Presenting “Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia”

Intro PanelOver the last few years the SHC has been collaborating with Karida Brown (Ph.D. candidate at Brown University) and many Appalachian families on the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project (EKAAMP), which documents peoples’ lives in eastern Kentucky and their tale of migration into and out of the communities there. The wonderful stories shared by the endlessly generous people who grew up in these small towns inspired the creation of Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia–an exhibit hosted in Wilson Library’s Melba Saltarelli Exhibit Room.
The exhibit explores an often forgotten part of American History. It shares part of the story of the Great Migration of African Americans out of the Deep South and into coal mines of Appalachia. After the mining industry collapsed, the people who grew up there left again. The exhibit explores what home means to a community that sometimes spent only one generation in Appalachian America.
 
The exhibit opens on Monday, and we hope that during its life you’ll come to share our enthusiasm for these stories. You can learn more about EKAAMP on its website, and we hope to see you here between April 27th and July 31st 2015.

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Reporting Live (Yesterday): Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance Workshop at UNC-Chapel Hill

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l to r. – Mayor Johnny Ford (Tuskegee, AL), Mayor Alberta McCrory (Hobson City, AL), Mayor Barbara Mallett (East Spencer, NC), Mayor Bobbie D. Jones (Princeville, NC), Mayor Daryl Johnson (Mound Bayou, MS), Mayor Ed Jones (Grambling, LA), and Mayor Anthony Grant (Eatonville, FL) outside of Wilson Library, April 6, 2015

The curatorial team (Biff, Bryan, and Chaitra) of the Southern Historical Collection showed up in full support of the HBTSA workshop in Chapel Hill. We were disappointed in February when the inclement weather forced the workshop to be postponed, but we were elated to see our old friends from Hobson City, Eatonville, Mound Bayou, Grambling, and Tuskegee this week. The mayors were joined by their community champions, politicians, scholars, UNC administrators/staff, as well as mayors from three North Carolina, historically Black towns, Princeville, Navassa, and East Spencer.

The first day at UNC’s Friday Center included sessions on Entrepreneurship/Cultural Tourism, Nutrition/Health/Food Culture, followed by a presentation from the North Carolina black towns and a trip to Wilson Library. For the Wilson Library portion, Bryan and Chaitra shared remarks about the SHC’s more nuanced and participatory approach to collection development, while Wilson’s head conservator, Jan Paris, gave the group a brief overview of her work and shared some tips about properly caring for their own paper based materials. Jaycie and Rachel from The Southern Oral History Program surprised the audience during their presentation when they played a snippet of an interview from Tuskegee Mayor, Johnny Ford, from 1974.

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In the state-of-the-art instructional space, Southern Historical Collection director, Dr. Bryan Giemza, introduces the group to the resources available in Wilson Library

As if the day was not packed enough, within 30 minutes of getting shuttled back to the Friday Center, the group was treated to a wonderful meal and presentation in recognition of former Chapel Hill mayor, Howard Lee, and his wife Lillian. The dinner included a performance from North Carolina Central University’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble, and an invocation from Dr. Derek S. Hicks. Special guests included Floyd McKissick, Jr., the mayor of Carrboro, Lydia Lavelle, and various others in public office who have been inspired by Howard Lee, Chapel Hill’s first African American mayor, elected in 1969.

On Tuesday, the group returned to the Friday Center to hear more about Entrepreneurship/Cultural Tourism, Legal/Governmental Issues, followed by a synthesis and a heartfelt farewell.

The entire conference had a relaxed, family reunion feeling, the rooms were overflowing with good intentions and warmth, even when folks expressed concerns about the sustainability and longevity of various partnerships with UNC. More than once, participants shared the importance of bringing young people into the process and the principle that this is more than a project; we don’t want to relegate these towns to the halls of history, but help them to activate their histories in order to maintain a vibrancy for the next 100 years or more! While we can’t give away the details to every proposal discussed during the meeting, we can definitely say there may be some excitement on two wheels headed to an HBTSA partner near you!

A 1983 photo of an African American man and two young boys working on a bicycle; from journalist, Charles Kuralt's Collection (#04882) in the Southern Historical Collection

A 1983 photo of an African American man and two young boys working on a bicycle; from journalist, Charles Kuralt’s Collection (#04882) in the Southern Historical Collection

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J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr.: Artist and Teacher

Guest Poster: SHC Student Worker, James A. Moore (UNC Class of 2015)

We here at the Southern Historical Collection are ecstatic to announce the opening of a new art exhibition in the library at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center. The exhibit, which is entitled, Selected Works of J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr: Returning Where the Artistic Seed was Planted, commences April 1 and will be open to the public through June 30. There will also be a reception on April 1st in the Stone Center Library from 5:00-6:30 at which anyone is welcome, and no RSVP is required.

