Tag Archives: Durham

New SHC Collection: The Margaret Nygard Papers, 1965-2004

Margaret Nygard (1925-1995) was born in Nasik, India, where her father was a British civil servant. After leaving India, she lived in England and Canada. She married English professor Holger Nygard in 1944, received her masters and doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, and moved to Durham, N.C., where she taught English at Durham Technical Community College and later became a social worker. In 1965, she and others formed the Eno Historical Society, which became the Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley in 1966 (often called the Eno River Association). In the early 1970s, the Association began acquiring land along the Eno River that became the Eno River State Park in 1973. While remaining active in the Association, Nygard was also involved in other local and state-wide groups that supported efforts to protect sensitive environmental areas.

The papers chiefly relate to Margaret Nygard’s involvement in founding and running the Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley. Included are appraisal reports and other materials related to the acquisition of land along the Eno River for the Eno River State Park, as well as materials regarding opposition to those efforts. There are also meeting minutes, financial materials, and materials relating to the annual Festival for the Eno and other outreach events of the Association. Also included is documentation of Nygard’s involvement with the North Carolina Division of State Parks and North Carolina environmental organizations. Many of these items relate to Nygard’s opposition to development projects, including the proposed expansion of Raleigh-Durham Airport. Also included are some Nygard and related family materials; articles written in response to Nygard’s death; and photographs of Nygard and others, Nygard’s funeral, the Festival for the Eno, and the Eno River.

[You may click here to view to finding aid for this new collection.]

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.]

Diverse Communities Bus Tour of Historic Durham: the Hayti Heritage Center

Holly inside St. Joseph's

Holly inside St. Joseph's

Recently Holly, my colleague here at the Southern Historical Collection, and I got the chance to tag along on a bus tour of Durham, N.C., with the Department of City and Regional Planning here at UNC-Chapel Hill. The tour focused on planning and development activities in several areas of downtown Durham, and how history and community influences, informs, and becomes an integral part of those activities. Holly and I were amazed at how visible history was at some of the places we visited, and were surprised at how connected our work and our collections at the SHC are to the work of these community organizers and city planners. We’d like to share a little bit about our trip, and connect some of the things we saw to materials we have here in the collection

Our first stop was at the Hayti Heritage Center, an African American cultural and educational center located in what was formerly the African American community of Hayti. The center, established in 1975, is based in the structure that was St. Joseph’s A.M.E. Church, a National Historic Landmark built in 1891. The space is now used to preserve the heritage of the neighborhood and the church, and holds programs aimed at “advancing cultural understanding and examining the experiences of Americans of African descent — locally, nationally and globally.”

Jessica inside the Hayti Heritage Center

Jessica inside the Hayti Heritage Center

At the center, we heard from J. C. “Skeepie” Scarborough, a funeral services director whose family and business have been a part of Hayti for generations. He described how unique Durham was for its thriving African American community in the early to mid-20th century, which boasted African American-owned businesses, a hosptial, a college, and an active music and cultural scene. He also discussed growing up in Hayti, what it was like during the Civil Rights movement, the role of the church in community organizing, and how the neighborhood was lost during “urban renewal” efforts in the 1960s, especially due to the construction of the Durham Freeway.

St. Joseph's A.M.E. Church programs, 1960 and 1962, with voter registration enclosure (from the William Jesse Kennedy Papers)

St. Joseph's A.M.E. Church programs, 1960 and 1962, with voter registration enclosure (from the William Jesse Kennedy Papers)

We are fortunate to have a number of collections related to Hayti here in the Southern, including:

William Jesse Kennedy Papers (finding aid)
White Rock Baptist Church Records (finding aid)
William A. Clement Papers (finding aid)

You can also listen to digitized oral histories about Hayti. For instance, Margaret Kennedy Goodwin talks about the close-knit African American community in Durham during the 1930s and 1940s, and the role of religion her her family’s life (listen to Margaret Kennedy Goodwin’s Oral History interview). Be sure to look for Holly’s upcoming post about our tour of Durham’s Parrish Street, also known as Black Wall Street.

Holdings on minorities in NC libraries

Readings on minorities

"Readings on minorities in the United States, with emphasis on the negro," 1948

The North Carolina Commission on Interracial Cooperation Records (finding aid) contains a group of surveys done in 1948 to assess the holdings of NC public libraries related to minorities, especially African Americans. A list of titles was sent out to white and black libraries around the state, and librarians indicated which titles they had in their collection and sent them back.

Some libraries had none of these materials, though a few of them responded saying that they would turn the list over to their book committee. After thumbing through the surveys, the library with the most titles by far was the Stanford L. Warren Library of Durham (a page from their survey results is pictured at right). This should come as no great surprise, as Stanford L. Warren was North Carolina’s second black library, established in 1916 (the first was the Brevard Street Library for Negroes, which opened in Charlotte in 1905). The Stanford L. Warren Library is pictured at its former location in the postcard below (from North Carolina Postcards).

Durham Colored Library, ca. 1916-1930