Newly-Discovered Archival Materials Recall the Textile Union Organizing Work of Leaders Killed at the Greensboro Massacre (November 3, 1979)

Forty-four years ago today, five leaders of the Communist Workers Party (CWP) were shot and killed at a demonstration in Greensboro, N.C., by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. The violence of the “Greensboro Massacre” lasted only eighty-eight seconds, but ended with the murders of CWP organizers Sandra Smith, James Waller, William Sampson, César Cauce, and Michael Nathan.

Since the massacre, families and friends of the people murdered have tried to keep the memories of their loved ones alive through commemorations, such as the 2015 placement of a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker at the site of the shootings. In 1980, families and survivors established the Greensboro Justice Fund (later the Greensboro Civil Rights Fund, or GCRF) to fundraise and organize for a civil suit on behalf of the victims. That lawsuit, Waller v. Butkovich, resulted in a jury finding two Greensboro police officers and six Klansmen and Nazis liable for the wrongful death of the deceased and a judgment of close to $400,000 in damages to the plaintiffs.

In 1992, the Southern Historical Collection acquired the Greensboro Civil Rights Fund’s immense archive of records relating to the massacre and subsequent legal cases. The library also preserves the papers of massacre survivors John Kenyon “Yonni” Chapman and Jim Wrenn and other related collections and published materials.

Recently, as part of a new project called “Print Culture of the Southern Freedom Movement,” SHC staff reviewed the contents of the GCRF records and this search surfaced a group of rare and unique bibliographic sources that offer important evidence of the labor organizing work that several of the Greensboro Massacre victims were doing in the years and months leading up to November 3, 1979. We’ll share some samples of the reports, union newsletters, flyers, and other sources and what they reveal about CWP’s involvement in organizing textile workers in North Carolina in the 1970s.

Dr. James Waller and the Granite Finishing Plant

Born in 1942, Jim Waller grew up in a Jewish household in Chicago. He later received his medical degree from the University of Chicago, trained as part of the Lincoln Hospital Collective in New York, and organized medical aid to American Indian Movement activists under siege at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1973. He relocated to North Carolina in the mid-1970s when he received a medical fellowship at Duke University.

His activism continued in the South. Waller organized with the Carolina Brown Lung Association, where he provided textile mill workers with health screenings for byssinosis (or brown lung) and helped develop health clinics.  But in 1976, Waller decided to abandon the medical profession to become a textile mill worker at the Granite Finishing Plant in Haw River, N.C.

Photograph of Dr. Jim Waller speaking at an African liberation event in 1978.
Photograph of Dr. Jim Waller speaking at an African liberation event in 1978.

Waller was a member of the Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO, later the Communist Workers Party) which believed in fomenting revolution through organizing rank-and-file workers. He began selling copies of the WVO’s newspaper outside of the gates of the Cone Mills-owned Granite Plant. He held training sessions for workers and shared educational literature to build up membership in Local 1113T of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU).

Then, in the summer of 1978, Waller was fired by Cone for failing to list his medical training on his employment application. Waller claimed it was in retaliation for his union organizing work in the plant. In response, workers organized a twelve-day wildcat strike and held an election to establish new union leadership, since they felt that ACTWU was not doing enough to support the workers. Waller was elected president of Local 1113T. The strike brought renewed energy to the union and its member rolls grew from 15 to 200 members under Waller’s tenure.

Image of copies of the Granite Workers Update newsletter from the Greensboro Civil Rights Fund Records, Southern Historical Collection.
Image of copies of the Granite Workers Update newsletter from the Greensboro Civil Rights Fund Records, Southern Historical Collection.

Jim and his wife Signe Waller produced and printed a newsletter, called Granite Workers Update, with a mimeograph machine they had at their home in Greensboro. Seven issues of the newsletter were printed during the strike. We uncovered copies of these issues of Granite Workers Update during our search of the Greensboro Civil Rights Fund Records and we are working on getting them cataloged as a separate serials title, to make them more accessible. According to the WorldCat library database, it appears that UNC Library holds the only extant copies of this newsletter.

Sandra Smith and the Revolution Mills

Photograph of Sandi Smith at a demonstration, circa 1979.
Photograph of Sandi Smith at a demonstration, circa 1979.