Born in Greensboro, N.C., J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr. earned his Bachelor’s Degree in art from Morehouse College in 1938. From there he went on to attain art degrees from Ohio State, New York University, Arizona State University, the American Artists School in New York City, and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Marseilles, France. Throughout this time, J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr. became the object of artistic praise and admiration, running in the same circles as the most talented African-American artists in the United States.

Aside from J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr.’s obvious passion for producing art, Grigsby also possessed a passion for teaching art. Starting in 1946, Grigsby took on the daunting task of creating an art department for the African-American students at the segregated Carver High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Once Carver closed in 1954 (due to the Brown v. Board of Education case which outlawed segregated schools) Grigsby chaired the Art Department at Phoenix Union High School until 1966, when he would move on to become a professor in the School of Art at Arizona State University and retire as a Professor Emeritus of Art Education.

To commemorate J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr.’s invaluable work as an educator, and highlight the immeasurable influence he had on all of his students, we here at the SHC have selected various materials from Grigsby’s teaching career. If you would like to learn more about the life and work of J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr., feel free to look up his collection in the SHC, check out his upcoming exhibit at the Sonja Haynes Stone center, or join us at the exhibit’s opening reception on April 1st from 5:00-6:30 in the Stone Center Library.

A final exam from an"Art Appreciation" class taught by J. Eugene Grigsby Jr., undated. J. Eugene Grigsby collection (#05295)

A final exam from an”Art Appreciation” class taught by J. Eugene Grigsby Jr., undated. J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr. collection (#05295)

Photo of Juanita Eddings, student of J. Eugene Grigsby Jr from Carver High School., showcasing a ceramic which she won an award for.

Photo of Juanita Eddings, student of J. Eugene Grigsby Jr from Carver High School., showcasing her award-winning ceramic plaque. March 1, 1953.  J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr. Collection (#05295)

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Four Years Later: Finishing a daily blog with the Civil War’s end

Four years ago, Wilson Library began an ambitious blog that samples the vast holdings on the Civil War among the various collections here. Every day the Civil War Day by Day blog posts a document that is exactly 150 years old to the day. The blog’s objectives have been to present objects exactly as the people who created them would have seen them, and put a human face to those who lived, suffered, died, or survived during this tumultuous time in American history.  It provides insights into the varied perspectives from within the conflict.

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The picture taken of the Civil War Day by Day team shortly after receiving the Primary Source Award from the Center for Research Libraries. From left to right: Biff Hollingsworth, Barrye Brown, Jason Tomberlin, Samantha Crisp, Stephen Fletcher, Katie Harper, Helen Thomas, Matt Turi, Nancy Kaiser. (Photo by Jay Mangum)

The blog has received much positive attention from commenters, and followers. It is featured on the Society of North Carolina Archivists’ blogroll, and even won a Primary Source Award from the Center for Research Libraries in the access category last year. Overall, the blog’s efforts are diverse in nature—it draws documents from the Southern Historical Collection, the Rare Book Collection, the North Carolina Collection, and University Archives and Record Management Services. It documents the war from various perspectives as well, including military papers and diaries, and letters written by women, slaves, soldiers and farmers. Though the blog cannot give an exhaustive picture of the war, it is a small sample of what people thought and wrote as events unfolded.

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An image from a recent post on the Civil War Day by Day blog. This is a letter from E.P. Alexander to his wife. To view the whole letter, and its transcription, see the 16 March 1865 entry.

When hostilities began on April 12, 1861, at Fort Sumter the future of the country was uncertain. But unlike the men and women who lived during this time, we know that the end of the war approaches! The last turbulent weeks of the war included the Battle of Bentonville, the drama at Appomattox Courthouse, Lincoln’s assassination, and General Johnston’s surrender in Durham, NC. We’d like to announce the culmination of the blog’s efforts over the years. And as our sesquicentennial  documentation comes to a close on April 26th, we hope you’ll join us in turning your attention to the letters, broadsides, diary entries and sketches that help tell us about the end of the War. Most of all, we hope that you have learned as much about the realities of the Civil War, and those who lived during it, as we have!

