GHL Blog Rotating Header Image


Celebrating African American History Month: new @NCpedia exploring history and lives at the local level

Share Button

Historian, cultural thinker, and author Joseph Amato wrote in his 2002 book Rethinking Home: A Case for Writing Local History that “All history is local.”

Countering a view of local history as “the stepchild” of the history profession, in the book Amato argues for an approach to uncovering and exploring history that digs deeply and unceasingly into history at the local level.  By unearthing and sharing the vast range of regional and local history, new understandings develop and voice is given to versions of history that expose new historical themes or may go against common understandings of national and global themes.  At the same time, researching and writing about local history can also help illuminate and support understandings of broader established historical themes.

Photograph of H.B. Sugg and Aurelia Sugg [date unknown]. From the collection of Eulalia Williams. Used by permission.

Photograph of H.B. Sugg and Aurelia Sugg [date unknown]. From the collection of Eulalia Williams. Used by permission.

This week we are sharing local history for African American History Month.  And we are also celebrating historians and researchers who are passionate about ensuring that these important local histories are told.

A BIG thank you to two of NCpedia’s newest contributors:  Steven Hill, a high school history teacher and local historian from Pitt County, and Sarah Carrier, the North Carolina Research & Instructional Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Without their efforts — and the efforts of many, many local historians — so many North Carolina lives and stories would still be left in darkness. Thank you!

Please check out recent additions to NCpedia that illuminate the lives, events, struggles, and achievements of African Americans in North Carolina:

Ann George Atwater

In this biographical essay, Carrier shares the extraordinary life of Ann Atwater, a lifelong civil rights activist in Durham. In addition to many efforts on the state and local front to address food scarcity, voting rights, education and housing, Atwater is also remembered for the extraordinary experience she had of developing a friendship with an adversary — Klu Klux Klan leader Claiborne Ellis. Through that friendship, Ellis later refused association with the Klan and turned away from racism.

Kellis Earl Parker

In this biographical essay, Carrier shares the life of Kellis Parker, lawyer, civil rights activist, scholar and musician from Kinston. After attending Howard University Law School, Kellis became the first African American law professor at Columbia University. Parker led the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund and wrote widely exploring legal remedies for racial issues. He was also the brother of renowned North Carolina musicians Melvin and Maceo Parker.

Henry Eppes

Hill has contributed this biography of Henry Eppes, Reconstruction politician and Senator from Halifax County, to tell the story of an important politician notably absent from the history books.  Born enslaved, after the Civil War Eppes worked for the Freedmen’s Bureau and became a delegate from the “Black Caucus” to the 1868 Constitutional Convention. He then served for seven terms in the state legislature.  Please visit this biography to learn more:

Charles Montgomery Eppes

Hill contributed this biography about the son of Henry Eppes (see above). C. M. Eppes became instrumental in establishing and improving educational opportunities for blacks in Greenville.  A man who was able to successfully manage adversity and controversy throughout his career, Eppes’ approach and politics were tied closely to those of Booker T. Washington, and he was at times at odds with members of the community and movement who believed in more aggressive action in the civil rights movement.  His story helps illustrate the complexity of the movement.

Denison Dover Garrett 

African American civil rights pioneer, NCCAP leader, civic leader, and Greenville businessman, D. D. Garrett spent his life persisting in the fight for rights and breaking down Jim Crow era color barriers.  Hill’s essay recounts Garrett’s experience in the military during WWII, his business endeavors, his later leadership of the local chapter of the NAACP, and his later recollections of life in the Jim Crow South.  He was elected as the first African American member of the Pitty County Board of Commissioners. Garrett has been remembered as courageous and persistent, a man who worked and accomplished much as a statesman through peaceful relations and diplomacy. Please visit this extended biographical essay.

