officials urged black citizens to stay home and ‘blacklist’ the film….”

— From Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940″ by Amy Louise Wood (2011)

 

“….”The most influential response to [Richard] Wilbur’s first books of poems came from [Randall] Jarrell — who, with his incomparable gift for the killer witticism, compared Wilbur to a football halfback who always settled for six or eight yards, instead of taking a chance for a big gain. ‘Mr. Wilbur never goes too far, Jarrell judged, ‘but he never goes far enough.’

“These words were to dog Wilbur’s reputation over the decades; ‘I got sick of people quoting from that damn review,’ the poet told his biographers, who rightly deem Jarrell’s review more innuendo and anecdote’ than analysis….”

— From “Celebration of the World” by William H. Pritchard in Commonweal (Aug. 27), a review of   “Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur: A Biographical Study” by Robert Bagg and Mary Bagg (2017)

 

“I was asked if I was open to political questions and said ‘yes.’ But I did not know until I heard the question if I would answer it or not. One of the first was, ‘Would I consider that the Administration had done all that it could to give leadership in the question of desegregation.’

“Suddenly I could visualize the headlines which would focus on this much-argued point in the South as against the real reason for our visit. So I promptly announced that I had come here to talk about the United Nations and I thought that my views on the subject of civil rights were well enough known for me not to discuss them on this particular visit. That saved me from any further difficulties on that score.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt in her “My Day” column, recalling her 1956 visit to the YWCA in Asheville

Though reluctant to address race in her talk, Roosevelt had stipulated a venue that would accommodate both blacks and whites — scarce in still-segregated Asheville.

h/t Mountain Xpress

 

Several new titles just added to “New in the North Carolina Collection.” To see the full list simply click on the link in the entry or click on the “New in the North Carolina Collection” tab at the top of the page. As always, full citations for all the new titles can be found in the University Library Catalog and they are all available for use in the Wilson Special Collections Library.

A woman of patience and vision.

That may be the best general description of Mary Lindsay Thornton, who 100 years ago this fall began a long and extraordinarily productive career with the library at the University of North Carolina.

More specifically, it’s also accurate to call her the mother of special collections at UNC and the all-time champion collector and bibliographer of North Caroliniana. Literally thousands of researchers have benefited from Thornton’s hard work, determination, and foresight.

Early life

Mary Lindsay Thornton portrait

Mary Louise Thornton was born June 12, 1891, in Virginia. Her family moved to Salisbury, NC, where they lived for a few years before moving to Atlanta, where she grew up. Thornton was still a girl when she decided she disliked her given name “Mary Louise.” She swapped the “Louise” for “Lindsay” — the name of her beloved paternal grandmother — and went by Mary Lindsay Thornton for the rest of her life.

Thornton, soft-spoken but hard-working, graduated from the Atlanta Girls High School and the Carnegie Library School, later to become the Emory University Library School. In 1913, with a certificate in librarianship in hand, she took a position at the University of Georgia where she would remain for four years.

The first special collections librarian at UNC
In 1917, UNC’s University Librarian Louis Round Wilson was looking for someone to bring order to a small but growing collection of North Caroliniana. Wilson had been supervising the collection of around 1000 books, 500 pamphlets, and a number of state documents and manuscripts, occupying 50 or so shelves in the library.

Impressed by Thornton’s training and strong interest in cataloging, Wilson and other library officials concluded that she was the perfect candidate to develop the North Carolina Collection into the type of repository that North Carolina citizens wished for. Thornton accepted the position, becoming the Librarian for the North Carolina Collection at UNC, later designated Curator.

The next two decades would see the establishment of the Rare Book Collection and the Southern Historical Collection, whose professional librarians and archivists would join Thornton in developing strong and nationally recognized special collections at Chapel Hill.

A dedication to collecting and bibliography

In 1918, the year following her appointment, Thornton worked closely with Wilson to purchase an unrivaled collection of printed North Caroliniana amassed by Stephen B. Weeks.

Weeks, the first professional historian of the Tar Heel State, had spent thirty-four years gathering a remarkable collection totaling more than 10,000 books, pamphlets, newspapers, and maps. The Weeks Collection provided the depth and breadth that made the North Carolina Collection a resource for in-depth scholarly research on North Carolina. And Thornton’s careful, detail-oriented cataloging provided an entryway into the collection.

