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.

September 1802: Spaight-Stanly Duel

This Month in North Carolina History

Portraits of Spaight and Stanly

In the early nineteenth century, North Carolina men from all walks of life often resorted to violence to settle quarrels and arguments. For those near the lower end of the social scale this usually meant fists and bad language. For those who considered themselves gentlemen, it often meant a duel. Preceded by a formal exchange of challenge and response, a duel with swords or pistols continued until the offended party declared that honor had been satisfied or until one of the combatants was wounded or killed. In September, 1802, North Carolinians were shocked by a fatal duel involving two of the state’s leading citizens.

Richard Dobbs Spaight, by the age of 44, had had a distinguished career in North Carolina politics. Spaight had fought for the patriot cause in the Revolution under General Caswell, served several terms in the North Carolina House of Commons, represented North Carolina in both the Continental Congress and the United States Congress, and been elected the first native-born governor of the state. Spaight’s opponent in the duel, John Stanly, was 28 in 1802, but had already followed a Princeton education with service in the North Carolina General Assembly. In 1802 he was the United States Congressional Representative from the district once served by Spaight. Both men lived in New Bern and were members of the Jeffersonian Republican Party.
Trouble began when friends advised Spaight that Stanly had raised questions about Spaight’s allegiance to the Republican Party. An angered Spaight demanded that Stanly “…give me that satisfaction which one gentleman has a right to demand of another.” Several more letters were exchanged between the two men which appeared to settle the matter, and Stanly gave Spaight permission to clear the air by publishing their correspondence. In forwarding their letters to the New Bern Gazette, however, Spaight added several remarks which Stanly found offensive. This led to an increasingly heated exchange in the newspaper and finished with Stanly distributing a handbill in which he accused Spaight of wishing to “strut the bravo” with remarks which showed a “malicious, low and unmanly spirit.” In reply, Spaight published a flyer accusing Stanly of being “a liar and scoundrel.” Stanly challenged Spaight and the two men and their seconds met at 5:30 on the afternoon of September 5th behind the Masonic Hall in New Bern. Standing opposite each other, armed with pistols, the two men exchanged fire three times with no damage except a tear in Stanly’s coat. On the fourth exchange Spaight was hit in the side. He died the next day.

There was general shock and outrage in the state over the loss of so distinguished a leader as Richard Dobbs Spaight. Stanly defended himself eloquently in a letter to Governor Benjamin Williams who issued a pardon absolving him from legal guilt. The General Assembly, however, passed on November 5, 1802, a bill entitled “An Act to Prevent the Vile Practice of Dueling Within This State.” The new law provided that anyone who participated in a duel would be heavily fined and barred from any office of trust or profit in state service. If an individual were the survivor of a duel to the death, he and any who assisted him would hang “without benefit of clergy.”

The act of 1802 put North Carolina on record as opposing dueling, but it did not stop the practice completely. For one thing, the act only applied to duels within the state. North Carolinians could cross the border into either South Carolina or Virginia where the practice was tolerated. The prohibition against dueling itself was often ignored by those who respected the old custom more than the new law. Gradually, however, dueling became less common until it disappeared in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Wellman, Manly Wade, “The Vile Practice of Dueling: John Stanly and Richard Dobbs Spaight. New Bern, 1802,”  The New East, 4:5 (October, 1976): 9-11, 45-46.

Johnson, Guion Griffis. Antebellum North Carolina: a social history. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1937.

August 16, 1918: Rescue at Sea

This Month in North Carolina History


The Atlantic waters off the Outer Banks of North Carolina are infamous for shipwrecks. More than six hundred vessels have been lost in this “Graveyard of the Atlantic” to a combination of strong currents, dangerous shoals, and sudden storms. In wartime, particularly during the twentiety century, human malice exceeded even natural catastrophe as a destroyer of ships and sailors.

In both World War I and World War II German submarines found the vicinity of the banks a rich hunting ground and almost 100 ships were lost. Through the first half of the nineteenth century aid to ships and seamen wrecked on the Outer Banks came from local people acting as the need arose. In 1789 the Federal government assumed responsibility for the construction of a string of lighthouses along the North Carolina coast from Cape Hatteras to Cape Fear.

In addition to the lighthouses, seven lifesaving stations were constructed along the coast from Currituck Beach in the north to Little Kinnakeet in the south. At each location a station keeper and at least six surfmen remained ready around the clock to go to the aid of ships in distress. The lifesaving crews operated from the beach piloting heavy lifeboats through the surf and out to stricken vessels to save passengers and crew.

