Ideals too big to fit Constitution

“The mystic Herman Husband had perhaps the furthest-reaching vision of American democracy. Having grown up a pampered and willful child on his parents’ Maryland plantation, he [later became] an abolitionist and apostle of nonviolent protest. By the 1760s he was living in the western wilds of North Carolina, a full-time activist against the creditor class and the corruption of government.

“Because Husband was both land-rich and a democratic idealist, he served as a bridge between the truly poor and the landowning class that could vote. His neighbors elected him to the North Carolina assembly in the provincial capital of New Bern, where he spoke so uncompromisingly against the corruption of the assembly that he was repeatedly jailed. Soon he was a leader of the North Carolina Regulation, an uprising that took over court towns, roughed up officials and tore down buildings. Husband tried to moderate the violence, but by the time the royal governor sent in troops, he was a marked man; he fled on horseback right before the Battle of Alamance….  In the grip of biblically inspired visions, Husband began developing and writing down his plans for a unified American nation founded on egalitarian principles.

“The national plan that Herman Husband devised does not resemble the U.S. Constitution written in 1787. It resembles the New Deal of the 1930s, the Great Society of the 1960s, and measures yet to be achieved even now….”

— From “Our Chief Danger: The story of the democratic movements that the framers of the U.S. Constitution feared and sought to suppress” by William Hogeland in Lapham’s Quarterly (Fall 2020)

FDR’s bank holiday passed Engelhard by

“The stock market crash in 1929 was met with a run on banks by depositors who wanted to pull their money out because they didn’t trust that it would be there later. In response, President Franklin Roosevelt, just two days after taking office, ordered all banks across the country to close for three days to allow the public’s mood to calm down. Off the beaten track, East Carolina Bank [also known as the Bank of Engelhard] remained open because bank officials didn’t receive the order until after banks were reopened….”

— From “The bank of Engelhard finally closes its doors” by Sandy Semans Ross in the Outer Banks Voice (May 25)

Details on North Carolina’s banks that did close.

Louis Armstrong + Martha Raye: Uh-oh

“[Louis Armstrong] did get a burst of publicity when Artists and Models was released [in 1937], featuring a blacked-up Martha Raye…. To the surprise of no one, their scene proved to be quite controversial….

“The Theatre Owners of North Carolina and South Carolina Inc. objected to what they described as ‘the appearance of Negroes in movie scenes with white persons on equal social basis….'”

— From “Heart Full of Rhythm: The Big Band Years of Louis Armstrong” by Ricky Riccardi (2020)

‘Epidemic conquered’? Not so fast

“On Nov. 10, 1918, a headline in The Asheville Citizen‘s editorial section declared: ‘An epidemic conquered.’ Evidence, the paper wrote, suggested overall cases of influenza were declining in the city. Within another week, the paper supposed, local health authorities would begin ‘the lifting of the various safeguards which have caused much inconvenience, it is true, but which, nevertheless, saved the community from the ravages of the scourge that has swept the world’….

“With restrictions loosened, influenza spread. On Dec. 1, 1918, The Sunday Citizen revealed that 32 new cases were reported within the previous 24 hours. The article continued:

“The health department states that the increase is undoubtedly due to the numerous gatherings and meetings of various kinds  held this last week. When it was announced that churches, schools and theatres would reopen, the board states, the majority took it for granted that all epidemic danger had passed and governed themselves accordingly. Health officials said little last night but they looked grave.”

— From “How wishful thinking helped spread the 1918 influenza” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (April 21, 2020)

Asheville’s ambitious aviatrix

“ ‘Girl Plans Solo Paris Hop as Shopping Trip,’ the Brooklyn Daily Eagle trumpeted, detailing [Uva Shipman] Minners’ hopes of becoming the first woman to make a trans-Atlantic solo flight. (Another rising aviation star, Amelia Earhart, would beat her to the feat a few months later, leading Minners to abandon the gambit.)”

— From “The little-known story of Asheville’s pioneering aviatrix” in Mountain Xpress (Feb. 22, 2020)

‘Chanteys moved up the Chesapeake…’

“[John Frye, author of  ‘The Men All Singing : the Story of Menhaden Fishing’] suggests that the menhaden chanteys originated in North Carolina, and later inspired regional variations. He quotes Charles E. Williams, a fisherman aboard the Stephen J. McKeever in 1929: ‘The chanteys moved up the Chesapeake Bay and on north.’

“It’s treacherous, of course, to romanticize labor—particularly labor that was often backbreaking, segregated, and poorly paid. But there is, nonetheless, real beauty in the chanteymen’s heavy, rhythmic singing, in the way the crew briefly blurred together, briefly becoming a single body. In a moment where we are looking for escape and communion wherever we can find it, #shanteytok, as it has come to be called, feels like a safe and welcome portal to anywhere but here.”

— From “The Delights of Sea-Chantey TikTok” by Amanda Petrusich in the New Yorker (Jan. 14)

Black crime wave dubious but dangerous

“When it comes to actual crimes — real rapes — at the turn of the twentieth century, the record is full of silences. There seems not to have been any investigation into the alleged crime wave in eastern North Carolina at the end of the 19th century, even though supposed black crime furnished the rationale for a bloody attack on blacks in Wilmington and for subsequent disfranchisement….”

— From Southern History Across the Color Line by Nell Irvin Painter (2002)

Which port city wins I-40?

“From the first seeds planted in 1963 to its eventual completion in 1990, Interstate 40 would go from a nearly 20-year oversight to a statewide priority.  The I-40 saga…. would place the state’s two port cities — Morehead City and Wilmington — into a decade-long competition in which only one could win….”

— From “To The Shore! – North Carolina’s Struggle to Build Interstate 40 to the Atlantic Coast” by Adam Prince at gribblenation.org (Aug. 14, 2016)

Non-slaveholders reconsider war

“Some upcountry non-slaveholding whites had already become disillusioned fighting the slaveholders’ war.

Alexander H. Jones of eastern North Carolina helped organize the 10,000-man Heroes of America, which laid an ‘underground railroad’ for White Unionists in Confederate territory to escape.

“‘The fact is,’ Jones wrote in a secret antiracist circular referring to the rich planters, that ‘these bombastic, highfalutin aristocratic fools have been in the habit of driving negroes and poor helpless white people until they think…. that they themselves are superior….”

— From “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi (2016)

Newspaper cartoons sparked 1898 coup

“There was no reckoning with the [News & Observer’s] role in the Wilmington coup until 2006, when Timothy B. Tyson, a historian at Duke University, authored a sixteen-page special section detailing the events. The editorial board also issued an apology….

“Without the News & Observer’s stories — and especially the cartoons — a hostile takeover would not have been possible.  ‘You can’t underestimate the heat involved in these political cartoons,’ he said. ‘They were the cable news of their day. You didn’t even have to be literate to understand them.'”

— From “On Atonement: News outlets have apologized for past racism. That should only be the start.” by Alexandria Neason, Columbia Journalism Review (Jan. 28)