Author Archives: Biff Hollingsworth

“…an unconfirmed report had come in from Dallas that Pres. Kennedy might have been shot…”

Fifty years ago today, on November 22, 1963, the nation reeled from the news of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Around 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, television and radio stations interrupted their normal broadcasts to break the story that shots had been fired on Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas. Soon after, the news came that Kennedy had died at Parkland Hospital.

As the tragic news set in, many people began capturing their thoughts and feelings about the tragedy in their personal letters and diaries. Fifty years later, these documents provide an important window into the experiences of that fateful day.

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to preserve a number of personal accounts of this turning point in American history. For example, John Ehle, novelist and special assistant to North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford (1963-1964), wrote the following in his diary on November 23, 1963:

ehle_diary

Entry, dated November 23, 1963, from the diary of John Ehle. John Ehle Papers (#4555), Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill Library.

 Sat., Nov. 23, 1963.

Yesterday President Kennedy was shot down in Dallas. Ralph McCallister, Howard Miller and I were at the Skyline Inn in Washington (S. Capitol and ‘Eye’ Streets, S.W.) when the word came in. We had just finished lunch, and I went by the desk to see if there were any messages. The desk clerk said an unconfirmed report had come in from Dallas that Pres. Kennedy might have been shot.

There were many o[t]her uncofirmed reports before the confirmed death notice came through. So he is gone and his day in the White House, and now we have Mr. Lyndon Johnson.

We had planned to fly out of Washington on the 2:40 United Flight yesterday, and we went on out to the airport and listened to other reports. By then the final, depressing news had not been announced; we still had hopes that the President would survive what by then we knew had been a serious wound in the head. The announcement of his death came, I believe, about 2:20. We were in the television room of the airport, which also is the bar. There were about 20 or 30 people there. Maybe even then it was an uncofirmed report, but they said the preists had left the room. A waitree turned away, ready to weep. Somebody brought me a glass of ginger ale and I drank it, and we went on down to the plane, which was late in departure, so we didn’t leave until about 3:30 and we landed about 4:45. I went at once to the Capitol, where everybody was, my secretary said, in a state of gloom. I sorted through my mail hurriedly, then mailed some stuff to HEW. I went to the mansion, where Joel, Tom Lambeth, and one of last year’s internes and his girl were waiting in the library. We talked for a few minutes. They told me that a pro-Communist had done the shooting. We had surmised that it had been done by one of the ultra-rightist elements of Texas. I left them quite soon and went on home. The Governor had flown back from Winston-Salem and he was evidently upstairs. I passed Hugh Cannon as I came in; Hugh shook hands and left through the side door.

Gail says this afternoon on TV Gov and Mrs. Sanford, and Bert Bennet of W-S entered the White House in Wash. to pay tribute to the dead president.

This morning Jonathan Daniels had a piece on page one, which he signed. It wasn’t much of a statement. It was deeply felt, but it flailed about too much. The paper was devoted to the story of the crime, of the swearing in of the new president, of the wound inflicted on the Texas Governor, of the criminal-suspect. TV was on with that story only, and it stayed on allnight. Now a requiem is on TV, Ormandy directing the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Rutkers choir — a requiem by Brahms.

Ralph McCallister phoned to invite Gail and me to go to Wash. with him and his wife tomorrow, but I think not. Gail says she has to work on Mon. anyway, but this isn’t the real reason. TV brings the thing in closer, and Gail has a great dislike of funerals. I told Ralph that he and I should have stayed up there yesterday, and he wonders if this isn’t so. We were well fixed in a hotel and have handled the matter poorly. [...]

