As seen on TV: ‘We shut down the university’

“Educators are in thrall to their athletic departments because of these television riches and because they respect the political furies that can burst from a locker room. ‘There’s fear,’ [Bill] Friday told me when I visited him on the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill last fall. As we spoke, two giant construction cranes towered nearby over the university’s Kenan Stadium, working on the latest $77 million renovation….

“Friday insisted that for the networks, paying huge sums to universities was a bargain. ‘We do every little thing for them,’ he said. ‘We furnish the theater, the actors, the lights, the music, and the audience for a drama measured neatly in time slots. They bring the camera and turn it on.’ Friday, a weathered idealist at 91, laments the control universities have ceded in pursuit of this money. If television wants to broadcast football from here on a Thursday night, he said, ‘we shut down the university at 3 o’clock to accommodate the crowds.’ He longed for a campus identity more centered in an academic mission.”

— From “The Shame of College Athletics” by Taylor Branch (UNC ’68) in The Atlantic

Sorry for today’s multiple postings, but civil-rights historian Branch is making big waves in indicting the NCAA for the “unmistakable whiff of the plantation.”


The Growth of Newspapers in North Carolina and Beyond

Quick. Name the first newspaper in North Carolina. How about the second? And the third? If you’re stuck, the folks at Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West have provided a tool to help you. They created a data visualization of the growth of newspapers across the U.S. from 1690 to 2011. Drag a pointer across a timeline and watch as dots pop up on a U.S. map at the town or city where the paper began. Click on the dot and you’ll get information about the newspapers in that town during the period you’ve chosen. If you want to make the Tar Heel state the center of your universe, you can zoom in to look only at the space that lies between Murphy and Manteo.

If you want to read some of the state’s early newspapers, you can do so with the help of a project completed by the State Archives in 2009. More recent student and community newspapers are available online via Digital NC.

And while we’re on the subject of cool websites, here are two more. Geography fan Derek Watkins has created a visualization of U.S. territorial expansion through the growth of post offices. And Historypin allows users to pin photographs to a Google map of the world. With a moveable timeline, you can determine the time period for which you want to see photos. The project is London-based, so the site appears to be much more populated with European images. But there are N.C. photos, including some from the State Library.

‘Some people say he started it, some people say we started it’

“In my opinion, the way I see it, and I heard it all back then, there was bluegrass before Bill Monroe ever got into bluegrass. There are several tunes we recorded where the banjo sounds like bluegrass. The Morris Brothers also were playin’ like that.

“Bill Monroe wasn’t doin’ any good, let me tell you, until he added a banjo into his group. Then his name was ‘Blue Grass Boys,’ and the name stuck for his music. I give credit to Bill. He probably was the man who made the music faster. But some people say he started it, and some people say we started it.”

— Wade Mainer in a 2000 interview with Tom and Lucy Warlick, authors of “The WBT Briarhoppers: Eight Decades of a Bluegrass Band Made for Radio” (2008)

Mainer, a Weaverville native who recorded prolifically during Charlotte’s heyday as a hub of country music, died Monday at age 104.



How shapes of heads shaped shape of nation

“Throughout the 18th century, most Euro-American intellectuals had believed that humans were a unified species and that differences in environment accounted for both physical and cultural variance among people.

“As early as 1811, however, a North Carolina doctor named Charles Caldwell rejected that theory, proposing instead a natural hierarchy of the races. The developing pseudoscience of phrenology, which supposedly used cranial morphology to measure intelligence, bolstered Caldwell’s theory of scientific racism. Philadelphia physician Samuel Morton’s influential 1839 study ‘Crania Americana’ used phrenology to formulate an elaborate racial hierarchy — whites at the top, Indians in the middle and Africans at the bottom….

“Gone were the days when policymakers sought to integrate ‘civilized’ Indians into the republic. By the Jackson era, American expansion showed little regard for nonwhites who stood in the way.”

— From “Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America” by Christina Snyder (2010)