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March is Women’s History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month, this blog post is dedicated to Sallie Swepson Sims Southall Cotten (1846-1929) of Pitt County, N.C.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/12, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/12, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Sallie Cotten was a campaigner for women’s issues, with a focus on achieving equal education and legal status for women.  She was secretary of the Mothers’ Congress, and when the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs was formed she was the first elected vice-president.  She drafted their constitution and wrote their Federation Song.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/4, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/4, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She was elected president in 1911, where she started an endowment fund, incorporated the NC Federation, and even designed the NC Federation Seal.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/4, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/4, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

When she retired from the presidency she was named Honorary President for life.  She helped start an Educational Loan Fund that was named in her honor.  She also served four years as the Director for North Carolina on the General Federation Board of Directors.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/12, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/12, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to have her papers, which include correspondence, scrapbooks, reminiscences, and a copy of her book The White Doe.

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A Look at UNC’s Bout with Censorship: The 1963 Speaker Ban

Guest Poster: SHC Student Worker, James A. Moore (UNC Class of 2015)

From the eccentric monologues of the pit preacher, to the passionate Ferguson protest, to the somber vigil for Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha, recent times have demonstrated UNC’s reputation of being a place which fosters free speech. When thinking about all the recent demonstrations which UNC has welcomed, it can be easy to forget that less than 50 years ago, UNC had come under fire for passing a law which banned certain speakers from speaking on campus. This law was known as “The Speaker Ban Law”

Protestors outside of Carolina Coffee shop on February 1, 1964

Protestors outside of Carolina Coffee shop on February 1, 1964

 

Protestors outside of North Carolina Coffee Shop. February 10, 1964

Protestors outside of North Carolina Coffee Shop. February 10, 1964

Not too unlike today, in the 1960s UNC Chapel Hill had become a hotspot for political activism. Racial tensions and the war in Vietnam inspired many UNC students to hold demonstrations on UNC’s campus. Concerned that these protests may be seen as harbingers for communism, the more conservative members of UNC’s Board of Trustees passed The Speaker Ban Law, which prevented any speakers who were even suspected of having communist ties from being permitted to speak on UNC’s campus.

Naturally, a considerable amount of UNC’s students and faculty spoke out against the Speaker Ban Law. From the UNC chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, to UNC Chancellor William Aycock, a whole wave of dissident voices took to the press to speak out against the law in the name of free speech.

Although not as conspicuous as some other responses against the ban, a particularly eloquent response came from one of UNC Chapel Hill’s peers, UNC Greensboro. On March 6, 1966, Chancellor Otis A. Singletary of UNC Greensboro delivered a scathing critique of UNC Chapel Hill’s ban, with various passages that we here at the SHC believe everyone in the academic community would do well to remember:

Statement to the UNC Board of Trustees by Chancellor Otis Singletary of UNC Greensboro March 6, 1966. Anne Queen Collection (#5214)

Statement to the UNC Board of Trustees by Chancellor Otis Singletary of UNC Greensboro March 6, 1966. Anne Queen Collection (#5214)

The controversial Speaker Ban Law was eventually lifted on February 19, 1968 due to vagueness. This allowed students to protest more freely on UNC’s campus. The clipping below is just one example of how engaged students can be when given the oppurtunity to bring speakers and express ideas freely on campus.

Clipping from The Daily Tar Heel of the "March on South Building" from May 6,1970

Clipping from The Daily Tar Heel of the “March on South Building” from May 6,1970

To read more of Chancellor Singletary’s timely defense of free speech at College Universities check out the Anne Queen Collection (collection #5214), see other materials related to student activism, and learn more about the Speaker Ban Law, pay a visit to the SHC! For even more context and detailed information about free speech at UNC, you should check out the digital exhibit curated by the Southern Historical Collection, North Carolina Collection, and University Archives.

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Eatonville, Florida: A Vital History

Contributed by Bryan Giemza, Director of the Southern Historical Collection

As part of the Collection’s ongoing work with the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance, I visited the historic town of Eatonville, Florida in December.  In recent days the town commemorated the legacy of one of its notable residents, as the Zora! Festival celebrated the life and work of writer Zora Neale Hurston.  Professor William Ferris delivered a keynote address there, and attendees had the opportunity to soak up some of the atmosphere and remarkable local culture of a town that has retained its distinctiveness through the years.

A 2008 New York Times article gives a sense of the town and its atmosphere; I had a chance to visit some of the places and people it mentions.  Stepping into Eatonville is transporting.  Against all expectation, with the suburbs of Orlando at its doorstep and the interstate visible from the town center, Eatonville has survived the fragmentation common to many small southern towns. If Eatonville retains a small-town atmosphere, it is also mindful of deep history.  Town residents told me of the sacrifices entailed in protecting those legacies; where they have succeeded, one said, is because the townspeople “have a backbone.” Eatonville is permeated with a sense of the importance of history as well as its fragility.

