Hinton Helper’s view of South hasn’t lost relevance

“The book and the author have long been forgotten in popular memory. But [Hinton Rowan] Helper’s Impending Crisis of the South is the only book other than Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin that historians have kept in their bag of causes of the Civil War….”

— From “Confederate Monuments and the Forgotten Warning of a Crisis to Come” by Ibram X. Kendi in Time (June 26)


For black visitors, sundown had ominous meaning

“In three places, at least, in North Carolina a Negro is not allowed to stay over night. They are Canton (Haywood County), Mitchell, and Madison Counties, all in the western part of the State. Negroes may work unmolested all day,  but, if they linger after nightfall, they are reminded that it would not be healthy for them to remain during the night.”

— From “Race Distinctions in American Law” by Gilbert Thomas Stephenson (1910) 

Mitchell County and Hot Springs in Madison County are listed among James Loewen’s  “Possible Sundown Towns in NC.” 


Artifact of the Month: 1940s UNC plate

This UNC plate — our June Artifact of the Month — has traveled all around the country, three times from coast to coast, and survived a near calamity in 1994. Seventy years after beginning its journey it has come to rest back in Chapel Hill.

UNC plate

The plate was a gift to Charles Gremer and Grace Towery, Class of 1946. The two married four months after graduation and began the peripatetic life of a military family as Charles pursued a career in the Navy.

Charles Gremer & Grace Towery
Grace Towery and Charles Gremer in their senior class photos in 1946.

After transferring from Great Lakes, Illinois to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard in New York, Charles and Grace visited an aunt named Jenny, who gave them the plate in honor of their status as Tar Heels.

The family kept the plate through many moves and life events, taking it from Staten Island to Norfolk, Virginia, where it stayed during Charles’ time in Korea on the Battleship New Jersey; cross-country to Monterey, California; back across the country to Norfolk; then to Charleston; then San Diego; and finally to Los Angeles, where Charles began civilian life.

In LA, the plate held a place of honor perched atop a grand china cabinet. On January 17, 1994, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake just five miles from the Gremer home sent the plate sailing eight feet to the floor. It barely missed a ceramic tile table and, miraculously, suffered only a chip.

Grace took it to a professional restorer who repaired it and the family returned it to its place on the china cabinet — now with earthquake securing.

Charles and Grace Gremer today
Charles and Grace Gremer today

Twenty-three years later, Mr. & Mrs. Gremer write, “Now it is time to part ways. Charles and Grace are now moving to a smaller home and the plate is ready for a new home of its own. It has been a good companion with lots of shared memories. But it is a Tar Heel and we know that UNC will welcome.”

We’re pleased to include this storied piece in our collection, and to give it a new home in seismically stable Chapel Hill.

Epic art heist in Black Mountain College laundry room

“The artist Dorothea Rockburne… first met Robert Rauschenberg during their student days at Black Mountain College, the fabled school near Asheville, N.C., that was briefly the epicenter of the American avant-garde. One day, Ms. Rockburne was in the college laundry room unloading her wash from the dryer when she realized that her patchwork quilt was missing. ‘The next time I saw it was at the Leo Castelli Gallery,’ she recently recalled in a tone of disbelief, referring to the public debut of ‘Bed.’  ‘My first thought was: Son of a bitch! We were close friends.’

“In his defense, Rauschenberg, who died in 2008, at 82, could have cited Picasso’s oft-quoted [if not exactly original] remark about how ‘good artists copy, great artists steal.’ Granted, Picasso was referring to the theft of ideas, as opposed to actual objects….”

Malcolm X Debates Floyd McKissick in 1963

Numerous formative events took place in the first months of 1963 that shaped the trajectory of the Civil Rights Movement, and a number of those took place in North Carolina. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was especially active, and in January of that year, it organized a tour that brought writer James Baldwin through the state. In April 1963, CORE’s Floyd McKissick, the attorney and civil rights leader, organized a debate between himself and Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X over racial integration. McKissick sought to locate this event in his home of Durham, finally settling on a city-owned facility. The very afternoon of the event, however, they were suddenly left looking for a location when the city pulled its support. The shake-up at the last minute not only required a change in venue, but as options were quickly explored, the opportunity also arose for the two to debate publicly on the University of North Carolina campus the next day. This second debate is rarely mentioned today, but was covered in the UNC student newspaper at the time. Of additional interest, the Durham debate was documented by Herald-Sun photographer Harold Moore, and his unpublished photographs provide astonishing glimpses into an event that has received only brief attention.

