Wikipedia edit-a-thon: American Indians in North Carolina

Henry Owl photo
Henry Owl

In 1929, Henry Owl, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, became the first American Indian to graduate from the University of North Carolina.

Owl received a master’s degree in history with a thesis called “The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Before and After the Removal.” A year later, officials in Western North Carolina denied voting rights to Cherokees on the supposed basis of illiteracy. Owl pointed to his thesis as evidence to the contrary.

When officials pivoted and barred Cherokees from voting because they were not U.S. citizens, Owl testified before Congress. The federal government passed a law guaranteeing Cherokee suffrage — although Cherokees didn’t vote in North Carolina until after World War II.

Because of his achievements, Henry Owl’s name has been immortalized in the Virtual Museum of UNC History, the Sports Hall of Fame at Lenoir-Rhyne University (his undergraduate institution), and an endowed scholarship for UNC students.

It has not been immortalized in Wikipedia… at least, not yet.

On April 1, we hope to change that.

Wikipedia edit-a-thon

Next week, the North Carolina Collection will host its third Wikipedia edit-a-thon, with the theme American Indians in North Carolina. At the event, participants will create, update, and improve articles about people, places, events, and organizations associated with American Indian history in North Carolina.

Everyone is welcome, even if you’ve never edited Wikipedia before. Staff will be on hand to help with Wikipedia edits and find books and articles on topics that interest you. A list of suggested topics, and additional details, can be found on the event meet-up page.

Please bring a laptop if possible.

April 1, 5:00 to 8:45 p.m.
Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

Carolina Playmakers exhibit yields lucky find

Was it serendipity? Or the hand of providence?

As the staff of the North Carolina Collection Gallery prepared for our exhibit on the Carolina Playmakers, we contended with a number of difficult decisions about what to include. With dozens and dozens of playbills from which to select, sometimes the choice came down to factors as arbitrary as color.

Whatever the reason for it, we’re glad we selected this 1942 playbill — and we’re not the only ones.

1942 playbill
The playwright of the second play on the bill, A Man’s Game, was Robert Schenkkan, a UNC student from Brooklyn, New York. The role of Countess Stephanie in A Man’s Game was played by the lovely young co-ed Jean McKenzie.

After graduating from UNC, Schenkkan and McKenzie were married and had a son named after Robert. Robert Jr. would go on to become a professional, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

Through a lucky twist of fate, a friend of the younger Schenkkan visited the exhibit and saw the older Schenkkan’s name on the playbill. Mr. Schenkkan contacted us and we were pleased to offer him a copy of his father’s play.

Is it any surprise that the third play on the bill is called The Hand of Providence?

Exhibit extended

The exhibit “Making a People’s Theatre: Proff Koch and the Carolina Playmakers” has been extended through June 15, 2014. Who knows — there may be a serendipitous surprise in store for you, too!

Remembering Harry Golden with history on a stick

“In modern America, anyone who attempts to write satirically about the events of the day finds it difficult to concoct a situation so bizarre that it may not actually come to pass while his article is still on the presses.”

— The “(Harry) Golden Rule,” as posited by New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin

High on my personal list of underappreciated North Carolinians is Harry Golden, the Charlotte author and journalist whose proposals such as the Vertical Integration Plan hilariously exposed the vulnerability of segregationist doctrine.
Today at 2:30 p.m. a North Carolina highway marker will be unveiled at Golden’s home in the Elizabeth neighborhood, Seventh Street and Hawthorne Lane.
Just wondering: How ought Trillin’s “still on the presses” be updated for the digital age?

Sir Walter Raleigh as movie star

Sir Henry Yelverton, the king’s attorney general, was no friend to Sir Walter Ralegh. Yelverton owed his office to the influence of the Howards, the great and powerful Catholic family, secret pensioners of the king of Spain and long-time virulent enemies of Ralegh. And yet, in the attorney’s solemn address before the King’s Bench at Westminster on October 28, 1618, expressing His Majesty’s pleasure that Ralegh should die, there is a strange note of piety, of awe even, in the face of Ralegh’s destiny: ‘He hath been a star at which the world hath gazed; but stars may fall nay they must fall when they trouble the sphere wherein they abide.’ These words catch the sense, felt even in his own day, that Ralegh’s life had a very special quality, something almost mythic, something usually found only in the creations of art, which set it apart from the lives of other men. Ralegh himself did everything in his power to encourage such a feeling, for he was an actor, and at the great public moments of his career he performed unforgettably.

–from Sir Walter Ralegh: The Renaissance Man and His Roles by Stephen J. Greenblatt.

Greenblatt paints Ralegh (to use one of numerous ways to spell the man’s name) as an actor. Here at N.C Miscellany, we’d like to turn that around. How many actors have played Sir Walter on film and television?

In these days of the Web and IMDB it’s not too hard to find the answer. But before you go there, try to name as many as you can.

And why are we thinking about Sir Walter as a film character? Because Ralegh as a subject in film and literature is one of the topics of discussion for an event we’re sponsoring on April 1. We’re marking the 400th anniversary of publication of Ralegh’s The History of the World with a discussion among three men who’ve looked at aspects of Ralegh’s life and work. Christopher Armitage, who teaches in UNC’s Department of English, recently edited a volume titled Literary and Visual Ralegh. He’ll be joined by two contributors to the volume–Thomas Herron of East Carolina University and Julian Lethbridge of the University of Tübingen in Germany. Their discussion takes place at 3 pm in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room in Wilson Library, just down the hall from the North Carolina Collection. We hope you can join us.

