October Has Come Again: Southern Literary Symposium

October 30 @ 2:00 pm4:30 pm
Hill Ballroom, Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, NC

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In his 1935 novel Of Time and the River, Thomas Wolfe wrote, “October had come again, and he would lie there in his mother’s house at night, and feel the darkness moving softly all about him, and hear the dry leaves scampering on the street outside, and the huge and burly rushes of the wind. And then the wind would rush away with huge caprice, and he could hear it far off roaring with remote demented cries in the embraces of great trees, and he would lie there thinking: October has come again—has come again.”

In honor of Wolfe’s birthday month, this literary symposium will feature a lecture by award-winning novelist and short story author Tony Earley followed by short readings from new works by Minrose Gwin, Randall Kenan, Mesha Maren, Julia Ridley Smith, and Monique Truong. These acclaimed authors will discuss the state of southern literature in the twenty-first century.

The symposium, co-sponsored by the Blythe Family Fund, the North Carolina Collection, the Southern Historical Collection, and Southern Cultures, will be held in the Hill Ballroom at the Carolina Inn from 2:00-4:30 pm. Admission is free and open to the public, but seating may be limited. Please RSVP here

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New Collections: Sickness, Farewell, and Other Daily Operations

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

  • Collection materials span from 1733-2016.
  • Subjects geographically range from Kentucky coal mines to Guyana.
  • Looks like we have a summer cold: many collections touch on death, illness, and medical care.
  • Some interesting mentions include a suspected slave uprising in Hillsborough, NC, medicinal recipes from the 1890s, and studies of medieval crusades.

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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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.

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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.

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