Mrs. Maye  St. Julien

Mrs. Maye St. Julien explains the significance of historic documents in the Eatonville Town Hall (est. 1887).

From the first, Mayor Bruce Mount and his staff were gracious hosts. Mrs. Maye St. Julien shared insights into town history and her life story was fascinating in its own right. The City Hall houses many artefacts and keeps the minutes of its meetings, dating back to the mid-twentieth century (many earlier records were lost to a fire). We were warmly received by Ms. Hortense Jones of St. Lawrence A.M.E., who opened the chapel, its walls brightened by the J. Andre Smith murals that incorporate scenes from local life. The paintings offer a kind of primer to fire a child’s imagination, with inscriptions such as “And when I am thirsty He brings me a bowl/Of life-giving water to sweeten my soul.”

Mayor Mount walking

Mayor Mount walking from the Moseley House (not visible), with St. Lawrence A.M.E. at center.

From the standpoint of historic preservation, there is much to sweeten the soul in Eatonville.  I viewed the guest book of the Household of Ruth, and saw on its pages many names familiar from Zora Neale Hurston’s life and her writing.  We enjoyed lunch at the restaurant owned by former mayor Abraham Gordon, Jr., and toured the Moseley House, which brims with period artefacts that reflect the careful stewardship of Hurston’s own Zeta Phi Beta sorority.  Later we toured the school on the grounds of the Hungerford Institute, now closed, and gleaned a sense of its importance to the community.  At various times during the day I benefitted from the archival perspective and generosity of Mrs. N.Y. Nathiri, and was privileged to meet her mother, Ms. Ella Dinkins, who at ninety-seven years of age remembered town history with unfailing clarity.

Mrs. N. Y. Nathiri

Mrs. N.Y. Nathiri displays artefacts in the home of Mrs. Ella Dinkins.

The day came to a fitting and memorably powerful end with a chance to walk the grounds around Mrs. Louise Franklin’s home. With a catch in his voice, her son explained how the family had held that had been purchased against all odds. It had long served as an oasis for black life—social gatherings, picnics, campouts, baptisms, community fellowship—in spite of segregation’s long grind.  This history was made tangible, for example, in the lanyards that dangle where lanterns once glowed from tree branches, and in the planks that had served as simple benches, now overgrown by the trees. Seeing and touching that history made it real to him (and to me), and brought home the importance of conserving it.

Mrs. Franklin

Mrs. Franklin shows one of the benches on her historic and storied property.

The visit was also a reminder of how fortunate the Southern Historical Collection is to work in partnership with communities that are using their unique heritage to support campaigns of renovation and preservation, as the HBTSA charter states, “such that those who follow will have the ability to assume active stewardship to understand, interpret and appreciate these historic places through the lenses of their inhabitants.” These projects require the talents of community members, students, and future archivists, and so we were grateful to have a chance to tell others about the work of HBTSA at a breakout session during the recent TEDx UNC conference.  My good colleague Chaitra Powell and I shared information with attendees about the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA), the summer fellowships in the towns sponsored by UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South, and the forthcoming ThatCamp Community Archives conference at UNC. We hope that the conference will contribute to the energy and creativity surrounding HBTSA and serve other communities as well.

Chaitra Powell

Chaitra Powell shares information about the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance and ongoing SHC projects at TEDx UNC.

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Happy Groundhog Day from the SHC!

 

Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

There are few winter days after the start of the New Year that are exciting, but in the midst of the cold, gray winter comes a ray of hope in the form of Groundhog Day!  As a native Pennsylvanian, I have been tracking the groundhog for as long as I can remember.  Every year we would make paper groundhogs and hope that he didn’t see his shadow.  For those of you that didn’t grow up following the exploits of a rodent, Groundhog Day takes place every February 2nd, and legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow then it’s six more weeks of winter, but if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring is right around the corner.  And although I’ve heard of there being other animals in other states (apparently even Raleigh has a groundhog it watches named Sir Walter Wally), the true forecaster to me will always be Punxsutawney Phil of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

There are some nonbelievers out there who doubt the prognosticating prowess of the groundhog.  Holt McPherson was editor of the High Point Enterprise from 1930-1937 and 1952-1972.  In the Holt McPherson Collection, we have source materials that he used for the editorials he wrote.  Below is a slanderous article he found written for the magazine People Today, which surmises that the groundhog is not the weatherman he’s cracked up to be.

Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Regardless of the haters, on February 2nd the first thing I will do when I get out of bed will be to check if Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Gobbler’s Knob.  Afterwards I will check if Sir Walter Wally saw his shadow for a local forecast, and then of course put on one of my favorite movies: Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.

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