A meticulous bibliographer

At the same time that she was cataloging the Weeks Collection, she began a robust collection development program to acquire both older North Caroliniana and the new materials being published by the state’s authors, businesses, organizations, and institutions. With increased support from John Sprunt Hill, who admired and appreciated her good work, Thornton built the North Carolina Collection to 59,000 items by 1937 and 161,000 by 1954 through a combination of donations and purchases.

In 1934 Thornton began contributing an annual bibliography of newly published North Caroliniana to the North Carolina Historical Review Quarterly. She continued to publish bibliographies over her career, including her widely praised Official Publications of the Colony and State of North Carolina, 1749-1939: A Bibliography, a careful and detailed record of all known North Carolina governmental publications to that date.

The culmination of her bibliographic work was the publication of A Bibliography of North Carolina, 1589-1956, which the university press published in 1958, her final year as curator. The volume compiled 15,519 citations to historically significant books, pamphlets, and periodicals she had cataloged into the North Carolina Collection in her years with the UNC Library. Immensely valuable to anyone interested in the history and literature of North Carolina — scholar and non-scholar alike — the book facilitated and stimulated research for decades to come, and served as a most appropriate capstone to Thornton’s career as the unequaled promoter, collector, cataloger, and bibliographer of North Caroliniana.

Thornton’s legacy

hand holding a Mary Louise Thornton button

Today, more than one hundred librarians, archivists, library assistants, and student employees provide services and resources to the researchers who use the Wilson Special Collections Library. This fall, they pause to remember, admire, and appreciate the remarkable career of Mary Lindsay Thornton — a pioneering career that inaugurated the first century of professional special collections librarianship at UNC-Chapel Hill.

If you find yourself in Wilson Library this week, November 6-10, we invite you to stop by any reading-room desk and take a North Carolina trivia quiz in honor of Ms. Thornton. Turn in your answers for a Mary Louise Thornton button, and join us in celebrating this important library pioneer.

“In September 1923, a white woman in Mitchell County, in the mountains of western North Carolina, reported that she had been raped by a black man.

“Within hours, a white mob began rounding up black residents. Drinking whiskey and carrying guns, the mob marched their hostages to the train depot, stopped a southbound train and loaded them onto the railcars.

“Nearly a century after the ethnic cleansing, Mitchell County remains one of the whitest counties in the state…. Close to 80 percent of voters supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election….

“All of which makes it more striking that Mitchell County and its neighbor, Yancey County, are home to a large, thriving branch of the NAACP. Formed in 2013, the Yancey/Mitchell County NAACP branch has around 140 members. Virtually all are white.”

— From “This North Carolina County Has a Thriving Branch of the NAACP—and It’s Mostly White” by Michael Schulson in The Nation (Oct. 31) 

Mitchell County has been listed as a probable “sundown town.”

 

On this day in 1962: Deflating state archivist H.G. Jones’ hopes of establishing that the song “Carolina Moon” refers exclusively to North Carolina, lyricist Benny Davis insists that the question leaves him “really at sea.”

Jones was inquiring at the behest of Gov. Terry Sanford, who had been startled to see S.C. Gov. Ernest Hollings jump to his feet when “Carolina Moon” was played at a governors’ conference. In his letter to Davis, Jones noted that “one has only to read the lyrics to know that you were dreaming of the Tar Heel state as you wrote them. Even the word ‘pining’ gives it away. North Carolina is the state of the long leaf pine. All they grow south of us are palmettos and other nuts.”

Jones is similarly unsuccessful in nailing down the state’s claim to “Carolina in the Morning.”

 

On this day in 1980: Esquire magazine profiles Shelby’s Rolls-Royce-leasing Earl Owensby as “A Very Minor Movie Mogul.” The Washington Post will dub him “the red-clay Cecil B. DeMacho.”

By whatever title, Owensby churns out low-budget action films (e.g., “Chain Gang,” “Rottweiler, Dogs From Hell” and “Rutherford County Line”) that bomb with American audiences but do nicely overseas.
By decade’s end, however, Owensby has run into financial problems and the soundstages at EO Studios fall quiet.

 

“On at least one Confederate soldier monument, that in Columbia, North Carolina (1912), one of the inscriptions included a statement ‘in appreciation of our faithful slaves.’  In the early 20th century several attempts were made to augment [such] localized efforts with a regional or even national monument to the ‘faithful old slaves’….But the more ambitious schemes never materialized….

“The Fort Mill [S.C.] monument remains unique as a representation of slavery, one that is deliberately comprehensive, including both house slavery and field slavery, female and male labor….”

— From Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America” by Kirk Savage (1997)

 

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