North Carolina Myths

We’re posting the request below on behalf of Michael Hill, director of NC’s Office of Archives and History Research Branch. You may either leave your suggestions as comments–and they will be forwarded to Mr. Hill–or you may email them to the North Carolina Collection’s general email account: nccref@email.unc.edu

The Research Branch of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History is developing a project around the idea of myths and North Carolina history. It is undeniable that mythbusting is a prevailing theme in present-day popular history, witness the History Channel’s offerings and History Detectives on PBS. Stephen B. Weeks in 1905 wrote to fellow historian R. D. W. Connor, “North Carolina has been so foolish in laying claim to everything in sight and on every occasion that I am sick unto death of claims that cannot be proved.”

We invite readers of North Carolina Miscellany to help us identify the major myths of North Carolina history. In our initial conversations, the ones that occurred to us are clustered around the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. We particularly would appreciate help in identifying additional modern or twentieth-century examples. For this project, we wish to avoid mysteries such as the Lost Colony. Likewise we have little interest in ghost tales or folklore. Our wish is to select those examples that, for good or ill, have become part of the canon.

Can any NCM readers help?

4 thoughts on “North Carolina Myths”

  1. The myth-finding project sounds fascinating. I hope it will include not just collecting myths (and possibly busting them) but also some exploration of when, how, and why certain myths developed–what needs they met or what motives they appealed to. That’s part of the story, too–and sometimes just as interesting if not more so!

  2. Myth exploration doesnt get any more eye-opening than Catherine Bishir’s own account in the North Carolina Historical Review (several years ago, sorry no citation) of how Confederate widows resolutely and cannily constructed the Lost Cause with devices both rhetorical and concrete…. In one particularly striking episode, as I recall, they so vigorously protested the General Assembly’s eulogy for Frederick Douglass that legislators agreed to make amends by funding the Confederate monument erected on the Capitol grounds in 1895.

  3. Back in September 2003 the North Carolina Collection Gallery did a great exhibit on North Carolina Mysteries, Myths and Legends, which explored both the popular and more obscure stories. Neil Fulghum curated the exhibit, but since his retirement, Linda Jacobson, the Gallery’s Assistant Keeper would be able to supply plenty of information on the subject.

  4. Thanks, Lew for the nice words. The article from the NCHR has been republished in my book, “Southern Cultures: American Architecture, Regional Practice,” a few years ago by (a press north of here….) if you want to see it again…. hope this isn’t excessive advertising.

    CWB

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