United States Navy Pre-Flight School (University of North Carolina) Photographic Collection, 1942-1945

Cadets leave base, circa 1943
P0027/0709: Cadets leave base, circa 1943

The North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives is pleased to announce that a new finding aid is now available for the United States Navy Pre-Flight School (University of North Carolina) Photographic Collection (#P0027).  This collection of nearly 6,000 images documents the day-to-day operations of the  pre-flight school that operated on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. during the Second World War (1942-1945).  The school was established to train naval pilots on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. The University hosted the second stage of a one-year training program for the servicemen.  The collection includes a wide array of images that detail activities at the school, including instruction and training as well as social and recreational activities.  There are numerous images of women (WAVES–Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and the US Navy’s B-1 Band, an African American military band assigned to campus to play at military and community events. In addition to capturing servicemen and servicewomen in their daily “official” roles at the pre-flight school, these images also document the recreational activities of attendees.  They include attendees playing baseball, basketball, football, and swimming.

The finding aid can be viewed at: http://library.unc.edu/wilson/ncc/pcoll/inv/P0027/P0027.html

Recalling James Baldwin

James Baldwin in Daily Tar Heel

NPR’s Morning Edition today featured North Carolina author and UNC-Chapel Hill professor Randall Kenan discussing James Baldwin. Kenan is the editor of a soon-to-be published volume of Baldwin’s uncollected writing. The book is Kenan’s second work on the writer. He published a young adult biography of Baldwin in 1994.

Listening to the interview with Kenan, I recalled a moment 26 years ago that he and I shared with Baldwin. Kenan and I were undergrads in an African-American literature class taught by J. Lee Greene at UNC-Chapel Hill. Kenan was a star pupil, full of insightful comments. I, on the other hand, was a diligent note taker, hoping the brilliance of Kenan and a few other students would help me better understand such classics as Baldwin’s Go Tell it On the Mountain and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

As I recall, on this particular morning Professor Greene was slow in arriving for class. And, when he finally walked in, he was accompanied by a diminutive and elegantly-dressed African-American man. That man was, of course, James Baldwin.

Sadly, I don’t remember much of what Baldwin said. I do recall being impressed by the preciseness of his speech, the mellifluousness of his voice, the angles of his face and his large eyes. Heck, he might have even lit a cigarette as he stood at the front of the class addressing our questions (the campuswide prohibition on smoking wasn’t in place then). I suspect that Randall Kenan asked a question or two. And I’m sure his memories of that day are a little more vivid than mine.

Baldwin was apparently on campus as the keynote speaker for the university’s Human Rights Week. The Daily Tar Heel reports that the writer spoke to a crowd of 1,500 at Memorial Hall on November 12. According to the paper’s account of the speech, Baldwin addressed head-on the nation’s troubled history of race relations. Here are a few quotes from that speech:

“Who is Sambo? Who is a nigger? Who is Uncle Tom? The question must come up, who is Scarlett O’Hara? What I’m suggesting is that History with a capital H is a creation of the people who think of themselves as white.”

“The people who conquered the North American wilderness were not white before they came here, not before they found me. They were Russian, Turk, Greek and French. But they were not white. They became white out of the bitter necessity to justify their crime.”

“It was not true that I was waiting to be discovered, it was not true that my discovery was by Christians who wanted to save my soul. It’s not true that I came here in chains, the happy darkie; it’s not true that I picked cotton for free out of love.”

“According to me the Civil Rights Movement was one of the last slave insurrections.”

A literary great in my presence and I failed to soak it all in. Thanks to Randall Kenan, then and now, for helping me know Baldwin a little better.

Poitier movies on front lines of racial discord

“[In 1965]  ‘A Patch of Blue’ inflamed some Southerners…. Authorities discovered a homemade bomb with five sticks of dynamite planted in a Concord, North Carolina, theater. Luckily, the bomb malfunctioned….

“[Two years later] in Lexington, North Carolina, 20 Ku Klux Klan members picketed a drive-in theater [showing ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’], carrying signs that read ‘Fight for your Rights’ and ‘Mom and Dad — It Could Happen to You.’ ”

— From “Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon” by Aram Goudsouzian (2004)

New Mural At UNC School of Government

If you’ve ever visited the Knapp-Sanders Building on UNC’s campus, you’ve probably noticed one of the large murals adorning the interior. Commissioned in 1954, the murals were painted by Frances Vandeveer Kughler and depict events and themes important to North Carolina’s development. [To view images of the murals and read more about them see: http://www.sog.unc.edu/75/murals.htm]

You may also have noticed that very few minorities are represented in any of the original murals. According to the School of Government’s website, they and others noticed this as well, and they set about to correct this historical oversight. The result is “a single 5′ x 50′ painting, visually consist[ing] of eight panels, each representing an event, place, or particular accomplishment in the history of North Carolina.”

If you can’t make it by the Knapp-Sanders Building to see the mural in person, the School of Government has a nice web page that allows you to see the entire panel or you can click on a portion of it to see a section in detail. The site also has a description of the individuals and events that are depicted. Check it out at: THE STORY OF SERVICE.

‘Ragtail’ bedfellows gave Kilpatrick pause

Death noted: Before James J. Kilpatrick reconstructed himself as the Avuncular Grammarian, he functioned as segregation’s most emphatic theoretician, one day touting the legal stratagem of interposition, the next accusing the New York Times of “Negrophilia… a pattern we are getting pretty God-damned sick of.”

Only rarely in those days was Kilpatrick’s racial bias mitigated — by his class bias. In response to the Greensboro sit-in he wrote:

“Here were the colored students, in coats, white shirts, ties, and one of them was reading Goethe and one was taking notes from a biology text.  And here, on the sidewalk outside was a gang of white boys come to heckle, a ragtail rabble, slack-jawed, black-jacketed, grinning fit to kill, and some of them, God save the mark, were waving the proud and honored flag of the Southern States in the last war fought by gentlemen. Eheu! It gives one pause.”

Vanderbilts don’t welcome ‘newspaper notoriety’

On this day in 1897: President William McKinley, en route to Washington by train, arrives in Asheville for an overnight stay at the Biltmore House.

George W. Vanderbilt is out of the country and has left in charge E.J. Harding, who precipitates a minor flap by briefly refusing entrance to the White House press. “Mr. Vanderbilt does not like newspaper notoriety,” he explains, “and neither do I.”

Pictured: “Real photo” mirror/paperweight, early 1900s.

Weekend link dump: If that wood could talk…

— In praise of an unidentified piece of wood and other “stuff from the attic.”

— Or  maybe your tastes run to an identified piece of wood.

— Quite an eBay offering of early paper items from Statesville (scroll down).

— Should Moore County’s much-traveled World War I monument be moved to the Pik-N-Pig?  Michael Hill,  be grateful you don’t have to mediate this one.

Mighty was the mouse, less so the governor

“North Carolinians assembled in an auditorium at Charlotte one evening last week to see and hear what sort of person was Mrs. Nellie Tayloe Ross, the woman whom Wyoming elected three years ago to fill out her deceased husband’s term as Governor (1925-27).

“Mrs. Ross soon demonstrated her femininity. Down an aisle, terrified by the surrounding forest of North Carolina feet and ankles, scampered a mouse. ‘If I appear a bit disconcerted,’ shrilled Mrs. Ross, ‘It’s because a woman may be a governor but she’s always afraid of a mouse. If it comes up here I’m going to jump on the TABLE!’ The mouse mounted. So did Mrs. Ross.”

— From Time magazine, April 2, 1928