“In western North Carolina, some members of the Eastern Cherokee band expressed a willingness to serve with the Confederacy, but racism nearly kept them out of the ranks. William Thomas, an influential friend of the Cherokees, tried to get a state bill passed authorizing him to raise a Cherokee battalion. The legislature voted it down, citing fears [it] might confer citizenship on the Cherokees.
“In fact, the Cherokees were already citizens of North Carolina, though rarely treated as such, by virtue of previous treaty agreements. One of the bill’s leading opponents quipped that he would as soon be seen alongside free blacks in a voting booth as to associate with Cherokees.
“Undeterred, Thomas sought Jefferson Davis’s permission to enlist Cherokees. Davis readily agreed, giving Thomas a colonel’s commission…. From early 1862 through the war’s end, Thomas’s Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders ranged through the mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, enforcing conscription, impressing supplies and rooting out Union sympathizers.”
— From “Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War” by David Williams (2008)
Thanks to Michael Hill for this list of state highway historical markers approved by the advisory committee May 25:
— Pea Island Lifesavers. Only U.S. Lifesaving Station manned by black crew. Led by Richard Etheridge, 1879-1899.
— George H. White, 1852-1918. Represented the state’s “Black Second” district, U.S. House, 1897-1901. Last black Southerner in Congress for 72 years. Lived two blocks east. [Tarboro]
— Anna J. Cooper, 1858-1964. Educator, orator & early black feminist. Graduate, St. Augustine’s. Author, A Voice from the South (1892). Grave 2 1/2 blks. S. [Raleigh]
— Fairgrounds Speedway. After 1928 popularized Indy-style car racing. Site hosted the last NASCAR race on dirt track, 1970. Half-mile oval was 250 yds. SW. [Raleigh]
— Lewis Leary, 1835-1859. Free black abolitionist & conspirator in 1859 with John Brown in attack on U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Killed in assault. Lived in this vicinity. [Fayetteville]
— Omar Ibn Said, ca. 1770-1863. Muslim slave & scholar. African-born, he penned autobiography in Arabic in 1831. While living in Bladen Co., worshipped with local Presbyterians. [Fayetteville]
— Nimrod Jarrett Smith, 1837-1893. Principal Chief, Eastern Band of Cherokee, 1880-1891. Led incorporation of Band & centralization of Tribal government on his property, here. [Cherokee]
Expected by week’s end: Details on each marker.