At Arthur Smith Studios, James Brown birthed ‘funk’

“On February 1 [1965, James] Brown and his band stopped by Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte, North Carolina, en route to a show, and laid down ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ in a hour…. They did it in one take. It was suppose to be a run-through, but Brown knew he had to leave it as is — because everyone in the studio was dancing to the playback. He writes in his memoir [“I Feel Good,” 2005] that even though he was a soul singer, it was on this night that he started going off in his own unique direction.

” ‘I had discovered that my strength was not in the horns, it was in the rhythm. I was hearing everything, even the guitars, like they were drums. I had found out how to make it happen. On playbacks, when I saw the speakers jumping, vibrating a certain way, I knew that was it: deliverance….Later on they said it was the beginning of funk.’

“The lyrics of ‘New Bag’ are simple — just Brown trying to get a ‘new breed’ babe to dance with him by showing that he can do the Jerk, the Fly, the Monkey, the Mashed Potato, the Twist and the Boomerang. But the phrase ‘new bag’ came to symbolize the new Black Power approach many activists were embracing, along with a new way to deconstruct the blues for the next generation of musicians. With the song, as music critic Dave Marsh wrote, ‘Brown invented the rhythmic future we live in today.’ ”

— From 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music” by Andrew Grant Jackson (2015)


North Carolina Celebrates 175 Years of Free Public Education

As many North Carolina public school students wrap up their first week back in the classroom, we salute the state’s 175-year history of providing free education.

North Carolina’s first free school opened on January 20, 1840. It was near the present-day community of Williamsburg in Rockingham County. Although the school no longer stands and its exact location is unknown, a highway marker southeast of Reidsville marks the vicinity of the school.

The first free school in North Carolina opens in Rockingham County on January 20, 1840.
The first free school in North Carolina opens in Rockingham County on January 20, 1840.

The Williamsburg school opened a year after the North Carolina legislature passed the Common School Law, on January 8, 1839. County elections were held in the same year with taxes for schools on the ballot. Sixty-one of sixty-eight counties voted in favor of the taxes. Every county would have at least one publicly funded school by 1846.

Some North Carolinians questioned the viability of a system of public education. They asked where to find teachers? Was the $60.00 annual salary sufficient to draw farmers, merchants and mechanics into the profession? Was the three month term too short to be effective? How would children travel two, three and even four miles each way to attend? The letter writer Rusticus raised such questions in a letter to the editor in the August 7, 1839 issue of the North-Carolina Standard (excerpt below).

Rusticus writes a letter to the editor against free public schools in the  August 7, 1839 issue of the North-Carolina Standard.
Rusticus writes a letter to the editor against free public schools in the August 7, 1839 issue of the North-Carolina Standard.

On March 17, 2015 the North Carolina General Assembly passed a resolution commemorating the opening of the Williamsburg school “reaffirming the General Assembly’s continued support and advocacy for strong, innovative, and high-achieving public schools during the observance of the one hundred seventy-fifth anniversary of the first public school in North Carolina.”

Bachelors shed stigma — not so, ‘old maids’

“Early in the 19th century there had been talk in North Carolina of penalizing unmarried men by imposing special taxes on them. Like spinsters, they were not fulfilling the universal obligation to procreate.

“But by the Jacksonian era there was nothing scandalous or wholly pathetic about the aging bachelor as such. At least he could afford condescension about women in the same position as he. T. W. Peyre, a Carolinian bachelor, remarked about a landlady’s daughter who was ‘a maid…. approximating the antique, but of what degree I know not, whether a voluntary old maid, or an involuntary, or an old mad by accident, an explicable old maid or a literary old maid.’ ”

– From “Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South” by Bertram Wyatt-Brown (2007)


‘Dixie’ survives in Winston-Salem — for now

“Council Member James Taylor is backing away from his suggestion that [Winston-Salem] consider dropping the word ‘Dixie’ from the name of its popular fair.

“ ‘The support at this time seems to be for leaving the name the same,’ Taylor said of the Dixie Classic Fair. ‘Because this seems to have driven a wedge in the community, I don’t see a need to pursue it any further’….

“Taylor’s discomfort with ‘Dixie’ makes sense to…William Ferris, senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC Chapel Hill: ‘It’s a highly charged word and, like the [Confederate] flag, it will increasingly be relegated to the pages of history in a public way.’…

“Though Taylor is now supporting keeping the fair’s name, it’s likely the issue may surface again, Ferris said.

“ ‘You have people who look back at displaying the flag and singing “Dixie,” and the Old South was a place to long for,’ he said, adding that those memories are being increasingly contested by people who view the Old South through a prism of violence and human rights violations with little affection for the “land of cotton.”

“ ‘The South is evolving and considering its future and figuring how to best understand its history. And contesting those memories is one way to do that,’ Ferris said. ‘The word “Dixie” is part of that re-evaluation of what the South is and how it should be publicly presented.’ ”

— FromCouncil member says he won’t pursue name change for Dixie Classic Fair” by Lisa O’Donnell in the Winston-Salem Journal (Aug. 12)


Black baseball player sparks racist outrage in Gastonia

On this day in 1934: The American Legion baseball team from Springfield, Mass., withdraws from a tournament in Gastonia because of local resistance to its lone black player.

