New Collections: Love Letters

We have a number of new collections that are preserved, processed, and now available for research. Love and war were in the air, as the bulk of the materials include courtship correspondence and letters written by people while they were serving in the Armed Forces. Some highlights:

  • New materials span from the 1830s-2007
  • Subjects geographically range from the Kwajalein Atoll to Martha Washington College to the New Orleans levees.
  • Lots of love! Many of these collections feature letters between loved ones.
  • Some interesting mentions include a pair of waraji rice straw sandals, some 375 reported yellow fever deaths, and former UNC System President Frank Porter Graham participating in anti-war efforts of the 1930s.

Click on any of the collection titles to learn more about the materials, view any digital items, and request them for use in our reading room.

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Posted in Activism, Business, Civil War, Collections, Digital SHC, Family, Finding Aids, Journalism, New Collections, Politics, Race Relations, Revised Collections, War, Women | Leave a comment

Violence, Hardship, and the Southern Response

The South has witnessed unspeakable historical violence, hardship, and unrest. Whether it is a system developed over hundreds of years or the single act of one person, Southerners have used these circumstances as fuel to protest for a better reality and a better future.

At first blush, an archive might seem like an unusual place to learn about current events. We can’t provide the latest headline, updated numbers, or 24-hour news coverage. What an archive can do, though, is help explain how we got here in the first place. It can provide context, it can set the scene, and it can fill out a timeline. It can help draw comparisons, and it can bear witness to cycles, to repetition, and to causes and their effects. It can show what has worked in the past, and what has not.

We continue, as we always have, to collect the stories of those who stand up against violence and hardship. Below are just a few of our many collections that highlight how people have confronted difficulties in the past and fought for a South they could believe in.

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Posted in Activism, African American, Business, Civil Rights, Digital SHC, Education, Family, Featured Collections, Finding Aids, In the News, Journalism, Labor, Links, Politics, Race Relations, Religion, Southern Culture, Southern Oral History Program, University of North Carolina, Women | Leave a comment

Juneteenth: Building on Freedom

On June 19th, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order #3 in Galveston, Texas. It read, in part:

THE SLAVES ALL FREE.

GENERAL ORDERS, No. 3. — The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, “all slaves are tree.” This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.¹

Though Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army in April of 1865, it took some months for hostilities to cease and for word to travel to the western arm of the Confederacy. The Emancipation Proclamation, which went into law on January 1st, 1863, was supposedly difficult to enforce in Texas due to the weak Union presence in that state at the time.

June 19th, 1865 saw more confusion than celebration, but the following year marked the first-ever celebration of the Juneteenth holiday – a combination of “June” and “nineteenth” – commemorating emancipation. The Southern Historical Collection has few holdings related to Juneteenth celebrations in particular, but we have many items that recorded how Freedpeople recognized and built new lives after emancipation.

The image gallery below features two sharecropping contracts (1866 and 1868) signed by a number of Freedpeople from Green, Hale, and Marengo counties in Alabama. Click on a thumbnail to expand and learn more about the contracts.

All images from the Johnston and McFaddin Family Papers (#02489-z), Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Posted in African American, Civil Rights, Civil War, Collections, From The Search Room, Labor, Politics, Slavery, Staff Finds | Leave a comment

A Visit Home for the Meck Dec

Library lore says that Carolyn Wallace, Director of the Southern Historical Collection from 1975-1987, once declared that the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was the single most valuable item in our entire collection.

It is thus no surprise that we have blogged about the Mecklenburg County, NC native before, that digital copies are available online, and that DocSouth provides a full transcript of the document.

Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence - the Davie Copy

A quick “Meck Dec” crash course, for those unfamiliar with this corner of Southern history: On April 30th, 1819, the Raleigh Register published an article by Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander. In it, Alexander said that his own father was present for the signing of the very first Declaration of Independence ever written in the Colonies – dated May 20th, 1775, more than a year before the other Declaration of Independence. He went on to explain that, though the original version of the document was lost in a fire, he owned an exact copy of it. Thomas Jefferson scoffed, but Mecklenburg locals claimed they had witnessed the original declaration with their own eyes.

While scholars still disagree over the document today, each May 20th is celebrated with much enthusiasm in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. This past “Meck Dec Day” was particularly exciting, as the document was able to make the 140-mile journey from our secure storage in Chapel Hill to a public exhibit in Charlotte. Present for the one-day event was McKnitt’s own great-great-great-great-great granddaughter, along with descendants of many other Meck Dec signers.

Meck Dec on display in Charlotte

Meck Dec on display in Charlotte

Meck Dec on display in Charlotte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nearly all of our collections are available to access within the library, but we are particularly pleased when we have a chance to let the items come out to the public. If you were in the Charlotte area, we hope you were able to swing by and see this treasure from the collection.

 

Special thanks to sponsors, hosts, and supporters at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, the May Twentieth Society, the Bank of America Heritage Center of Charlotte, and UNC School of Information and Library Science alumni Anne Harding.

