Richardson Preyer and the Thanksgiving Sermon of 1979

In “preparing” for our Thanksgiving posts, I came across a sermon from the Richardson Preyer Papers given at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, North Carolina on Thanksgiving weekend in 1979, where Preyer appears to have been a member. Closely related materials in the collection suggest Preyer is the author of the sermon, though it is not explicitly stated. The speaker used Thanksgiving as an occasion to reflect on several notable events from the past year, and I felt they each deserved some individual attention to reflect upon. I decided to do a deeper dive into the events, and see what other materials we might have relating to them in our collections!

Richard Preyer Papers, Sermon, Page 1 Continue reading

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So What’s a CDAT Anyway? Meet the Community-Driven Archives Team at the Southern Historical Collection

What are community-driven archives all about?

In October 2017, the Southern Historical Collection celebrated the complete staffing of our “Building A Model For All Users: Transforming Archive Collections Through Community-Driven Archives” Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant team. In recent months, we have launched the initial steps of supporting community-driven archives initiatives and programs through our Community-Driven Archives Team (CDAT).  There are many models for community-driven archives; the upshot of ours is that we want to form meaningful, mutually supportive partnerships to build and preserve community archival collections. We provide communities with the tools and resources to safeguard and represent their own histories. And we want you to be able to CDAT, too!

This community-based approach extends to how we do our work as a team – working together proactively to tease out tricky issues and create accessible and approachable documentation. Our method for creating and publishing content such as presentations, handouts, media, peer-reviewed publications, social media content, and yes, even this blog, is all about collaborative peer-editing.

Our grant prioritizes collaboration, and owes much to the research of Michelle Caswell, Bergis Jules, and many others who have theorized and brought to life the idea of inclusive, representative, empowered archival practice. Community archives models and community-driven archival practice address the “symbolic annihilation” of historically marginalized groups in the historical record, and aim to create sustainable and accessible memory projects that address these archival absences.

What kinds of community groups and collectives are you working with?

The 2015 Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance Workshop at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Our principal partners in coming years include the Appalachian Student Health Coalition (ASHC), the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project (EKAAMP), the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA), and the San Antonio African American Community Archives and Museum (SAAACAM).

What kinds of things are you co-creating with communities?

Dr. Karida Brown (R front) leads SAAACAM volunteers in an oral history training in November 2017.

During the 2017-2020 grant term and beyond we will be building a number of creative resources to support the work of community memory projects as well, including

  • Archives and oral history trainings
  • Mobile “Archivist in a Backpack” and “Oral Historian in a Backpack” kits
  • Archival partnership and donor education videos
  • CMS and data visualization expertise (ways to manage digitized materials and to express them in interesting ways)
  • Facilitation of community charrettes (sharing sessions that help address community history and frame projects)

We plan to work with our colleagues in the Wilson Library to further develop sustainable and equitable processes for partnerships with the Southern Historical Collection, including post-custodial models for deposit (meaning: how can community members keep their photos and personal documents while also contributing digital versions to an archival collection). Our work as a team will be documented in a handbook that will provide a roadmap for community archives practitioners and institutional partners in fostering meaningful community memory work.

So who is on your team?

Community Driven Archives Team Suite (Wilson Library, 4th Floor, Overholser Room)

Brenna Edwards – Project Archivist
brenna43@live.unc.edu
Brenna Edwards is interested in theatre and performance archives and their impact on the communities which create them, along with how storytelling and performance makes an impact on cultural memory. She is enrolled in the Master’s of Science in Library Science program at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science with an anticipated graduation date of May 2018. As Project Archivist for CDAT, she creates workflows and guidelines for born-digital material, as well as ingests materials which come in from partnered communities. She also is responsible for arranging and describing physical collections, and explaining what happens to the materials once they are in the Southern Historical Collection to communities. After graduation, she hopes to preserve the histories and cultures of theatres through physical and digital materials, while engaging with communities to further expand their own histories.

Josephine McRobbie – Community Archivist
jejm@email.unc.edu / 919-962-8520
Josephine McRobbie is a librarian, archivist, and ethnographer who works to share tools, techniques, and resources related to DIY and grassroots history projects. In lowering barriers to engagement with archives and archival practice, she hopes to support robust and vibrant memory work and support communities in telling and preserving their own stories. As Community Archivist, Josephine serves as project manager and coordinator for the Community-Driven Archives Mellon Foundation grant. She works with a team to document the community-driven methodology, facilitate relationships with peer practitioners and community liaisons, and develop tools and programs for community-driven archives. She believes that all librarians should be informed by user-centered practice and a desire to de-jargonize and de-mystify the field. Previously, Josephine worked as a film archivist, a folklife specialist, a public radio producer and host, and a user experience librarian. She holds an M.L.S., Master’s of Arts in Ethnomusicology, and B.A. in Journalism and Sociology from Indiana University. In her free time, she is a musician and film accompanist.

