New Collections: Love Letters

We have a number of new collections that are preserved, processed, and now available for research. Love and war were in the air, as the bulk of the materials include courtship correspondence and letters written by people while they were serving in the Armed Forces. Some highlights:

  • New materials span from the 1830s-2007
  • Subjects geographically range from the Kwajalein Atoll to Martha Washington College to the New Orleans levees.
  • Lots of love! Many of these collections feature letters between loved ones.
  • Some interesting mentions include a pair of waraji rice straw sandals, some 375 reported yellow fever deaths, and former UNC System President Frank Porter Graham participating in anti-war efforts of the 1930s.

Click on any of the collection titles to learn more about the materials, view any digital items, and request them for use in our reading room.

Continue reading “New Collections: Love Letters”

Violence, Hardship, and the Southern Response

The South has witnessed unspeakable historical violence, hardship, and unrest. Whether it is a system developed over hundreds of years or the single act of one person, Southerners have used these circumstances as fuel to protest for a better reality and a better future.

At first blush, an archive might seem like an unusual place to learn about current events. We can’t provide the latest headline, updated numbers, or 24-hour news coverage. What an archive can do, though, is help explain how we got here in the first place. It can provide context, it can set the scene, and it can fill out a timeline. It can help draw comparisons, and it can bear witness to cycles, to repetition, and to causes and their effects. It can show what has worked in the past, and what has not.

We continue, as we always have, to collect the stories of those who stand up against violence and hardship. Below are just a few of our many collections that highlight how people have confronted difficulties in the past and fought for a South they could believe in.

Continue reading “Violence, Hardship, and the Southern Response”

New Collections: Activists, Educators, Families, and War

We have over a dozen new collections that are preserved, processed, and now available for research. Some highlights:

  • New materials span from 1764 to 2010
  • Subjects geographically range from Mexico to China (with plenty of Alabama and North Carolina in between)
  • Grassroots organizing, coal mining, and educational activism are common themes
  • There are 3 Civil War photographs and 2 books containing personal sketches from much of the UNC Chapel Hill classes of 1859-1865

Click on any of the collection titles to learn more about the materials, view any digital items, and request them for use in our reading room.

Continue reading “New Collections: Activists, Educators, Families, and War”

“Before I’m 25” – Sharing Stories with Google Cultural Institute

In our ongoing quest to engage audiences in new and different ways, we are pleased to unveil a project that we have been working on for the past few months. In partnership with the Google Cultural Institute’s series on Black History and Culture, we have developed an online exhibit of original collection materials titled Before I’m 25… Stories of African American Youth.

beforeBefore I’m 25 is a multimedia exhibit that uses our diverse collections to highlight the ways African American youths have shaped Southern history. Spanning over 150 years, it examines the lives of young African Americans through the lenses of freedom, military service, the pursuit of education, entertainment, and activism.

The Google Cultural Institute allows museums and archives throughout the world to share their collections with the online using sleek, innovative technology. As part of the Google Cultural Institute’s series on Black History and Culture, The Southern Historical Collection is in good company with partners ranging from the National Museum of African American History and Culture to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Each of over forty exhibits covers one niche of Black history and culture, from Alvin Ailey to Frederick Douglass, and from Black comic books to African American inventors.

We are excited to share this digital exhibit with you and hope that it enhances discussions by and about African American youth, and how history shapes our present day.

It’s All Up to You! North Carolina and the Good Health Program, Part 2

As we left off in our last star-studded post, North Carolina leaders in the post-World War II years sought to improve the medical care and general health in the state through a public awareness campaign known as the Good Health Plan. Launched with the help of a few Hollywood friends, the North Carolina Good Health Association reached out to North Carolinians through print, film, and radio advertising and multiple forms of community engagement.

Advertising

Billboards and car cards were used throughout the state to publicize the name and goals of the plan, such as the needs for improved nutrition and an increase in hospitals.

Examples of two billboards used to publicize the Good Health Plan.  From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.
Examples of two billboards used to publicize the Good Health Plan. From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

 

Milk truck from Durham, NC, displaying one of the campaign's car cards.  From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.
Milk truck from Durham, NC, displaying one of the campaign’s car cards. From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

 Community Engagement

To get North Carolina citizens actively involved in campaign, the Good Health Association sponsored contests with prizes for both adults and children.  Grade school students competed in oratorical contests (segregated, with one competition for white students and another for black students) in which they were asked to speak about the need for improved health. Prizes for the winners included $500 college scholarships, RCA radios, and state-wide recognition.

