“In 2013, we did a dinner at Stagville Plantation in Durham, 150 people. I did invite Paula Deen, [but] she didn’t show up after my infamous letter to her….
“Almost all the food was prepared 19th Century style, open fires, cast iron skillets, wooden utensils. As we sat down to eat in the shadows of these four remaining slave cabins on this plantation that had 900 enslaved individuals across its history, it just dawned on me that the ancestors who had worked and lived and died there could never have dreamed that we would be honoring them in that way, with this many diverse people. I think we achieved a miracle, knowing it or not.
“That’s my whole mission, to uncover pieces of myself but use that to transform the way people look at race in America, to move the conversation beyond ‘this is mine and this is yours’ to ‘this is ours and this is we and this is us.’ ”
— Culinary historian Michael Twitty, quoted at ideastations.org (Feb. 23)
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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.
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“I Am Not Your Negro begins with [James Baldwin‘s] return to the U.S. in 1957 after living in France for almost a decade — a return prompted by seeing a photograph of 15-year-old Dorothy Counts and the violent white mob that surrounded her as she entered and desegregated Harding High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. After seeing that picture, Baldwin explained, ‘I could simply no longer sit around Paris discussing the Algerian and the black American problem. Everybody was paying their dues, and it was time I went home and paid mine.’ ”
— From “The Imperfect Power of I Am Not Your Negro” by Dagmawi Woubshet in The Atlantic (Feb. 8)
A dramatic turning point, for sure — but chronologically impossible.
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“In 1996, I got a call from a friend who was (and is) a historian in North Carolina, Dick Kohn. Prof. Kohn suggested that I might be able to help a young Army officer completing his Ph.D. studies at the University of North Carolina. Kohn was concerned that Maj. H.R. McMaster might soon be in big trouble with senior leadership….McMaster was about to publish a critical book about the Vietnam War….
“In our telephone discussions, McMaster was very polite, but he did not follow my suggestions about toning down his criticism. It was clear he was extremely smart, very well-read, a fine researcher and a man of strong convictions. Later I predicted his career would suffer. I was wrong….”
— From “One of the Army’s best is about to face his greatest challenge” by Perry M. Smith in the Augusta Chronicle (Feb. 25)
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“Comparing race relations in the early 20th century to what they had been like after Reconstruction, a [white] North Carolinian lamented the extent to which blacks showed disdain for the old customs, monopolizing, for example, the inner side of the sidewalks once deemed the white man’s ‘right of way.’
“This was no small matter. Such ‘assertions of independence’ and ‘racial equality,’ if tolerated, were bound to have disastrous consequences.
” ‘When the whites yield in what would be usually called “trifles,” they may some day discover that little by little these trifles have grown into “thunder-bolts.” ‘ ”
— From “Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow” by Leon F. Litwack (2010)
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This month’s Artifact of the Month is the plaque that appeared on the building now known as Carolina Hall.
Completed in 1922, the academic building originally got its name from class of 1854 graduate William Lawrence Saunders. Leading into 2015, UNC students objected to Saunders’ reported membership in the Ku Klux Klan and issued a call to action. According to the News and Observer, the UNC Board of Trustees deliberated for “about a year,” eventually voting 10-3 to select a more “unifying name.”
Even before the Board’s deliberation, some students proposed that the building should honor anthropologist and writer Zora Neal Hurston. The students advocated for that name because as an African American woman, her identity contrasted the issues of racism and sexism perpetuated by having Saunders’ name on the building. Hurston also had ties to the University: in 1939 she attended writing classes at UNC with playwright Paul Green. Some activists used hashtags like “#HurstonHall” on Twitter, while others made T-shirts like this one, from the University Archives’ digital T-shirt archive.
On May 28, 2015, the UNC Board of Trustees proceeded with renaming Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall. The Board also issued a sixteen-year moratorium on renaming historic buildings. According to The Daily Tar Heel, some activists critiqued the moratorium as well as the selection of the name “Carolina Hall.”
In a May 2015 article of the Daily Tar Heel, senior Judy Robbins was quoted as saying, “Renaming it Carolina Hall is automatically silencing all of the students who worked on this and also all students of color who have ever attended UNC and ever will attend UNC.” Carolina Hall officially reopened in the fall of that same year with a new name plaque. The old Saunders Hall plaque came to the North Carolina Collection Gallery.
On November 11, 2016, a new exhibit opened exploring the history of the building’s name, William Saunders, and the Reconstruction era.
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“Rather than depending on large, merchant-capitalized manufactories, a flexible system [used during the Revolutionary War] relied primarily on independent farm families for production. Women and children could manufacture clothing and other products at home when time permitted, and either merchants or the state government would purchase the finished goods to be distributed where needed. These farm families succeeded so well that large manufactories seemed less appealing to potential investors.
“When Joseph Hewes of [Edenton] North Carolina considered investing in a linen manufactory, he was dissuaded by a Philadelphia factory manager who informed him that ‘small manufactories set up by private persons in their own families would be much more profitable both to the adventurers and to the community in general than large ones established by the public or by companies.’ ”
— From “Manufacturing Revolution: The Intellectual Origins of Early American Industry” by Lawrence A. Peskin (2010)
It would be 1814 before Michael Schenck built North Carolina’s first textile mill, on a fork of the Catawba River near Lincolnton. It manufactured cotton yarn, not linen. textile mill in North Carolina was in operation around 1815 by Michael
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“Black bears and North Carolinians have tussled over space for centuries. While traveling through the western part of the state in 1774, naturalist William Bartram complained about them in his journal, writing ‘the bears are yet too numerous.’ American pioneers hunted them for food and for sport, often to excess — when trapper ‘Big Tom’ Wilson died in Asheville in 1908, his obituary bragged that he had killed 110 bears. All of this barely dented their numbers.
“Starting in the 1920s, though, development and deforestation began taking their toll. When a midcentury bout of chestnut blight decimated the bears’ food supply, they were already struggling. By 1970, there were only about 1,500 left in the state, and North Carolina conservationists began setting aside protected land to bring their numbers up, but things still looked grim.
“Then came the 1990s, and the housing boom. New developments were perfect safe spaces for bears, full of food and birdseed and free from hunters…. In 1993, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission got 33 calls about human-bear encounters. In 2013, they got 569.
“[Today] somewhere around 8,000 black bears range around western North Carolina, and many make Asheville part of their meandering….The scientists behind [N.C. State’s] Urban-Suburban Bear Study are interested in figuring out this new habitat’s ‘social carrying capacity’ — exactly how many of these new neighbors the human residents of the city are willing to tolerate….”
— From “The Civilized Black Bears of Asheville, North Carolina” by
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“Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department weighed in against a reduction in [Junius] Scales‘s sentence [for being a member of the Communist Party]….But Bobby was changing. He had begun to distinguish saying provocative things from actually doing something wrong. He was more open to admitting a mistake. He was also less afraid to break with the unbending J. Edgar Hoover, who insisted Scales stay behind bars until he named his ex-comrades….
“[After 15 months in prison] Scales would be let out on December 24, 1962, with a guard on duty yelling to him, ‘We just got a telegram from Bobby Kennedy, and he says we gotta get you home by tonight in plenty of time for Christmas.’ ”
— From “Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon” by Larry Tye (2016)
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