Now Available: Extensive Collection from Photographic Studio in Columbus, Mississippi

O.N. Pruitt (right) with his son Lambuth (far left) and probably Pruitt’s brother Jim (center). Both Lambuth and Jim also worked as photographers. Photograph circa 1925.  The Otis Noel Pruitt and Calvin Shanks Photographic Collection #05463, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

O.N. Pruitt (right) with his son Lambuth (far left) and probably Pruitt’s brother Jim (center). Both Lambuth and Jim also worked as photographers. Photograph circa 1925. The Otis Noel Pruitt and Calvin Shanks Photographic Collection #05463, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Southern Historical Collection is pleased to announce that the Otis N. Pruitt and Calvin Shanks Photographic Collection has been processed and is now available for use by researchers.  The collection contains over 140,000 photographic negatives produced by two studio/commercial photographers, O.N. Pruitt and Calvin Shanks, in Columbus (Lowndes County), Mississippi, and the surrounding area from the late 1920s into the 1970s.  Images are studio portraits as well as images of events, scenes, and people taken outside the studio.  The collection also includes about 800 digital scans and about 200 prints made from these negatives.  Pruitt and Shanks were trusted photographers of the community and images in the collection document life in Columbus, Mississippi during the time in which they were active.

There are several series/subseries in the collection that have been processed, but have not yet been added to the finding aid and digital collection (Digital Southern Historical Collection).  Look for future posts announcing the additions.  Archival processing and preservation of the Otis N. Pruitt and Calvin Shanks Photographic Collection was made possible through a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources Group (Mellon Foundation).

Finding Aid:
http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/p/Pruitt,Otis_N.and_Calvin_Shanks.html

Materials in the Digital Sothern Historical Collection:
http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/search/collection/ead/searchterm/05463/field/descri/mode/exact/conn/and/cosuppress/

Daniel Webster recommendation letter on behalf of former slave Paul Jennings

Paul Jennings was born a slave at Montpelier, James and Dolley Madison’s Virginia plantation home, in 1799. He served as President Madison’s personal body servant before and during Madison’s time in the White House. Jennings was with Madison when he died in 1836. Struggling financially after her husband’s death, Dolley Madison eventually sold Paul Jennings to an insurance agent for $200. Senator Daniel Webster interceded and bought Jennings from the agent for $120. Webster then arranged for Jennings to work to purchase his freedom, which Jennings obtained in 1847.

Recently, archivists in the Southern Historical Collection re-discovered a short recommendation letter written in 1851 by Daniel Webster on behalf of Paul Jennings. The letter is filed with the SHC’s Alfred Chapman Papers (#1545). We have now updated the description in the finding aid to make specific mention of this letter. Please see below for a scan and transcription of Webster’s letter.

For a more complete history of Jennings’s life, please see:
A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons, by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

*****

Item description: Recommendation letter, dated 23 June 1851, written by Daniel Webster (1782-1852) about his former slave, Paul Jennings (1799-1874).

Item transcription:

Paul Jennings was a servant in our house, for a considerable time. We think him very honest, faithful and sober; and a competent dining room servant. Formerly he was body servant to Mr. Madison.

Daniel Webster
June 23, 1851

Item citation:

From folder 3 of the Alfred Chapman Papers, #1545, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

New Collection: Lewis Family Papers, #5499

We are pleased to announce that the newly acquired Lewis Family Papers (SHC #5499) collection is open and available for research. For more about this collection, please view the finding aid. Here’s a brief summary…

