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.
Today I want to look at the story of Puerto Rican construction workers that helped to build Fort Bragg at the end of WW1. Theirs is a little-known tale of war, colonialism and migration, and it is one set against the background of the country's last deadly pandemic, the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918-19.
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.
Many Americans are searching for historical context in order to make sense of what happened at the U.S. Capitol. Again and again, they look to the racial massacre and coup d'etat in Wilmington in 1898, when white supremacists overthrew a duly elected government and took power.
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.
We always said that we’d go to Chinquapin together. He was going to show me where he grew up. We were going to visit his aunt, the one who raised him, and we were going to sit on her front porch and drink sweet tea and tell stories.
I came to making fruitcakes late in life. One fall morning, maybe 15 or 20 years ago, I woke up craving a slice of my grandmother Vera’s fruitcake. My grandmother, Vera Sabiston Bell, lived in an old farmhouse in a little community called Harlowe in Carteret County, N.C.
On the day after the Klan blew up their church, the members of the Cool Springs Free Will Baptist Church in Ernul, N.C., gathered in the churchyard for worship. The date was April 10, 1966. It was Easter morning.
In today's post I'm looking at African American attorney James R. Walker, Jr. & a remarkable struggle for voting rights in North Carolina's Black Belt in the 1950s.
Russell Coles began to say good-bye to Cape Lookout in 1920. He was slowing down. The aging shark hunter, by then 55 years old, increasingly found it difficult to rise before sunrise and go out and do battle with sharks.
When I learned about Russell Coles and the shark factory in Morehead City, N.C., I thought immediately of the first pages of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, when all the fishermen have returned to shore in a Cuban port and are cleaning and packing their catches....
The first mention of the First World War at Cape Lookout in Russell Coles’ diary is dated July 28, 1916. On that day, he wrote that he had risen before first light and was “looking for the German submarine” by sunrise.
Teddy Roosevelt left his home in Oyster Bay, New York, on March 23, 1917 and headed south to join Russell Coles and his crew of fishermen from Morehead City, N.C. to fulfill his dream of killing a giant oceanic manta ray.
For many students of American history, the letters between Russell Coles and Teddy Roosevelt would be the most important historical documents that my daughter Vera and I found at Coles Hill.
Russell Coles first learned about giant oceanic manta rays in or about 1900, when he began to spend his summers on a houseboat at Cape Lookout and started listening to the local fishermen's stories.