Category Archives: Featured Collections

The Photographs of Alexander Rivera

Harvey Beech (left) and J. Kenneth Lee

Harvey Beech (left) and J. Kenneth Lee

The image:  two young men stride through two large open doors.  Each man is carrying a packet of papers.  The men are smiling and seem confident.

I had seen this image many times before.  In fact, we have a print of this photograph in the SHC’s collection of J. Kenneth Lee Papers.  From our description of the photograph in the finding aid for the Lee Papers and from the other images that accompanied it in the collection, I knew that the photograph depicted the historic moment, on the morning of June 11, 1951, when Harvey Beech and J. Kenneth Lee entered South Building on UNC’s campus to complete their registration in the UNC School of Law, thereby becoming the first ever African American students to enroll at the University.

What I didn’t know, until this morning, was that this photograph was taken by Alexander M. Rivera Jr.  Thanks to a news release from the NC Department of Cultural Resources regarding the mounting of an exhibit featuring Rivera’s work at the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Sedalia, N.C., I now know the correct attribution for this image.

Alex Rivera was a nationally renowned and prominent photojournalist.  He also established the public relations office at North Carolina Central University, and served as the office’s first director.

Beech and Lee were both students at Central’s Law School who, through a lawsuit supported by the NAACP, were able to argue that their educational opportunities at Central were not equal to those that they would receive at Carolina.

So, it would follow that Rivera would have been present to document this moment as two of N.C. Central’s top law students transferred from Central to enroll as the first African American students at Carolina.

Last October, Alex Rivera passed away in Durham, N.C. at the age of 95.  His legacy lives on in the historic photographs that he captured during his amazing life.  Now, you have another chance to view some of these photographs. The exhibit, “Bearing Witness: Civil Rights Photographs of Alexander Rivera,” is on view the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum until August 15, 2009.

[One last note:  You can listen online to Harvey Beech speak about his experience at Carolina.]

Creator of the Month… The North Carolina Fund

[Each month we feature a "creator" or one of the SHC's manuscript collections. In archival terms, a creator is defined as an individual, group, or organization that is responsible for a collection's production, accumulation, or formation.]

The North Carolina Fund, an independent, non-profit, charitable corporation, sought and dispensed funds to fight poverty in North Carolina, 1963-1968. Governor Terry Sanford and other North Carolinians convinced the Ford Foundation to grant $7 million initial funding for a statewide anti- poverty effort aimed at rural and urban communities. This money–plus additional funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation; the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation; the U.S. Dept. of Labor; U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare; U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development; and the Office of Economic Opportunity–enabled the Fund to support a broad program of education, community action, manpower development, research and planning, and other efforts to fight poverty.

***

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to be the repository that preserves a giant collection (some 187,000 items) of the Funds records.  To read more about the North Carolina Fund and to learn about the collection of North Carolina Fund papers preserved in the Southern Historical Collection, please view the finding aid for the North Carolina Fund Records, 1962-1971.

***

Finally, we thought we’d note that a great deal of attention has been paid lately to the work of the North Carolina Fund and its volunteers.  Rightfully so!  In 2008, filmmaker Rebecca Cerese created the documentary “Change Comes Knocking: The Story of the NC Fund” to tell the history and legacy of the Fund.  It’s a really great film.  In fact, we’ll be hosting an event featuring Rebecca Cerese in the fall – check back soon for full details.

We also understand that a book is soon to be published by UNC Press on the history of the Fund.  The publishing of this book has been an integral part of a new UNC Press digital publishing venture called “Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement.”  You can read all about the new book and learn more about the project here.

The First Freedom Rides (2 of 2)

[A continuation from part 1 of a post about the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation]…

We include here a video that contains excerpts of audio from a 1974 oral history interview with Igal Roodenko, participant in the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, from the collection of the Southern Oral History Program (SOHP) at UNC Chapel Hill. The SOHP’s oral histories are archived and preserved at the Southern Historical Collection. Several hundred of these oral histories have been digitized and are available online. To listen to the full interview with Igal Roodenko, please visit:

http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/B-0010/menu.html

This video also contains a montage of images, primarily taken from the holdings of the Southern Historical Collection. The SHC contains scattered documentation about the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation and about the life and work of Reverend Charles M. Jones, including (but not limited to):

  • Southern Oral History Program (finding aid for collection #4007): Including these digitized interviews B-0010; A-0035; B-0041; and others not yet digitized.

We are very proud to be the repository for these important primary source materials documenting this often-forgotten episode of Southern history.  However, we can’t help but notice that there are many missing pieces in the archival record that might tell the rest of the story.  Could it be that there really is only one photograph of the 1947 freedom riders?  What about documentation of the cab drivers and others who opposed the riders?  We still have our work cut out for us.