Ernest “Bunny” Taliaferro was barred from the team’s hotel, and the Charlotte Observer reports that “those in charge of the tournament would not guarantee the safety of the Springfield nine when it went on the field in the face of heckling and manifestations of hostility by the onlookers.”

Scorned and threatened in Gastonia, Taliaferro and the rest of team would return home to a heroes’ welcome. In 2003 a monument bearing all their names will be erected at the Springfield ballpark. And there’s even a children’s book.


Artifact of the Month: 1950s globe

In 1955, UNC’s senior class generously donated a large globe to the University Library. It’s still on display in the North Carolina Collection Gallery, and it’s our August Artifact of the Month.


I wonder if the donors could have known the many lessons the globe would impart beyond the ones they intended? Three that easily come to mind:

Lesson #1: Sixty years of geopolitical change can render a globe nearly unrecognizable. Gallery visitors remark about the globe’s mid-twentieth-century boundaries and country names. An undivided Korea. The size of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Unfamiliar nations like Tanganyika. The legacy of European colonialism: French Indochina, British Somaliland, Belgian Congo, Spanish Guinea.


Lesson #2: There’s a reason why museum professionals tell you not to touch things. The globe is in remarkably good condition, with two exceptions. The first is a dent near the North Pole. The second is a fingertip-sized place that’s been worn down to the metal… right smack in the middle of North Carolina. Decades of people pointing to home have rendered home invisible.


Lesson #3: There’s no substitute for a three-dimensional representation of Earth. Visitors of all ages are magnetically drawn to the globe, despite carrying around high-powered, handheld computers that can simulate the experience of manipulating the planet from outer space.

You can view the globe in our digital collection, Carolina Keepsakes. But remember lesson #3: Nothing beats seeing it in 3D.

Come visit us in person!

When young ladies’ letters had to pass inspection

“An 1837 guide to women’s conduct recognized the value of honoring a request to maintain a confidential correspondence, but insisted that a young woman ‘make an exception in favor of [her] mother…. for young ladies under age should gracefully acknowledge their parents’ right of inspection.’

“In 1873, the ‘Young Women’s Column’ in the North Carolina Presbyterian took a harder line, decreeing that ‘a girl under nineteen or twenty should never be allowed’ to correspond with a young man, ‘and certainly never without the inspection of her mother or some very much older friend.’ ”

— From “The Postal Age: The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-Century America” by David M. Henkin (2008)


An icepick, a corpse and 2 very different explanations

On this day in 1975: In a case that has become a national cause celebre, an evenly biracial Raleigh jury acquits black defendant Joan Little in the icepick stabbing slaying of white jailer Clarence Alligood.

Defense attorneys — including civil rights stalwarts William Kunstler and Morris Dees — argued that Alligood, 62, had attempted to sexually assault the 21-year-old Little, who was serving time in the Beaufort County Jail for breaking and entering. The prosecution contended that Alligood had been killed in an escape plot.


Cookbook Cooking Challenge Round 2!…recipes from the collection

Several brave Wilson Library staffers volunteered as chefs and tasters to give their taste buds, stomachs, and comments to this year’s Cookbook Cooking Challenge themed We’ll Be the Judge of That.

We once again mined the North Carolina Collection’s bountiful cookbook collection and selected recipes that claim deliciousness, delightfull-ness, heavenly taste, and all around best-ness, among other things.

In the end, some recipes lived up to their names while others where…interesting.


Easy and Delicious Tomato Aspic from Dixie Classic Fair for Northwest North Carolina : favorite recipes from friends of the Fair.

Best Ever Salad from Company’s coming : a recipe collection from North Carolinians who enjoy company coming.


Yum Yum Salad from The Charlotte cookbook.

Best Ever Cheese Ring from Count our blessings : 75 years of recipes and memories / Myers Park Presbyterian Church.


Eggs Delight from Butter ‘n love recipes.

Delicious Sandwich from Butter ‘n love recipes.


You’ll Think it’s Crab Dip from A dash of Down East.

Second Best from What’s cookin’? in 1822.


Mom’s Terrific Toffee from Count our blessings : 75 years of recipes and memories / Myers Park Presbyterian Church.

Divine Casserole from Best of the best from North Carolina : selected recipes from North Carolina’s favorite cookbooks.


Best Butternut Pie from Red’s cook book : (road kill not included).

Wagwood’s Favorite Cake from Historic Moores Creek cook book : a collection of old and new recipes.

UNC alumni: Do you have what we’re looking for?

From the 1974 UNC yearbook, the Yackety Yack.
From the 1974 UNC yearbook, the Yackety Yack.

Any UNC alum who’s recently been on campus knows just how much student fashions have changed since their own time at Carolina. Next February, the North Carolina Collection plans to open an exhibition exploring clothing styles at UNC as they’ve evolved over time. We’d love your help!

We’re in search of clothing to represent every era of student fashion at UNC — whether it’s a class sweater, a dress purchased on Franklin Street, or a piece that captures the essence of your years at Carolina.

Do you have any articles of clothing or shoes you wore as a student? Would you be willing to donate or lend them to the North Carolina Collection for the exhibition?

If so, please contact Linda Jacobson, Keeper of the NCC Gallery, at 919-962-0104 or