Contest Winners
H.C. Cranford, publicity director of the N.C. Good Health Campaign, interviews oratorical contest winners Angela Marchena (Raleigh) and George P. McKinney (Salisbury) on radio station WDUK in Durham. Right: Contest winners Harvey Adams (Farmer) and Dorothy Raynor (Ahoskie) pose with their winnings: RCA-Victor radio phonographs. From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

To increase awareness of the need for more medical professionals in the state, a Miss North Carolina Student Nurse pageant was established, with Kay Kyser himself on hand to crown the first winner.

Nurses
Miss NC Student Nurse Competition, circa 1948 and 1949. From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

A store window display contest was sponsored to encourage support for the building of local hospitals and to encourage women to pursue nursing as a career.

Displays
Department store displays. Clockwise from top: Sears (Durham), Robbins (Durham), and Hudson Belk (Asheboro). From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

In conjunction with the national Hospital Survey and Construction Act (which provided federal grants and guaranteed loans to improve the country’s hospital facilities), the Good Health Campaign provided funding to increase medical care in underserved areas, including creating more hospitals (adding over 7,000 hospital beds) and training opportunities for medical professionals. This included the founding of the state’s first four year medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1950.  In addition, the public relations campaign helped to increase awareness of health and nutrition issues throughout the state in the post-World War II years.

It’s All Up to You! North Carolina and the Good Health Program, Part 1

During World War II, the state of North Carolina received an enormous number of draft rejections due to the poor health of its citizens compared to other states, including problems such as poor teeth and eyesight, chronic infections, malnutrition, tuberculosis, hookworm, and even malaria. The conditions of medical care in the state prompted the Medical Society of the State of North Carolina to urge Governor Broughton to take action, resulting in the formation of the State Hospital and Medical Care Commission in 1944.   Their study of health conditions demonstrated that a lack of hospitals, lack of doctors, and limited understanding of health and nutrition were among the reasons for North Carolinians’ poor health.  At the same time, statistics showed that while 41% of white draftees and 61% of African American draftees were being rejected in North Carolina, young men raised in orphanages (receiving state supported medical care and nutrition) had a draft acceptance rate of 99%.

Medical Department: Dr. Wright, 20 September 1942 (Left), and Physical tests, circa 1942.  From the United States Navy Pre-Flight School (University of North Carolina) Photographic Collection #P0027, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.
Medical Department: Dr. Wright, 20 September 1942 (Left), and Physical tests, circa 1942. From the United States Navy Pre-Flight School (University of North Carolina) Photographic Collection #P0027, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.

In response to this study, lawmakers, administrators, health officials, and prominent citizens launched the Good Health Program to educate North Carolinians about health needs, raise money for the building of hospitals, and generate support for increased medical training in the state.

One of these prominent citizens was Kay Kyser, a Rocky Mount, NC native whose career as a band leader had taken him to Hollywood. Kyser’s dedication to the Good Health program resulted in the talents of well known musicians, radio personalities, and film stars being recruited for the public awareness campaign, encompassing film, radio, and various print media.

Kay and Company
Counterclockwise from top: Kay Kyser (Rocky Mount, NC), Ava Gardner (Actress, Smithfield, NC), Kathryn Grayson (Actress, Winston Salem, NC), Skinnay Ennis (Bandleader and singer, Salisbury, NC), and John Scott Trotter (Bandleader, Charlotte). From folder P-3550/1, North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

North Carolina natives including film stars Ava Gardner, Kathryn Grayson, Randolph Scott, and Anne Jeffreys, as well as bandleaders Edgar “Skinnay” Ennis and John Trotter, participated in programs and advertisements via radio and movie trailers to increase awareness of the project’s goals.  Popular radio personalities Burns & Allen and Fibber McGee & Molly contributed radio announcements as well.

"It's All Up To You" sheet music cover.  From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.
“It’s All Up To You” sheet music cover. From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.

One of the most well remembered publicity efforts of the Good Health Program was the creation of its theme song, “It’s All Up to You!” Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne (authors of “Let It Snow” among other popular songs), the song was played by Kay Kyser’s Orchestra and sung by Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore.  Copies of the recording were played and distributed to the public by every radio station in state and sent to juke box operators in all major North Carolina cities. Sheet music was made available to the public through Columbia dealers and sent to the superintendent of each county and city school system.