Posted in Digital SHC, Events, Exhibitions, In the News, Links, Politics, Revolutionary War | Leave a comment

New Collections: Activists, Educators, Families, and War

We have over a dozen new collections that are preserved, processed, and now available for research. Some highlights:

  • New materials span from 1764 to 2010
  • Subjects geographically range from Mexico to China (with plenty of Alabama and North Carolina in between)
  • Grassroots organizing, coal mining, and educational activism are common themes
  • There are 3 Civil War photographs and 2 books containing personal sketches from much of the UNC Chapel Hill classes of 1859-1865

Click on any of the collection titles to learn more about the materials, view any digital items, and request them for use in our reading room.

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Posted in Activism, African American, Civil Rights, Civil War, Collections, Education, Family, Journalism, Labor, New Collections, Personal archives, Politics, Race Relations, Slavery, Southern Culture, University of North Carolina, War, Women | Leave a comment

Poetry in the Stacks

The Academy of American Poets marks each April as National Poetry Month, and it did not take much digging to find poetry among our many collections.

North Carolina Poet Laureate, Dr. Shelby Stephenson, came to mind very quickly. We are honored to be the repository for his personal and professional papers, with over 120,000 individual items in the Shelby Stephenson Papers (#04653). Materials in this collection range from personal letters, to literary rejection notices, and even conversations on bluegrass and jazz (Stephenson had an early love for the guitar).

His papers also contain many working versions of poems. Below are two drafts – one handwritten and one typed – of “Gathering Scattered Corn,” both dated November 7, 1975. The handwritten copy even includes a time (10:15 am). Click to view a larger image of each.

Handwritten draft of Stephenson's poem, "Gathering Scattered Corn"

“Gathering Scattered Corn” (longhand), in the Shelby Stephenson Papers #4653, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A later, typed draft of Stephenson's poem, "Gathering Scattered Corn"

“Gathering Scattered Corn” (typed), in the Shelby Stephenson Papers #4653, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Posted in Collections, Just for Kicks, Personal archives, Writers | Leave a comment

Announcing the launch of the Student Health Coalition project website

A pioneering online archive about student activism in the 1960s and 70s goes public on Thursday, March 31, 2016.  The website (studenthealthcoalition.web.unc.edu) is the digital home for video clips, historic photos, and personal profiles from former activists in the rural south with a focus on health care.

The archive is the outcome of a partnership between the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Student Health Coalition.

The Southern Historical Collection encourages the study and appreciation of the history and culture of the American South by collecting, preserving and promoting the use of unique documentary materials of enduring historical value. The Collection does this to enable users to derive meanings from the southern past and to support the University’s mission of teaching, research and service.

The Student Health Coalition was a student-run organization based primarily at Vanderbilt University and eventually at other colleges around the south.  They were active over several decades beginning in the late 1960s.  Student activists and rural community leaders worked together on issues related to health care and empowerment.

The new website unveiled on March 31 is a unique community-driven archive of historical documents and other treasures.  Its goal is to encourage the study of the Coalition’s public health and community organizing work throughout the Appalachian region. The online archive is by design interactive, dynamic, and open to the public.

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Circa summer 1971: Student Health Coalition participants gather in front of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Photograph from the Richard Davidson Photographic Collection, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.

Discoveries and advantages have already begun to surface even as the site was in development.  The Southern Historical Collection has uncovered little-used archives in their collection whose relevance has been magnified by the interactive site. Links to other archival resources throughout the region, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center, are beginning to shed new light on old stories about health care issues in the rural south.

According to Biff Hollingsworth, Collecting and Outreach Archivist at UNC, “Scholars are often drawn to a project or area of research because of the depth of resources available to them. So sometimes marketing those opportunities is tantamount to developing them further.”

North Carolina’s organic farming celebrity Bill Dow was a co-founder of the Student Health Coalition and a graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.  His newly-published memoirs, What I Stand On, received acclaim around North Carolina. The memoirs contain stories from the Coalition days as well as from Bill’s farming innovations.

Just after Bill Dow died in 2012, his family made arrangements for his collection of historical documents about farming to be left in a conventional archive at UNC. When archivists learned about Dow’s early work in health care, they engaged with a reunion of the Coalition to explore this new model for interactive, community-driven archive building. Beginning March 31, the public is invited to explore and engage.

If you were part of the Student Health Coalition or would like to learn more about this project, please contact Biff Hollingsworth at the Southern Historical Collection, by phone at 919-962-3353 or by email at biff@unc.edu.

Student Health Coalition website: http://studenthealthcoalition.web.unc.edu

Posted in Collections, Community Archives, Links | 2 Comments

NEH Challenge Grant Kick-Off!

You have probably seen a recent flurry of announcements and excitement about our National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant. This grant will go toward endowing our African American Collections and Outreach Archivist position, making it a permanent fixture of the Southern Historical Collection.

Receiving this grant is excellent news, and it means that we need the support of our patrons and partners more than ever. Every dollar of this Challenge Grant must be matched by three dollars that we raise ourselves.

Many people rely on the expertise and resources this position provides, from families tracing their ancestry to students developing research projects. Raising the money necessary to meet this Challenge Grant will insure that this position is secure, and that we can continue to preserve African American history in the South.

Here’s how you can be a part of something lasting

 

Photo courtesy of the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project

Posted in African American, grants, Links, SHC In the News | Leave a comment