I found Annie Hooper’s masterpiece in a warehouse in a small town in eastern North Carolina: thousands of hauntingly beautiful Biblical figures made out of driftwood, seashells, putty and plaster. All of them are part of large, elaborate scenes depicting stories from the Old and New Testaments. I had been hoping to see them for decades, and when I finally found them, they were together for probably the last time.
ENFIELD, N.C., 1930. Another letter in the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst also got my attention for its look at eastern North Carolina life in the throes of the Great Depression.
I found the letter in the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst. It was dated 22 April 1918 and was from Miss Mary C. Euell of Wilson, N.C. She had written the great African American scholar and activist to tell him about “my trouble here in Wilson.”
When I finished school at Harvard and set out to write history, I never considered writing about any place other than where I grew up: the eastern part of North Carolina. I discovered that the rural and small town landscape of my childhood was more than enough window for me into the larger realm of American history. Here I found the world in a grain of sand and more than enough history for a lifetime of writing and storytelling. Without leaving home, I have been writing about topics as far ranging as slavery and the American Revolution, maritime life during the Civil War, women’s work on the World War II home front and the black freedom struggle of the 1960s.