The Six Most Influential Books in Telling North Carolina’s History…Discuss!

At the “New Voyages to Carolina: The First North Carolina” conference held at East Carolina University in February of this year, Dr. Larry Tise shared a list of what he, Dr. William S. Price, and Dr. Jeffrey Crow “considered ‘the most influential books’ in shaping the way we have told the North Carolina story in the past and which will still inspire us as we formulate a new narrative. [These books] are the ‘perennial’ and ‘permanent’ formulations of North Carolina’s character and history. We also fondly aspire to tell the North Carolina story in the future as ‘elegantly’ as has been narrated in these important works.” [quote from email correspondence the author had with Dr. Tise]

The books are:

Thomas Hariot’s A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia…
John Lawson’s A New Voyage to Carolina
Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Written by Herself
Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel
Guion Griffis Johnson’s Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History
John Hope Franklin’s The Free Negro in North Carolina

Seems like a pretty good list…but what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Additions? Deletions? (Let’s keep it at six…so if you add one, you have to delete one—so make your case well)

6 thoughts on “The Six Most Influential Books in Telling North Carolina’s History…Discuss!”

  1. I’d boot Thomas Wolfe’s novel and replace it with W. J. Cash’s Mind of the South. My argument would be that, in this case, truth trumps fiction. Both writers depict the western region of the early 20th c. in similarly bleak terms.

  2. I’d also ditch Look Homeward, Angel in favor of something that addressed the dramatic changes, both political and cultural, in the second half of the 20th century in North Carolina. Maybe William Snider’s book about the 1984 Helms-Hunt senate race?

  3. Out with Wolfe, in with Rose Hill by Reed Wolcott or Hard Times Cotton Mill Girls by Victoria Byerly. These books have not been influential but should be since they capture life as lived by ordinary people.

  4. Why do we have to limit to six? Why not ten?

    I’m a “both and” kind of guy. Or as Wolfe once said, “I’m a putter-inner not a taker-outer.”

  5. I’d include the chapter on North Carolina, “Progressive Plutocracy” in V.O. Key’s Southern Politics.

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