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Belated hat tip to former Miscellany keeper Jason Tomberlin and researcher-commenter Kevin Cherry for this fact-packed post about the eclipse of 1900, when Wadesboro became the mecca of the astronomical world….

This time, alas, Anson County’s view will max out at 97.5 percent of the total eclipse.

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“Wilson, North Carolina… has been home since 1926 to a memorial that commemorated the Revolution and the Confederacy: It originally featured a massive central column depicting the Stars and Stripes and the flag of the Confederate States of America, flanked by two water fountains — one for whites, one for blacks. It apparently outlasted its welcome sometime during the 1960s. Without fanfare, the fountain was moved from the court house to an inconspicuous park, and the fountains were replaced by small granite caps. Today you would be unlikely to recognize it as a one-time segregated water fountain….”

— From “I’ve studied the history of Confederate memorials. Here’s what to do about them” by W. Fitzhugh Brundage at Vox (Aug. 18)

Professor Brundage was into Confederate monuments before Confederate monuments were cool hot. 

Does anyone have an image of the Wilson monument before its dual water fountains were removed?

 

“Although there are many decisions to the effect that it is actionable per se to call a white person a Negro, not one can be found deciding whether it would be so to call a Negro a white person. [But] one event looks, in a measure, in this direction.

“The city of Asheville, North Carolina, in 1906, contracted with a printer to have a new city directory issued. The custom of the place was to distinguish white and Negro citizens by an asterisk placed before the names of all Negroes. After the directory had been distributed, it was found that asterisks had been placed before the names of two highly respected white citizens….

“The [Raleigh News & Observer] report says: ‘On the heels of this suit brought by [the white] Mr. Lancaster, it is said that [the black] Henry Pearson is considering bringing suit against the same people because an asterisk was not placed before his name. Henry, proprietor of the Royal Victoria, a Negro hotel, complains that he has been the object of unpleasant jests since publication of the directory, and likewise inquiries as to just ‘when he turned white.’ Pearson fears that if the report goes abroad that he is a white man it will damage his hotel…’

“This case is unique; whether it has been brought to court is as yet unknown….”

— From “Race Distinctions in American Law” by Gilbert Thomas Stephenson (1910) 

If Henry Pearson did in fact take his grievance to court, I haven’t found evidence thereof.

 

“According to the historian David S. Cecelski, presenting [Alfred] Waddell as a righteous campaigner for ‘sobriety and peace’ was standard in Wilmington until the 1990s. ‘I grew up in a small town in eastern North Carolina 90 miles from Wilmington,’ Cecelski says. ‘I had a book in my middle-school classroom that listed the 12 greatest North Carolinians ever. It included the Wright brothers, Virginia Dare, and then it included three of the people who were the leaders of the white supremacy campaign.

“ ‘For something like Wilmington in 1898,’ Cecelski continues, ‘it’s hard to describe the level of indoctrination. In the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, they bragged about [the coup]. After that, they backed off but it stayed in the history books and they talked about it as an unfortunate but necessary event.'”In fact, part of how historians have pieced together the real story of the Wilmington massacre is by looking back at newspaper archives — from towns all across North Carolina, not just Wilmington — where similar violence was coordinated that day. ‘They burned down black newspapers all over the state,’ Cecelski says….”
— From “The Lost History of an American Coup D’État” by Adrienne LaFrance and Vann R. Newkirk II in The Atlantic (Aug. 12)
 

“Whatever the motive behind secession, once the war began the overwhelming number of Confederate soldiers, most of whom were non­ slaveholders, fought to defend their states, homes, and families from the invading federal armies. Such was the case with my four great uncles, poor dirt farmers who owned no slaves. Two served as privates in North Carolina infantry regiments and two carried the mail for the Confederacy. One of the former was killed in Pickett’s Charge and the other died during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862, thus becoming two of the 40,000 North Carolinians who paid the ultimate price fighting under the now much-maligned Confederate battle flag….

“I am proud of my Confederate heritage and proud to live in a state that still recognizes that heritage in its state banner.”

— From “Heritage, not hate. Let’s keep the state flag” by William K. Scarborough in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger

An 84-year-old white Mississippian defending the Confederate flag may qualify as dog-bites-man, but Bill Scarborough is also an accomplished academic whose doctorate and bachelor’s degree are from UNC Chapel Hill and whose papers occupy 27 feet of shelf space in the Southern Historical Collection. 

Scarborough’s op-ed column threw me back to 1970, when I interviewed him for the micromonthly Mississippi Freelance. 

In his Confederate-flag-draped office at the University of Southern Mississippi we talked about his recent stump speeches (“I’m a segregationist, no apologies, no denials”), his brief and unhappy tenure at Millsaps College (“It had assumed that since I was a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina that I’d be fairly liberal”) and most viscerally his fond recollection of the James Meredith crisis that wracked the state in 1962:

“The Citizens Council issued a call for men to surround the Governor’s Mansion; they had heard the federal marshals would try to arrest him [Ross Barnett]. It was great. The women brought lunches and chairs, and there was patriotic music coming over the loudspeakers…Emotionally, it was the high spot of my life. For the first time I could really see how the Civil War took place….”

