Happy New Year!
Ncpedia rang in the New Year with the publication of its 5,000th entry on January 2, 2014. Everyone on the NCpedia team let out a collective WOW!! It’s a HUGE milestone for the project and for users of the growing and evolving resource.
Our 5,000th article comes from William Powell’s Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. Written in 1979 by William L. Andrews, Professor of English & Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill, the entry highlights the African American writer Charles Waddell Chesnutt, the first African American writer to have his work published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1887. Chesnutt’s life spanned the years just before the Civil War through the 1930s.
Born in 1858 in Cleveland, Ohio to parents who were themselves born into freedom in North Carolina, Chesnutt grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina and attended the Howard School, the earliest incarnation of what we know today as Fayetteville State University. Living in North Carolina, New York City, and Cleveland as an adult, Chesnutt’s life included work as a teacher and school principal, accountant for a railroad, legal studies, work as a reporter, and his ultimate success as a writer of fiction and short stories. He sought to provide an alternative view of African Americans in post-Civil War America, gaining a strong literary reputation that endured from the 1880s to the 1920s when it was eclipsed by a new generation of African American writers in the Harlem Renaissance. Abandoning fiction in the early 1900s, he then wrote articles focusing on civil rights and race.
Working on NCpedia is a great job and an amazing experience for me. As a librarian and history buff, it gives me a chance to learn more about North Carolina history every day and help bring that knowledge to users. I felt incredibly privileged to ring in the new year working on Chesnutt’s entry, learning about his important contribution to North Carolina and American literary history and the civil rights movement. But don’t take my word for it — read his entry to learn more!
And speaking of NCpedia’s 5,000th entry, it reminds me of what it takes to develop and publish an online encyclopedia, and Chesnutt’s entry is a great illustration of part what the NCpedia team does to bring North Carolina history online. When we publish biographical entries from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography we don’t just publish the text online for folks to read — we try to “bring the entries to life” by adding additional works like books and websites to help users learn more about the subjects. We also search for images, video, and sound clips. Sometimes we find objects in the collections of the State Library here in Raleigh where we’re based; at other times we go out to the Internet and search its nooks and crannies to find appropriate additions. In the case of Chesnutt, I was able to find an image no longer under copyright restriction as well as his writings that have been digitized and are available online. These works might be pretty hard to find in your town or local library but now you can read them for yourself. Wow!!
Those are just a few of things we do here at NCpedia that make getting to the 5,000th a WOW! moment.
Check out NCpedia for yourself!