Bernetiae Reed – Project Documentarian and Oral Historian
bernetia@email.unc.edu
Bernetiae Reed’s work with CDAT utilizes over 20 years of experience conducting oral histories interviews and genealogical research for personal and professional work. She was born in Greensboro, NC and grew up overseas. She attained her MLIS (2015) from UNC-G after redirecting her career to follow a passion for genealogy and the preservation of African American history and heritage, inspired by her mother. She has worked at SHC since 2014 and joined the Mellon grant team in 2017. Prior to this, she worked as a Registered Nurse (mostly Labor & Delivery) for over 30 years … when she stopped counting! She attended UW-Madison for her BSN. She is a breast cancer survivor since 2000. Bernetiae is the author of The Slave Families of Thomas Jefferson: A Pictorial Study Book with an Interpretation of his Farm Book in Genealogy Charts (2007) and producer of two documentaries: Thomas Jefferson’s Slaves and We Teach Them to Think. She is a Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello Fellow (2007).

Around UNC Campus

Karida Brown – Co-Investigator, Community Liaison
karida@live.unc.edu

Karida Brown is a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at UCLA. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from Brown University in 2016, and an M.P.A. in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011. Her current research focuses on the relationship between race, social transformations, and communal memory. Her forthcoming book, “Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia” (UNC Press), reconstructs the life histories of a cohort of African Americans who migrated throughout the Appalachian region during the African American Great Migration. This project stems from her dissertation, “Before they were Diamonds: The Intergenerational Migration of Kentucky’s Coal Camp Blacks”, which earned the 2017 Dissertation Award from the American Sociological Association.

In 2013, Brown founded the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project (EKAAMP) in partnership with the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) at UNC Chapel Hill. EKAAMP is a community-driven archival project aimed at documenting and preserving the history of the generations of African American coal mining families in her study. The mission of the EKAAMP project is to promote civic engagement through collaborative research. To that end, the EKAAMP archive has been commissioned for the exhibitions, featured on public radio, and incorporated into K-12 educational programs.  She is currently on leave at UNC Chapel Hill for the 2017-18 academic year as a Visiting Research Assistant Professor.

Lucas Kelley – American Studies Graduate Research Fellow
lucaspk@live.unc.edu
Lucas Kelley is PhD candidate in History at UNC-Chapel Hill where he studies the United States during the early republic and antebellum periods. He is primarily interested in the connection between land ownership, citizenship, and the territorial dispossession of American Indians. Lucas serves as an interlocutor between CDAT and the Community Histories Workshop (CHW). The CHW is an outgrowth of UNC’s Digital Innovation Lab, and it is committed to using and creating digital tools to help communities collect, preserve, and interpret their histories. He will work with CDAT to develop digital tools for use in the community archiving projects and will contribute to the Archives In A Backpack toolkit.

Ashley Mattheis – Program Specialist and Research Development Consultant, Facilitator of the Publishing Program
mattheis@email.unc.edu
Ashley Mattheis is interested in feminist theory and decolonial research methodologies. Her CDAT focus is on Research Development and new models for large scale research and publishing in humanities –based projects with a special emphasis on collaborative, transdisciplinary, and community based participatory research frameworks. She is committed to centering community concerns along with promoting the full inclusion of marginalized researchers within academic research paradigms. Ashley’s training in cultural studies, media, and rhetoric also informs her joint research and publications with other CDAT members on direct community-driven archives research phenomena.

Southern Historical Collection Suite (Wilson Library, 4th Floor)

Bryan Giemza – Principal Investigator; Director, SHC
bryan@unc.edu / (919) 962-4341
Bryan Giemza is a father, writer, and teacher who loves humanities work–especially projects that affirm the reclamation of history, dignity, and the universal human penchant for creativity.  All those elements come together in the problem-solving of the Andrew W. Mellon Grant that empowered CDAT. As Principal Investigator, Bryan wants to create a safe environment for the successes and failures that lead to the creation of more inclusive and sustainable models for academic-community partnerships. He is excited about developing tools for publishing, education, and knowledge discovery so that archives might better serve as a public square and enable communities to curate their own histories. His interest in decolonial methodology, participatory research, and the liberated archive provides the theoretical underpinnings for this ongoing, region-spanning work. Bryan is growing in the areas of leadership and change management for community-driven work, and the challenges of community-driven archives in an international context. Ultimately his role is to envision and encourage the best work of a very talented team as it seeks to build new networks of seekers, practitioners, and learners—a team united in the joyful work of capturing the many stories that comprise the human story.