Like Jim Waller, Sandi Smith had medical training (as a nurse), a long history of activism, and an interest in organizing rank-and-file textile mill workers. Smith was a graduate of Bennett College in Greensboro, where she had served as president of the student body and a founding member of the Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU). She was also a community organizer with the Greensboro Association of Poor People (GAPP). In the mid-1970s, Smith decided to become a worker at the Revolution Plant in Greensboro (also owned by Cone Mills Corporation) so that she could organize a union in the plant. She co-founded and was later elected chairperson of the Revolution Organizing Committee (ROC).

Under her leadership, ROC filed and won grievances with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against unfair firings and arranged to have the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspect safety conditions at the mill for the first time in its history.

Image of copies of the Revolution Organizing Committee's newsletter, from the Greensboro Civil Rights Fund Records, Southern Historical Collection.
Image of Revolution Organizing Committee’s newsletter, from the Greensboro Civil Rights Fund Records, Southern Historical Collection.

Those efforts are documented in a newsletter that ROC published throughout this period. We surfaced copies of the newsletter from our search of the GCRF collection and we will be cataloging and digitizing these to make them more widely available. They are believed to be the only extant copies of this union newsletter preserved by a library.

William Sampson and the White Oak Plant

Bill Sampson was born in Delaware in 1948. Active in the anti-war movement as an undergraduate student (and student body president) at Augustana College, Sampson spent his junior year studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, received a Masters in Divinity degree from Harvard in 1971, then studied medicine at the University of Virginia, where he organized health care workers to support liberation struggles in southern Africa.

Image of a campaign flyer for officer elections for ACTWU Local 1391 at White Oak Plant in Greensboro. Bill Sampson is shown at top left.
Image of a campaign flyer for officer elections for ACTWU Local 1391 at White Oak Plant in Greensboro. Bill Sampson is shown at top left.

Sampson left medical school to work and organize at the White Oak Denim Manufacturing Plant in Greensboro. Initially assigned to the dye house, which was a dirty and dangerous part of the denim manufacturing process, Sampson’s co-workers did not think he would last long in this role. But he stayed, working at White Oak for the last two and a half years of his life.

During that time, Sampson filed grievances on behalf of his fellow workers, he built up union membership, and fought unfair firings of fellow union leaders. He then ran for and was elected president of the union (ACTWU Local 1391). He was serving as president-elect at the time of his death.

Sampson and the White Oak Organizing Committee (WOOC) published a union newsletter during this period. We discovered a near full-run of the publication during our search of the GCRF collection. Again, it is thought to be the only extant copy of the newsletter that is held by an academic library. We are working on cataloging and digitizing this newsletter to make it more broadly accessible to researchers.

Image of copies of the White Oak Organizing Committee Newsletter, 1977-1979, from the Greensboro Civil Rights Fund Records, Southern Historical Collection.
Image of copies of the White Oak Organizing Committee Newsletter, 1977-1979, from the Greensboro Civil Rights Fund Records, Southern Historical Collection.

Conclusion

These newly-discovered archival materials reveal important details about the lives and work of several of the activists killed on November 3, 1979, shedding new light on the intersections between racist violence, anti-Communism, and the labor movement in the South. We hope their re-discovery will inspire researchers to explore this and other lesser-known aspects of the legacy of the Greensboro Massacre.

Works Consulted:

Bermanzohn, Sally Avery. Through Survivors’ Eyes: From the Sixties to the Greensboro Massacre. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2003.

Chapman, John Kenyon Papers. Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/05441/

Gateway, University of North Carolina at Greensboro Libraries. “The Greensboro Massacre.” Accessed November 2, 2023. https://gateway.uncg.edu/crg/essay1979.

Greensboro Civil Rights Fund Records. Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/04630/

Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission. “Final Report.” Accessed November 2, 2023. https://greensborotrc.org/index.php.

Magarrell, Lisa and Joya Wesley. Learning from Greensboro: Truth and Reconciliation in the United States. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

Waller, Signe. Love and Revolution: A Political Memoir: People’s History of the Greensboro Massacre, Its Setting and Aftermath.” New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.

Workers World. “40th Anniversary of Greensboro Massacre provides lessons for today’s movement.” Accessed November 2, 2023. https://www.workers.org/2019/11/44354/.

Wrenn, Jim Papers. Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.  https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/05625/

Building on Sixty Years of Partnership to Preserve the History of Penn Center

The first school established in the U.S. South to educate formerly enslaved people. The beating heart of Gullah cultural traditions. A sacred gathering place for those seeking justice, civil rights, and Black uplift. Since 1862, Penn Center has been the convergence point for these and many other central threads of the American experience. And since 1962, the Southern Historical Collection has been honored to collaborate with Penn Center in preserving a rich archive of materials that document Penn’s storied past.

