Listening to History

For many years, I traveled across North Carolina listening to, recording and preserving stories that spoke to the state’s history throughout the 20th century. With the support of the Southern Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I turned many of those interviews into stories in a series called “Listening to History” that ran in the Raleigh News & Observer between 1998 and 2008. For me it was history, storytelling and poetry.

Below you will find links to the stories. Many thanks to the State Library of North Carolina and its wonderful digital encyclopedia, NCpedia, for making digital versions of the stories available.

You can find a link to NCpedia’s main page for Listening to History here.

You can also find my personal reflections on the end of “Listening to History” here. They appeared in a short essay called “In the Promise Land” that also ran in the News & Observer.

Here is a list of the stories and links to them:


Gretchen Brinson: A Born Nurse

Rev. Vernon Tyson: Miss Amy’s Witness

Hattie Brown: A Freedom Story

Odell Spain: My Way of Life

Allen Troxler: Shirley’s Garden

Ray Wells: There’s a Man for You

Kenny Davis: It’s Like Being at War

Georgia Rae Dickinson: Like Waves on the Beach

Betty Ballew: The Place I Love Best on this Earth

Harry Kittner: A Candle is Lit

Lois Epps Jones: Zan Epps’ Daughter

John McDonald: This Old Drugstore

Willis Williams: Life and Death at Devils Gut

Emma Crawford: A Good Life

Leila Pigott: An Angry God

Marta Galvez: We Can Outlast

Ben Averitt: Doing It Right

Mabel Williams: Standing up to the Klan

David Harrell: A Rockyhock Christmas

Denise Giles: A Hometown Hero

Hazel Reece: A Quilter’s Life

Margaret Wicker: The Glen Coal Mine Disaster

Case and Ellene Van Wyk: Flower Fields and Muck Fires

Rev. David Forbes: The Birth of SNCC

Otis Hardy: Stars in the Sky

Charles Wales: Always a Little Music

Horace Twiford: A 12 Gauge and a Mullet Net

Adell McDowell: A Frightful Time

Jim Ellis: Putting in Tobacco

E.R. Mitchell: Backyard Barbecue

Kenneth George: Cole’s Pottery

Madge Guthrie: One Clear Beautiful Night

Dorcas E. Carter: The Great Fire of ’22

Dr. James Slade: People That Do Right

James Applewhite: The Essences of Things

Sheila Kingsbury-Burt: The Undercrust of Living Dust

Mary Everett: The End of the Century Book Club

Welton Lowry: The Spirit of Henry Berry Lowry

Mary Lea Simpkins: The Yates Mill

Wesley Goodwin: Knitting and Hanging Net

Haley Kelley: Remembering Sugar Hill

Norman Perry: Redbone Hounds and Wood Pile Dogs

Elizabeth Ohree: Waiting is Hard

Joe Johnson: Denim Days in Erwin

Jan Applewhite: Theater of Dreams

Don Stith: The Smoke Eaters of Warrenton

Martha MacLeod: The Highland Scots

Gary Grant: A Boy Scout Jamboree to Remember

Robert Frost: This Tramp

Capt. Eugene W. Gore: The Smell of Money

David Yeomans: When the Booze Yacht ran Ashore

Bessie Mizell: We are all in this Together

Lila Edwards: Great-Granddaddy Sang Amazing Grace

Dennis Moody: Death is no Different

Carl Lamm: Glory Days of Country Music Radio

Elizabeth Sanderlin: Old-Fashioned People

Karen Bethea-Shields: In Joan Little’s Cell

Allan Gurganus: Telling the Story from Birth

Wilma Horton: All the Old Tent Show People

George Graham: Fried Shad on Blue Monday

Pota Vallas: A Greek Heart

Joe Lewis: We weren’t Afraid

Ethel Blalock: The Primitive Baptists Endure

Loretta Gunter: Always a Family Beach

Rudolph Knight: History Right Here

Vernon Lee Creekmore: In Old Currituck

Marta Colson: Ililda’s Beauty Shop

Dan “D.T.” Dale: The Fears They Had

Joe Floyd: The Lightship Relief

Marvin Jones: Making a Day

Rachel Stotesbury: As Time Goes Along

Rene Whitney: So Many Blessings

Bunny Sanders: Serpents and Doves

Maceo Parker: These Kids are Fantastic

Maude Ballance: Ocracoke Cooking

Watts Auman: Peach Picking Time

Evelyn Zaytoun Farris: Love Stories

Ray Wyche: A Rainy Day Hangout

Myrtle Peele: Book Dreams

Eddie McCoy: Write-Off Kids

Doc Borden: D-Day

James Everett Brown: The Most Comfort in the World

Annie Louise Wilkerson: A Life of My Own

Judith Shaw: Railroad Street

Ardathy Spikes: Somewhere like DuPont

H.O. Golden: A Man’s Work

Kathleen Hanchey: The Pink Supper House

Edward Tie: A Second Life

Clarence Alston: It was 1919

Mary Cannady: At Dr. King’s House

Eppie Rhodes: The Home Front’s Dispossessed

Fred Lockamy: Sorrow Valley

Karl Fleming: Show Me Life

John McNeill, Sr.: A Dream World

Alice Eley Jones: Herring Fish

Alethea Williams-King: The Widow’s Mite

Karen Willis Amspacher: Harkers Island Ends Here

Mary White: A One Teacher School

William M. Hill: At the Mortar Box

Lennis Ipock: The Dead Ones

Lennie Christianson: Alligator River Life

Lovie Shelton: God Dealt Well with the Midwives

Ike Murray: Things that Last

Terry Shinn: High Rock

Tibbie Roberts: Free as the Marsh Ponies

Sallie Powell: Determined to Teach

Mel A. Tomlinson: Rubber-Band Man

Delia Perkins: The Waters Came Down

Sallie Powell: Mr. Dewitt’s Lake

Velma Coltain: The Wind was Howling

Dwight Burris and Ernie Foster: Old Drum

Marvin Tupper Jones: Pleasant Plains

Alfred Fisher: Bay River

Henry Ramsey, Jr.: My Own Love of the Blues

Nancy Grady Wilson: Making Something Good

Ann Johnson: This Woman’s War

Athenia Moses: Standing Up for the Things We Believed

Helen Hoggard: Salt Pork & Cracklings

Ammie Jenkins: Where the Cool Waters Run

Milton Styron: Born a Commercial Fisherman

Loraine Nelson: If the Threshers Spent the Night

Henry Johnson, Jr.: The Engelhard Café

Joyce Williams: Farm Days

Sonny Williamson: Ain’t Love Wonderful?