Of the many daring rescues attempted by the Lifesaving Service one of the most famous involved the sinking of the British tanker Mirlo on August 16, 1918, off of the shores of Bodie Island. The Mirlo was working its way up the North Carolina coast bound for Norfolk with a load of gasoline from New Orleans. She safely passed Cape Hatteras and was near Wimble Shoals off Bodie Island when she struck a mine layed by the German submarine U-117.

The resulting explosion was seen by Captain John Allen Midgett and the crew of the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station. Midgett and his men launched their power lifeboat through the surf into a rising wind and made for the Mirlo. Two boats had been launched successfully from the ship, but a third had capsized and remained floating upside down near the Mirlo with a number of desperate sailors clinging to the keel as burning gasoline from the sinking ship spread steadily nearer.

Captain Midgett found a narrow lane in the flaming sea and guided his boat along it until it reached the overturned craft. The sailors were taken safely aboard, and the Chicamacomico lifeboat moved out of the burning gasoline, located the other two boats and brought all three to safety on the beach. For their courageous action and superb seamanship, Captain Midgett and his crew were awarded Gold Lifesaving Medals of Honor from the United States and Victory Medals from the government of Great Britain. Later the men of the Chicamacomico Station received Grand Crosses of the American Cross of honor from the United States Coast Guard.

The Lifesaving Stations were abandoned by the Coast Guard after World War II in favor of more modern and sophisticated tools and methods of aiding ships in distress. The Chicamacomico Station, however, has been carefully restored and stands as a monument to the brave surfmen of the Lifesaving Service.


Mobley, Joe A. Ship Ashore! The U.S. Lifesavers of Coastal North Carolina. Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, 1994.

Stick, David. Graveyard of the Atlantic: shipwrecks or the North Carolina coast. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1952.

July 1963: The North Carolina Fund

This Month in North Carolina History

lbjOn July 18, 1963, the state of North Carolina began an “all-out assault on poverty” with the incorporation of the North Carolina Fund. The North Carolina Fund was an innovative program designed, administered, and operated by local communities. It was the first project of its kind in the country.

In the early 1960s, many North Carolinians were in trouble. Historians James L. Leloudis and Robert Korstad describe the economic conditions in the state when Governor Terry Sanford took office in 1961:

North Carolina’s factory workers earned some of the lowest industrial wages in the nation; thirty-seven percent of the state’s residents had incomes below the federal poverty line; half of all students dropped out of school before obtaining a high school diploma; and one-fourth of adults twenty-five years of age and older had less than a sixth-grade education and were, for all practical purposes, illiterate.

By 1960 the state’s rate of growth had been falling for decades, in part because of heavy emigration due to the declining number of agricultural jobs. Governor Sanford promised to experiment with new programs and ideas in order to enable North Carolinians to compete in a rapidly changing society.

The North Carolina Fund was established as an independent, non-profit corporation. Incorporated on July 18, 1963, by Governor Sanford, Charles H. Babcock, C.A. McKnight and John H. Wheeler, the Fund was financed by a seven million dollar grant from the Ford Foundation and by additional funding from Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation.

Having secured funding and organized a Board of Directors and Executive Committee composed of many of the state’s most prominent citizens, the agency established program offices in eleven urban and rural counties across the state. This decentralized structure was designed to permit each office to coordinate locally administered public and social services and to assist the poor by developing an approach unique to each community’s needs.

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson successfully pushed the U.S. Congress to pass the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act — a piece of legislation shaped both by Governor Sanford and Executive Director George Esser and the experience of the nascent North Carolina Fund — and the direction of the state’s antipoverty initiative took a new turn. On May 7, 1964, President Johnson, accompanied by Governor Sanford, visited the home of tenant farmer William D. Marlow near Rocky Mount, to promote the President’s “War on Poverty.”

This new national program, the cornerstone of which was the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), would administer millions of dollars in federal funding for the creation of local anti-poverty projects across the country and offered the possibility for expanding existing anti-poverty efforts. As the OEO called for the creation of community action programs developed with the help of the people the programs would serve, the North Carolina Fund instructed its own local programs to submit proposals to the federal agency with an increased emphasis in grassroots community development. Within a year of the Fund’s incorporation a number of these applications were approved and many local offices soon became not only federally-funded Community Action Agencies but partners in the national War on Poverty.