This year we are reflecting on this legacy of preservation, sixty years in the making, and preparing the way for decades of partnership to come!  Here is an interactive timeline of the Penn Center-UNC Library partnership and some highlights of our most recent community-engaged activities:

Timeline:

 

Digitization and Access:

  • Since 2005, we have digitized around 10,000 documents, including: all early Penn correspondence, administrative records, dozens of manuscript volumes, and other papers.
  • Digitized twenty five fragile 18th- and early 19th-century photograph albums (with more than 1600 pages containing thousands of individual photographs) and hundreds of individual unmounted photographs.
  • Digitized more than 300 audiocassettes and 10 transcription discs, containing recordings of Gullah and African American musical traditions, oral history interviews, and recordings of meetings and events.
  • This year we received an National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) grant to digitize a set of at-risk films from the Penn collections.

Recent Community Outreach and Education:

  • SHC staff have visited Penn Center several times in recent years to meet with the center’s staff about ways to make the collection more readily accessible to the research public and the local communities around Penn.
  • This spring, SHC curators Chaitra Powell and Brianna McGruder developed and taught a UNC Maymester class on the history of Penn Center (AAAD 290 – “Memory Work at Penn Center“). The  class included hands on research and engagement activities during a visit to Penn Center by enrolled UNC students.
  • SHC archivist Brianna McGruder curated a digital exhibition, “Erasure and Resilience at Penn,” focused on surfacing the marginalized thoughts, narratives, and voices of local Black people who are documented within Penn’s archival collections.
  • UNC Library staff developed a LibGuide to aid researchers in navigating the two main Penn archival collections and many related primary and secondary sources.

More Information and Links:

Factory Workers in Rocky Mount Fight for “A Day On, Not a Day Off”

Today, as the world celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let us remember King’s full legacy – not just his legacy in the struggle to end racial segregation, but also his commitment to economic justice, his staunch opposition to the Vietnam War, and his advocacy for the American worker and deep involvement in the labor rights movement. Let us remember that in the days preceding his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, King was working with union leaders and black workers during a citywide sanitation strike. In his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, delivered before a meeting of the AFSCME union in Memphis, the night before he was killed, King said,

Mann’s Chapel AME Church choir performing during the 2009 MLK Day celebration at Bloomer Hill Community Center, Whitakers, NC

“You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth.”

There is also a story about labor embedded in the history of the observation of the annual Martin Luther King holiday. When MLK Day was first observed in 1986, it was not a paid holiday for the great majority of American workers. But this has changed slowly over the last three decades. A 2018 Bloomberg poll reported that 43% of workers in the United States marked the day as a paid holiday – an all time high. A new resource in the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) sheds light on how one group of workers in Rocky Mount, N.C., fought to secure a paid holiday from their employer, so that they could celebrate MLK Day with their community.

Saladin Muhammad of Black Workers for Justice speaking at the 2005 MLK Day celebration at Bloomer Hill Community Center, Whitakers, NC

In January 1990, a group of 210 workers at the Consolidated Diesel Company plant in Rocky Mount signed a petition calling for the company to grant a paid holiday for Martin Luther King Day. Three workers went to deliver the petition to the plant’s human resources manager, but he was not in his office because he was out attending a MLK Day breakfast (an event the employees could not attend because they were working). At first, management told workers that they would never agree to grant a paid holiday because it would cost the company too much money. So the workers organized the CDC Workers Unity Committee and carried on an advocacy campaign, handing out flyers and buttons to their co-workers, and working with the Rocky Mount Ministerial Association to organize a Juneteenth rally in support of their cause. After eight months of negotiations, the company agreed to establish a paid holiday for MLK Day. In 1991, labor organizers joined with leaders of the local African American community to host the first MLK Day celebration at the nearby Bloomer Hill Community Center in Whitakers, N.C. Every year since, the workers have come together for “A Day On, Not a Day Off,” to sustain Martin Luther King Jr.’s original vision of service and action.

The SHC’s newly processed James Wrenn Papers documents the workers’ efforts to establish a paid holiday, it includes programs and leaflets from many of the MLK Day celebrations from 1991 to the 2010s, and contains VHS and digital recordings of several of these MLK Day events. The collection also documents Wrenn’s work with the People’s Coalition for Justice, the Carolina Auto, Aerospace & Machine Workers Union-UE 150, and the Bloomer Hill Community Center in Whitakers, N.C.