The Lewis family arrived in Raleigh, N.C., in 1923, when John D. Lewis Sr. took a job as a district manager for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company of Durham, N.C. He and his wife, Luella Alice Cox Lewis, and their two children, J.D. Lewis (John D. Lewis Jr.) (1919-2007) and Vera Lewis Embree (1921-2004), lived in southeast Raleigh and were members of First Baptist Church. J.D. Lewis was a Morehouse College graduate, one of the first African American members of the United States Marine Corps, and the first African American radio and television personality, corporate director of personnel, and director of minority affairs for WRAL of the Capitol Broadcasting Company (CBC). J.D. Lewis also worked as the special markets representative for the Pepsi Cola Bottling Company; as the project director of GROW, Incorporated, a federally funded program for high school dropouts; and as the coordinator of manpower planning for the state of North Carolina. Lewis was active in many civic and community organizations as well. Vera Lewis Embree (1921-2004) graduated from the Palmer Institute for Young Women and Hampton Institute. She built a successful and celebrated career as a choreographer and professor of dance at the University of Michigan. The collection consists of papers, photographs, and audiovisual materials that chiefly relate to J.D. Lewis’s working life and the civic and community organizations he supported. Lewis’s career is documented by materials from Capitol Broadcasting Company, including editorials he wrote and produced; GROW, Incorporated; Manpower; Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company; National Association of Market Developers; and the National Business League. Lewis’s civic leadership is evident in records of the Raleigh Community Relations Committee, which worked to integrate Raleigh public schools; political campaigns; and the Team of Progress, a group interested in political leadership at the city and county levels of government. Community organizations represented in the collection include the Garner Road YMCA; Alpha Kappa Alpha Debutante Ball; the Eastside Neighborhood Task Force; the Citizens Committee on Schools; Omega Psi Phi; and Meadowbrook Country Club, which was founded in 1959 by a small group of African American community leaders. Other materials document the Method Post Office dedication in 1965; the Montford Point Marine Association; and a youth charrette, possibly on integration of Durham schools. There are also clippings and printed materials on such topics as black power, African American history, Morehouse College, and Shaw University. There are several issues ofPerfect Home, a home design and decorating magazine published by John W. Winters, a real estate broker, home builder, city councilman, state senator, and civic leader. Family materials are mainly biographical and include newspaper clippings, funeral programs, school materials, awards and certificates, and photographs. There are a few family letters, including one from 1967 with a first-hand account of rioting on Twelfth Street in Detroit and a copy of a 10 January 1967 letter in which the Lewis family opposed the selection of Mark Twain’s Mississippi Melody for student performance on the grounds that it perpetuated stereotyped images of African Americans. Photographs include portraits and snapshots of four generations of the Lewis and related Cox families, documenting family life from the 1910s through the 2000s. There are non-family group portraits of Omega Psi Phi members of Durham, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company employees on its 21st anniversary, and of unidentified groups at other civic and community events. There is one folder of J.D. Lewis photographs that depict him in various work contexts. Also included is a portrait of a young Clarence Lightner, who owned a funeral home business and later served as the first African American mayor of Raleigh. Audiovisual materials chiefly relate to J.D. Lewis’s work at Capitol Broadcasting Company/WRAL and his interest in African American community and history. Included are audiotapes of his editorials for WRAL; videotape ofHarambee, a public affairs program about the concerns of the general public and especially African Americans; audiotape of musical performances, possibly for Teen-Age Frolic, a teenage dance and variety show; audiotape of Adventures in Negro History, an event sponsored by Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Raleigh; and film of unidentified wedding and seashore scenes. Also included are several published educational film strips on African American history with accompanying audio.

Please click here to view the finding aid.

New Collection: Washington A. Lemons Papers (#5508-z)

Washington A. Lemons of Greene County, Tenn., was born in 1833. He served in the Union Army’s Company C, 2nd North Carolina Infantry Regiment, 6 October 1863-16 August 1865, in locations throughout western North Carolina, including Deep Gap, Boone, and Asheville. The collection contains two letters, 11 April 1865 and 1 May 1865, from Washington A. Lemons to his wife, Harriet Lemons, of Greeneville, Tenn., and two related documents. The April letter recounts capturing Confederate soldiers and supplies in Jefferson, N.C., and acquiring a secession flag in Boone. The May letter refers to the Shelton Laurel massacre of January 1863, in which the Confederate 64th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, led by James A. Keith, killed 13 alleged Union sympathizers in Madison County, N.C. The letter also describes the capture of a perpetrator of the massacre, insinuating that the soldier was punished severely. Also included are a transcription of the May letter and a list of North Carolina Union regiments that highlights Lemons’s regiment and company.

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection…

New Collection: James B. Caldwell Diary (#5365-z)

James B. Caldwell of Alabama was 19 years old when he entered the Civil War in the 13th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. He served in the regiment in Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Mississippi. The collection contains the diary James B. Caldwell kept during his service with the 13th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, 23 May 1861-13 August 1962. The diary chiefly describes daily activities of the regiment as it travelled throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas, and camp life while waiting for active service, including card-playing and nightly dances. Included is a description of the Battle of Belmont, 7 November 1861, in Columbus, Ky.; sketched maps of camps and lists of Caldwell’s personal expenses; and declarations of love and verses dedicated to Caldwell’s fiance Maggie, including a passage written on 7 April 1962 that Caldwell recited when he proposed to her while on furlough. Most diary entries are undated and do not appear in chronological order. Also included are a typed transcript of the diary and other materials providing historical and geographical context for the diary.