Rev. James A. Felton: Montford Point Marine, Grassroots Organizer, Educator, and Family Man

[Today we feature the life and work of Reverend James A. Felton of Hertford County, North Carolina. The Southern Historical Collection is proud to be the repository that preserves a small collection of papers from the Felton family (the James A. and Annie V. Felton Papers, Collection #5161, finding aid). The following biographical note comes from the finding aid for the Felton Papers.]

James Andrew Felton was born on 6 July 1919 in Hertford, Perquimans County, N.C. After spending almost three years in the United States Marine Corps, he earned his B.S. from Elizabeth City State Teachers College (now Elizabeth City State University) and his M.A. from North Carolina College at Durham (now North Carolina Central University). He taught in the Greene and Hertford County school systems for 20 years, and, in 1965 he published “Fruits of Enduring Faith,” a story that dramatizes the human issues behind the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In the mid-1960s, Felton and Reverend John L. Scott of New Ahoskie Baptist Church formed the People’s Program on Poverty, an African American organization created to study and fight poverty on the grass-roots level. Through his work in this program, Felton founded the first Family Training Center in the United States. During this time, he was also actively involved in organizations such as the President’s Commission on Rural Poverty, the North Carolina Family Life Council, and a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In 1980, Felton established the C. S. Brown School Auditorium Restoration Association to restore Brown Hall, a building that had been part of the campus of Chowan Academy, an African American school founded in 1886 by Calvin Scott Brown. The C. S. Brown Regional Cultural Arts Center and Museum in Winton, N.C., opened in 1986.

James A. Felton married Annie Vaughan on 3 August 1947. They had six children: James Andrew, Jr., Keith, Maria, Sharon, Michele, and Camilla. James A. Felton died in Winton, N.C., on 6 October 1994.

[To learn more about the contents of the SHC's Felton Papers collection, please see the finding aid].

Creator of the Month… Guion Griffis Johnson

[Each month we feature a "creator" or one of the SHC's manuscript collections. In archival terms, a creator is defined as an individual, group, or organization that is responsible for a collection's production, accumulation, or formation.]

Guion Griffis Johnson of Chapel Hill, N.C., was a professor, author, scholar, journalist, women’s advocate, and general civic leader. Johnson held a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina. She published three books: A Social History of the Sea Islands (1930), Antebellum North Carolina (1937), and Volunteers in Community Service (1967). Her husband was Guy Johnson, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the 1920s and 1930s, Johnson and her husband worked together at the Institute for Research in Social Science at University of North Carolina. Continue reading

Creator of the Month… Cone Mills Corporation

From Cone Mills Corporation Records (Collection #5247)

From Cone Mills Corporation Records (Collection #5247)

[Each month we feature a "creator" of one of the SHC's manuscript collections. In archival terms, a creator is defined as an individual, group, or organization that is responsible for a collection's production, accumulation, or formation.]

Cone Mills Corporation (and predecessor Proximity Manufacturing Company and its other subsidiary and affiliated companies) manufactured denim and other textiles chiefly in North Carolina and South Carolina. Moses Herman Cone (1857-1908), Ceasar Cone (1859-1917), and other Cone family members began investing in the textile industry in the late nineteenth century and for much of the twentieth century were world leaders in textile manufacturing. Continue reading

You know what this farm needs? More kudzu.

Kudzu was introduced to the United States at the first World’s Fair in 1876, and was planted by southern farmers to prevent land erosion. During World War II, however, tensions between the United States and Japan resulted in a kudzu shortage…that’s right, a kudzu shortage. I discovered this while perusing a website called Remember Cliffside (the subject of a North Carolina Miscellany post from a while back), which contained an article describing the kudzu shortage in Cliffside, N.C. This information proved integral to my understanding the context of this letter, found recently in the Delta and Providence Cooperative Farm Records (finding aid):

Early interracial conferences, Part III

Negro-White Conference, Shaw University

Pamphlet, #4107 Olive M. Stone papers, folder 29

Southern Conference for Human Welfare
20-23 November 1938, Birmingham Ala.
This is a pamphlet from a third interracial conference attended by Olive M. Stone. Inside it describes topics to be discussed at the conference, as well as the purpose of having such a conference: bringing together progressive leaders in the South.

“The Conference issues an urgent invitation to all Southern progressives -individuals and organizations- to attend its sessions and participate in the discussions and conference decisions on suggested remedies for Southern ills. Subjects to be discussed will include public health, education, child labor and youth problems, race relations, prison reform, labor relations, farm tenancy, suffrage, and constitutional rights…
…There are many liberal thinkers and leaders in the South. Their number is rapidly increasing. Progressive ideas and the desire for progressive action are spreading. Their leaders have heretofore been isolated and scattered, the effectiveness of their work limited by lack of coordination. It is believed that the Conference, by providing a meeting ground for all Southern progressives, will promost mutual trust and cooperation between them for greater service to the South.”

Finding Aid for the Olive M. Stone Papers (#4107)

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