Penalty for blacks worshiping together: 39 lashes

“[In reaction to Nat Turner’s rebellion in Virginia in 1831] a wave of legislation passed over the South….In North Carolina slaves and free Negroes were forbidden to preach, exhort, or teach ‘in any prayer meeting or other association for worship where slaves of different families are collected together’ on penalty of not more than thirty-nine lashes.”

— From “The Negro” by W.E.B. Du Bois (1915)


Josephus Daniels, FDR and their ‘unprintable’ scandal

“In 1919, Navy Secretary [Josephus] Daniels – whose crusade against sin went far beyond banning wine in the officers’ mess – became concerned about homosexual behavior among sailors in Newport, Rhode Island.

“This was almost 75 years before ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and almost a century before being gay was removed as a barrier to military service. Then, homosexuality was a very serious offense.

“Daniels ordered the base commander to clean things up, and the solution he found was to set up a sting operation, using new sailors as bait. To be certain the men they entrapped were indeed homosexuals, the recruits – some as young as 16 – were allowed to submit to fellatio – and praised for their ‘zeal’ in the investigation when they did so. As assistant secretary of the navy, FDR had signed off on the sting while Daniels was abroad, but denied knowing the sordid details.

“The case erupted…. Headlines laid the scandal at Roosevelt’s feet, with the story on the front page of the New York Times declaring the details to be ‘unprintable.’”

— From “The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency” by Kathryn Smith (2016)

Artifact of the Month: Poster from Herbert Hoover’s 1928 campaign

With all the media attention on North Carolina’s role in the 2016 election, it seems fitting to feature an artifact that represents the Ghost of Campaigns Past. Our October Artifact of the Month is a poster from Herbert Hoover’s presidential campaign of 1928.

Herbert Hoover campaign poster

The text of the poster reads:


The above WHITE MEN AND WOMEN will not vote for Herbert Hoover for President, November 6, 1928, because Pet Denton, Smith Registrar, of Zebulon, Wake County, N.C., refused to register them. Some were refused on the ground of EDUCATIONAL DISQUALIFICATION, and others under a false claim of non-residence.

All have lived in the State all of their lives and in Denton’s precinct for more than seven months; some for many years.

============= EACH OF THEM BEGS YOU TO =============

Cast a Vote for Hoover for Them
Tammany System of Politics in North Carolina

The poster decries the consequences of discriminatory voting restrictions that had been established in North Carolina at the turn of the twentieth century. Remarkably, the poster doesn’t condemn the laws for being racist; instead it objects to their discrimination against white people.

In 1900 the state legislature had passed laws limiting the nearly universal male suffrage established by the North Carolina constitution of 1868. The laws made North Carolina one of many Southern states to enact poll taxes and literacy tests as a requirement for voting.

Poll taxes and literacy tests were used to deny voting rights to African Americans and American Indians. And while poll taxes were prohibited by the North Carolina legislature in 1920, literacy test laws remained on the books, excluding many potential voters from participating in the 1928 election.

Such laws, of course, can be only so targeted in their discrimination. The creator of this poster laments the laws’ unintended effects — namely that they had prevented white, lifelong North Carolinians from voting.

The poster ties such practices to those of New York’s Tammany Hall political organization, widely condemned for its corruption. Democratic candidate Al Smith lost the election to Hoover partly on the basis of his association with Tammany Hall — although his anti-Prohibition stance and his Catholic faith also played significant roles in his defeat.

Literacy tests were widely used in North Carolina until the US Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the federal government began to supervise state voting practices.

Visit the new Lew Powell digital collection!

This poster is part of the Lew Powell Memorabilia Collection, which we wrote about in September. You can see the poster and other items from the Lew Powell collection in the Lew Powell digital collection.

Work in progress: Statewide index of slave deeds

Shayda Vance grew up not thinking much of her last name. She had never lived in Western North Carolina, and although she knew some of her family hailed from Weaverville, her bloodlines were a bit of a mystery.

“Like many of the 42 million African-Americans living in the United States, part of her lineage is a web of unknown trades and transactions that started on the shores of West Africa and ended in 1870, when more than 240 years after their arrival in the American South, slaves were listed by name in a U.S. Census for the first time.

“Now researchers in North Carolina are working to add to those records by amassing a statewide index of slave deeds, inspired in part by Buncombe County’s work in unearthing records of sale in Western North Carolina….”

— From “Buncombe records unearth slave data, expansion planned” by Beth Walton in the Asheville Citizen-Times (Oct. 14)



Ex-member: ‘The Klan don’t have no program’

On this day in 1965: Roy Woodle, bricklayer and itinerant preacher, tells a subcommittee of the House Un-American Activities Committee that the Ku Klux Klan is a “fake” organization that preaches “good things” — segregation and Christianity — but does nothing about them. Its true purpose, he says, is furnishing its leaders with “Cadillacs, rib-eye steaks . . . and first-class motel rooms.”

