“[As recounted in ‘The Cigarette: A Political History’ by Sarah Milov, 2019] The cigarette century started slowly. Before the First World War, smoking had doubtful associations for most Americans. James Buchanan Duke’s American Tobacco Company pioneered the manufacture of desire by surrounding cigarettes with Orientalist fantasy, but the unintended consequence of such advertising was to reinforce the connections in the popular mind between smoking and foreigners or immigrants: hot-blooded Italians, swarthy Turks, but not manly Anglo-Saxons….
“The war transformed cigarettes from symbols foreignness to emblems of patriotism….”
— From “Pinhookers and Pets” by Jackson Lears in London Review of Books
“On a frosty February morning in North Carolina’s Piedmont region [near Burlington], the enterprising trio who has finally broken America’s strange truffle curse walks beneath orderly rows of loblolly pine, trying very hard not to step on the precious nuggets beneath their feet….
“For the past two years, I’ve been hunting truffles around the world for a forthcoming book. I’ve followed some very muddy dogs through medieval Italian landscapes in the dead of night. I’ve dug black truffles in the arid oak plantations of the Spanish highlands. I’ve watched deals go down in Hungarian parking lots. I’ve seen stupendous truffle patches. But I’ve never seen a patch as productive as the one in these pines — especially not in America, where truffle farming has been a 20-year train wreck….”
— From “Has the American-Grown Truffle Finally Broken Through?” by Rowan Jacobsen in Smithsonian magazine (June)
A decade ago North Carolina’s fledgling truffle growers found a different way to make national headlines.
“On April 29, 1864, a delegation of six black men from North Carolina—some born free, others enslaved—came to the White House to petition Lincoln for the right to vote. As the men approached the Executive Mansion, they were directed to enter through the front door—an unexpected experience for black men from the South, who would never have been welcomed this way in their home state. One of the visitors, Rev. Isaac K. Felton, later remarked that it would have been considered an ‘insult’ for a person of color to seek to enter the front door ‘of the lowest magistrate of Craven County, and ask for the smallest right.’ Should such a thing occur, Felton said, the black ‘offender’ would have been told to go ‘around to the back door, that was the place for niggers.’”
“In words that alluded to the Sermon on the Mount, Felton likened Lincoln to Christ:
“We knock! and the door is opened unto to us. We seek, the President! and find him to the joy and comfort of our hearts. We ask, and receive his sympathies and promises to do for us all he could. He didn’t tell us to go round to the back door, but, like a true gentleman and noble-hearted chief, with as much courtesy and respect as though we had been the Japanese Embassy he invited us into the White House.”
“Lincoln spoke with the North Carolinians for some time. He shook their hands when they entered his office and again when the meeting ended. Upon returning home, the delegation reported back to their neighbors about how ‘[t]he president received us cordially and spoke with us freely and kindly.’ ”
— From “Black Lives Certainly Mattered to Abraham Lincoln” by Jonathan W. White in Smithsonian magazine (Feb. 10, 2021)
“When the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed ‘Empire’ at the nearby Varsity Theatre in 2010, the audience heard curses from the rear of the darkened cinema, said Allison Portnow Lathrop, public programs manager at the Ackland.
“The projectionist was losing a bout with the two antiquated projectors used to show the film’s 10 full reels. Later, a fire almost broke out.
“Ms. Lathrop had hired eight musical groups, booking each to play during an hour of the film. Near the end of the final reel, a local noise band, Y Fuego Mod, set off sparks during a set that mixed tools, scrap metal and amplifiers.
” ‘I really thought, “My job is over here. I’m going to be fired–if we all make it out alive,” ‘ Ms. Lathrop said. No one was hurt, and the projector kept rolling, after emergency exits were opened to air out the fumes.”
— From “Sick of Hollywood Action Movies? Warhol’s Epic Is an 8-Hour Shot of the Empire State Building” by Brenda Cronin in the Wall Street Journal (Jan. 10, 2019)