Setting the Stage

The theme of the April debate was to be integration of the races versus separatism, with Floyd McKissick arguing the former, Malcolm X the latter. Malcolm X had been touring, recruiting for the Nation of Islam, and giving speeches that entire spring season. He was in Columbia, SC just a day before he arrived in Durham. McKissick was not only friendly with Black Muslims in Durham, but he served as attorney for both the Nation of Islam and the NAACP. In 1963, McKissick was elected Chairman of CORE.

When the debate was first proposed, both Duke University and North Carolina College (now NCCU) were considered, however the offer was rejected by both institutions. Eventually, a public auditorium was settled upon for the evening of Thursday, April 18th.

“Durham’s Black Muslims,” The Daily Tar Heel, April 10, 1963

The Nation of Islam and Malcolm X were frequent topics in the spring 1963 issues of the UNC student paper The Daily Tar Heel. March 5th saw the start of a four-part series by Henry Mayer dedicated to Black Muslims in America. In anticipation of the debate to be held just days away, the April 10, 1963 issue featured a full-page article called “Durham’s Black Muslims” by DTH editor Wayne King with photographs by Jim Wallace. The article features a photograph of Muhammad’s Mosque of Islam at 518 East Pettigrew in Durham, a center for Nation of Islam in the city, formed just the year before in 1962. The article also has a photograph of Marken’s Business Mart, listed in the 1963 Durham city directory as a car wash owned by Kenneth Murray at 402 East Pettigrew. The caption states that this establishment “may be financially affiliated with the movement.” The article names Murray, also known as Kenneth X, as minister of the Durham mosque, and a protégé of Baltimore’s Isaiah Karriem, a high-ranking figure in the movement.

Malcolm X arrived in Durham on April 18th to word that the debate was in jeopardy. At the last minute, their scheduled appearance at the city-owned Hill Recreation Center was abruptly canceled, their permit revoked by city officials. In a statement, Parks and Recreation head Harold Moses said that the Durham mosque that had scheduled the event had “misrepresented” themselves as a religious organization.

“Black Muslim Unit Denied Center’s Use,” Durham Morning Herald, April 19, 1963

Word spread fast and people took quick action. Wayne King, UNC student, interviewed Malcolm X on the phone about the cancellation, to which he responded, “the wrath of God would be called down upon the city of Durham for withholding the truth from the Negro people.”

To protest the denial of Malcolm X’s presence on her campus, NCC student Joycelyn McKissick, daughter of Floyd, transported him in her own car to a space where he could speak to her fellow students, earning her suspension from school for the transgression.

“Durham Hall Denied to Malcolm X,” The Daily Tar Heel, April 19, 1963

Black Muslims in Durham immediately rallied to provide a substitute venue for that night, albeit in a smaller, privately-owned space, and UNC student Henry Mayer helped to organize a debate on the same topic in Chapel Hill the next day.

The Debates

The debate in Durham did successfully take place on Thursday, April 18th, despite the last-minute change in location. The site was a place known locally as “Page’s Auditorium” at 1102 South Roxboro Road, a building owned by Wilbur W. Page. It was part of the building that also operated as Pine Street Taxi Company and Service Station. The Durham papers Morning Herald and Sun sent photographer Harold Moore to Page’s Auditorium that night. The Sun reported that about 150 people showed up for the debate on Roxboro Road, including many Duke students. Only a handful of articles covered the event, though, as what was published focused mainly on the controversy surrounding the location, and only used a head shot of Malcolm X. The following photographs, therefore, having never been in print, provide astounding views into a rare event in Durham’s history. The original negatives are part of the Durham Herald Co. Newspaper Photograph Collection.




“‘X’ Says Negroes Will Pass Whites,” The Daily Tar Heel, April 21, 1963


The hastily-arranged April 19th debate in Chapel Hill was first slated for Carroll Hall, then planned for Howell Hall, and finally, due to 1600 people overcrowding the building, moved to Memorial Hall. It was all organized by DTH journalist Henry Mayer and the Carolina Forum. Although photographs of this debate were not published in the student paper, and perhaps none exist, Bill Dowell does summarize some of the content in his April 21, 1963 DTH article. He quotes Malcolm X from that night: “The difference between liberals and conservatives is that the liberals have developed the art of using the Negro.”