Herman Bryan (H.B.) Sugg

Continuing his work on Pitt County educational history, Hill has contributed an extended biography on H.B. Sugg. Sugg spent his professional career leading the effort to improve education and schools for blacks in Farmville during segregation.  He later became the first African American to be elected to Farmville’s school board. Like the efforts of C. M. Eppes and D. D. Garrett, Sugg’s efforts and approach also help illustrate the complexities of the civil rights movement and the precarious position of blacks in the divided power structure — as Hill writes in the biography: “The racially divided power structure placed leaders like Sugg in a delicate position. Sugg’s actions as a leader speak to his adroit navigation of potentially dangerous realities to achieve tangible progress for African Americans while not compromising or losing the support of neither the white nor black communities.”

To learn more about history the history of African Americans in North Carolina, please visit this collection in NCpedia:

— Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library





Celebrating African American History Month

Share Button

African American History Month: this month we honor and celebrate our country’s African American heritage.

Wedding photo of Charlotte Hawkins Brown, 1912.

Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown on her wedding day, 1912. From the North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC.

African American History Month first began by Presidential Proclamation of Gerald Ford in 1976.  The year 1976 was also the 50th anniversary of the celebration of Negro History Week which began in 1926 by the efforts of Carter G. WoodsonNegro History week emerged from the founding of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in Chicago in 1915. An historian, journalist, and advocate for systematic research into the neglected and buried history of African Americans, Woodson was one of the first scholars to study African American history, and he had put the event in motion in 1924 by urging members of his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, to organize Negro History and Literature Week. This later became Negro Achievement Week.

In 1925, the 50th anniversary of Emancipation, the ASNLH organized the national celebration to take place the following year in February. The organizers chose February for two birthdays historically celebrated in Black Communities: Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and Frederick Douglass on February 14.  The event quickly spurred the growth of organizations and community groups who responded with annual celebrations. By the 1950s, Negro History Week was celebrated in cities and communities across the country.  And building on the heels of the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement, and the 50 year history of Negro History Week, President Gerald Ford made the first federal proclamation of African American History Month in 1976.  Since that time, all of the country’s presidents have issued the February proclamation.

This month we’ll feature the history and achievements of Black and African Americans. We’ll begin today by sharing a few super useful resources to get you started exploring African American history and to help you follow the celebration throughout the month. Some of these resources are based in North Carolina and feature North Carolina’s history. Others connect to the national celebration. Please check them out to learn more!

From NCpedia, North Carolina’s online encylopedia:

Exploring North Carolina: African American History This collection brings together numerous topics, with links to encyclopedia articles. Some of the topics include: biographies, history of African American Education and the state’s HBCUs, organizations (civic, business, political and religious), culture and the arts, law, segregation, politics, civil rights, and historic places.  The collection also includes an extensive list of links to local and primary source collections online, as well as an extensive print bibliography.  Educator resources and lesson plans are also included.

From the National African American History Month commemoration website:

African American History Month This site is a joint initiative by a number of federal institutions — the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  It’s a fabulous compendium of information and access points to biographies, historical essays, historical collections and documents, audio and video materials, legislative materials, and more. They have included a special resource page for teachers.  And the site also includes a calendar of live events throughout the month, some available by live-streaming.

From — the online reference guide to African American History:

With more than 13,000 articles, provides comprehensive access to the history of African Americans in the United States and around the world. The online resources includes access to speeches, photographs, and primary sources and has many special features including support for genealogy research.

From the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources:

Celebrations, exhibits and educational events around the state for African American history month Whether you find yourself on the Coast, in the Piedmont, or the Mountains, visit this calendar for happenings and learning opportunities near you.

And we’re social!  Please follow us on social media to tune in to the conversation!  Use the hashtag #everythingnc





— Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library





New @NCpedia: Learn about local educational and civil rights leaders in Pitt County and read a new biography of Henry Eppes, member of the 1868 “Black Caucus”

Share Button

New @NCpedia: Learn about local educational and civil rights leaders in Pitt County and read a new biography of Henry Eppes, member of the 1868 “Black Caucus”

NCpedia is pleased to share some of its newest content. These are new biographical entries about education and civil rights leaders in Pitt County and a biographical entry on Henry Eppes.

