Camp Davis: The view from Pearl Harbor

“From: Honolulu
“To: Tokyo
“December 6, 1941

“On the American Continent in October the Army began training barrage balloon troops at Camp Davis, [Onslow County], North Carolina. Not only have they ordered four or five hundred balloons, but it is understood they are considering the use of these balloons in the defense of Hawaii and Panama…. Though investigations have been made in the neighborhood of Pearl Harbor, they have not set up mooring equipment, nor have they selected the troops to man them….There are no signs of barrage balloon equipment….

“Because they must control the air over the water and land runways of the airports in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor, Hickam, Ford and Ewa, there are limits to the balloon defense of Pearl Harbor. In all probability there is considerable opportunity left for a surprise attack against these places.”

— Cable from the Japanese consul general, intercepted Dec. 6 but not translated by U.S. naval intelligence until Dec. 8. (Barrage balloons, tethered by metal cables, were positioned to interfere with low-flying enemy aircraft.)

Steve Martin: I flubbed at Hub Pub Club

“In June 1975 I was booked into the frighteningly named Hub Pub Club in Winston-Salem. Located in a shopping mall, it was trying to be a fancy spot for gentlemen, but liquor laws in North Carolina limited attendance at nightclubs to members only. About the worst things an entertainer can hear are ‘members only’ and ‘group tours.’ While I was on stage doing my act to churchlike silence, a guy said to his date, loud enough that we all heard it, ‘I don’t understand any of this.’

“My [diary] entry for the Hub Pub Club started this way: ‘This town smells like a cigarette…. My material seems so old…My act might as well have been in a foreign language.'”

— From “Born Standing Up” (2007) by Steve Martin

Within weeks Martin’s luck turned. He was booked into more appreciative venues, pulled together his stage persona and in 1976 made his first appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

Worth 1,000 Words: Essays on the Photographs of Hugh Morton

Congratulations to…well, to the North Carolina Collection, but in particular to Elizabeth Hull and the rest of the photographic archives staff working on the Hugh Morton Collection. They recently received a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council for “Worth 1,000 Words: Essays on the Photographs of Hugh Morton.” The grant will allow the NC Collection to commission a series of multidisciplinary essays based on the Hugh Morton Collection of Photographs and Films. The essays will be presented at two public forums, integrated online as part of the blog “A View to Hugh,” and linked to the Morton digital library and archival finding aid.

Read more about the essays here.

I can’t wait!

Digital Library on American Slavery

The University Libraries at UNC-Greensboro have recently launched a new website called the Digital Library on American Slavery.  This massive project has compiled data over 18 years from petitions to southern legislatures and country courts filed between 1775 and 1867.  The petitions cover all sorts of subjects such as the hiring value of slaves, prenuptial agreements, interracial relationships, women owning property, abolition, the impact of the Civil War, and slave execution.  The website also draws on wills, deeds, bills of sale, and other documents. The data comes from all fifteen slaveholding states in the United States and the District of Columbia.  You can search by keyword, name of the individual, state, and by subject.  All-in-all, the website contains information on around 150,000 individuals.

This is an extremely useful tool for genealogists, researchers, and people interested in slavery—according to the website, “no other online database connects slaves with their owners in such a manner.”  Check it out!

The Outer Banks in 1822

We just added a great coastal map from 1822 to the North Carolina Maps site. The “Chart of the coast of North Carolina comprising the three Capes Hatteras, Lookout, and Fear, with the Harbors of Ocracock, Beaufort, and Smithville,” by Robert H. B. Brazier, shows exactly why the waters off of North Carolina were known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” The map details many of the shifting currents, shallow waters, breakers, and changing inlets along the Outer Banks.

My favorite details on the map are the windmills shown in Beaufort and on Pivers Island.


Folklorist’s range reached beyond ‘M.T.A.’

Death noted: Singer and folklorist Bess Lomax Hawes, age 88, in Portland, Oregon.

Although best remembered (and understandably so!) for co-writing “M.T.A.,” the half-century-ago Kingston Trio hit, Hawes also did ambitious folklore advocacy for the National Endowment for the Arts from 1977 to 1992.

In “Sing It Pretty: A Memoir” (2008) she recalled how “North Carolina, a long, thin state… was celebrated in a major first-time folk festival… on a long, thin piece of land where traditional arts of each section of the state could celebrate together in their own special places on the ‘map,’ producing a vivid demonstration of the cultural excitement a trip through North Carolina has to offer. Every single member of the legislature attended that festival in order to have his picture taken with the folk artists of his own domain.”

Along with father John A. Lomax and brother Alan Lomax, Hawes was, as the New York Times noted, “part of the premier family of American folk scholarship.”