Biff Hollingsworth – Co-Investigator; Collecting and Outreach Archivist, SHC
dcbh@email.unc.edu / (919) 962-3353
Biff Hollingsworth is the Collecting and Outreach Archivist in the Southern Historical Collection (SHC). He is interested in how archives and other cultural heritage institutions can support memory work, storytelling, catharsis, and reconciliation among communities and families. As co-investigator for the SHC’s Community-Driven Archives Mellon Foundation grant, Biff coordinates the Student Health Coalition archive project, which seeks to document the work and legacy of a unique student-led healthcare and community organizing initiative in the Appalachian region. He also provides general support to CDAT in the areas of collection management, born-digital preservation, and documentary field work. He is excited about developing training materials and digital humanities tools that empower community curators to create, collect, and preserve their own histories. Biff received his B.A. in Spanish from Georgia State University and his M.S.L.S. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He grew up in Atlanta, GA, and now lives in Durham, N.C., with his wife and two sons.

Lydia Neuroth – Business Services Coordinator, SHC
lydialy@live.unc.edu / (919) 962-4788
Lydia Neuroth explores how research institutions can partner with historically marginalized communities to preserve and interpret their history. She currently serves as the Business Services Coordinator for the Southern Historical Collection (SHC), and will enter the degree program for a Master’s of Science in Library Science at UNC’s School of Library and Information Science (SILS) in Fall 2018. At James Madison’s Montpelier, she conducted documentary and genealogical research to interpret the site’s enslaved community, and conducted oral history interviews with members of the African American descendant community. Lydia plans to use her library science degree to investigate ways in which archives and museums can facilitate community research by providing open access to records and streamlining research tools. She supports SHC’s CDAT work by providing administrative assistance and documenting the processes and workflows for working alongside community partners to build archives. She sees partnerships as a gateway, rather than an end goal, and envisions a world in which barriers between academic professionals and communities are eradicated.

Chaitra Powell – Co-Investigator; African American Collections and Outreach Archivist, SHC
chaitra@email.unc.edu / (919) 962-4342
Chaitra Powell is the African American Collections and Outreach Archivist in the Southern Historical Collection. She is interested in developing new and sustainable ways of connecting the scholarly, archival, and technological resources of major institutions with the cultural heritage work happening in local communities. Chaitra’s passion for the projects stems from her experience working with an African American community archive in Los Angeles, CA. This work involved training volunteers, describing collection materials, and communicating the value of their collections to broader community and scholarly audiences. She hopes that her work on this Community-Driven Archives Mellon Foundation grant will inspire communities and give them tangible opportunities to contribute to the telling of their own stories.

San Antonio

Everett Fly – Co-Investigator, Community Liaison
efly@everettfly.com
Everett L. Fly (MLA, Harvard University; BArch, University of Texas at Austin) Landscape Architect/FASLA and Architect/NCARB Certified, a San Antonio native, has more than 35 years of experience in architecture and historic preservation in 17 states and the District of Columbia. In 2015 he received a National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama for preserving the integrity of African American places and landmarks.

 

And a special thanks also to our CDAT alumni – Merisa Tomczak and Eldrin Deas, who have contributed much meaningful work to these early stages of the Community-Driven Archives Mellon Foundation Grant.

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American Wit and Humor at the Dawn of Mass Media: The Billy Arthur Collection

The Fall 2017 Southern Historical Collection undergraduate student assistant, Ayush Dagar, UNC class of 2020, wrote this blog post. Ayush also provided research support and transcription work for other projects in the Southern Historical Collection during his semester on staff.

Radio personality Ted Malone and Chapel Hill, NC writer and photographer Billy Arthur (holding camera). Portrait taken at the Wilmington, NC Azalea Festival. Hugh Morton Photographs and Films (P081)

Radio personality Ted Malone and Chapel Hill, NC writer and photographer Billy Arthur (holding camera). Portrait taken at the Wilmington, NC Azalea Festival. Hugh Morton Photographs and Films (P081)

While many may remember Billy Arthur (1911 – 2006) for his size – he played many roles in his life: politician, hobby shop owner, vaudeville performer, mascot, newspaper editor, Pulitzer Prize hopeful, but through and through he was a comedian. I discovered Billy Arthur while doing research in the Southern Historical Collection on North Carolina politicians and was struck by the incredible diversity of his talents and occupations.

