Before young Arthur Miller left Wilmington in November 1941 and returned to the Library of Congress, he did one last group of’ recordings. At the town’s African American Odd Fellows Hall, he visited with a large group of African American women who were in the midst of a lengthy strike at the Southland Manufacturing Company, a textile plant that made men’s dress shirts.
Month: May 2018
Arthur Miller’s War, Part 6– “Looks like Christmas every night”
While he was in Wilmington working for the Library of Congress, Arthur Miller also talked with several city officials. At first, I didn’t expect these interviews to be as interesting as his conversations with the shipyard workers or with the men and women he encountered in the street.
Arthur Miller’s War, part 5– “What happens in Wilmington at night”
On another evening when they were in downtown Wilmington, N.C., Arthur Miller and his audio engineer, Johnny Langenegger, spied a cluster of cabdrivers standing on a street corner next to the city bus station.
Arthur Miller’s War, Part 4– “Worse than Hoover time”
This is the 4th post in a 7-part series on the great American playwright Arthur Miller's sojourn in Wilmington, N.C. during the Second World War. When they were in Wilmington in 1941, Arthur Miller and his audio specialist, Johnny Langenegger, also just drove around the city looking for scenes and moments and stories that captured the … Continue reading Arthur Miller’s War, Part 4– “Worse than Hoover time”
Arthur Miller’s War, Part 3- “The Voice of the Shipyard”
Arthur Miller did more than record the stories of the defense workers that flocked to Wilmington when they were in their mobile home camps. Other scenes unfolded at the shipyard itself. At one of those times, the young playwright stood near the shipyard’s main gate and simply described the shift change.
Arthur Miller’s War, Part 2– “A shipyard has risen like a bony giant”
“The scene is a row of trailers,” Arthur Miller intoned in the first words of the field recordings. When I first turned on the old reel-to-reel recorder at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, I found the young playwright standing in a vast trailer camp that had been built in a maddening rush only a few months earlier.
Arthur Miller’s War, Part 1- “Get Wilmington, North Carolina, into that Sound Truck!”
Today I am remembering a visit to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The center is located on a quiet hallway a floor below the great library’s main reading room and contains vast collections of oral histories, music and other audio recordings. You can hear Mississippi sharecroppers singing the blues there. You can hear Polish immigrants playing polkas. You can hear Navajo sacred songs. I was there to listen to audio recordings that the playwright Arthur Miller made on the North Carolina coast in the fall of 1941.
Remembering Portsmouth Island
Today I am remembering a visit to the Outer Banks History Center on Ice Plant Island, which is part of the little town of Manteo, North Carolina. The OBHC is a relatively small branch of the State Archives of North Carolina, but it is home to a unique collection of books, manuscripts, and photographs that focus on the history of the Outer Banks and the coastal counties along the eastern end of Albemarle Sound.
Last Dispatch from the Belle of Washington
Now that I’m home, I’m thinking back on my time on the Belle of Washington and remembering some of the highlights of the voyage. I know I’ve already written a good deal about the “Tour of Old Albemarle” and the history of that part of the Albemarle Sound this week.
The Town of Harriet Jacobs– “A Soul that Burned for Freedom”
Tom and Bland and I and all the good people who are sharing this voyage on the Belle of Washington with us are now looking ahead to Edenton, our next port of call, and Edenton for me has always been and remains, far and away above all else, the town of Harriet Jacobs.
The Runaway Slave Dinah & the Slave Pilot Hews– “He will keep his wife out eternally”
I want to conclude my look at runaway slave advertisements from Albemarle Sound with another love story. This one comes from Chowan County, where the Belle of Washington will dock tonight.
A Runaway Slave Named Sip– “Love that leads the will to desperate things”
The second runaway slave advertisement that I want to talk about concerns an enslaved man from Bertie County, N.C., his love for his wife and a long and impossible journey.
A Fugitive Slave Named Moses—“An Artful and Cunning Fellow”
As we begin the next leg of our voyage on the Belle of Washington, I thought that I’d conclude my look at runaway slave advertisements with three stories from the Albemarle that I found especially moving.
Nixonton, N.C.– Runaway Slaves Named Sampson, Harriet, Aaron and Luke
Now I’d like to share a few of the runaway slave advertisements from Nixonton with you. I thought about them as I prepared for our voyage on the Belle of Washington because I remembered that there were some especially interesting ones that refer to that old seaport on the Little River.
On Albemarle Sound– Runaway Slaves and the Sea
Welcome back to the Belle of Washington. We left Elizabeth City early this morning and came down the lovely waters of the Pasquotank River. Now we're passing the Little River and, up on its northern shore, the little hamlet of Nixonton. I’ll say more about Nixonton’s history in a second, but first I think this is a good time and place to talk about runaway slave advertisements because there are some especially interesting ones that refer to Nixonton.
Elizabeth City, N.C.– 6 AM
Last night our voyage on the Belle of Washington began with a reception at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, N.C. It was a lovely night. A large crowd of local folks came to see us off, and Tom, Bland and I had the pleasure of meeting the people who will join us … Continue reading Elizabeth City, N.C.– 6 AM
The Voyage Begins– Elizabeth City, N.C.
Today I’m excited to be writing from Elizabeth City, N.C. I’m here to co-host a riverboat voyage that will explore the history, culture and environment of the Albemarle Sound region of coastal North Carolina.
New Bern, N.C.– The Last Ram Schooner
The ram schooner Edwin and Maud in New Bern, ca. 1935. She is resting at Union Point, where the Neuse and Trent Rivers come together, probably at the wharf for the J.A. Meadows Company. In the background, we can see the Trent River Bridge.
Trent River, New Bern, ca. 1905— “One of the Finest Fish Markets in the World”
A fish market crowded with fishermen, fish buyers and fishmongers at the bottom of Middle Street, on the Trent River waterfront, New Bern, N.C., circa 1905. A pair of fishermen in a sail skiff are culling their catch, while a boy, obscured by an older man, probably his father or an uncle, poles what is probably a log-built skiff around them.