Click here to view the finding aid…

Now accepting applications for 2012 Visiting Scholars Grant Program

The Southern Historical Collection (SHC) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is accepting applications for five visiting scholar awards in fall 2012:

2012 VISITING SCHOLARS GRANT PROGRAM

Joel Williamson Visiting Scholar Grant ($1200 award)
For projects examining African Americans or race relations in the American South

Guion Griffis Johnson Visiting Scholar Grant ($1000 award)
For projects examining women in the American South

John Eugene and Barbara Hilton Cay Visiting Scholar Grant ($1000 award)
For projects examining the literary culture or traditions of the American South

J. Carlyle Sitterson Visiting Scholar Grant ($1000 award)
For projects examining the antebellum period in the American South

Parker-Dooley Visiting Scholar Grant ($1000 award)
For projects examining North Carolina’s history

Please visit our website to learn more about eligibility and application requirements…

Four activists to be honored in Chapel Hill, SHC preserves documentation of their legacy

This Sunday, August 28, 2011, four names will be added to a plaque at Chapel Hill’s “Peace and Justice Plaza.” Yonni Chapman, Rebecca Clark, Rev. Charles M. Jones and Dan Pollitt will all be honored posthumously for their contributions to civil rights, social justice and equality in the Chapel Hill community. The ceremony will begin at 3pm in front of the Historic Chapel Hill Post Office on Franklin Street, just across the street from UNC’s McCorkle Place. For the full story, see the article, “Four Honored for Activism,” from the Chapel Hill News.

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to preserve a large body of material that documents the lives and legacies of these four activists, including:

Charles Miles Jones Papers – The collection includes correspondence, church documents and publications, clippings, and other items reflecting Jones’s ministry and concern for civil rights. Materials generally focus on his public rather than personal life with a special emphasis on the 1952-1953 investigation of his Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church ministry. General correspondence includes letters from supporters (among them Frank Porter Graham) and detractors, commenting on the investigation, Jones’s sermons, and several well-publicized actions in support of social justice causes.

Oral history interview with Rebecca Clark (1 interview available online via DocSouth’s Oral Histories of the American South project) – In this interview, Rebecca Clark recalls living and working in segregated North Carolina. She finished her schooling in all-black schools, so the bulk of her experience with white people in a segregated context took place in the work world. There she experienced economic discrimination in a variety of forms, and despite her claims that many black people kept quiet in the face of racial discrimination at the time, she often agitated for, and won, better pay. Along with offering some information about school desegregation, this interview provides a look into the constricted economic lives of black Americans living under Jim Crow.

John K. Chapman Papers (available Fall 2011) – This collection documents Yonni Chapman’s social activism and academic achievements, and offers an account of nearly four decades of progressive racial, social, and economic justice struggles in the central North Carolina region. Organizational materials, including correspondence, notes, newsletters and reports, document the activities of the Communist Workers’ Party, the Federation for Progress, the Orange County Rainbow Coalition of Conscience, the New Democratic Movement, the Freedom Legacy Project, and the Campaign for Historical Accuracy and Truth, among other organizations on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, in Chapel Hill, N.C., Durham, N.C., Raleigh, N.C., and Greensboro, N.C. Workers’ rights and racial justice campaigns and commemorations, including those of the Greensboro Massacre and the campaign to end the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, are documented in paper, audio, visual, and photographic formats.

Daniel H. Pollitt Papers (available Fall 2012) – This collection documents Dan Pollitt’s distinguished career as an attorney, professor in the University of North Carolina Law School, and civil rights activist in the American South. The collection documents Pollitt’s activities with a number of organizations, including: the National Labor Relations Board, the National Sharecroppers Fund, the NAACP, the North Carolina Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of University Professors, the Rural Advancement Fund, and other organizations. Material also covers Pollitt’s involvement with the Speaker Ban controversy at the University of North Carolina, his opposition to the death penalty in North Carolina, issues of congressional misconduct, and many other legal and ethical matters.

Oral history interviews with Daniel H. Pollitt (13 interviews, many of which are available online via DocSouth’s Oral Histories of the American South project)