Undated photograph of Arthur, presumably middle-aged. Found in series 6, folder 1.

Undated photograph of Arthur, presumably middle-aged. Found in series 6, folder 1.

During his time at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Arthur was voted the “Wittiest Man” in his fraternity (Series 3, Folder 35). While chief editor of Jacksonville’s (N.C.) News and Views newspaper, their motto was “The Only Newspaper in the World That Gives a Whoop About Onslow County” (Series 3, Folder 35) And his is the only collection in the Southern Historical Collection that includes the “American wit–20th century” Library of Congress subject heading.

Scrapbook clipping from Arthur’s college days. Found in series 5, folder 59.

Scrapbook clipping from Arthur’s college days. Found in series 5, folder 59.

The Billy Arthur materials date back to 1883 and continue to 1997 as some of the pieces are from Arthur’s father and some from his son. The collection includes various correspondences with politicians (notably Terry Sanford), friends, family, and UNC staff (notably Coach Dean Smith – a collection of recent acclaim here in Wilson Library ). Much of the collection is comprised of Arthur’s written work including newspaper articles, notes for his comedy routines, diaries, and a book on North Carolina humor. There are also three scrapbooks full of photos and clippings that document Arthur’s life from childhood to the early 1960s.

Satirists are often humorous because they breaks from societal norms or because they poke fun at norms which would otherwise be taken for granted. The Billy Arthur collection demonstrates Arthur’s insights through the norms, trends and events which he examined as well as the ones he left out.

He talks about the relations between the sexes, and the change in gender roles which occurred during his lifetime. Arthur was married to the same woman his whole life and writes about what he learned in his marriage. In an article titled “The Model Husband,” (Series 5, Folder 58) Arthur recognizes how he went into marriage with antiquated ideas, literally quoting the NC Gazette in the late 1700s and a writer’s “Ten Commandments” to his wife written in 1875. The “commandments” include “remember to rise early in the morning and be prepared with becoming good humor to welcome thy husband” and “look for no jewelry from thy husband on the anniversary.” Billy highlights how the gender roles/norms of his era (the 1950s and 1960s) were just rewritten forms of the late 18th and 19th century.

In another satirical piece, (Series 3, Folder 27) Arthur discusses keeping one’s wife “in check,” by taking that attitude to its extreme, logical end. Arthur gives an anecdote of a farmer who finds a note on his barn reading, “leave $2,000 in the hollow stump in the pasture, or we’ll kidnap your wife.” Disturbed, the farmer wrote a reply note and put it in the stump. It said, “Haven’t got $2,000, but I’m interested in your proposition.” In another anecdote a man sees his wife outside kindling for firewood. “I felt so sorry for her that I couldn’t bear to look at her like that,” the man said. “All atremble and ragged with her torn petticoat showing. She looked so pitiful it really moved me. So I turned over and went back to sleep.”

Joke printed in the News & Observer newspaper on October 29, 1986. Found in series 3, folder 28.

Joke printed in the News & Observer newspaper on October 29, 1986. Found in series 3, folder 28.

In a final anecdote, Arthur tells of a man simply too lazy to help his wife being chased by a bear. Arthur touches on other social issues of his time, some of which resonate with our own time. He jokes about how difficult parking is to find, the price of college tuition, meager teacher salaries, etc.

While Arthur’s writing made me laugh out loud more than once, my parting thought really revolved around what was missing from his observations and commentary. All of his comments seem trivial when one considers the great social changes, for The South and The United States as a whole, which Arthur lived through.  Why wouldn’t Arthur address racial tensions and the Civil Rights Movement? He seems to intentionally shy away from the topics. Perhaps this is because Arthur is white and not directly impacted by the systematic oppression which inspired and called for such a social movement. I would not claim that my limited review of his archival collection provides a full understanding of how Billy Arthur felt about the Civil Rights Movement – it certainly gives me a research question to build on. What was it about Arthur’s life or point of view that could make him so sharp and witty about sensitive topics such as gender roles and marriage but completely silent on the racial strife impacting his generation? Perhaps another semester in the Southern Historical Collection and could bring me closer to some answers….

 

 

 

 

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A Light in the Haystack #1: North Carolina Democrats, 1960-2010

North Carolina Democrats have included an interesting assortment of characters over the past 200 years or so. In preparing for this blog, we quickly learned that the general assumptions about this party change a great deal depending upon which decade we focused. We chose this 50-year time period (1960-2010) because it reflects a recent and significant ideological shift in the party. While we have a large collection from one of North Carolina’s most distinguished democrats, Terry Sanford – this post intends to shine a light on other figures in the party, what our collections can say about NC Democrats at the end of the 20th century, and a glimpse at the scholarship on this subject.