For more information on the James Wrenn Papers, collection #5625, please check out the online finding aid: https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/05625/

Urgent Preservation: Extending the Work of Cherokee Linguists Robert H. Bushyhead and Jean Bushyhead Blanton

Linguists believe that there are only a few hundred native speakers of the Cherokee language left. In 2005, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) estimated that only 980 spoke Cherokee and “the average age of the speakers [was] over 50.” More recent estimates suggest that the number of fluent speakers may be as low as 200. The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture, an organization which tracks threatened languages, lists Cherokee in North Carolina as “severely endangered.” In 2004, in response to the loss of native speakers, the EBCI opened the New Kituwah Academy, a Cherokee immersion school aimed at revitalizing the language for current and future generations.

Today we are proud to announce the opening of an important new collection of Cherokee resources which will allow us to contribute to the preservation of this beautiful but endangered language. Over the last few months the staff of the Southern Historical Collection has been collaborating with the family of Cherokee linguists Jean Bushyhead Blanton and Robert H. Bushyhead (a daughter-father team) to collect, process, and make available their extensive archive of papers, audio, and video recordings from their Cherokee language project. The Bushyhead Family Papers is now available to researchers. In fact, some of the audio in the collection has already been digitized and you can stream it through our website.

The digitized audio recordings include instruction on how to say various words and phrases in Cherokee (such as the days of the week or names of colors), the Pledge of Allegiance translated from English to Cherokee, and a performance of the Cherokee legend “Yonder Mountain.”

Robert H. Bushyhead
Robert H. Bushyhead

Robert H. Bushyhead was born in 1914 and raised in the Birdtown community of the Qualla Boundary. As a young child, his entire family spoke the Kituwah dialect of Cherokee. When he was seven years old his father enrolled him in a government boarding school in Cherokee, North Carolina, where his teachers forced him to abandon his native tongue for English. Bushyhead and his friends were punished if found speaking Kituwah, “as violently for speaking the Cherokee language as they would have if they caught us smoking or chewing,” he recalled. This forced assimilation was an experience shared by many Cherokee children, and is a major factor for the threatened existence of the language.

In the 1960s, Robert Bushyhead began documenting the vocabulary and grammar of his native Kituwah. In 1991 he started working with his daughter, Jean Bushyhead Blanton, to create a Cherokee language curriculum for classroom instruction. Recognizing the importance of seeing as well as hearing language instruction for K-12 students, they decided to develop a series of videotaped lessons. The Bushyhead Family Collection in the Southern Historical Collection consists largely of those recorded lessons, on more than 100 videotapes and 300 audiocassettes.

Robert H. Bushyhead once said, “Cherokee has a flow, it has a rhythm that is beautiful. And once you lose that rhythm, then, of course, you’re lost.” Bushyhead died on July 28, 2001, but his voice is not lost – it will be preserved as a living teaching and research tool at UNC Libraries.

October Has Come Again: Southern Literary Symposium

October 30 @ 2:00 pm4:30 pm
Hill Ballroom, Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, NC

bookmark_october-592x1024

In his 1935 novel Of Time and the River, Thomas Wolfe wrote, “October had come again, and he would lie there in his mother’s house at night, and feel the darkness moving softly all about him, and hear the dry leaves scampering on the street outside, and the huge and burly rushes of the wind. And then the wind would rush away with huge caprice, and he could hear it far off roaring with remote demented cries in the embraces of great trees, and he would lie there thinking: October has come again—has come again.”

In honor of Wolfe’s birthday month, this literary symposium will feature a lecture by award-winning novelist and short story author Tony Earley followed by short readings from new works by Minrose Gwin, Randall Kenan, Mesha Maren, Julia Ridley Smith, and Monique Truong. These acclaimed authors will discuss the state of southern literature in the twenty-first century.

The symposium, co-sponsored by the Blythe Family Fund, the North Carolina Collection, the Southern Historical Collection, and Southern Cultures, will be held in the Hill Ballroom at the Carolina Inn from 2:00-4:30 pm. Admission is free and open to the public, but seating may be limited. Please RSVP here

Announcing the launch of the Student Health Coalition project website

A pioneering online archive about student activism in the 1960s and 70s goes public on Thursday, March 31, 2016.  The website (studenthealthcoalition.web.unc.edu) is the digital home for video clips, historic photos, and personal profiles from former activists in the rural south with a focus on health care.