The April 27th issue of the Carolina Times, their offices just down the street from the Muhammad’s Mosque of Islam on Pettigrew, announced, “Crowds Hear Muslim Debate: Throngs Attend in Durham, UNC; City Nixes Hall.” Considering that this article appeared on the front page, it is of note that editor Louis Austin also had a stated antipathy for his city’s Black Muslims.

Other noteworthy events that same month provide important context for these two debates: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birmingham Campaign began in early April and he was jailed on April 12th. Two days before the debate in Durham, King penned his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” On April 24th, Durham’s East End Elementary, a black school, was burned to the ground by an arsonist. Protests sparked when the dislocated students were not allowed to even temporarily attend another school with white children.

Two N.C. Horse Shows are “Heritage” Events

Scene During Annual Blowing Rock Horse Show

North Carolina is home to two horse shows designated as Heritage Competitions by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF). The USEF defines a Heritage Competition as a show that has been running for an extended period of time, makes a positive and important impact on the sport, and contributes to the broader community.

Both the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show and the Jump for the Children Horse Show received the designation in 2014. As of 2016, only 22 shows out of approximately 2,500 USEF-sanctioned shows had the prestigious Heritage Competition designation.

The Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show traces its origins to 1923, when Lloyd Manson Tate organized a horse show to entertain guests at the Green Park Hotel. Through the Great Depression, both world wars, the energy crisis and more, the show has grown and flourished. It is recognized as the oldest, continuous outdoor horse show in the United States.

1955 Blowing Rock Horse Show
1955 Blowing Rock Horse Show. Photo by Hugh Morton.

In its 95th year, the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show is a USEF ‘AA’ rated show where competitors vie for cash prizes and points within the USEF points system. For three weeks a year in the summer, competitors and spectators alike enjoy the beauty of horse sports at a historic facility high atop the Blue Ridge Mountains.

As the longest continuously-held fundraising event for Duke Children’s Hospital, the Jump for the Children Horse Show is now in its 34th year. Also a USEF ‘AA’ rated show, participants compete for cash prizes and points over six days at the Governor James B. Hunt Horse Complex in Raleigh each fall.

A thrilling spectacle at the show is the Duke Children’s Grand Prix, a jumping competition with a top prize of $50,000. A number of Olympic and International team show jumpers have taken the prize over the years.

A breakfast break that changed face of Raleigh

On this day in 1831: In Raleigh, a workman who goes to breakfast in the midst of soldering leaks in the zinc roof accidentally burns down the Capitol.

Backers of Fayetteville, a larger town with livelier commerce — that was just recovering from its own disastrous fire — will lobby unsuccessfully to have the capital relocated there.


Asheville: Once moviemaking hub, but results now scarce

“The book is a heartbreaker in many ways because out of more than 60 films made here between 1900 and 1929, only one survives [intact]. And every one of the lost films — every single one of them — contained priceless and irreplaceable images of the time and place in which they were made. If we could see them all, I truly believe it would alter the way we look at the history of Asheville.”

— Film historian Frank Thompson, author of  “Asheville Movies, Volume 1: The Silent Era,” quoted in Mountain Xpress (June 12)


Fame, it is fleeting (but obscurity can be, too)

Remember Stephen Lee, the Confederate colonel and headmaster whose historical significance was found — on second thought — not worthy of the state highway marker that had stood for 65 years in Asheville?

Now, thanks to some persuasive research by his great-great-granddaughter, the marker review committee has decided — on third thought — to restore Lee to his former perch alongside Tunnel Road.


Yet another way to knock off Julian: Instagram

“The clothier Alexander Julian once quipped that imitation is the sincerest form of aggravation. In the years after he designed the inaugural uniforms, in 1988, for the Charlotte Hornets, his purple and teal—especially the teal—started popping up on everyone from the Detroit Pistons to the San Jose Sharks and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“The streetwear label Supreme, founded six years after Julian’s colors débuted, loves both mischievous appropriation and nineties pop culture, so it’s not hard to see where it got the idea to drop a Hornets-inspired basketball jersey last year. That’s an easy reference to spot, but not every Supreme graphic and logo design has an origin that is so simple to place. Enter the Instagram account Supreme Copies….”

— From “Supreme Copies: The Instagram That Attempts to Decode Supreme Clothing” by Melvin Backman in the New Yorker (June 1)