Western N.C. Reads Ehle

Community reading programs are popping up all over North Carolina. We can’t think of a better way to get to know your neighbors, especially when the books chosen deal with the history and culture of our state. Folks throughout western North Carolina are participating in the fourth annual “Together We Read” program by reading and discussing The Road, John Ehle’s 1967 novel about the coming of the railroad to the North Carolina mountains. Ehle will be honored on Wednesday at a program at Western Carolina University.

Ehle’s 1965 non-fiction book, The Free Men, about the Civil Rights movement in Chapel Hill in the early 1960s, is an excellent companion to Timothy Tyson’s Blood Done Sign My Name. Tyson’s book has been a popular choice for community reading programs, already used in Wilmington and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

David Sedaris on Dogs

Sedaris The North Carolina Collection attempts to acquire translations of novels and other works by North Carolina authors. We’ve been particularly successful acquiring translations of popular novelists such as Orson Scott Card, Patricia Cornwell, and Nicholas Sparks. Hundeleben is something a little different—original verse (dog poems!) by Raleigh native David Sedaris, translated into German and amusingly illustrated.

Fall Book Preview

The Washington Post has published their great fall book preview, which includes a few works by North Carolina authors to which we can look forward.

The Life Around Me by Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons is a long-awaited sequel to her 1987 novel, Ellen Foster. Mirror to America, the memoir of John Hope Franklin, acclaimed historian and emeritus faculty member at Duke, will be published in November. And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the publication this month of Driven From Within, the fifth book by Michael Jordan.

Penguin Classics

We’ve heard a lot lately about Amazon.com’s offer of the Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection. For only $7,989.50, you’ll receive all 1,082 books in the collection. Before we rush to place our order, we thought we’d have a look to see how many North Carolinians were represented. We found three: Charles Chesnutt, Harriet Jacobs, and O. Henry. Since our interest lies primarily in Tar Heel authors, perhaps it would be more economical to order a la carte.

Cackalacky

Even though we pride ourselves on our knowledge of the history and culture of “North Cackalacky,” when it comes to this unusual nickname, we’re absolutely stumped. We’d heard the name for years, and it seems to be pretty widespread, be we can’t figure out where in the world it came from. We tried the usual authorities – Norman Eliason’s Tarheel Talk (UNC Press, 1956), and the comprehensive Dictionary of American Regional English (Harvard University Press, 1985-) – but with no luck.

The folks at Cackalacky Hot Sauce (note the nice photograph from the North Carolina Collection on their home page) are on the hunt as well. They’ve brought new attention to the name, but so far haven’t been able to dig up anything authoritative on its origin. If you have suggestions or ideas about how we came to be “Noth Cackalacky,” we’d love to hear them.

Jesse Helms on TV

Jesse Helms’s forthcoming memoir, Here’s Where I Stand, is scheduled to be published this fall by Random House. The News & Observer’s Rob Christensen had a preview in Friday’s paper. Christensen included several quotes from Helms’s television editorials. Longtime North Carolinians will remember that Helms first came to the public’s attention when he delivered the nightly editorial, entitled “Viewpoint,” on WRAL-TV in Raleigh. His editorials were often picked up and re-run througout the state on the Tobacco Radio Network. Helms appeared regularly on the station from 1960 until 1972, when he left to run for the Senate.

The North Carolina Collection has a full set of transcripts of the “Viewpoint” editorials. These are continually one of our most popular resources, with students and faculty using them to trace the development of Helms’s political philosophies, and to study his growing influence in North Carolina and national politics. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to view the editorials as they were originally televised. We asked WRAL several years ago and they said that they never kept copies of the editorials. In the days when broadcasts were filmed, it was simply too expensive to keep archival copies of everything, and they were recorded over.

April 1947: Journey of Reconciliation

This Month in North Carolina History

In 1946, the United States Supreme Court declared that the racial segregation of passengers on interstate buses was an “undue burden on interstate commerce” and could no longer be enforced. Encouraged by the decision, but dubious as to whether it would be followed, the Congress of Racial Equality sponsored a two week “Journey of Reconciliation” through the upper South to test the effectiveness of the Court’s decision.

In April 1947, sixteen people — eight African Americans and eight whites — set off on a tour of cities in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky. They traveled by bus with the express purpose of challenging existing Jim Crow laws.