The archive is the outcome of a partnership between the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Student Health Coalition.

The Southern Historical Collection encourages the study and appreciation of the history and culture of the American South by collecting, preserving and promoting the use of unique documentary materials of enduring historical value. The Collection does this to enable users to derive meanings from the southern past and to support the University’s mission of teaching, research and service.

The Student Health Coalition was a student-run organization based primarily at Vanderbilt University and eventually at other colleges around the south.  They were active over several decades beginning in the late 1960s.  Student activists and rural community leaders worked together on issues related to health care and empowerment.

The new website unveiled on March 31 is a unique community-driven archive of historical documents and other treasures.  Its goal is to encourage the study of the Coalition’s public health and community organizing work throughout the Appalachian region. The online archive is by design interactive, dynamic, and open to the public.

05613_0007_429
Circa summer 1971: Student Health Coalition participants gather in front of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Photograph from the Richard Davidson Photographic Collection, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.

Discoveries and advantages have already begun to surface even as the site was in development.  The Southern Historical Collection has uncovered little-used archives in their collection whose relevance has been magnified by the interactive site. Links to other archival resources throughout the region, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center, are beginning to shed new light on old stories about health care issues in the rural south.

According to Biff Hollingsworth, Collecting and Outreach Archivist at UNC, “Scholars are often drawn to a project or area of research because of the depth of resources available to them. So sometimes marketing those opportunities is tantamount to developing them further.”

North Carolina’s organic farming celebrity Bill Dow was a co-founder of the Student Health Coalition and a graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.  His newly-published memoirs, What I Stand On, received acclaim around North Carolina. The memoirs contain stories from the Coalition days as well as from Bill’s farming innovations.

Just after Bill Dow died in 2012, his family made arrangements for his collection of historical documents about farming to be left in a conventional archive at UNC. When archivists learned about Dow’s early work in health care, they engaged with a reunion of the Coalition to explore this new model for interactive, community-driven archive building. Beginning March 31, the public is invited to explore and engage.

If you were part of the Student Health Coalition or would like to learn more about this project, please contact Biff Hollingsworth at the Southern Historical Collection, by phone at 919-962-3353 or by email at biff@unc.edu.

Student Health Coalition website: http://studenthealthcoalition.web.unc.edu

Have You Heard of the Montford Point Marines?

On Saturday, August 1, 2015, I had the honor of attending a ceremony for the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to the family of Sgt. James Andrew Felton (1919-1994), a Montford Point Marine. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States Congress. The medal ceremony was held at the C.S. Brown Regional Cultural Arts Center and Museum in Winton, N.C.

Leading the proceedings was Mr. Curt A. Clarke, president of Chapter 14 of the Montford Point Marine Association. During his remarks, Mr. Clarke did an informal survey of the audience’s knowledge of the Montford Point Marines and their place in American history. He asked the attendees to raise their hands if, prior to that week, they had ever heard of the Montford Point Marines.  Surprisingly, only about 20% of the audience raised their hands. Next, Clarke asked, “Who has ever heard of the Tuskegee Airmen?” About 90% of the audience raised their hands. This represents the Montford Point Marines’ unsung legacy and it underscored the need for recognition ceremonies such as the one honoring Sgt. Felton.

felton_ceremony
The family of Sgt. James A. Felton receiving the Congressional Gold Medal from a delegation of the United States Marines and the Montford Point Marines Association, August 1, 2015.

The Montford Point Marine Association has been working since 1966 to educate the public on the history of the “Montford Pointers.” In 2011, Barack Obama signed into law the legislation that would award the Congressional Gold Medal to individual Montford Point Marines. Since then the Association has been working locally with surviving members of the Corps or with the families of deceased Montford Pointers to present medals and honor their distinguished service.

img002
The program for the Congressional Medal Ceremony for Sgt. James A. Felton.

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to preserve the James and Annie V. Felton Papers, which includes some photographs and other documentation of Mr. Felton’s military service. Please check out the finding aid for more information about the Felton collection.

Founded in 1865: African American Churches at the End of the Civil War

This year marks the close of the Sesquicentennial (150th) commemoration of the American Civil War, but it also marks the anniversary of the founding of many important institutions in the African American community, as many black churches trace their origins to this time around the end of the Civil War.