The North Carolina Fund developed a variety of programs across the state, including: the North Carolina Volunteers, a service corps initiative that trained college students to work in rural communities; a program to train community action technicians (CAT) to work in North Carolina and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA); a summer internship and curriculum development program; academic research on poverty and economic development in North Carolina; daycare, home, and lifestyle management programs such as sewing and cooking classes, tutoring for school children, and adult literacy programs; community action and civic engagement programs; manpower and economic development initiatives such as Head Start and Neighborhood Youth Corps programs; and low-income housing development.

Over the next five years the Fund’s staff and volunteers touched the lives of countless North Carolinians and its programs and services affected communities across the state. However, many lawmakers began to question the uses of Fund resources and services, especially when some North Carolina Fund programs became involved with local black freedom movements. By 1968, according to historians Leloudis and Korstad,

“[T]he Fund’s future was in peril. “The agency “had expended its initial foundation grants, which had been awarded for a five-year period, and the national War on Poverty was under siege. When the Fund’s philanthropic backers offered to extend their support, its leaders declined. In part, they held to a vision of the Fund as a temporary and experimental agency. The founders had no desire to see their work routinized; to allow such a development, they insisted, would be to sacrifice innovation to the very forms of inertia that had for so long crippled the nation’s response to its most needy citizens.”

At the end of 1968 the North Carolina Fund disbanded, spinning off many of its successful state-wide programs into independent non-profit organizations.

Suggestions for further reading:
James L. Leloudis and Robert R. Korstad, “Citizen Soldiers; The North Carolina Volunteers and the South’s War on Poverty,” in Elna C. Green, ed., The New Deal and Beyond: Social Welfare in the South since 1930 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2003), pp. 138-162.

LeMay, Erika N. “Battlefield in the Backyard: A Local Study of the War on Poverty.” M.A. Thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1997

Alt, Patricia Maloney. “The Evolution of Community Action: Training Goals and Strategies of the North Carolina Fund.” M.A. Thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1971.

Archival Resources:
North Carolina Fund Clippings: People, General Articles, and History of the Fund, 1963-1969. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

North Carolina Fund Records (#4710). Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Billy Ebert Barnes Collection (# 34), containing a number of photographs of North Carolina Fund people and activities. North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) (Series O. Foundation History). Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

George H. Esser Papers (#4887). Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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.

June 1756: Birth of William Richardson Davie

This Month in North Carolina History


William Richardson Davie, the “Father of the University of North Carolina,” was born on June 22, 1756, in the Parish of Egremont, County Cumberland, England.

His parents, Archibald and Mary Richardson Davie, were Scottish but had moved to the northwest of England prior to his birth. The future soldier and statesman immigrated with his parents and siblings to the Waxhaws region of South Carolina around the time he was eight years old.

The exact reasons for the Davie family leaving England are open to speculation. Some conjecture has centered on Davie’s uncle and namesake, William Richardson. Coming to America in the early 1750s, Richardson was ordained by the Presbyterian Church in 1758. After a brief mission trip among the Cherokee Indians, he accepted a call to serve the Waxhaw Presbyterian Church in Craven County, South Carolina.

Richardson wisely invested and nurtured an inheritance and his income as minister, so by the early 1760s he was a well-established member of the Waxhaws area. This material prosperity, however, did not diminish Richardson’s disappointment that he and his wife remained childless. In an attempt to fill the void, Richardson convinced his sister, Mary, and her family to move to the backcountry of South Carolina in 1764.

Davie enjoyed a comfortable childhood and the beginnings of a classical education while growing up near his uncle. He attended Queen’s College, later Queen’s Museum, in Charlotte before enrolling in the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University). Graduating in 1776, Davie moved to Salisbury, North Carolina, to study law in the office of Spruce Macay. The mounting conflict of the Revolutionary War forced Davie to suspend his studies and immediately involve himself as a Whig partisan fighter in the North Carolina Piedmont. Eventually, he would climb to the rank of commissary general, serving Nathaniel Greene’s Southern Army during the last years of hostilities.

As did many Revolutionary War leaders, Davie translated military success and prowess on the battlefield into achievement in the world of politics. After the conflict, he moved to Halifax, North Carolina, to practice law and was elected as a representative to the General Assembly. In 1787 he was selected by the legislature as one of North Carolina’s delegates to the Federal Convention in Philadelphia, which drafted the United States Constitution. Although Davie did not stay to sign the final document, he successfully fought for North Carolina’s eventual ratification.