Artifact of the Month: Holmes Stereoscope

Our October Artifact of the Month serves as an important reminder: Hollywood dazzle aside, the impulse to turn a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional experience is nothing new.

Holmes Stereoscope

The artifact in question, a 19th-century stereoscope, comes from the collection of the NCC Photographic Archives. The stereoscope gives the illusion of depth to a side-by-side pair of flat images, which, when viewed through the device, appear as one 3D image.

This model, the Holmes Stereoscope — invented by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr — was the most popular stereoscope in the 19th century.

Get the 3D experience in person

From now through February 2, you can view a selection of stereographic images from the Photographic Archives in the exhibit “Southern Scenery in 3D: 19th-Century Stereographic Photography.” The exhibit in the NCC Gallery includes scenes made by Rufus Morgan, father of noted North Carolina photographer Bayard Wootten, and offers a glimpse of stereographic scenes of the Wilmington waterfront and western North Carolina.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Wilson Library will host the event “North Carolina Through Student Eyes,” where student recipients of the 2012 and 2013 North Carolina Documentary Photography Award will present their projects.

For details on visiting Wilson Library, including hours, parking, and directions, see the Library’s hours and directions page.

Wikipedia edit-a-thon: Filling in the holes

NC Mutual Life Insurance Company
Employees of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company

One hundred fourteen years ago, the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company opened for business in Durham. As this article by Harry McKown explains, North Carolina Mutual grew to become the largest African American managed financial institution in the United States — no small feat for a company whose founders included a man born into slavery.

And yet, Wikipedia, one of the web’s largest reference sites, contains no entry for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company.

An event in Wilson Library on Sunday, April 14, will seek to remedy this and other Wikipedia oversights related to African American history in North Carolina. The event, UNC’s first Wikipedia edit-a-thon, will be hosted by the North Carolina Collection and sponsored by student groups at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science.

Participants will create, expand, and improve Wikipedia articles about African American history, culture, people, events, and institutions in North Carolina. No special topical knowledge or Wikipedia experience is needed. Bring a laptop and we’ll help you do the rest!

For more details and to RSVP, see the event page or email

Artifact of the Month: World War II ration book

“If you don’t need it, DON’T BUY IT.”

It sounds like the advice of a frugal mother, but during World War II those words were issued from the federal government to all Americans on the home front. It was only seventy years ago that U.S. citizens were asked to be judicious in their shopping, driving, and eating habits in an effort to conserve resources and support the war effort.

The government managed rationing by providing Americans with ration books like this 1943 example, which is our November Artifact of the Month.

The cards here include an “A” gasoline ration, which entitled the holder to four gallons of fuel, and a “B” ration — a supplemental mileage ration issued to citizens whose work on the home front supported the war effort in some way.

ration cards

The restrictions on driving were intended to conserve fuel, but more importantly they served to address a shortage of rubber. Most of the world’s rubber came from Southeast Asia, where rubber plantations were occupied by Japanese forces. Less driving meant less need to replace tires. In addition, Americans were asked to turn in any scrap of rubber they didn’t need, including old tires, raincoats, and garden hoses.

ration book instructions

This ration book belonged to Albert McKinley Coates and Gladys Hall Coates, who established UNC’s Institute (now School) of Government in 1931. Mrs. Coates’ occupation is listed in the ration book as “housekeeper,” a title that belied her contributions both to the Institute of Government and to the study of UNC history. (Because of her research and writing on University-related topics, a University history lecture series bears her name.)

ration cards

World War II at UNC-Chapel Hill

The ration book represents just one way in which World War II changed the lives of a nation and a town. This Sunday, the Chapel Hill Historical Society will present a talk that looks more deeply into the war as it played out locally.

In honor of Veterans Day, former UNC University Archivist Janis Holder will talk about the University’s contributions to the war effort and how WWII transformed the campus, particularly with the establishment of the Navy Pre-Flight School.

This free, public event takes place from 3:00 to 5:00 at the Society Office, 523 East Franklin Street (lower level of old Chapel Hill Museum building). A reception will follow the program. See the attached flyer (PDF) for more information, or call the Chapel Hill Historical Society at 919-929-1793.

Glenda Gilmore lecture on the history of education in North Carolina

We hope you’ll join us this afternoon for a free public lecture by Yale historian Glenda Gilmore. The details:

“Knowledge Capital and Human Flourishing: Educating North Carolinians, 1865–1970”
Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012
Wilson Special Collections Library
5:30 pm, Pleasants Family Assembly Room

The lecture is the keynote address for the statewide conference New Voyages to Carolina: Defining the Contours of the Old North State. Gilmore says her talk will examine “what the history of education in North Carolina has to tell us about the current school crisis.”

The lecture is sponsored by the North Carolina Collection, the Friends of the Library, the Center for the Study of the American South, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of History, the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, and the Historical Society of North Carolina.

About Dr. Gilmore

Gilmore (UNC Ph.D. ’92) is the Peter V. and C. Van Woodward Professor of History at Yale. Her books include Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919–1950 (W. W. Norton, 2008) and Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920 (University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

For more information, contact Liza Terll, Friends of the Library, (919) 548-1203.