Prior to Emancipation, white southerners exerted control over African Americans in nearly every sphere of society, including religious worship. Slaves and free people of color were treated as second-class members of most churches, relegated to sitting in balconies or galleries of many churches, without much say in church affairs. Also, during slavery, many sermons were layered with messages emphasizing the obedience of slaves to their masters. But as freedom took hold for African Americans through Emancipation after the Civil War, many congregations began to split along racial lines and the institution of separate black churches emerged.

As a result of the Civil War, more than 300,000 formerly enslaved people in North Carolina —roughly a third of the state’s population—gained their freedom. Over 5,000 of these freedmen were in Orange County, with over 400 of these individuals in the town of Chapel Hill. There was great upheaval and movement as many of the newly free left their former masters and mistresses. Several first hand accounts of the war’s end describe an exodus of African Americans from the town. The same accounts indicate that some of those who left later returned.

Here in Chapel Hill, at least two historically African American churches were founded around the end of the war: St. Paul A.M.E. Church (founded in 1864) and First Baptist Church (1865).

The Southern Historical Collection preserves an important piece of the story of the founding of First Baptist Church, within the minute books of the University Baptist Church. The congregation of the University Baptist Church (which was simply called the Baptist Church back then) included white members, enslaved men and women, and free people of color.

An entry in these minute books, dated September 3, 1865, states, “On motion it was unanimously voted that the colored patrons of this church be allowed to withdraw from the church and organize a church to themselves.” Several pages later in the minutes, it was also noted, “Four members have been dismissed by letter besides sixty-one colored members dismissed in September for the purpose of forming a separate church. This separate church, known as the Colored Baptist Church of Chapel Hill, is now in an acceptable operation and hopes are entertained of its doing well.”

ubc_p
“List of Col. Female Members, C.H. Baptist Ch.,” from University Baptist Records, #4162, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, UNC Chapel Hill.

The congregation of the new Colored Baptist Church initially met in an old schoolhouse on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, known as the “Quaker Building,” until a church building could be built. Rev. Eddie H. Cole served as the church’s first pastor. The church changed names several times over the years, from Colored Baptist Church to First Baptist Church, then to Rock Hill Baptist Church and then back to First Baptist Church. This September will mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of First Baptist Church in Chapel Hill.

March is Women’s History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month, this blog post is dedicated to Sallie Swepson Sims Southall Cotten (1846-1929) of Pitt County, N.C.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/12, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Oversize Volume SV-2613/12, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Sallie Cotten was a campaigner for women’s issues, with a focus on achieving equal education and legal status for women.  She was secretary of the Mothers’ Congress, and when the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs was formed she was the first elected vice-president.  She drafted their constitution and wrote their Federation Song.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/4, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Oversize Volume SV-2613/4, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She was elected president in 1911, where she started an endowment fund, incorporated the NC Federation, and even designed the NC Federation Seal.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/4, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Oversize Volume SV-2613/4, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

When she retired from the presidency she was named Honorary President for life.  She helped start an Educational Loan Fund that was named in her honor.  She also served four years as the Director for North Carolina on the General Federation Board of Directors.

Oversize Volume SV-2613/12, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Oversize Volume SV-2613/12, in the Sallie Southall Cotten Papers #2613, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to have her papers, which include correspondence, scrapbooks, reminiscences, and a copy of her book The White Doe.

Happy Groundhog Day from the SHC!

 

Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

There are few winter days after the start of the New Year that are exciting, but in the midst of the cold, gray winter comes a ray of hope in the form of Groundhog Day!  As a native Pennsylvanian, I have been tracking the groundhog for as long as I can remember.  Every year we would make paper groundhogs and hope that he didn’t see his shadow.  For those of you that didn’t grow up following the exploits of a rodent, Groundhog Day takes place every February 2nd, and legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow then it’s six more weeks of winter, but if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring is right around the corner.  And although I’ve heard of there being other animals in other states (apparently even Raleigh has a groundhog it watches named Sir Walter Wally), the true forecaster to me will always be Punxsutawney Phil of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

There are some nonbelievers out there who doubt the prognosticating prowess of the groundhog.  Holt McPherson was editor of the High Point Enterprise from 1930-1937 and 1952-1972.  In the Holt McPherson Collection, we have source materials that he used for the editorials he wrote.  Below is a slanderous article he found written for the magazine People Today, which surmises that the groundhog is not the weatherman he’s cracked up to be.

Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Regardless of the haters, on February 2nd the first thing I will do when I get out of bed will be to check if Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Gobbler’s Knob.  Afterwards I will check if Sir Walter Wally saw his shadow for a local forecast, and then of course put on one of my favorite movies: Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.