It was in the General Assembly, however, that Davie would earn the title by which he is still known today. He proved to be the major force in satisfying the requirements of Section 41 of North Carolina’s constitution, which stated, “all usefull [sic] learning shall be duly encouraged and promoted in one or more universities.”

In 1789 Davie introduced a bill to establish the University of North Carolina and led the charge to secure its passage. Furthermore, his involvement with the University did not end with its creation: he served on the Board of Trustees, presided at the cornerstone laying ceremony of the first building, helped to formulate its first curriculum, consulted on selecting faculty members, procured additional financial support, donated books and other artifacts, and took part in the many other activities needed to launch the University. Even after moving back to South Carolina in late 1804, Davie continued to correspond with and give advice to the University’s trustees.

Although Davie would go on to serve as North Carolina’s governor from 1798 to 1799 and as a minister plenipotentiary to France from 1799 to 1800, his main contribution to his adopted country and state remains as “Father” of the nation’s first public university.

Suggestions for Further Reading
Blackwell P. Robinson. William R. Davie. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1957.

R. D. W. Connor, Hugh T. Lefler, and Louis R. Wilson, Eds. A Documentary History of the University of North Carolina, 1776-1799 (2 vols.). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953.

William D. Snider. Light on the Hill: A History of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Kemp Plummer Battle. History of the University of North Carolina. Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton, 1912. Available online at Documenting the American South.

May 1925: Carolina Coal Company Mine Explosion

This Month in North Carolina History

News & Observer. [Raleigh, N.C.] 29 May 1925.
At 9:40 in the morning on May 27, 1925, a massive explosion shook the town of Coal Glen, N.C. “All at once, we heard this big noise, like booooom, and black smoke just boiled and rolled up in the sky,” recalled Margaret Wicker, who was a young girl at the time. The blast came from the Deep River Coal Field, where local miners were working nearly a thousand feet underground. The explosion, probably touched off by either coal dust or natural gas, was devastating: fifty-three miners were killed.

Ben Dixon McNeill covered the catastrophe for Raleigh’s News & Observer as a correspondent and photographer. His first-person accounts appeared on the newspaper’s front page for five straight days and included a retelling of his descent into the mine on May 31st. Seven photographs accompanied his articles on May 28th and 29th; the two images displayed here appeared in the latter issue with a caption that stated the photographs “need no explanation.”

The tragedy helped to speed passage of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act, passed in 1929. North Carolina was the forty-fourth state to pass such legislation.

News & Observer. [Raleigh, N.C.] 29 May 1925.

Historical Background

The presence of Deep River coal was first noted in print in 1820 in a letter to the American Journal of Science by Professor Denison Olmsted, chair of chemistry, mineralogy, and geology at the University of North Carolina. Olmsted, and later H. M. Chance in an 1885 report, noted that earlier uses of coal to meet local needs most likely dated to before 1775. The Deep River Coal Field is the only noteworthy source of coal in the state. There are some “sporadic deposits,” as Chance described them, in the Dan River region from the Virginia border southwest to Germanton on the border between Stokes and Forsyth Counties.

Attempts to develop commercial mining efforts in the Deep River Coal Field began during the early 1850s, and had a rocky history. The Western Railroad, chartered in 1852, was the first railroad to reach into the region. Completed in 1863, its purpose was to connect the coalmines centered at the village of Egypt (renamed Cumnock in 1895) to the riverside port of Fayetteville on the Cape Fear to the southeast. Coal was mined at three towns within a four-and-a-half mile band, all within close proximity of the Deep River: Egypt, Gulf (upstream to the west of Egypt) and Farmville (downstream and directly to the east of Egypt).

The mine at Egypt closed down in 1870 and remained flooded until 1888. Three years earlier, in 1885, H. M. Chance submitted his “Report on an Exploration of the Coalfields of North Carolina,” which identified two coal beds between Egypt and Farmville that might be worthy of thorough exploration, but doubted the likelihood of large scale production. Furthermore he did not believe further expenditures would be justified outside of the limited area. When Chance described Deep River Coal Field, he listed eight “Obstacles to Successful Mining,” he wrote:

In the Richmond coalfield great trouble has been caused by what is called spontaneous combustion. Judging from the similarity of the coals it seems possible that this same difficulty may obtain here. While this is a mere supposition, it is one that cannot safely be ignored.

