On this day in 1995: After a 24-hour stakeout of his Raleigh apartment building, FBI agents capture Kevin Mitnick, “the most wanted computer hacker in the world.” Mitnick, 31, had used his sophisticated skills to worm his way into the nation’s telephone and cellular telephone networks and vandalize government, corporate and university computer systems.
He first came to national attention at age 17 when, as a prank, he tapped into a North American Air Defense Command computer.
Mitnick’s crucial mistake: breaking into the home computer of Tsutomu Shimomura, a San Diego computer security expert, who became obsessed with tracking him down.
“To the very end of Reconstruction, blacks would insist that ‘those who freed them shall protect that freedom.’ The strength of their commitment to this principle, and to the [Freedmen’s] Bureau as an embodiment of the nation’s responsibility, became clear in 1866 when President Johnson sent generals John Steedman and Joseph S. Fullerton on an inspection tour of the South. Johnson hoped to elicit enough complaints to discredit the agency, but in city after city, blacks rallied to the Bureau’s support….
“In Wilmington, North Carolina, 800 blacks crowded into the Brick Church to voice support. ‘If the Freedman Bureau was removed,’ one speaker insisted, ‘a colored man would have better sense than to speak a word in behalf of the colored man’s rights, for fear of his life.’
“Somewhat taken aback, General Steedman asked the assemblage if the army or the Freedman’s Bureau had to be withdrawn, which they would prefer to have remain in the South. From all parts of the church came the reply, ‘The Bureau.'”
We’ve seen much ink spilled in these parts on the question of whether Abraham Lincoln has North Carolina roots. In short, the most commonly-told story goes this way. Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, arrived in North Carolina as a teenager. She lived with Abraham Enloe (also spelled Inlow) and his family in Rutherford County. At some point Enloe got Hanks pregnant. Ashamed of having fathered a child out of wedlock, Enloe moved with his family to Kentucky. He eventually sent for Hanks and paid Thomas Lincoln to marry her. Although details of the first years of Lincoln’s life are a little sketchy, his date of birth is generally accepted to be February 12, 1809. And, as this article from the Charlotte Democrat seems to suggest, that’s 2 1/2 years after a marriage certificate was issued for his parents.
Does this controversy sound vaguely familiar? Perhaps a certain New York real estate magnate-cum-television personality could look into this one. Ah, but could we trust a “Yankee carpetbagger?”
“In early 1862, George McClellan, then general in chief of the army and a vocal opponent of a war against slavery, gave extremely conservative instructions regarding military emancipation to General Ambrose Burnside as he was about to embark on another joint army-navy operation aimed at capturing Roanoke Island:
” ‘[Say] as little as possible about politics or the negro. Merely state that the true issue for which we are fighting is the preservation of the Union and upholding the laws of the General Government….’
“Upon capturing Roanoke Island in early February, Burnside [denied intending] ‘to liberate your slaves.’ McClellan’s instructions, like Burnside’s proclamations, were technically correct: The ‘purpose’ of the Union invasion was the restoration of the Union, not the liberation of slaves. The policy of the federal government, however, was to emancipate all slaves coming within Union lines…. Occupation forces would not actively interfere with the peaceful operation of slavery among loyal farmers and planters, [or] entice slaves away from their owners, but slaves escaping to Union lines were emancipated and employed as wage laborers.
“Slavery deteriorated rapidly in the occupied parts of North Carolina thanks to the policy instructing Union forces to employ fugitives entering their lines, coupled with the prohibition against military enforcement of the fugitive slave clause.”
“[Billy] DeBeck‘s primary focus as a cartoonist was always amusement rather than cultural edification, and he played a leading role in constructing a broad-based public conception of Southern hill folk as cartoonish figures.
“He was also instrumental in freely blending Ozark and Appalachian settings into a single mythical geographic location. Although [his comic strip “Barney Google & Snuffy Smith” ] was initially set in the North Carolina mountains, characters in an early episode refer to ordering store-bought clothes from the nearby big city of ‘Little Rock’ — in reality, 600 plus miles to the west. A month later, Sairy Hopkins runs away from Hootin’ Holler and after three days of wandering through the woods arrives in ‘Crystal Springs, Arkansas.’
“Such geographic confusion suggests the willingness of both the creators of the hillbilly image and the reading public to accept the conflation of hundreds of miles of distance and two diverse cultures into a homogenous fantasy mountain South — a process that would only accelerate in the work of [“Li’l Abner” cartoonist] Al Capp.”
From the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America newspaper site, we selected an issue of the The Watauga Democrat that was published 99 years ago to see what was on the minds of North Carolinians in 1915. In addition to debates familiar to us now about “pistol-toters” and the best ways to avoid the common cold, there was also a debate concerning child labor laws.
Millennial is currently a buzz word in the media. In an age where children are “born digital,” it is understandable that people are concerned about the social and psychological development of the next generation. But what were our thoughts on the rising generation a century ago? During this time, child labor was heavily debated. Laborers served a vital function in the newly forming companies and trades. Because of the need of workers, arguments such as “children are better fitted for some trades than adults” and “children are much better off employed in the factories than idle and out of school” were considered valid points for a growing economy. Take a closer look at the article here and discover more about the history of child labor laws in North Carolina.
In looking through the terrific collection of North Carolina newspapers recently added to Chronicling America, I came across a note from Chapel Hill describing what sounds a lot like an early version of the Carolina Covenant.
Launched in 2003, the Carolina Covenant is UNC’s promise to encourage and support all qualified students, regardless of their ability to pay. It is an innovative program that has been the model for many others around the country.
“A popularly circulated saying about warehouse people was that ‘they work like hell, drink like hell, and loaf like hell.’ But the long months of loafing came to an end when Durham’s warehouse district woke up and the auction season began.
” ‘During these busy days,’ [Leonard] Rapport observed [circa 1940], ‘shooting galleries, medicine shows, sidewalk preachers, string bands, 10¢ photographers, beggars, and flimflammers have established themselves along Rigsbee Avenue or on its cross streets.’
“Rapport vividly described the intensity of the warehouse district at night: ‘All during the night — warm for November — the streets are alive with men. The cafes are filled. Shooting galleries and fruit stands stay open until one and two or later. There is a movement of men walking, riding; and all-night stirring; slow talk, laughter, lights, shouts of drunks, music of guitars, radios, shouting of doormen, the rumble of a heavy truck on the wooden drive.’ ”
Leonard Rapport, a Durham native and UNC graduate (’35), joined the Federal Writers’ Project to collect the life stories of tobacco warehouse workers. As this passage suggests, his eye for the scene was remarkable.