The freedom riders entered North Carolina on April 11 and made stops in Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem. Bus drivers and police officers challenged the passengers at nearly every stop, resulting in arrests in Asheville and Chapel Hill.

One of the riders arrested in Chapel Hill was Bayard Rustin, who was on his way to becoming a prominent Civil Rights leader and is now perhaps best known as the organizer of the 1963 march on Washington where an estimated quarter of a million people gathered to hear Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Rustin was sitting in the front seat of a Trailways bus in Chapel Hill on April 13, and was ordered to move to the back. When he refused, he and the white man sitting next to him were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and for refusing to obey the order of the bus driver. Two more riders were arrested and all four were released on bond and taken to the home of Charles Jones, a local Presbyterian minister who agreed to host the travelers for the night. Before they could leave, a taxi driver assaulted one of the freedom riders, striking James Peck, a white man, in the head. Two cars filled with angry men followed the group back to Rev. Jones’s house where they made several threats before leaving. Wary of more violence if they stayed in Chapel Hill, Rustin and the others left for Greensboro that night.

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1946 decision overturning segregation on interstate carriers, the arrests of the freedom riders were upheld by the North Carolina Supreme Court. The North Carolina Court argued that because the passengers were not travelling outside of the state that day, they were not interstate travellers and thus the Supreme Court decision did not apply to them. Bayard Rustin spent twenty-two days on a prison chain gang in Roxboro.


Sources

George Houser and Bayard Rustin. We Challenged Jim Crow!: A Report on the Journey of Reconciliation, April 9-23, 1947. Congress of Racial Equality, [1947].

“4 Men Testing Law Against Segregation Placed Under Arrest.” The Chapel Hill Weekly, 18 April 1957.

“Race Incidents Arise After Bus Seating Arrests.” Daily Tar Heel, 14 April 1947.

Jim Peck, “The First Freedom Ride, 1947.” Southern Exposure, vol. 9 no. 1 (Spring 1981), pp. 36-37.

“State v. Andrew S. Johnson, Bayard Rustin, Igal Roodenko and Joseph A. Felmont.” North Carolina Reports 229, pp. 701-707. North Carolina Collection call number C345.4 N87 v.229

January 1958: The Lumbee Face the Klan

This Month in North Carolina History

On the night of January 13, 1958, crosses were burned on the front lawns of two Lumbee Indian families in Robeson County, N.C. Nobody had to ask who was responsible. The Ku Klux Klan had risen again in North Carolina, its ranks swelling after the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education calling for the desegregation of public schools. While the Court instructed schools to proceed with “all deliberate speed,” the Klan fought — often in the form of anonymous nighttime attacks — to slow the process of integration.

Robeson County in the 1950s had a uniquely tri-racial population. There were about 40,000 whites, 30,000 Native Americans, and 25,000 African Americans, each group with its own separate school system. Although the Klan had typically targeted African Americans, in early 1958 a group led by James W. “Catfish” Cole of South Carolina began harassing the Lumbees. One of the crosses burned on the night of January 13 was on the lawn of a Lumbee family that had recently moved into a predominantly white neighborhood, while the other was intended to intimidate a Lumbee woman who was said to have been dating a white man. Not content to leave it at this, the Klan planned a rally in Robeson County to be held just a few days later.

The rally was scheduled for the night of January 18, 1958, in a field near Maxton, N.C. The stated purpose of the gathering was, in the words of Catfish Cole, “to put the Indians in their place, to end race mixing.” The time and location of the rally was not kept secret, and word spread quickly among the local Lumbee population.

Reports vary about the number of people gathered on that cold night, but there were thought to have been around a hundred Klan members. They brought a large banner emblazoned with “KKK” and a portable generator, which powered a public address system and a single bare light bulb. When the meeting began, the arc of the dim light didn’t spread far enough for the Klansmen to see that they were surrounded by as many as a thousand Lumbees. Several young tribe members, some of whom were armed, closed on the Klan meeting and tried to take down the light bulb. The groups fought, and a shotgun blast shattered the light. In the sudden darkness, the Lumbees descended upon the field, yelling and firing guns into the air, scattering the overmatched Klansmen. Some left under police protection while others, including Catfish Cole, simply took to the woods.