W.H. Davenport standing in front of Greenville, N.C.'s C. M. Eppes High School, January 19, 1961. Item 741.26.a44, from the Daily Reflector Image Collection, East Carolina University Digital Collections.

W.H. Davenport standing in front of Greenville, N.C.’s C. M. Eppes High School, January 19, 1961. Item 741.26.a44, from the Daily Reflector Image Collection, East Carolina University Digital Collections.

Henry Eppes was a North Carolina state legislator who was a member of the 1868 “Black Caucus” as a delegate to the state constitutional convention. He was also a delegate to the Freedmen’s Convention of 1866.

These entries share stories specific to Greenville and Pitt County.  At the same time, the local history they provide illustrates many of the themes and currents of the history of North Carolina and the nation.

These entries appear in NCpedia thanks to one of our newest contributors, Steven Hill. Steven is a high school history teacher in Greenville, North Carolina public schools. He has  a passion for researching and sharing history, especially the educational and civil rights history of his home county. Thank you, Steven, for sharing your work and these important histories with NCpedia viewers!

New @Ncpedia: D.D. Garrett and his wife Clotea on December 5, 1988. Taking the oath of office as the first Black County Commissioner. From the Michael Garrett Family private collection. Used in NCpedia by permission.

New @Ncpedia: D.D. Garrett and his wife Clotea on December 5, 1988. Taking the oath of office as the first Black County Commissioner. From the Michael Garrett Family private collection. Used in NCpedia by permission.

Please visit these entries to learn more:

Willis Haynie Davenport — African American educational leader:

Henry Eppes — North Carolina state legislator and member of the 1868 “Black Caucus”:

Charles Montgomery Eppes — noted African American educational leader and son of Henry Eppes:

Denison Dover Garrett — African American civil rights pioneer, NCCAP leader, civic leader, and Greenville businessman:

Junius Harris Rose — Superintendent of Greenville Schools 1920-1967:

Do you have a topic in North Carolina history whose story might fit in NCpedia?

Please let us know!  To learn how to contribute, visit NCpedia’s Contribute page: Or contact me!

— Kelly Agan, North Carolina Government & Heritage Library








Meet Your North Carolina State Symbols!

Share Button

Did you know that North Carolina has 56 state symbols and official adoptions?  Yes! And — finally — the state symbol is getting its day!  On Saturday June 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., North Carolina’s state symbols will be featured at a special event at the Capitol: “Meet Your State Symbols.”  The event will take place on the grounds of the Capitol building in Raleigh.  The GHL will be on hand with a ‘pop-up’ state symbol library featuring information and fun activities to help folks learn about the state’s heritage and history.  You can even vote for your favorite and be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter to find out the winner!

Why does North Carolina have state symbols?

Every year, thousands of school kids across the state work on projects to learn about the state’s symbols.  They have lots of questions, like: what are state symbols, anyway? why is milk the State Beverage and not Pepsi or Cheerwine?  why is the sweet potato the state vegetable?  Kids and adults alike ask questions like “the state has a Livermush Festival?!”

“Greetings from North Carolina,” postcard ca. 1930s, showing the goldenrod as the state flower. From North Carolina Postcards, North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

How did all of these adoptions come into being?  “Symbols” (like the flag and Great Seal) and other “official adoptions” are created by the North Carolina General Assembly. The General Assembly develops legislation (a bill) with language declaring a particular thing as the “official state (fill in the blank)”.  The bill is ratified by the General Assembly and is then signed into law by the Governor. The adoption of each state symbol is associated with a particular piece of legislation enumerated in the North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 145: State Symbols and Other Official Adoptions.

