Once again Joyce McKinney takes the stage

“[Filmmaker Errol Morris] came across a newspaper story…  about a woman named Joyce McKinney who had traveled to South Korea [in 2008] in order to clone her dead dog…..  It didn’t take him long to establish that McKinney…  had enjoyed an even stranger brush with fame as a tabloid sensation [in 1977] after being accused of kidnapping and raping the man she planned to marry. When McKinney told Morris her story in a marathon interview, and it emerged that she saw herself as a lovesick girl who had tried to save her sweetheart from the Mormon church, Morris knew that he had a new movie [“Tabloid”] on his hands.”

— The Boston Globe (June 11)

If Scott Fitzgerald had known Joyce McKinney, a Newland native and UNC Charlotte alumna, he might have thought twice before proclaiming, “There are no second acts in American lives.”

“Tabloid” hasn’t opened yet, but McKinney’s first and second acts are well documented.


A Look At Thomas Day, African American Furniture Maker

In her book Thomas Day: Master Craftsman and Free Man of Color, North Carolina Museum of History curator Patricia Marshall calls Thomas Day “one of the fathers of the North Carolina furniture industry.” Day, a free African American in the nineteenth century, owned one of the largest pre-Civil War cabinet shops in North Carolina. Many of his pieces are intact today, and his influences on both the furniture industry and the civil rights movement are profound.

More than a year ago, the North Carolina Museum of History opened their exhibit Behind the Veneer: Thomas Day, Master Cabinetmaker. The opening coincided with the publication of Marshall’s book, released on May 22nd, 2010, by the UNC Press, which can be found in the North Carolina Collection as well as UNC’s Art Library. The exhibit was scheduled to be on display for nine months, but has gained so much attention that it has been extended until the fall. Day’s work has also been displayed at the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History in Virginia.

The exhibit includes over seventy of Day’s pieces, including a podium and desk from UNC’s own Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies. Some of the other items included are tables and chairs, and a pine wardrobe. There is also an interactive portion – visitors can turn the wheel lathe and experiment with tools in a workshop recreation. It is free and open to the public, and worth seeing for those in the area.

The North Carolina Collection and other UNC libraries contain many resources on Day and his work, including a large number of electronic books. These resources range from biographies to discussion of his cultural influence. Patricia Marshall has also written an article on Thomas Day and what it meant to be an African-American artist, published in the North Carolina Historical Review in 2001.

Other resources on Thomas Day and his work include the North Carolina Museum of History website, the Raleigh News and Observer, UNC-TV, and NPR.

The view south from West 43rd Street

The New Yorker’s supercilious first mention of North Carolina in 1925 proved to be typical of those for decades to come:

“The depressing motto of the Charlotte Theatre, Charlotte, North Carolina, is ‘Attend the Movies Regularly. In No Other Way Can You Get So Close to Life for So Little.’ ”

— Aug. 30, 1947

“Overheard in the Metropolitan Museum, a lady in front of Whistler’s ‘Mother: Arrangement in Grey and Black’ (speaking in a deep Southern drawl): ‘I don’t see why there’s all this fuss about Whistler’s mother. She’s just one of those old McNeills from North Carolina.’ ”

— May 1, 1954

“The Sears, Roebuck store in Charlotte, North Carolina, recently advertised ‘Plastic-like Leather Handbags.’ ”

— April 15, 1961

My bedside stack of  New Yorkers (with blow-in cards in situ) is as high as anyone’s, but the editors’ dismissive depiction of pre-Sun Belt  Southerners often made me wince…. OK, sometimes I also laughed.

Countering cotton with the great black hope

“As transportation links improved… between the South and the rest of the nation, it became possible to export blackberries, either fresh or dried, and this possibility joined the legion of other ideas how the region might escape the iron grip of cotton….

“Central North Carolina seems to have found the greatest bonanza…. Salem shipped a million pounds of blackberries in three years in the middle 1870s, earning half a million dollars. With cotton selling at 10 cents a pound, this would be the equivalent of 9,000 bales. ‘Whole trains full of berries swept out of this busy and thriving little city during the year,’ one envious Atlanta reporter wrote, ‘and the people were flush and full pocketed, while their neighbors were all out at the elbows and waiting the coming of some staple crop.’ ”

— From “Picking Blackberries and Getting By after the Civil War” by Bruce E. Baker (Southern Cultures, Winter 2010)

Remembering the Runaways in the Great Dismal Swamp

Title page of Dred

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s character Dred may have never resided in the Great Dismal Swamp, but hundreds of other enslaved individuals did. And this fall, officials plan to open a permanent exhibit on the runaway slave communities that sought safe haven in the swamp. The Great Dismal became such a common hiding place for runaways that the N.C. legislature passed a law in 1847 requiring registration for slaves working in the swamp. Unregistered slaves working in the swamp could be arrested and subjected to 39 lashes on the back. The person who arrested the slave could also demand a 25 dollar reward from the slaveowner. Employers who hired runaways or unregistered slaves could be fined $100 and imprisoned for 3 months.