December 1865: Henry Martin Tupper and the Founding of Shaw University

This Month in North Carolina History

Postcard of Shaw administration building

Massachusetts native Henry Martin Tupper (1831-1893) attended Amherst College and Newton Theological Seminary before enlisting in the Union Army in 1862. After he was honorably discharged, Tupper requested that the American Baptist Home Mission Society of New York station him in the South so that he could work with former slaves.

The Tuppers arrived in Raleigh in October 1865. An anecdote recounted in Carter’s Shaw’s Universe reports that after travelling to Portsmouth, Virginia, Tupper and his wife stopped at a train station that had been partially destroyed during the Civil War, and purchased the first two tickets on the train to Raleigh after the tracks had been reconstructed. After establishing himself in Raleigh, Tupper began teaching Bible classes to former slaves in December. The classes were held in the Guion Hotel and aimed to teach African Americans how to read and interpret the Bible to prepare them to be Baptist ministers. In March of 1866, his wife began teaching classes to African American women in the Tupper’s home. Tupper quickly realized the need for education beyond theology courses, and set out to found what would eventually become Shaw University, the first black college in the South.

In February 1866, Tupper purchased land on the corner of Blount and Cabarrus Streets and built a two-story structure there that would serve both as a church and a school. Tupper used $500 that he had saved from serving as a Union soldier to help fund the land purchase. Significant financial assistance for construction was provided by the Freedmen’s Bureau and the New England Freedman’s Aid Society. On January 1, 1869, the Raleigh Theological Institute admitted its first class of fifteen seminary students. A year later, the school had outgrown its facilities and began making plans to expand. Through Tupper’s fundraising efforts and monetary support from Elijah Shaw (a woolen manufacturer from Massachusetts) and the Freedmen’s Bureau, funds were secured to purchase an estate in the center of Raleigh. Upon relocating, the school changed its name to the Shaw Collegiate Institute. In 1875 the school officially became incorporated as Shaw University.

Postcard of women on Shaw campus

Shaw University was co-educational from the beginning. A dormitory for men was built in 1871-1872, and, the first dormitory for African American women – Etsey Hall – was constructed on Shaw’s campus in 1874. Shaw University claims several other firsts, including Leonard Medical School, which was the first medical and pharmacy school that trained African Americans in the state of North Carolina, and, in 1888, the only law school for African Americans in the South. The 1878-1879 Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Shaw University reports that there were a total of 152 males and 115 females enrolled in various courses of study for that particular school year. During the 1878-1879 academic year, the majority of students were from North Carolina, but students from anywhere could enroll – several students were from Virginia and South Carolina, and one was from New Jersey.

Postcard of Leonard Building and medical school

At Shaw Collegiate Institute, Tupper served both as an administrator and instructor of the school and pastor of the church. He taught lessons during the day and night school classes. Managing both the school and the church gave rise to conflict for Tupper, and in 1870, people claiming to be trustees of the Second Baptist Church brought a suit accusing him of defrauding the church. The various charges suggested intrigue and internal politics relating to Tupper’s funding and administration of the church and the school and the wronging of African American church members. The law suit lasted until 1875 when a verdict was given in Tupper’s favor. Despite the lawsuit and other setbacks, Tupper oversaw the growth and expansion of the University and advocated for access to higher education for African Americans until he died in November of 1893. Tupper was buried on the campus grounds, and Dr. Nickolas Franklin Roberts, an African American and a graduate of Shaw University, was named acting president.

Shaw brochure


Carroll, Grady Lee Ernest, Sr. They Lived in Raleigh: Some Leading Personalities from 1792 to 1892. Raleigh, NC: Southeastern Copy Center, 1977.

Carter, Wilmoth A. Shaw’s Universe: A Monument to Educational Innovation. Raleigh, NC: Shaw University, 1973.

Kearns, Kathleen, and Dayton, Michael J. Capital Lawyers: A Legacy of Leadership. Birmingham, AL: Association Publishing, 2004.

Shaw University. Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Shaw University, 1878 and 1879. Raleigh, NC: Edwards, Broughton & Co., Printers and Binders, 1879.

Image Sources:

Shaw Building, Shaw University, Raleigh, N. C.” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

Shaw University for the Colored, Raleigh, N.C.” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C.“, Wake County, North Carolina Postcard Collection (P052), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

Shaw University brochure 1974, from [Shaw University Announcements, Bulletins, Programs, etc.] VC378.9 M67 Shaw 1874-.

This Month in North Carolina – Henry Martin Tupper and the Founding of Shaw University


Check out our latest installment of This Month in North Carolina History here!

In December 1865, Henry Martin Tupper began teaching Bible study classes to African Americans studying to become Baptist ministers. The courses he and his wife taught would quickly expand in scope and student body, and Shaw University was established as the first black college in the South.

There are several postcards of Shaw University up on North Carolina Postcards, and Jason Tomberlin wrote a post for NCM about Shaw University’s med school, the Leonard Medical School that is also worth checking out.