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.
The Voyage to Bayou Lafourche
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.
James R. Walker, Jr. & the Struggle for Voting Rights in North Carolina’s Black Belt
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.
The Beauty of Old Fishing Nets
Far more than I usually do, I am noticing the beauty in even the smallest, most everyday parts of my world.
I never grow tired of looking at them: the faces in these old photographs. They are immigrants that settled in eastern North Carolina in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They came from Russia, Syria, Lebanon, Norway, Greece, Poland and many other far-off lands.
Freedom Days– Halifax County, 1964
Tonight’s Black History Month post is about another forgotten moment in eastern North Carolina's civil rights history: a historic voting rights movement in Halifax County, N.C., in 1964. It was called the Halifax County Voters Movement. I stumbled on it when I was going through some of my old notes from The Carolina Times, the African American newspaper that has been published in Durham, N.C., since 1921.
Martin Luther King, Jr. from Edenton to the Blue Ridge
Here on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I thought I’d share a historical document from one of the most famous civil rights events in American history, the campaign to end racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama-- and also talk a little about Dr. King's visits to North Carolina.
The Birth of a Plantation Empire: New Bern in 1800– Susan Johnson’s Diary, part 6
This is part 6 of my series on the diary that Susan Edwards Johnson wrote on the North Carolina coast in 1800 and 1801. At this point in her story, she's spending time at her cousin Frances Pollock Devereux's home in New Bern while her husband is overseeing the construction of gristmills and lumber mills on Peter Mallet's lands on the Black River.
Tea with Aaron Burr’s Aunt– Susan Johnson’s Diary, part 3
At the Connecticut Historical Society, I continued to read Susan Johnson’s diary from her visit to the North Carolina coast in 1800 and 1801. Today, in part 3, I'm looking at her visit with Aaron Burr's aunt Eunice in New Bern.
The Color of Water, part 8– To Chicken Bone Beach and Back
When I talked with coastal old timers about Jim Crow, I also heard many stories about African Americans leaving North Carolina in the summertime and going north to get close to the water. Again and again, black Carolinians told me stories about traveling especially to Atlantic City, Wildwood and other towns on the Jersey Shore to work at beach resorts and enjoy the seashore.
The Color of Water, part 7– From Ocean City to Rainbow Beach
This is part 7 of my special series called “The Color of Water.” In this series, I’m exploring the history of Jim Crow and North Carolina’s coastal waters, including the state’s forgotten history of all-white beaches, “Sundown towns,” and racially exclusive resort communities. Today-- African American and Indian beaches.
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.
Herring Week, Day 13– The View from Colerain: A Postscript
A final memory. I will never forget a day that I stood on a bluff over the Chowan River and talked with an old gentleman that used to be the head of the cannery room at the Perry-Wynns Fish Company in Colerain.
Herring Week, Day 8– Singing on a Moonlit Night
Welcome back to Herring Week! This is part 8 of my special series on the history of the great herring and shad fisheries on the Albemarle Sound, once one of the largest fisheries in North America. In today’s post, I’m looking at a photograph from the Capehart family’s Avoca fishery in Bertie County in 1877.
Herring Week, Day 7– Draft Horses & Ships at Sea
Avoca fishery, Albemarle Sound, 1877. Welcome back to Herring Week, my special series on the history of the great herring and shad fisheries on Albemarle Sound.
Up to now, we've been looking at another fishery, the Greenfield fishery down the sound from Edenton, N.C. But today and tomorrow I'm going to focus on Avoca, in Bertie County, where, as you can see in this photograph, teams of heavy draft horses helped to haul in the mile-long seine and tens of thousands of herring, shad and other fish.
Welcome to Herring Week
This week I am looking at historical photographs of the great herring and shad fisheries on Albemarle Sound and its tributaries. At this very moment, as has happened since time immemorial, river herring and shad here in North Carolina are moving out of the Atlantic and headed upriver to their spawning grounds. Historically, their arrival has been a time of celebration and a symbol of spring, hope and resurrection that is especially appropriate here at Easter.
A Death of the Heart
"At this point in my research, I was wishing that I could write something about my beloved home state’s history—anything—and not have it come around to race and white supremacy.... So much for telling an innocent little story about a family of bird egg collectors and the popular passion for oology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries."
The Death of an Oologist
The incident that led me to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago was the tragic death of a young bird egg collector in 1909. His name was Richardson P. Smithwick and he was from a family of amateur bird, bird egg and bird nest collectors that lived in Bertie County, N.C. late in the 19th and early in the 20th century.
Indian Woods Homecoming
I first got an inkling of how much Indian Woods, in Bertie County, N.C., still means to the Tuscarora people in New York State when I was listening to a talk by a Tuscarora teacher named Vince Shiffert.
At the time, I was at an extraordinary conference called “Three Hundred Years at Indian Woods.”