Our dive into the archives confirmed what many political historians of the South already know: the SHC materials lean heavily toward the Democratic party in general, with most representatives falling between the years 1840 and 1920 (figure 1). Our quantitative review of collections revealed other patterns – for instance most of our politicians graduated from UNC, we have the highest representation of state level legislators (vs. national or local politicians), most of the politicians come from central and eastern North Carolina, and the political collections average about 2.5 Paige boxes of content.

Figure 1: Bar graph illustrating the year distribution of SHC collections donated by North Carolina politicians, reflects a sample of 25 collections. The big spike between 1880 and 1890 contributes to our large subject strength in Reconstruction politics

Figure 1: Bar graph illustrating the year distribution of SHC collections donated by North Carolina politicians, reflects a sample of 25 collections. The big spike between 1880 and 1890 contributes to our large subject strength in Reconstruction politics

 

Political cartoonist Dwane Powell donated his papers to the SHC in April 2014. Powell is a retired editorial cartoonist who spent most of his career working for the Raleigh News and Observer.  The Dwane Powell Papers, 1970-2016 feature some of Powell’s best cartoons from the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s. The drawings included below illustrate Powell’s views of an outdated and easily imitated Democratic party during the 1980’s (Figures 2 &3).

Figure 2: Powell places an old and grumpy donkey with an “NC Dems” pin in the Museum of Natural History, and has him being mistaken as a part of the exhibit. This seems to be a critique of the out of touch policies and positions of the Democratic party. The editorial was published on October 8, 1985. Item found in October 1986 folder in Box 8 of the Dwane Powell Papers #5589, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Figure 2: Powell places an old and grumpy donkey with an “NC Dems” pin in the Museum of Natural History, and has him being mistaken as a part of the exhibit. This seems to be a critique of the out of touch policies and positions of the Democratic party. The editorial was published on October 8, 1985. Item found in October 1986 folder in Box 8 of the Dwane Powell Papers #5589, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Figure 3: Drawing on the 1986 campaign for a North Carolina senate seat, Jim Broyhill is a Republican masquerading as a liberal, just like the valley is not a hill and a snail is not a jackrabbit. Broyhill's tactics were not so successful as the Democratic candidate Terry Sanford went on to beat him in a close race. This editorial was published on October 27, 1985. Item found in October 1986 folder in Box 8 of the Dwane Powell Papers #5589, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Figure 3: Drawing on the 1986 campaign for a North Carolina senate seat, Jim Broyhill is a Republican masquerading as a liberal, just like the valley is not a hill and a snail is not a jackrabbit. Broyhill’s tactics were not so successful as the Democratic candidate Terry Sanford went on to beat him in a close race. This editorial was published on October 27, 1985. Item found in October 1986 folder in Box 8 of the Dwane Powell Papers #5589, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Another example of North Carolina’s Democratic Party depicted in the Southern Historical Collection comes from the George Miller Papers, 1971-2000. George Miller served in the state legislature continuously from 1971 to 2000. He was a strong proponent of child safety restraints in cars, raising the state’s minimum drinking age to 21, and laws to promote organ donation. In perhaps his most notable contribution, Miller put forth the legislation to allow vehicles to turn right on a red light (Figure 4).

Figure 4: A scan of a photocopy of Miller's January 1975 bill to allow drivers to make right hand turns, "except where prohibited by appropriate sign" on red lights. Found in Box 1, Folder 1 in the George W. Miller Papers #5045, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Figure 4: A scan of a photocopy of Miller’s January 1975 bill to allow drivers to make right hand turns, “except where prohibited by appropriate sign” on red lights. Found in Box 1, Folder 1 in the George W. Miller Papers #5045, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The identity crisis in North Carolina’s Democratic Party can be further understood by comparing two party giants; U.S. Senator Sam Ervin Jr (1954-1974) and former governor (1961-1965) and U.S. Senator (1986-1993), Terry Sanford (Collins). In the 12 years between their respective seats in the Senate, our state Democrats turn from an outspoken defender of racial segregation (Ervin) to one of the architects of the North Carolina Fund (Sanford). The North Carolina Fund was a series of experimental programs designed to reach across racial lines and address issues related to poverty across the state. Some may wonder what could cause such dramatic political party shifts in a state like North Carolina. Some political scientists point to demographic changes beginning in the 1980’s. For example, people migrating from Northern states and Central and South America can explain how North Carolina could return to a Democratic majority and support a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 (Hood). This had not happened since Jimmy Carter in 1976. The article and dissertations alluded to below and the scholarship that supports them could provide great insight into the inner workings of the Democratic party during this time.