Woodle says he recently quit the Klan after serving as chaplain (grand kludd) for North Carolina.

The Klan has grown, he says, by promising “victory, that the schools wouldn’t integrate. But the Klan don’t have no program.”

Woodle is one of more than a dozen Klan witnesses from North Carolina called to testify; most refuse. The hearings are in response to President Johnson’s call for a congressional investigation of the Klan after the murder of civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo in Alabama.


On the beach, a wealth of not-very-helpful evidence

On this day in 1906: “Cork life vests began to wash shore between Cape Hatteras and Kinnakeet. During a two-week period, over 400 made their way to Hatteras beaches….  Those that were identified bore the markings ‘Caswitz Rettunysyurcer, G.R.P.’ ‘Sealanan’ and ‘Smeskf.’ Along with the life vests, pieces of unmarked wreckage also washed ashore 3 miles to the north.

“Surfmen believed that because the life preservers washed up in such a short stretch of beach, and because of the large number of life vests, that had a wreck occurred it was most like a passenger ship close to shore. No maritime records corresponded with the names of the life preservers, and because no other traces of a wreck washed ashore, the incident remained a mystery.”

From “On This Day in Outer Banks History” by Sarah Downing (2014)

What puzzling names (?) on the life vests — even Google seems stumped….


Of Nat Turner’s skull and Consetto Formico’s mummy

“It never ceases to amaze me the number of people in this day and age who still approve of holding onto these things [human remains such as Nat Turner’s skull].

“Several years ago, in my decently liberal large Southern city, there was an article about one of these depicted as a ‘human interest’ piece. Apparently in the early 1900s a young Italian-American circus worker died here and there was no knowledge of who his family was. So someone kept his skull in their family and named him ‘Spaghetti.’ This was portrayed as cute and funny, which as an Italian-American (and frankly, fellow human) I don’t find it at all. Rather than getting the Catholic burial that I am certain his family would have wanted, he’s sitting on someone’s desk and called a stereotypical name. Yet even in this century there are enough people who think this is OK that they publish in the newspaper? Unbelievable….”

The details of Consetto Formico’s life, death and postmortem journey are complicated and sometimes conflicting, as Bridget Madden noted in “Laurinburg’s Modern Mummy.” 


Remembering a Minnesotan’s Miscellany mentions

Excuse our immodesty, but surely Bob Dylan’s appearances over the years in North Carolina Miscellany played a small part in bringing him to the attention of the Swedish Academy:

— On his view of Billy Graham as a rock ‘n’ roll model

— On his performance in Charlotte during Watergate

— On his debt to Thomas Wolfe

— On his visits to Carl Sandburg and from Bland Simpson

If only he could’ve waited for Love Valley before going electric….


Pumpkins – they’re not just for carving!

It’s fall y’all and that means pumpkins are everywhere.  So visit a patch, a store, or your closest pumpkin retailer, pick one out and get to cooking.


Pumpkin Soup from The country gourmet cookbook.


Fried Pumpkin Seeds from A Taste of the old and the new.


Spicy Pumpkin Cookies from The Pantry shelf : 1907-1982.


High Jumpin’ Pumpkin Bread from Hornets homecooking : favorite family recipes from the Charlotte Hornets players, coaches, staff and special fans.


Pumpking Pound Cake from What’s cook’n at Biltmore.


Campaign clutter? We want it

Flyer for Dr. Ralph Mcdonald
Ralph McDonald ran against Clyde Hoey in the Democratic primaries in 1936.

Election day is a mere 27 days away, so the robocalls should be interrupting your evening meals and the postcards and fliers will be filling your mailboxes. We, in the North Carolina Collection, can’t help make your evenings more peaceful. But we can relieve you of some of the clutter. As with elections past, we’re eager to collect campaign flyers, postcards and fundraising letters. Our collection of campaign ephemera now includes more than 5000 items and dates back to the 1800s. And we’re eager to keep it growing. We want to document campaigns across the state and at all levelsᾹlegislative, judicial, Council of State, Congressional and Presidential. That’s hard to do from our spot here in the Triangle. Please help us. Hold on to those mailers, flyers and voter guides. Then when you can stomach the clutter no more, send them our way. The address is:

John Blythe
Assistant Curator
P.O. Box 8890
Wilson Library, CB#3930
Chapel Hill, NC 27515-8890

One final note. We like knowing about the yard signs, particularly ones that strike you as unique. Unfortunately, they take up significant space and it’s hard for us to store them. Before you send us the actual sign, would you mind taking a photo of it and emailing the file to us as an attachment? The address is Please remember to tell us where and when you spotted it.

Thanks for helping us document North Carolina politics.