At the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, I found a remarkable collection of oral history interviews from the North Carolina coast during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
The thing that moved me most about Roy G. Taylor’s book Sharecroppers: The Way We Really Were is the way that that he remembered so many of the small things about a sharecropper’s life in eastern North Carolina.
To celebrate Pride Month, I’d like to share an excerpt from a work-in-progress, tentatively titled The Light Beneath the Waves. This scene features Betty Somers, one of the first women to serve in Marine Corps Women's Reserve. She was a pioneer in more ways than one.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Red Shirts were what we today would call a white nationalist militia group. Bedecked in red trousers and shirts, they barricaded polling sites, shot into homes and generally terrorized those who supported black voting rights.
At the Boston Athenaeum, I discovered that the young Abraham Galloway was bound for Haiti in 1861 and was determined to drive the United States into a civil war to free his people.
On a summer day in 1900, an old Confederate general stood before a white supremacy rally of thousands in a hamlet on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp.
On the 30th of Sept. 1898, North Carolina newspaper publisher Richard Benbury Creecy wrote, “We are standing on the edge of a race conflict that will shock humanity.” He was not talking about Wilmington, N.C., though, as we might expect, but about another coastal town, Elizabeth City.
A friend in New Bern, N.C., recently sent me an issue of the Raleigh News & Observer that he found in his family's old papers. The newspaper's date was November 5, 1898. A front-page article was about a large white supremacy meeting at the Craven County Courthouse in New Bern.
Eighteen months after the Wilmington massacre of 1898, the leading white citizens of Edenton, N.C., gathered at the Chowan County Courthouse to organize a "white supremacy club." Their goal was take away black voting rights forever.
One of the great pleasures I had last winter was a visit from Dr. Linwood Watson, a Haliwa-Saponi family physician who has a passion both for growing native plants and for understanding more deeply how they were traditionally used for sustenance and healing in eastern North Carolina’s Indian communities.
I recently re-visited Dr. Frenise A. Logan's groundbreaking article on the Exodusters because I wanted to understand better why black insurgents had burned down the Hackney carriage factory in Rocky Mount, N.C., in February of 1890.
One look at an old photograph and suddenly I was three years old again and standing on the side of Hwy. 101, near the turn to Mrs. Kay Wright's farm, and I was stepping up into a Wonder Bread delivery truck.
A retired state trooper named Bobbie “Bob” Edwards sent me a message a few weeks ago. He told me that he had read my recent story about the bombing of an African American church in eastern North Carolina in 1966. He said my article had brought back memories. He had seen the church explode, he told me. He had been the only eyewitness.
A few years ago, I carried a box of Charles Farrell's old photographs of the state's great herring fisheries back to one of the communities on the Chowan River where he took them. They are poignant and beautiful, and the herring workers in them are unforgettable, but I also find them a little haunting because they remind me of all that can be lost.
I love this photograph of fishermen at the Barney Slough Fish Camp back in the winter of 1905. They were shad fishermen and you can see them standing with their pound net stakes, just off Hatteras Island.
Now preserved at the National Archives, a slave manifest indicates that 66 of Augustin Pugh's slaves from Bertie County, N.C., sailed on the brig Calypso out of Norfolk, Va., on April 3, 1819. They were bound for New Orleans, and more than half of them were ten years old or younger.
Today I want to talk about slavery, convict labor and the construction of the old Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C. I was first led to do this historical research many years ago, when I was documenting a hunger strike at the prison in its last days. It is not something one forgets easily.
Yet another memory. I am at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department of the Boston Public Library in Boston, Mass. Founded in 1854, the library houses more than a million rare books and historical manuscripts. I am looking for Abraham Galloway.
I discovered another forgotten chapter in eastern North Carolina's history while I was exploring the Farm Security Administration (FSA)'s photographs at the Library of Congress-- it is a story about the migrant farm workers that harvested the region's crops in the 1930s and '40s.
This week I've been looking at another remarkable collection of historical photographs. Now preserved at the Library of Congress, they were taken by a documentary photographer named Jack Delano in the camps of the migrant construction workers that built Fort Bragg, N.C., one of the largest military installations in the world.
In today's post I want to introduce a special collection of historical photographs. They come from Greenville, N.C.'s longtime newspaper, The Daily Record, and they provide a remarkable view of what life was like in Greenville and the rest of Pitt County in the years between 1949 and about 1975.
A memory. I am racing across New York State after a blizzard. I am searching for historical records on Abraham Galloway, the fiery young slave rebel, radical abolitionist and Union spy who will later become the subject of my book called The Fire of Freedom.
A memory. I am at the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. The museum's roots date to 1799. Though relatively small, the library holds one of the country's great maritime history collections, especially significant for understanding the period just after the American Revolution, when Salem was a thriving seaport that was growing rich in what was called the East Indies and Old China trades.
I never grow weary of looking at these old portraits at the New Hanover County Public Library. They date from the 1850s to the present day, and they're available to us all even in these times of Covid-19.
Tonight my wife Laura went to bed early, after a long, stressful day at the hospital, and I sat up wondering about the fate of the world and feeling a little lonely and Covid-weary.