Hood, M. V., and Seth C. McKee. “What made Carolina Blue? In-Migration and the 2008 North Carolina Presidential Vote.” American Politics Research, vol. 38, no. 2, 2010, pp. 266-302.

Collins, Todd. “Competition from within the monopoly: ideological factions within the North Carolina Democratic Party; a case study of transition; Terry Sanford & Sam Ervin.” Dissertation, 1997.

Lastly, to add a contemporary human element to our look at North Carolina Democrats, we interviewed one of our recent collection donors and North Carolina democrat, Eleanor (Ellie) Kinnaird. Kinnaird was the mayor of Carrboro (1987-1995) and a state senator (1996-2013). She wants to be remembered for her work on death penalty reform, voter access expansion, human trafficking advocacy, and environmental justice issues. Kinnaird counts her father (a judge), former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, her professors at Carleton College, and involvement with the League of Women Voters, as her biggest inspirations for going into politics. At one point in our interview, Kinnaird states, “it was a great privilege to shape public policy. I can’t imagine doing anything more gratifying than serving.” She certainly is an inspiration to women in her community and great example of how policy can positively impact people’s lives.

Figure 5: Ellie Kinnaird and Bob Nutter at Maple View Farm, around 1997 from the personal collection of Senator Eleanor Kinnaird

Figure 5: Ellie Kinnaird and Bob Nutter at Maple View Farm, around 1997 from the personal collection of Senator Eleanor Kinnaird

 

Hopefully this peek through the Southern Historical Collection’s material on North Carolina Democrats (1960-2010) will encourage you to look beyond party lines when voting or trying to understand the contours of an election. Chances are that each candidate’s definition of what it means to be a part of that party will vary drastically. As always, we encourage you to come to the reading room, look through the haystack of archival collections in the SHC, and see what kinds of connections you can make!

 

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A Rare Gateway to an Untouchable Past: Oral Histories of Carrboro Mill Families

Between 1974 and 1978, the Chapel Hill Historical Society conducted interviews with men and women who had lived and worked in and around Chapel Hill and Carrboro during the early twentieth century. One of their first projects, “Generations of Carrboro Mill Families” consisted of 117 interviews with Carrboro residents and textile mill workers. The interviews were in response to the Carrboro Board of Alderman’s decision to tear down the original Carr Mill building. For a rather complicated, and long-winded reason, the Southern Historical Collection holds 40 of the 117 interviews conducted, both the audio cassette tapes and their 30-50 page typed transcripts. Question topics run the gamut, and there was a clear effort on the part of the Chapel Hill Historical Society interviewers to gather information about “everyday life.”

“Textile Mill, Greensboro” in the Bayard Morgan Wootten Photographic Collection #P0011, North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.
This image of a textile mill in Greensboro, NC shows a carding room ca. 1904-1954, probably similar to the one the interviewees describe from the mills in Carrboro.

Some of this work is captured in Valerie Quinney’s article, “Mill Village Memories” published in Southern Exposure in Fall 1980. Quinney was one of the interviewers from the Chapel Hill Historical Society in the 1970s. She offers a meaningful overview of the oral history collection and provides supportive context. Although she includes direct quotes, there’s value in the raw format of the interview collection that is worth pursuing.

This collection stood out for several reasons, one of which was the time period in which the interviews were conducted. Many of the interviewees were in their seventies or eighties when they were interviewed in the mid-1970s. In other words, most of these individuals were born in the early twentieth century, and some even in the late 1890s! The residents lived, worked, and played in a time that very few living souls today can accurately remember. Their voices are a rare gateway to what feels like an untouchable past. They share perspectives that keenly reflect the social, political, and regional environment of the time. For example, interviewer Lee Southerland sounded startled to hear Mrs. Lula Lacock doubt if women should be allowed to vote.[1] In several cases, interviewers asked the female interviewees how they felt about being women. The women seemed to struggle with the question, as if they had never formed an opinion on the matter.

