Langston Hughes in Chapel Hill

Several loyal readers of North Carolina Miscellany have written to ask for more information about Langston Hughes’s visit to Chapel Hill, which I’d mentioned in an earlier post.

Hughes describes his visit to the town in “Color at Chapel Hill,” a short chapter in The Langston Hughes Reader (New York, 1958). Hughes came to the UNC campus in 1931 after being invited by playwright Paul Green and sociology professor Guy B. Johnson. The visit was the source of controversy even before the poet arrived when two of his pieces were published in a local literary journal. Hughes spoke before a full crowd on campus and later dined at a local restaurant with a group of white students, only learning later that he had been the first African American to eat in the dining room of a downtown restaurant. Chapel Hill restaurants would not be formally integrated until the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964.

1898 Apology

Yesterday the North Carolina Democratic Party released an official acknowledgement of and apology for the actions of party members leading up to and during the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot. The events of November 1898 have been well documented of late with the report of the Wilmington Race Riot Commission and “The Ghosts of 1898,” historian Timothy Tyson’s compelling account, published in The News and Observer and The Charlotte Observer last November.

The North Carolina Election of 1898,” an online exhibit published a couple of years ago by the North Carolina Collection, remains a good introduction to the campaign that culminated in violence in Wilmington. The political cartoons digitized for the site offer particularly striking representations of the viciously racist tone of the Democrats’ campaign.