“Traditionally, relationships between white moderates and black leaders in the South were conducted through an elaborate ritual of condescension and deference. [Candidates] rarely campaigned directly for black support…..

“When one of the most liberal Southern congressmen, Charles Deane of North Carolina, faced a tough primary battle after refusing to sign the Southern Manifesto [of 1956], he did not have any close black contacts in his constituency; he had to write to a professor at North Carolina Central… to find the names of local African Americans he should contact.

“Despite Deane’s racial moderation, the black vote was delivered to his segregationist opponent by the sheriff’s local contacts.”

– From “Massive Resistance: Southern Opposition to the Second Reconstruction,”  edited by Clive Webb (2005)


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.

Grape Profits

The independent. (Elizabeth City, N.C.), 27 June 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

The scuppernong grape has a long history in the state of North Carolina. As a cultivar of muscadine, it is noted for large, sweet fruit with tough, bronze skin. The grape is native to North Carolina and was examined by explorers as early as 1524. The grape grows well in hot, humid environments, such as that of the Piedmont and Coastal regions of North Carolina. Scuppernong is a versatile grape and is used in cakes, pies, jelly, cider, and wine.

The scuppernong grape is the official state fruit of North Carolina and the state lays claim to the Mother Vine, a scuppernong vine on the north end of Roanoke Island that some claim dates pre-dates the arrival of Europeans in the 1580s. Newspapers in the mid-19th century often published articles about this revered vine, such as the September 12, 1857 issue of Raleigh’s Semi-weekly Standard.

“After speaking before a statewide convocation of demonstration club members in North Carolina in 1923, one agent noted approvingly that there was ‘not an ear-bob [earring] nor a plucked eyebrow among ‘em…. Guess they get their plucking exercises with the broilers,’ referring to their work in the chicken coop.”

– FromPageants, Parlors, and Pretty Women: Race and Beauty in the Twentieth-Century South” by  Blain Roberts (2014)


Dingbatter, a term used on the Outer Banks for ‘outsiders and nonnatives,’ is a regionalized word within the state and most concentrated in Ocracoke….

“On the 1970s sitcom ‘All in the Family,’ the term ‘dingbat’ was used by Archie Bunker to refer to his wife, Edith…. It was appropriated and extended by residents of Ocracoke when islanders first received access to regular television during that period….. It seemed like a perfect way to describe the lack of common sense sometimes exhibited by tourists, replacing earlier terms for outsiders such as ‘foreigner’ and ‘stranger’. While it is still in use today, it is losing ground to the blended term touron, a combination of ‘tourist’ and ‘moron’…..”

– From “Talkin’ Tar Heel: How Our Voices Tell the Story of North Carolina” by Walt Wolfram and Jeffrey Reaser (2014)


Fans of the North Carolina State Fair (and those who are emphatically not fans) may associate the fair with bright lights, outrageous fried foods, and giant plush bananas inexplicably dressed like Rastafarians.

It can be difficult to imagine the state fair as an elegant event, but just take a look at this 1878 fair pass, our October Artifact of the Month:

state fair pass

Just for fun, here are two other passes, from regional fairs: one from the 1881 Sampson County State Fair, and one from the Great Albemarle District Fair in 1923.

Sampson County state fair pass

Albemarle District Fair pass

If you’re going to the state fair this year, we trust you’ll keep it classy.

A Morgan Stallion

A Morgan Stallion

The North Carolina State Agricultural Society organized its first State Fair in October 1853. Premiums were awarded for a host of categories, including best Durham Bull, best Morgan Stallion, best quilt, best home-made soap, best specimen of book printing, best hearth rug, best specimen of wine from Scuppernong Grapes, among many others. Find the full list of premiums from the first State Fair in the October 29, 1853 issue of the Raleigh Semi-Weekly Standard.

Pat McCrory isn’t the first North Carolina governor to strike back at efforts to make cigarette packaging less appealing.

In 1959, Luther Hodges wired Gov. Ralph Herseth of South Dakota to protest a bill that would require tobacco to carry a skull and crossbones label and the statement “Not recommended by state of South Dakota”:

“I know that you would not want the General Assembly of North Carolina to pass a law requiring that any farm products originating from South Dakota and offered for sale in North Carolina must carry labels warning that, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, South Dakota soil has the highest content in the nation of selenium, a well known poison.”

In response, South Dakota took only three days to kill the proposed anti-tobacco measure. Gov. McCrory can only wish Ireland and France were as accommodating.


“The most famous (or infamous) Charlotte draftee in Germany [during World War II] was probably Lt. Kenneth D. Williams. Williams was the bombardier on a Flying Fortress named Murder, Inc. that was shot down over Bremen in December 1943. The Goebbels propaganda ministry photographed Williams in his flight jacket with ‘Murder, Inc.’ emblazoned across the back….

“One Nazi broadcaster in a ‘howling rage’ reportedly declared: ‘Gangster Williams is now in our hands…. He belongs to America’s secret weapon — a mass murder league — which has been set loose against us.’

“Williams’ mother, inspired no doubt by her son’s situation, would later win an award for selling the most bonds during a local War Bond campaign.”

– From “The Queen City at War” by Stephen Herman Dew (2001)

Actually, engine trouble had grounded Murder, Inc. that day, putting its crew in a backup B-17 nicknamed Aristocrap. Lt. Williams didn’t switch jackets, of course.

Williams returned home in 1945 after 17 months in a German POW camp. In 1956 he was named Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s civil defense director, and he retired in 1983 as county emergency management director. He died in 2003.

His “Murder, Inc.” jacket hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Here’s Williams’ first-person account of being shot down, captured and depicted by German officials as a gangster recruited from Alcatraz.


On this day in 1908: Greensboro opens a week of centennial festivities, including a re-enactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, a parade of Confederate veterans and the dedication of the 20,000-seat Hippodrome Auditorium. (The corrugated iron building, purchased from the Jamestown Exposition of 1907, is billed as second only to Madison Square Garden in seating capacity.)

The Charlotte Observer reports favorably on “the generosity shown by the Greensboro white people to the negroes in their midst. At the fair the darky has been given a show and in the auditorium a section. This broad-minded way of dealing with the negro caused favorable comment by visitors.”


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