The Egypt mine reopened in 1888 and ran continuously through 1902 after sizeable gas explosions in 1895 and 1900, and financial difficulties once again forced closure. In 1915, Norfolk Southern Railroad obtained the property and ran the mine under the name of Cumnock Coal Company, the word Egypt having become synonymous with explosions and failures. The company supplied coal primarily for railroad purposes and was a small operation. In September 1922 the Erskine Ramsey Coal Company purchased the company with plans to significantly enlarge the enterprise and its output. Around 1921, the Carolina Coal Company developed a mine on the site of the old Farmville village on the Chatham County side of the Deep River, less than two miles east of the Cumnock Mine.

There is some confusion over the name of the event. The News and Observer called the event the “Cumnock Mine Disaster” in its initial coverage and a negative envelope in the Ben Dixon McNeill Collection carries the same title. The Cumnock Mine, however, was not the mine where the accident occurred. Farmville was later renamed Coalglen, or alternately Coal Glen at a date not readily available. The disaster has since been referred to in association of one of these three nearby locations. The dateline in the New York Times is from Coal Glen.

Printed Sources:

“Red Sand Stone Formation of North Carolina: Extract of a letter from Professor D. Olmstead, of the College at Chapel-Hill, North-Carolina, dated Feb 26, 1820.” American Journal of Science, 2:1 (April 1820), 175-176.

Wilkes, Charles. Report on the Examination of the Deep River District, North Carolina. Caption title: Report of the Secretary of the Navy, communicating the report of officers appointed by him to make the examination of the iron, coal and timber of the Deep River country, in the state of North Carolina, required by a resolution of the Senate. [Washington, 1859.]

Report on an Exploration of the Coal Fields of North Carolina: made for the State Board of Agriculture. Raleigh, N. C.: P. M. Hale, state printer and binder, 1885.

Campbell, Marius R. and Kent W. Kimball. The Deep River Coal Field of North Carolina. Prepared by United States Geological Survey, in cooperation with the North Carolina Geological and Economic Survey, 1923.

Coal Deposits in the Deep River Field, Chatham, Lee, and Moore Counties, N.C.: Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1952.

Reinemund, John A. Geology of the Deep River Coal Field, North Carolina. Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1955.


World Wide Web Sources:

Margaret Wicker: The Coal Glen Mine Disaster

The Coal Glen Mining Disaster


Image Source:

News & Observer. [Raleigh, N.C.] 29 May 1925.

Photographs cropped as they appeared in the newspaper. Originals in the Ben Dixon McNeill Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, North Carolina Collection, Photographic Archives.

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.


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

March 1863: The Salisbury Bread Riot

This Month in North Carolina History

Account of Salisbury bread riot from Carolina WatchmanOn the 18th of March, 1863, the streets of Salisbury, North Carolina, were invaded by a group of about 50 determined local women, identified only as wives and mothers of Confederate soldiers. The women believed that local merchants had been profiteering by raising the prices of necessary foods and demanded that the merchants sell these goods at government prices. When the merchants refused the women broke down one shop door with hatchets and threatened other storekeepers. What a local newspaper described as the “Female Raid” netted the women twenty three barrels of flour as well as quantities of molasses, salt, and even twenty dollars in cash.

The Salisbury “Bread Riot,” and the more widely known food riot in Richmond, Virginia, also in 1863, are dramatic evidence of the stresses on local life brought on by the Civil War. Volunteers for the Confederate army from Salisbury and surrounding Rowan County at the beginning of the war were by and large young, unmarried men. In 1862 demand for fresh troops brought about the increasing enlistment of older men with wives and families. In a county such as Rowan, with a large number of small farms, the absence of a husband and father was a serious economic loss. The failure of the county’s attempt to provide for soldiers’ families also contributed to the hardship. The fact that the women involved in the incident were never prosecuted is evidence of the understanding and sympathy of their neighbors. The Carolina Watchman, which reported the incident, extended its most scathing criticism not to the women, but to the county commissioners who failed to provide adequate aid for soldiers’ families and who should “go, all blushing with shame for the scene enacted in our streets on Wednesday last.”Image of Confederate Monument in Salisbury

Graham, Christopher A. “Women’s Revolt in Rowan County,” Columbiad: a quarterly review of the War Between the States, vol. 3:1 (Spring 1999); pp. 131-147.

Brawley, James S. Rowan County: a brief history. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1974.

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.

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.