We often think of all of these adoptions as “state symbols” — like the flag, colors, Great Seal, bird, etc. — but the range of adoptions is really much more broad. Since the General Assembly adopted its first “symbol” in 1885 with legislation recognizing the official State Flag, it has adopted more representations of the state’s heritage and culture, from the State Dog to the State Marsupial to the State Reptile and the State Christmas Tree.  Some symbols are emblems or iconic representations of the state’s history and culture, such as the flag or the Great Seal.  Others represent the state’s unique natural heritage, such as the Cardinal and the Venus Fly Trap. Others, like the sweet potato, represent something that has been vital to sustaining the people or the economy. In recent years, the General Assembly has also adopted a number of festivals or events that are examples of the historical folk life and cultural heritage of the state’s communities and counties.

The state’s newest adoption came during the 2016 session when the General Assembly voted to adopt the Town of Warsaw (Duplin County) Veterans Day Parade as the State Veterans Day Parade (S.B. 160). The bill was signed into law by the Governor of North Carolina on June 24, 2016.  The adoption recognized the long history of the town’s parade, which dates back to their 1921 commemoration of Armistice Day.  The parade is believed to be the oldest, annual commemoration in the nation of what is now Veterans Day.

Does the General Assembly ever consider a symbol that it doesn’t adopt?

Sometimes bills are introduced for new adoptions, but they never make it through the legislative process. During the 2015-2016 legislative sessions two bills met this fate. On January 26, 2015, a bill was introduced for the adoption of the Old Fort Gold Festival, in McDowell County, as the official Gold Festival of North Carolina.  The festival has been celebrated during the first weekend in June since 2003.  And on March 4, 2015, a bill was introduced to name the Bobcat as the official State Cat. Fourth-graders at Benvenue Elementary School in Nash County wrote to their state legislator to recommend that the General Assembly adopt an official state cat to complement the state dog, the Plott Hound. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Bobbie Richardson, a Nash County Democrat. The General Assembly concluded the legislative session in 2015 without taking up either legislation for ratification.

Editorial, the Wilmington Evening Dispatch, January 29, 1912.

Editorial, the Wilmington Evening Dispatch, January 29, 1912.

Have people ever believed something to be a state symbol but it wasn’t “official”?

There are also examples of things being considered state symbols by virtue of popular understanding, but not by official legislative recognition. Take the state flower.

For a long time, the daisy was popularly believed to be the state’s flower. In the July 1917 issue of National Geographic, the daisy was listed as the state flower by “common consent.”  But this was unofficial.  In fact, adoption of state symbols, emblems, and mottos is often taken historically as a matter of pride and patriotism.  On January 29, 1912, a resident of Wilmington submitted an editorial to the Evening Dispatch lamenting the state’s failure to adopt a flower, while the majority of states had them (see image).

In 1921 the General Assembly did consider adoption of the ox eye daisy but failed to pass a resolution or bill.  By the 1930s, many folk also considered the goldenrod to be the state flower. It appeared on North Carolina themed postcards of the decade, titled as the state flower (see image).  And an article in the Burlington Daily Times News, April 1, 1933, mentions an “argument” between two journalists (Louis Graves of the Chapel Hill Weekly and Julian Miller of the Charlotte Observer) regarding the state flower. Apparently, Graves believed it to be the ox eye daisy, while Miller insisted on the goldenrod. In fact, neither was correct! At last in 1941 the General Assembly put the matter to rest, with the dogwood being firmly ensconced in the states official imagery, beating out the daisy, goldenrod, azalea, laurel, and others.

Are you ready to become a North Carolina State Symbol expert or just want to learn more about this unique aspect of the state’s history?

Check out these resources:


State Symbols & Official Adoptions:
North Carolina State Symbols Interactive Timeline:
North Carolina State Symbols & Official Adoptions links to legislation:

NC General Assembly, Laws of the State of NC Chapter 145 (State Symbols & Official Adoptions):

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

This blog is a service of the State Library of North Carolina, part of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Blog comments and posts may be subject to Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.