Category Archives: In the News

Playmakers Madness!

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to present our 2014 bracket, Playmakers Madness! In celebration of the current North Carolina Collection Gallery exhibit, Making a People’s Theater: Proff Koch and the Carolina Playmakers, our 2014 bracket will feature some of our favorite photographs from over fifty years of Carolina Playmakers productions.

Playmakers Photo Bracket

From production shots to publicity stills to behind the scenes moments, these images from the North Carolina Collection capture the amazing range of performances the Playmakers put on between 1918 and 1976.  These are just a few of our favorite acting moments, costumes, and props, and we’re passing them on to you to choose the winner.

Starting today, we’ll be releasing a new poll every day with paired photographs to our Google poll, and also linked to our Facebook page.  Here’s one of our runner-up pairings as an example of what you’ll see:

The Taming of the Shrew, 1969 (left) and The Boy Friend, 1971.

The Taming of the Shrew, 1969 (top) and The Boy Friend, 1971.

You’ll be able to vote for your favorite in each pairing, and we’ll eliminate contenders, tournament-style, until a winner is crowned.  Happy voting, and we hope you enjoy the show!

UPDATE: We have a winner! The votes are in, and your favorite photograph is Experimental Play, 1947!

Playmakers Madness 2014 Champion: Experimental Play (1947) from the UNC Photographic Laboratory Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Playmakers Madness 2014 Champion: Experimental Play (1947) from the UNC Photographic Laboratory Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This photograph shows a scene from one of the many student-written one act plays produced by the Carolina Playmakers, and we sure wish we knew what it was about.

For more about the Playmakers be sure to check out Making a People’s Theater, on display in the North Carolina Collection Gallery through May 31st.
Thanks for voting, and we’ll see you next year!

Playmakers Madness 2014 Final Bracket

Playmakers Madness 2014 Final Bracket

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)

This Day in History: Voting Rights Act signed into law

On this date, forty four years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the “National Voting Rights Act of 1965.”  The Act was intended to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  It did so by outlawing disfranchisement practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests. Amazingly, the 1965 Act was ratified some 95 years after the fifteenth amendment was signed into law.

[For those keeping score, here's the legislative history of the Voting Rights Act of 1965: The Act was sent to Congress by President Johnson on March 17, 1965. The Senate passed the bill on May 11 (after a successful cloture vote on March 23); the House passed it on July 10. After differences between the two bills were resolved in conference, the House passed the Conference Report on August 3, the Senate on August 4. President Johnson signed the Act on August 6, 1965.]

“Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away”

Still from the Zapruder film, which was shot on Kodachrome

Still from "the Zapruder film," which was shot on Kodachrome

The Eastman Kodak Company announced this week that the camera film, Kodachrome, would be taken off the market, citing declining demand for the film in the era of digital photography

During its 74 year history Kodachrome has been relished by professional and amateur photographers alike, both for its exceptional color quality and archival longevity. Over the years, many historically and culturally important moments were documented with some form of Kodachrome film. In fact, Abraham Zapruder’s 8mm reel (the so-called “Zapruder film”) of President John Kennedy’s 1963 assassination was shot on Kodachrome motion picture stock.

Making the transition

Although Kodak has halted production of Kodachrome effective immediately, the company states that the film will be available until it sells out – which they predict will be sometime this fall.

Many Kodak and independent laboratories once processed Kodachrome film, but now only one Kodak-certified facility remains: Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas. Dwayne’s Photo’s website proclaims that they will continue processing Kodachrome until December 31, 2010.

Kodak will donate the last rolls of Kodachrome to the George Eastman House photography museum at its headquarters in Rochester, New York.

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.]

Historical marker to be placed in Raleigh today to remember a dark chapter in NC history

Image of Eugenics Board historical marker

Image of Eugenics Board historical marker

The Raleigh News & Observer reported yesterday that, “State officials are dedicating a historical marker to remember the forced sterilization program that affected thousands of people in North Carolina.” The North Carolina Highway Historical Marker contains a historical description of the North Carolina eugenics program that lasted from 1929 into the 1970s. About 7,600 people were sterilized in North Carolina during this period.

Recently, a state House panel approved a measure that would give $20,000 each to surviving victims of the eugenics program.  However, due to the state’s budget shortfalls of late, it is unclear if the state will have the $18.6 million dollars needed to enact the measure next year.

The historical marker will be dedicated today (Monday, June 22, at 5pm) at the N.C. Community Colleges building at 200 W. Jones Street in Raleigh. The ceremony will be attended by state leaders and several living victims of the program.

[Note: This difficult period in our state's history is also the subject of a new digital project by the State Library of North Carolina.  The project features digitized material from the North Carolina Eugenics Board/Commission.]

U.S. Senate passes resolution apologizing for slavery

Photograph from the SHC's Edward Ward Carmack Papers, 1850-1942.

The U.S. Senate approved a resolution on Thursday calling on Congress to officially apologize for slavery and segregation of African-Americans. The House is set to take up the resolution as early as next week.

If approved, the resolution would be the first time Congress has ever formally apologized on behalf of the United States for slavery. Six state legislatures — in Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and North Carolina — have adopted their own resolutions apologizing for slavery, but past proposals in Congress have stalled. In fact, a similar resolution was put forth one year ago by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). That bill passed the House but then died in the Senate.

The 2009 resolution differs from Rep. Cohen’s 2008 resolution in that it includes a disclaimer: “Nothing in this resolution — A) authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or B) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.”

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus expressed concerns about the disclaimer, saying that it seemed to be an attempt to prevent any future claims to the U.S. government to pay reparations to the descendants of African slaves.

On Friday, in a statement recognizing Juneteenth (a day sometimes referred to as “Emancipation Day”), President Barack Obama praised the Senate-backed resolution: “African Americans helped to build our nation brick by brick and have contributed to her growth in every way, even when rights and liberties were denied to them,” Obama said, “In light of the historic unanimous vote in the United States Senate this week supporting the call for an apology for slavery and segregation, the occasion carries even more significance.”