News photographers already on the scene captured the celebration. Images of triumphant Lumbees holding up the abandoned KKK banner were published in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. Simeon Oxendine, a popular World War II veteran, appeared in Life Magazine, smiling and wrapped in the banner. The rout of the Klan galvanized the Lumbee community. The Ku Klux Klan was active in North Carolina into the 1960s, but they never held another public meeting in Robeson County.


Sources:
Gerald M. Sider, Lumbee Indian Histories: Race, Ethnicity, and Indian Identity in the Southern United States. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Adolph L. Dial, The Lumbee. New York: Chelsea House, 1993.

November 1920: Exum Clement

This Month in North Carolina History

Article about Lillian Exum Clement

On November 2, 1920, Lillian Exum Clement of Buncombe County was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives, becoming the first woman in the history of the state to be elected to the legislature. Although only twenty-six years old at the time, it was not the first of Clement’s firsts.

Clement was born near Black Mountain, and raised there and in Biltmore. She attended local schools and the Asheville Business College. After her formal schooling was done, but still eager for education and experience, she began work in the Buncombe County sheriff’s office while studying law in her spare time. Clement was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in 1917, the first woman in the state to open her own practice. One of the local judges gave her the nickname “Brother Exum,” which stuck with her for the rest of her career.

Clement quickly gained a reputation as a competent criminal lawyer and after several years of a successful practice, she decided to run for office. This was a bold decision, considering that at the time of the Democratic primary, the 19th Amendment had yet to be ratified and women would not vote in the election. Running against two men in the primary, Clement won by just 83 votes over her closest competitor. With the Democratic party firmly in control of the state, the general election was a mere formality, and Clement was swept into office by a commanding margin.

Once she reached Raleigh for the 1921 legislative session, Clement was not content with just being there. She was an active participant in the House, introducing at least seventeen bills, many of which were passed. Although one of her first bills — proposing private voting booths for elections — was defeated (some argued that other legislators opposed the bill because it would be impossible to bribe or intimidate voters if you couldn’t see them cast their ballots), Clement was successful in passing bills requiring testing of dairy herds and sanitary dairy barns and decreasing the number of years of abandonment required for a decree of divorce.

After her marriage in 1921, Clement decided not to run for office a second time. She was active in local civic groups and was a director of the state hospital in Morganton. Clement died of pneumonia in 1925.


Sources
Alice R. Cotten, “Stafford, Lilliam Exum Clement.” In Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, vol. 5. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

“Woman Legislator Travels Long Way To Capitol.” Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, N.C.), May 8, 1960. In North Carolina Collection Clipping File through 1975: biography, vol. 28, pp. 753-755.

Image Source:
News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), January 6, 1921.

October 1954: Hurricane Hazel

This Month in North Carolina HistoryPhoto by Roland Giduz of tree fallen on car in Chapel Hill

Fifty years ago this month, North Carolina was hit by Hurricane Hazel, at the time the greatest natural disaster in the state’s history. On the morning of October 15, 1954, Hazel slammed into the coast near the border between North Carolina and South Carolina, a strong category four storm packing winds of 155 miles per hour. Beachfront property along the southeastern coast was decimated, leaving entire sections where not a single structure was left standing. The storm moved due north, continuing to inflict damage. In Wilson, there were gusts of up to one hundred miles per hour and even in Chapel Hill, more than 150 miles from the coast, the storm remained strong, bringing sixty-eight mile per hour winds, uprooting trees, destroying homes, and dumping about four and a half inches of rain on the town.

The damage done by Hazel was catastrophic. Nineteen North Carolinians were killed, fifteen thousand buildings were destroyed, and thirty-nine thousand more were damaged. Thirty North Carolina counties were affected by the storm. Although some recent hurricanes have rivaled Hazel in the amount of damage measured in financial terms, none have topped its strength. In the fifty years since Hazel, no other storm at a strength of category four or higher has reached North Carolina.

Map showing path of Hurricane Hazel


Suggestions for Further Reading
Jay Barnes, North Carolina’s Hurricane History. Third edition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

“Hurricane Hazel Was Biggest Catastrophe Ever to Hit N.C.” Durham Morning Herald (Durham, N.C.), October 24, 1954.

“Town Pulls Through Hurricane, But Damage is Heavy.” Chapel Hill News Leader (Chapel Hill, N.C.), October 18, 1954.

Image Source:
Chapel Hill in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel. Photograph by Roland Giduz, 1954. Roland Giduz Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.