New Photographic Collection Finding Aids: P73: North Carolina Railroad Station Photograph Collection and P74: Albertype Co. Collection of North Carolina Photographs

Greetings from the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives Technical Services!

We are pleased to announce that two new collections containing images from vast areas of N.C. now have finding aids containing enhanced arrangement and description.

Both of these collections were originally part of the North Carolina County Photographic Collection (P0001), but each is now an independent collection.

The two new collections are:

P73: North Carolina Railroad Station Photograph Collection
–Brand new EAD finding aid; Enhanced arrangement/description
–69 digital images in Digital NCCPA and available via the finding aid

The North Carolina Railroad Station Photograph Collection consists of 66 images of North Carolina railroad stations. Images depict railroad stations in over 40 counties in North Carolina and consists of photographic prints made from images taken by unidentified photographers. Materials are arranged by location, and many descriptions include the name of the railroad company that owned or managed the stations.

P74: Albertype Co. Collection of North Carolina Photographs
–Brand new EAD finding aid; Enhanced arrangement/description

The Albertype Co., headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y., produced postcards and other printed materials from 1890 until 1952. The company utilized a specific photomechanical processes process invented by Joseph Albert in Australia in the late 1860s, which was an improvement on the collotype photographic process. The company had teams of photographers who traveled across the United States taking and buying images depicting people, places, and activities in all parts of the country. A majority of the images were published as postcards and marketed to be sold in the locales depicted in the images. The images in this collection, circa 1900-1930s, depict buildings, monuments, people, and scenes in a number of cities and towns across North Carolina in over 50 different counties. Included are black-and-white photographic negatives (original and duplicates) and black-and-white photographic prints.

Several of the negatives found in The Albertype Co. Collection of North Carolina Photographs (P0074) were used to created postcards that can be found in two other collection in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives: The Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P0077) and the North Carolina Postcard Collection (P0052).

Digital versions of many of the postcards from both of these related collections can be viewed at http://www.lib.unc.edu/dc/nc_post/index.php


-NCCPA Technical Services

Black preachers, white congregants, circa 1800

“Henry Evans, a free man and shoemaker by trade, was licensed as a local preacher by the Methodists toward the end of the 18th century. Evans was responsible for ‘the planting of Methodism’ in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Originally preaching to black people only, he attracted the attention of some prominent whites, and ironically ‘the white portion of [his] congregation increased till the negroes were crowded out of their seats.’ Evans was displaced by a white minister but continued as an assistant in the church he founded until his death in 1810.

“John Chavis, another free black, was appointed by the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1801 to work in Virginia and North Carolina ‘as a missionary among people of his own color’…. Chavis did not confine his ministry to Negroes. In 1808 he opened a school in Raleigh, North Carolina, for the instruction of white children by day and black children at night. In 1832 Chavis was barred from preaching by a North Carolina law which forbade slaves and free Negroes to exhort or preach in public.”

— From “Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution’ in the Antebellum South” by Albert J. Raboteau (2004)

NC motel blazes trail in guest services

“To tempt motorists most new motels offer TV and air conditioning, a swimming pool, some kind of food service, children’s play areas, and telephones in every room…. One North Carolina motel keeps its free soft-drink machine available all night, dispenses free hot coffee and doughnuts each morning.”

— From Time magazine, March 14, 1955

Strike and Trial in Henderson

Cover of Southern Newsletter featuring article on Henderson Strike and Trial
We hear that it’s July 1st. But we’re still writing June on our checks. So, perhaps, that means it’s okay to let you know about our latest This Month in North Carolina History—for June!

In November 1958 workers at the Harriet and Henderson Mills in Henderson went out on strike. Over the ensuing months their peaceful protest turned to one plagued by violence. In June 1959, eight men—strikers and regional leaders of the Textile Workers Union of America—were charged with conspiring to blow up several facilities in Henderson. The strike and trial gained national attention and served as a yet another battleground for the long struggle between unions and their opponents in the South.