Click the play button below to hear a recording of “It’s All Up To You” from the J. Taylor Doggett Collection (#20286) in the Southern Folklife Collection:

"It's All Up to You" music and lyrics. From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.
“It’s All Up to You” music and lyrics. From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.

So how did the Good Health Plan affect change in North Carolina? Tune in Friday morning for our exciting conclusion…

It’s All Up to You! North Carolina and the Good Health Program, Part 1

During World War II, the state of North Carolina received an enormous number of draft rejections due to the poor health of its citizens compared to other states, including problems such as poor teeth and eyesight, chronic infections, malnutrition, tuberculosis, hookworm, and even malaria. The conditions of medical care in the state prompted the Medical Society of the State of North Carolina to urge Governor Broughton to take action, resulting in the formation of the State Hospital and Medical Care Commission in 1944.   Their study of health conditions demonstrated that a lack of hospitals, lack of doctors, and limited understanding of health and nutrition were among the reasons for North Carolinians’ poor health.  At the same time, statistics showed that while 41% of white draftees and 61% of African American draftees were being rejected in North Carolina, young men raised in orphanages (receiving state supported medical care and nutrition) had a draft acceptance rate of 99%.

Medical Department: Dr. Wright, 20 September 1942 (Left), and Physical tests, circa 1942.  From the United States Navy Pre-Flight School (University of North Carolina) Photographic Collection #P0027, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.
Medical Department: Dr. Wright, 20 September 1942 (Left), and Physical tests, circa 1942. From the United States Navy Pre-Flight School (University of North Carolina) Photographic Collection #P0027, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.

In response to this study, lawmakers, administrators, health officials, and prominent citizens launched the Good Health Program to educate North Carolinians about health needs, raise money for the building of hospitals, and generate support for increased medical training in the state.

One of these prominent citizens was Kay Kyser, a Rocky Mount, NC native whose career as a band leader had taken him to Hollywood. Kyser’s dedication to the Good Health program resulted in the talents of well known musicians, radio personalities, and film stars being recruited for the public awareness campaign, encompassing film, radio, and various print media.

Kay and Company
Counterclockwise from top: Kay Kyser (Rocky Mount, NC), Ava Gardner (Actress, Smithfield, NC), Kathryn Grayson (Actress, Winston Salem, NC), Skinnay Ennis (Bandleader and singer, Salisbury, NC), and John Scott Trotter (Bandleader, Charlotte). From folder P-3550/1, North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

North Carolina natives including film stars Ava Gardner, Kathryn Grayson, Randolph Scott, and Anne Jeffreys, as well as bandleaders Edgar “Skinnay” Ennis and John Trotter, participated in programs and advertisements via radio and movie trailers to increase awareness of the project’s goals.  Popular radio personalities Burns & Allen and Fibber McGee & Molly contributed radio announcements as well.

"It's All Up To You" sheet music cover.  From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.
“It’s All Up To You” sheet music cover. From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.

One of the most well remembered publicity efforts of the Good Health Program was the creation of its theme song, “It’s All Up to You!” Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne (authors of “Let It Snow” among other popular songs), the song was played by Kay Kyser’s Orchestra and sung by Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore.  Copies of the recording were played and distributed to the public by every radio station in state and sent to juke box operators in all major North Carolina cities. Sheet music was made available to the public through Columbia dealers and sent to the superintendent of each county and city school system.

Click the play button below to hear a recording of “It’s All Up To You” from the J. Taylor Doggett Collection (#20286) in the Southern Folklife Collection:

"It's All Up to You" music and lyrics. From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.
“It’s All Up to You” music and lyrics. From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.

So how did the Good Health Plan affect change in North Carolina? Tune in Friday morning for our exciting conclusion…

Four activists to be honored in Chapel Hill, SHC preserves documentation of their legacy

This Sunday, August 28, 2011, four names will be added to a plaque at Chapel Hill’s “Peace and Justice Plaza.” Yonni Chapman, Rebecca Clark, Rev. Charles M. Jones and Dan Pollitt will all be honored posthumously for their contributions to civil rights, social justice and equality in the Chapel Hill community. The ceremony will begin at 3pm in front of the Historic Chapel Hill Post Office on Franklin Street, just across the street from UNC’s McCorkle Place. For the full story, see the article, “Four Honored for Activism,” from the Chapel Hill News.

