On this day in 1861: L. P. Walker, Confederate secretary of war, approves purchase of an abandoned cotton mill at Salisbury for use as a prison for captured Union soldiers. To their later regret, the owners agree to take payment in Confederate bonds.
Before being closed four years later Salisbury prison will become notorious for its unhealthy and crowded conditions.
This ticket to the Cleveland County Negro Fair, July’s Artifact of the Month, highlights a little known part of North Carolina history, African American agricultural fairs.
Agricultural fairs held by and for African Americans took place in North Carolina starting in Wilmington in 1875. The largest and best-known African American fair in the state was the Negro State Fair. Organized by the North Carolina Industrial Association, the Negro State Fair was held annually in Raleigh beginning in 1879. Charles Norfleet Hunter, a former slave, educator, and well-known activist, led the formation of the North Carolina Industrial Association. He believed that in order to gain equal rights, African Americans must prove their worth to whites and highlight the value that black citizens contributed to the state and its economy.
The Negro State Fair was modeled on the North Carolina State Fair but was smaller in scale. In 1890, the North Carolina Agricultural Society, which hosted the North Carolina State Fair, allowed use of its fairgrounds and facilities to the Negro State Fair and the state eventually allotted $500 in annual funding. The North Carolina Industrial Association successfully ran the fair until 1930, three years after the state pulled its funding.
As legal segregation grew in the South in the 1890s and African Americans were excluded from attending many North Carolina fairs, African American fairs became increasingly important for their communities and provided a venue for African Americans to show their accomplishments and instill community pride. Even after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which made segregation illegal, some African American fairs continued. The Cleveland County Negro Fair provides an example of this. Founded in 1927, the Fair ran through at least 1966, the date of this ticket.
“The summer of 1967 was one of discontent for Joe Namath….The fascination with his swingin’ lifestyle that had dominated in 1966 had given way to criticism….
“When he arrived in Charlotte for the Jets’ fourth exhibition game, Namath was not in much of mood to speak to anyone….
“That night Namath was a guest of the Charlotte Sportsman’s Club at a $500-a-ticket fundraiser. [He] arrived in a lace-front shirt with a pinch of chewing tobacco in his gums and steady line of tumblers of Scotch on his lips….He made an off-color remark about Auburn [and] spoke of the ‘indignities heaped upon him by the scurrilous New York press’….When approached for autographs by local kids, Namath signed, ‘Best wishes, J.W. Smith.’
“Houston Chronicle reporter Wells Twombly wrote that ‘Possibly the last Southern city to be so honored by a guest was Atlanta, which once had Gen. William T. Sherman banging on its gates.’ ”
— From “Fun City: John Lindsay, Joe Namath, and How Sports Saved New York in the 1960s” by Sean Deveney (2015)
Several new titles just added to “New in the North Carolina Collection.” To see the full list simply click on the link in the entry or click on the “New in the North Carolina Collection” tab at the top of the page. As always, full citations for all the new titles can be found in the University Library Catalog and they are all available for use in the Wilson Special Collections Library.
“In mid-1955, the Supreme Court set about identifying its own relocation facility [in the event of nuclear war] and sent clerk Harold Willey to hunt for a spot. Willey surveyed several properties in North Carolina and reported back that ‘Because all large cities are considered to be prospective enemy targets, a hotel in a secluded small city, wherein approximately one hundred people could both live and work, with spaces available for a court room and clerical offices, seems a most appropriate facility for the Court.’ Making the case for the 141-room Grove Park Inn, Willey added that ‘A golf course adjoins the Inn and the new owners … plan to build a swimming pool.’
“A brief contract was inked on April 3, 1956… and the Cold War history sleuths at CONELRAD dug up Grove Park’s copy in a hotel filing cabinet in 2013. Lacking a sunset clause, it remains legally binding to this day. Let’s hope it will never be invoked. ”
“I remember that big hill everyone was sitting on from bottom to top. It was so steep that people were all on little perches. If you moved wrong you might roll down on folks below you…. You got up the hill by people pulling you up. Someone would would extend an arm to you at the bottom, pull you a few feet up and pass your hand off to the next person sitting above them — a people-powered hand escalator, lol…. It was a great wild crazy experience. It changed me forever.”
Previous Miscellany coverage of “North Carolina’s would-be Woodstock”: here and here and here.
On this day in 1844: Mary Baker Eddy, future founder of the Christian Science church, leaves Wilmington to return to her family farm in New Hampshire following the death of her husband from yellow fever.
She and businessman George Washington Glover, married barely six months, had lived in Wilmington while he planned a construction project in Haiti.
“Draft boards [during World War I] used their power to punish political opponents and reinforce existing power structures. This was especially true in the South, where white authorities used the draft against African-Americans. For instance, in Hyde County, for every white man sent into the army, the draft board sent three blacks, a figure twice their proportion of the overall population.
“The process was also blatantly corrupt. Some draft board members made small fortunes selling deferments and exemptions to otherwise draft-eligible single men. Graft by the chairman of the Pitt County board J.J. Laughinghouse became so egregious that federal officials forced his removal from office, although they maintained in public that he resigned due to health reasons.”
[While he was governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s] polio seemed almost forgotten — but would the nation at large react the same when he ran for president?
“To reassure any doubters, his old friend and navy superior Josephus Daniels penned an article for the Saturday Evening Post in September 1932…. ‘The fact that conservative and nonpolitical life insurance executives,’ Daniels wrote, ‘after thorough examination by medical experts, insured his life for $500,000 thus demonstrated by the highest testimony that physically he is sound.’
“While not perceived as cured, Franklin was generally regarded by his physicians as having overcome the worst of his disability….In fact, Franklin could get around only moderately better than he could a decade earlier; what [Warm Springs Rehabilitation Institute] had done was strengthen his upper body and, more important, his spirit….”