Carrboro Mills Employee Picnic, 18 Sept 1954
“Carrboro Mills Employee Picnic” in the Roland Giduz Photographic Collection #P0033, North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

The second striking feature of this collection is the lack of African American voice among the interviews. On the heels of the Civil Rights movement, one would expect the interviewers to ask questions about racial segregation as it existed in the early twentieth century. Indeed, many interviews contained questions of that nature, but the African American individuals of the past are left with white people to speak for them. Mrs. Leslie Bland, born in 1896 and raised in Carrboro recalled Mrs. Cindy Atwater, “a colored woman”, who took care of her as a child. Mrs. Bland described memories of Mrs. Atwater’s care, remembered loving her “like a mother”, and concluded with, “She was really faithful. And she wore a white rag tied over her head all the time.”[2] Another individual, “Aunt” Hannah Graffenreid was mentioned by many of the interviewees, yet we only learn that she traveled throughout the area as a midwife, and that she made good pound cakes.[3] Other African Americans, such as the janitor who had to disassemble Mr. J. Ralph Harding’s bed from the ceiling rafters at UNC Chapel Hill, remain nameless.[4] In her interview Mrs. Mabel Hill described an encounter with another unidentified African American man. Apparently, her music had inspired him to move to New York and join an orchestra. He told her husband, “I used to stand out in the street back of the theatre…I’d stand out there and listen every night of my life…I’ve stood out there in the rain.”[5] Who were these individuals? Where did they live? Who were their families? How did they feel about being African American? While their stories are not revealed, perhaps their absence in the record reflects an accurate picture of their marginalized past.

The third, and possibly the most critical characteristic of this collection is that it serves as an authentic representation of the pros and cons of using oral history to preserve and interpret history. The listener travels with Mrs. Flossie Campbell back to 1920s downtown Carrboro but is jolted back into April 1974 as her husband walks into the room and interrupts the tape. She whispers to her interviewer, “That’s my husband”, and then shouts in his direction, “Don’t fall over that cord!”[6] The tape has captured Mrs. Campbell’s attempt to explain the interview to her husband, and their dialogue ends with Mrs. Campbell shouting at Mr. Campbell to wear his hearing aid. In addition to providing a hilarious source of comic relief, this interruption reminds listeners that they are not reading a story. Rather, they are listening to a real person describe the memories of her life in her living room on 300 Elm Street in Carrboro, North Carolina in 1974. Although personal narratives are valuable, they leave out many pieces of the story.

Flossie Mann Campbell, interview by Valerie Quinney, in the Chapel Hill Historical Society’s Generations of Carrboro Mill Families Oral Histories #4205, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For all the cons that come with using historic memory, perhaps it is worth the connection listeners gain by hearing Mrs. Campbell’s voice, or her husband shouting questions at the interviewer, a connection only trumped by the power of hearing it in first person.

So in conclusion, how about a call to action? Celebrate the month of September by interviewing someone that remembers a time and place that is unknown to you. The Southern Oral History Program provides a very helpful resources page to get started. Or, be inspired by browsing their database of 5,000 interviews streamed online. The gateway to the past is open to us, if we only take a moment to stop and listen.

 

[1] Lula Johnson Lacock, interview by Brent Glass and Lee Southerland, February 6, 1975, p. 35.

[2] Leslie Bland, interview by Valerie Quinney, April 17, 1974, p. 28-29.

[3] Leslie Bland, interview by Valerie Quinney, April 17, 1974, p. 27-28.

[4] J. Ralph Harding, interview by H. P. Brinton, December 17, 1974, p. 5-6.

[5] Mabel Hill, interview by Hugh P. Brinton, April 7, 1975, p. 16.

[6] Flossie Mann Campbell, interview by Valerie Quinney, April 20, 1974, p. 11-12.

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Identity Intersections in the Spotlight: The Joan Little Case

In June of 1974, a 21-year-old black woman was placed in a Beaufort County jail on a breaking and entering charge. By August of that same year, she was on the run after one of her white jailers, Clarence Alligood, was found dead in her cell, stabbed multiple times with an ice pick and naked from the waist down. After a week on the run, Little turned herself in and what followed was a fascinating clash of southern mores, international topics of activism, and the dark truths about the American criminal justice system. On the 43rd anniversary month of the start of the ordeal, this post intends to highlight how the case is documented in the Southern Historical Collection, various interpretations of the material, and why it is a significant part of our manuscript collection.

Illustrated image of Joan Little from https://alchetron.com/Joan-Little-721496-W

The Southern Historical Collection has a small collection of materials on the Joan Little murder trial sold to us by James Reston Jr., a Creative Writing lecturer1 at UNC-Chapel Hill in March of 1976. Reston based his book, The Innocence of Joann Little: A Southern Mystery (1977) on this material. The collection includes transcripts of key witness testimonies from the defense and prosecution as well as news clippings and recorded interviews from significant participants in the trial. Reading through the transcripts, a researcher can put him or herself in the front seat of the courtroom. We learn how Alligood propositioned Joan repeatedly before the murder; we feel how Joan’s voice falters when she must relive her assault on the witness stand (Figure 1); we hear the crass interrogation as the prosecution tries to vilify Joan with assumptions about her sexual history and criminal lifestyle.