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to preserve a large body of material that documents the lives and legacies of these four activists, including:

Charles Miles Jones Papers – The collection includes correspondence, church documents and publications, clippings, and other items reflecting Jones’s ministry and concern for civil rights. Materials generally focus on his public rather than personal life with a special emphasis on the 1952-1953 investigation of his Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church ministry. General correspondence includes letters from supporters (among them Frank Porter Graham) and detractors, commenting on the investigation, Jones’s sermons, and several well-publicized actions in support of social justice causes.

Oral history interview with Rebecca Clark (1 interview available online via DocSouth’s Oral Histories of the American South project) – In this interview, Rebecca Clark recalls living and working in segregated North Carolina. She finished her schooling in all-black schools, so the bulk of her experience with white people in a segregated context took place in the work world. There she experienced economic discrimination in a variety of forms, and despite her claims that many black people kept quiet in the face of racial discrimination at the time, she often agitated for, and won, better pay. Along with offering some information about school desegregation, this interview provides a look into the constricted economic lives of black Americans living under Jim Crow.

John K. Chapman Papers (available Fall 2011) – This collection documents Yonni Chapman’s social activism and academic achievements, and offers an account of nearly four decades of progressive racial, social, and economic justice struggles in the central North Carolina region. Organizational materials, including correspondence, notes, newsletters and reports, document the activities of the Communist Workers’ Party, the Federation for Progress, the Orange County Rainbow Coalition of Conscience, the New Democratic Movement, the Freedom Legacy Project, and the Campaign for Historical Accuracy and Truth, among other organizations on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, in Chapel Hill, N.C., Durham, N.C., Raleigh, N.C., and Greensboro, N.C. Workers’ rights and racial justice campaigns and commemorations, including those of the Greensboro Massacre and the campaign to end the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, are documented in paper, audio, visual, and photographic formats.

Daniel H. Pollitt Papers (available Fall 2012) – This collection documents Dan Pollitt’s distinguished career as an attorney, professor in the University of North Carolina Law School, and civil rights activist in the American South. The collection documents Pollitt’s activities with a number of organizations, including: the National Labor Relations Board, the National Sharecroppers Fund, the NAACP, the North Carolina Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of University Professors, the Rural Advancement Fund, and other organizations. Material also covers Pollitt’s involvement with the Speaker Ban controversy at the University of North Carolina, his opposition to the death penalty in North Carolina, issues of congressional misconduct, and many other legal and ethical matters.

Oral history interviews with Daniel H. Pollitt (13 interviews, many of which are available online via DocSouth’s Oral Histories of the American South project)

Four activists to be honored in Chapel Hill, SHC preserves documentation of their legacy

This Sunday, August 28, 2011, four names will be added to a plaque at Chapel Hill’s “Peace and Justice Plaza.” Yonni Chapman, Rebecca Clark, Rev. Charles M. Jones and Dan Pollitt will all be honored posthumously for their contributions to civil rights, social justice and equality in the Chapel Hill community. The ceremony will begin at 3pm in front of the Historic Chapel Hill Post Office on Franklin Street, just across the street from UNC’s McCorkle Place. For the full story, see the article, “Four Honored for Activism,” from the Chapel Hill News.

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to preserve a large body of material that documents the lives and legacies of these four activists, including:

Charles Miles Jones Papers – The collection includes correspondence, church documents and publications, clippings, and other items reflecting Jones’s ministry and concern for civil rights. Materials generally focus on his public rather than personal life with a special emphasis on the 1952-1953 investigation of his Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church ministry. General correspondence includes letters from supporters (among them Frank Porter Graham) and detractors, commenting on the investigation, Jones’s sermons, and several well-publicized actions in support of social justice causes.

Oral history interview with Rebecca Clark (1 interview available online via DocSouth’s Oral Histories of the American South project) – In this interview, Rebecca Clark recalls living and working in segregated North Carolina. She finished her schooling in all-black schools, so the bulk of her experience with white people in a segregated context took place in the work world. There she experienced economic discrimination in a variety of forms, and despite her claims that many black people kept quiet in the face of racial discrimination at the time, she often agitated for, and won, better pay. Along with offering some information about school desegregation, this interview provides a look into the constricted economic lives of black Americans living under Jim Crow.

