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 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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SHC All-Star: John Hope Franklin

John Hope Franklin (photographed by Dan Sears) as featured in "African Americans and Segregation" portion of The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History

John Hope Franklin (photographed by Dan Sears) as featured in “African Americans and Segregation” portion of The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History

John Hope Franklin would have been 100 years old on January 2, 2015.

On this campus, we like to take a lot of pride in a well, sometimes I like to think of the curatorial work as building a well for present and future historians. The increased breadth and depth of our collecting will yield more satisfied and refreshed researchers.  I admire John Hope Franklin because he was looking into wells that did not reflect his face, on property which he was not welcome to occupy; and drew conclusions that we still rely on today. More information on the treatment of African American scholars in public archival research spaces can be found in Alex Poole’s American Archivists article, The Strange Career of Jim Crow Archives: Race, Space, and History in the mid-20th century American South.

John Hope Franklin signature in the Southern Historical Collection Registration Book (University Archives, #40052)

John Hope Franklin signature in the Southern Historical Collection Registration Book (University Archives, #40052)

Among many of Franklin’s accomplishments, including degrees from Fisk University and Harvard University, teaching at St. Augustine’s (Raleigh, NC), University of Chicago, North Carolina Central University and Duke University; as well as numerous volumes on American, Southern, and African American history; I think that his involvement with the Southern Historical Association (SHA) is one of the highlights. It boggles my mind that in 84 years since emancipation, no descendant of a slave could stand up among scholars and talk about Southern history. In 1949, Franklin accepted his colleague, C. Vann Woodward’s request to be the first African American on the program at the SHA annual meeting. In his oral history session, Franklin reflects on the group’s concerns about where he would eat and sleep as well as if he would have the gall to stand at a podium and “talk down” to the white people in the audience.

Even after the presentation went on without any problems, racist historians continued to exclude black scholars in implicit and explicit ways. As the number of brilliant yet exiled historians began to mount (Franklin, Savage, Wesley, and Bacote), SHA leadership decided to re-locate the 1953 Knoxville meeting to a place where everyone could participate. The move to integrate the SHA was swift, which made Woodward and Franklin take notice. According to Woodward biographer, John H. Roper, the subsequent conversations among the scholars led to Woodward’s premise on the escapability of Jim Crow, which led to the seminal text, Woodward’s, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, published in 1955.

John Hope Franklin, President of the Southern Historical Association, 1971 (Southern Historical Collection, #04030)

John Hope Franklin, President of the Southern Historical Association, 1971 (Southern Historical Collection, #04030)

More information on John Hope Franklin and his extraordinary career can be found in the following collections within the Southern Historical Collection:

John Hope Franklin Oral History (#04007: A-0339)

John Herbert Roper Papers (#04235)

Southern Historical Association (#04030)

Throughout 2015, major libraries in the Triangle including Durham Public Libraries, North Carolina Central University, and Duke University will be honoring the legacy of John Hope Franklin. More information on these events can be found here.

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Next Stop: The Great State of Alabama

The documentation of African American “spaces and places” has been identified as a goal of the Southern Historical Collection, and to that end we have successfully partnered with the Historically Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA). We are working with the leaders and community members of various towns to help them leverage their impressive histories to generate cultural tourism and a sense of pride among their citizens. The SHC curatorial team has made visits to these towns to examine archival materials for research and historic value, as well as making recommendations about preservation and potential community documentation initiatives.

Façade of New Hope Baptist Church, Hobson City, Alabama

Façade of New Hope Baptist Church, Hobson City, Alabama

In the second week of December 2014, I had the pleasure of visiting both Hobson City and Tuskegee, Alabama.

Hobson City, Alabama was founded in August 1899 by a group of African Americans when they were politically excluded from the neighboring town of Oxford, Alabama. This made Hobson City the first all Black municipality in Alabama. Through changes in society, industry, and the economy; the town has maintained itself for 115 years. My hosts shared with me the incredible significance of the Calhoun County Training School, the five local churches, and Holloways (a club that was a stop on the illustrious chitlin circuit). One of the highlights of the trip was the delicious barbeque ribs and coleslaw from Brad’s BBQ!

(l-r) Carthell Green, Mayor Alberta McCrory, and Barnard Snow, looking at artifacts in Hobson City

(l-r) Carthell Green, Mayor Alberta McCrory, and Barnard Snow, looking at artifacts in Hobson City

Artwork near the mayor's office in the municipal complex, Tuskegee, Alabama

Artwork near the mayor’s office in the Municipal Complex, Tuskegee, Alabama

I thought that I knew a lot about Tuskegee; starting with the University, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the Syphilis Experiment. While all of these elements are commemorated in museums and archives, there is a history of a community in Tuskegee that is not very well known. In the 1923, a Veteran’s hospital, staffed by Black doctors and nurses, was established to care for Black soldiers who fought in World War 1. Dyann Robinson, formerly of the Dance Theater of Harlem is the artistic director of the Tuskegee Repertory Theater. Deborah Grey is the director of the Tuskegee Civil and Human Rights and Multicultural Center which tells the story of Tuskegee from the original indigenous inhabitants to the election of its first Black mayor, Mr. Johnny Ford, in 1972.

Chaitra and Mayor Johnny Ford stand in the middle of the Tuskegee History Committee and various city officials, Tuskegee, Alabama

Chaitra and Mayor Johnny Ford stand in the middle of the Tuskegee History Committee and various city officials, Tuskegee, Alabama

Both visits were incredibly informative and signal the beginning of a long series of partnerships between the Southern Historical Collection and diverse communities throughout the American South.

 

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