Figure 1: From page 44 of Joan Little’s testimony in Folder 1, James Reston Jr., Collection of Joan Little Materials #4006, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Although it is easy for general audiences to be drawn to this case because of its ties to racism, sexism, classism, the criminal justice system, and sexual assault – there is much more to unpack. Many scholars have delved deeper into the broader historical, legal, and societal issues that make this a landmark case. For example, in “She Ain’t No Rosa Parks: The Joan Little Rape-Murder Case and Jim Crow Justice in the Post-Civil Rights South”, Christina Greene discusses how we may not want celebrate Joan’s acquittal in a southern courtroom as a sign of progress too quickly. On page 429, she reminds us that many poor black women without the national attention or high caliber defense team are being crushed by the same systems that almost crushed Little.

Genna Rae McNeil’s article sums up many aspects of my interest in this case with her essay; The Body, Sexuality, and Self-Defense in State vs. Joan Little, in which she discusses the many important ways that Joan Little maintained her integrity and defended herself throughout the ordeal (p. 237). All accounts confirm that her personal life was challenging before her imprisonment (leaving home at an early age, not finishing high school, and falling in with a dangerous crowd) but she did not let those obstacles or how people may have perceived her control her future. She could have let that jailer rape her and follow through with her plans to get out of jail on bond for her breaking and entering charge in the weeks ahead. She could have fled the country when she escaped from jail, she certainly had enough lead time and connections to keep herself hidden for a long period. She could have fallen apart under the trauma of it all. She didn’t do any of these things, she fought for her life, she turned herself in, and in the trial, she withstood attacks on her character and spoke her truth (Figure 2). This woman embodies what it means to be free – which is probably why her story resonated with so many types activist groups.

Figure 2: From page 152 of Joan Little’s testimony in Folder 1, James Reston Jr., Collection of Joan Little Materials #4006, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

There is no doubt that the SHC curators in 1974 saw the widespread appeal of Reston’s archival materials on Joan Little. “Women’s groups saw it as a test of a woman’s right to self-defense in a sexual attack. Civil Rights groups looked to it as a test of Southern justice for blacks. Prison reform advocates supported it as an inmate’s rights issue (from staff & wire reports, N&O 08/18/1975)”. In addition to these papers, the trial is well documented in other Wilson Library resources. There are over 40 folders of content from the trial in the Hamilton Hobgood (judge) papers. Access to North Carolina newspapers from Beaufort and Wake Counties as well as others throughout the state can be found on microfilm in the North Carolina Collection. Bernice Johnson Reagon’s song about Joan Little is featured on a Sweet Honey in the Rock album in the Southern Folklife Collection. This woman and her trial represent an important episode in our collective histories and I would challenge all of us to consider what her story means to each of us and why it matters.

 

 

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LGBTQ Political Pioneer Joe Herzenberg

 “What was hope yesterday morning is now life for me”

Thanks to “The State of Things” on WUNC (North Carolina Public Radio) for inspiring today’s post with their conversation (also on Twitter) about the experiences of LGBTQ elected officials in North Carolina.

Joe Herzenberg was the first openly gay elected official in North Carolina in 1987. He served on the Chapel Hill Town Council until 1993, when it was revealed that he had not paid state income tax for the previous 14 years. His personal and political papers are held at the Southern Historical Collection (#5367); in addition to correspondence and photographs, the collection includes around 80 diaries written between 1954 to 2006.

His diary from when he was elected in the fall of 1987 (excerpts and images of which are included below) shows the excitement, emotional strain, and tedium of campaigning. Most entries include routine logs about his meals, reading list, and people he saw. Notes about significant personal and political events are written as casually as the mundane, making them both easy to overlook and all the more wonderful when found.

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Update: Women’s March Collecting

The Southern Historical Collection continues to work with the North Carolina Collection to document North Carolina’s involvement in the Women’s March this January; we thought an update on our efforts would be particularly appropriate on International Women’s Day!

Our recent focus has been material culture–the physical resources that were necessary for this “political performance” (a term described in further detail in a post from the National Council on Public History). Along those lines, we have been collecting a representative selection of items: handouts, a pink hat, protest signs (including the ones pictured in this post), and compassion sashes.

We’ve seen a few more items out there (links to examples):

If you know someone who has these, we would love to talk to them!


 

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