John K. Chapman Papers (available Fall 2011) – This collection documents Yonni Chapman’s social activism and academic achievements, and offers an account of nearly four decades of progressive racial, social, and economic justice struggles in the central North Carolina region. Organizational materials, including correspondence, notes, newsletters and reports, document the activities of the Communist Workers’ Party, the Federation for Progress, the Orange County Rainbow Coalition of Conscience, the New Democratic Movement, the Freedom Legacy Project, and the Campaign for Historical Accuracy and Truth, among other organizations on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, in Chapel Hill, N.C., Durham, N.C., Raleigh, N.C., and Greensboro, N.C. Workers’ rights and racial justice campaigns and commemorations, including those of the Greensboro Massacre and the campaign to end the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, are documented in paper, audio, visual, and photographic formats.

Daniel H. Pollitt Papers (available Fall 2012) – This collection documents Dan Pollitt’s distinguished career as an attorney, professor in the University of North Carolina Law School, and civil rights activist in the American South. The collection documents Pollitt’s activities with a number of organizations, including: the National Labor Relations Board, the National Sharecroppers Fund, the NAACP, the North Carolina Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of University Professors, the Rural Advancement Fund, and other organizations. Material also covers Pollitt’s involvement with the Speaker Ban controversy at the University of North Carolina, his opposition to the death penalty in North Carolina, issues of congressional misconduct, and many other legal and ethical matters.

Oral history interviews with Daniel H. Pollitt (13 interviews, many of which are available online via DocSouth’s Oral Histories of the American South project)

Thirty Years Later: Remembering the Greensboro Massacre

Thirty years ago today, on November 3, 1979, the Workers Viewpoint Organization (later renamed the Communist Workers Party) sponsored an anti-Klan march and conference in Greensboro, North Carolina.  Members of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party attacked the demonstrators, killing five and injuring eleven Communist Workers Party members.

Greensboro_Civil_Rights_Fund_4630-002.jpg
Flyer from the Records of the Greensboro Civil Rights Fund, SHC #4630.

Family and friends of the deceased organized the Greensboro Civil Rights Fund, raising some $700,000 to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazi Party, as well as local and federal law enforcement agencies–whose undercover agents and paid informants in the Klan and Nazi Party allegedly participated in planning the attacks.

In 2004, around the time of the 25th anniversary of the Massacre, a Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission was impaneled by the Greensboro community in order to “examine ‘the context, causes, sequence and consequence of the events of November 3, 1979’ for the purpose of healing transformation for the community” (from the Commission’s mandate).  Over the course of nearly two years the commission sponsored public hearings, meetings, scholarly panels, interfaith religious services, and other community gatherings.  Their activities culminated in a lengthy report giving a set of conclusions and recommendations which they hoped would continue the process of reconciliation and map the way forward.  To quote their report,

We believe the truth and reconciliation process in Greensboro opened up the debate around Nov. 3, 1979, in a positive way and has successfully engaged a broad spectrum of the community in an effort that offers hope for reconciliation. As a Commission that looks a bit like Greensboro in microcosm, we found that this process –and our own struggle to hear and understand each other- had a profound impact on our perceptions of the issues we explored. Our individual and collective commitment to the truth helped us persevere. And the human stories and emotions we encountered along the way moved us to do our best to leave behind a legacy we hope will serve Greensboro for years to come. We cannot say what the future will hold for this community or what the long-term impact of this process will look like, but we hope that this process also serves as a learning tool for others in this country who, like Greensboro, are burdened by a legacy of hurt and inspired by the possibility of honestly coming to terms with their own history.

So today we honor the memories of those lost to the violence of the Greensboro Massacre, thirty years ago today.  We also honor the courage of the Greensboro community which sought to heal itself through the truth and reconciliation process.

And finally, we especially want to honor the life and work of Dr. John K. “Yonni” Chapman, a long-time and loyal supporter of the Southern Historical Collection.  On October 22, 2009, following a lengthy battle with a rare blood cancer, Yonni Chapman passed away at his home in Chapel Hill. Yonni Chapman was one of the anti-Klan demonstrators who survived the attack of November 3, 1979.  Later, he was involved in the truth and reconciliation process (his statement before the Commission is available here) and continued racial justice organizing in North Carolina for nearly three decades.