So, no, I wasn’t surprised to see Scarborough’s attachment to the Confederacy undiminished by the intervening 47 years….

 

“….Just down Atlantic Avenue, a narrow four-block-long road from Kure (pronounced “Cure-ee”) Beach Fishing Pier, an old seaside cottage bears witness to a time when things weren’t all sunshine and Cheerwine along the Carolina coast. It was here on a July night in 1943 that a German U-Boat supposedly surfaced and fired shots at a factory complex located a half-mile off shore. If the incident actually occurred—and many believe it didn’t—it would have been the only time the East Coast of the United States was attacked during the Second World War….”

— From “Did a Nazi Submarine Attack a Chemical Plant in North Carolina?” by John Hanc in the Smithsonian (Aug. 2)

Yet more U-boat lore.

 

“September 17, 1981

“Raleigh

“I’ve had it with Briggs Hardware. Again today when they asked what I was looking for, I was at a loss to tell them. ‘Something wooden,’ I’ve told them in the past. ‘Something shiny.’

“I don’t want a tool to do something with; I just want something to draw. In the toy department I asked to look at one of their jack-in-the-boxes. The saleswoman got snippy when I didn’t want to buy it, and when I reached for my knapsack and said I could explain, she said, ‘I don’t want to see none of your old mess.’

“I turned to leave and saw all the employees standing at the front counter talking about me. They think they’re hot stuff because the store was pictured in National Geographic.”

— From “Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)” by David Sedaris (2017)

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“[The documentary] ‘Rumble’ takes its name from a seminal slice of rock ’n’ roll created by guitarist Link Wray, a Shawnee Indian from [Dunn] North Carolina. A 1958 hit, Rumble introduced the world to the ‘power chord.’ The song was banned in New York and Boston for fear that the mere sound of that amped-up guitar might incite riots. ‘Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck used to play air guitar to Rumble,’ [executive producer Stevie] Salas said. ‘But when I told Jeff that Link was Indian, his jaw dropped.’

” ‘When Link Wray was a boy, the grand wizard of the KKK made a deliberate attempt to go after indigenous people,’ [director Catherine ] Bainbridge said. ‘When his mom was 10 years old and walking to school, a bunch of white girls surrounded her and broke her back. She wore a brace for the rest of her life. That’s the violence Link came out of.’ ”

— From ” ‘Buried history’: unearthing the influence of Native Americans on rock ‘n’ roll” by Jim Farber in the Guardian (July 19)

David Menconi wants to know why Link Wray isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Me too!

 

On this day in 1861: L. P. Walker, Confederate secretary of war, approves purchase of an abandoned cotton mill at Salisbury for use as a prison for captured Union soldiers. To their later regret, the owners agree to take payment in Confederate bonds.

Before being closed four years later Salisbury prison will become notorious for its unhealthy and crowded conditions.

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From the Lew Powell Collection

This ticket to the Cleveland County Negro Fair, July’s Artifact of the Month, highlights a little known part of North Carolina history, African American agricultural fairs.

Agricultural fairs held by and for African Americans took place in North Carolina starting in Wilmington in 1875. The largest and best-known African American fair in the state was the Negro State Fair.  Organized by the North Carolina Industrial Association, the Negro State Fair was held annually in Raleigh beginning in 1879.  Charles Norfleet Hunter, a former slave, educator, and well-known activist, led the formation of the North Carolina Industrial Association.  He believed that in order to gain equal rights, African Americans must prove their worth to whites and highlight the value that black citizens contributed to the state and its economy.

Charles N. Hunter (ca. 1851-1931). Review of Negro Life in North Carolina with My Recollections. Raleigh, N.C.: C.N. Hunter, 1925.

The Negro State Fair was modeled on the North Carolina State Fair but was smaller in scale.  In 1890, the North Carolina Agricultural Society, which hosted the North Carolina State Fair, allowed use of its fairgrounds and facilities to the Negro State Fair and the state eventually allotted $500 in annual funding.  The North Carolina Industrial Association successfully ran the fair until 1930, three years after the state pulled its funding.

As legal segregation grew in the South in the 1890s and African Americans were excluded from attending many North Carolina fairs, African American fairs became increasingly important for their communities and provided a venue for African Americans to show their accomplishments and instill community pride.  Even after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which made segregation illegal, some African American fairs continued.  The Cleveland County Negro Fair provides an example of this.  Founded in 1927, the Fair ran through at least 1966, the date of this ticket.

To learn more about the history of agricultural fairs in North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Collection Gallery’s current exhibition “Meet Me on the Midway: Three Centuries of Fairs in North Carolina” on display now through October 31, 2017.

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