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

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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. https://www.ncpedia.org/atwater-ann-george

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. https://www.ncpedia.org/parker-kellis-earl

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: https://www.ncpedia.org/eppes-henry

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. https://www.ncpedia.org/eppes-charles-montgomery

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. http://www.ncpedia.org/garrett-denison-dover

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.” https://www.ncpedia.org/sugg-herman-bryan

To learn more about history the history of African Americans in North Carolina, please visit this collection in NCpedia: https://www.ncpedia.org/exploring-north-carolina-african-american-history.

— Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

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Celebrating African American History Month

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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 Historyhttps://www.ncpedia.org/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 Monthhttps://africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/. 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 Blackpast.org — the online reference guide to African American History:

With more than 13,000 articles, Blackpast.org 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 monthhttps://www.ncdcr.gov/news/press-releases/2018/01/18/black-history-month-programs-nc-department-natural-and-cultural. 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

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/ncghl/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/ncpedia

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/everything_nc/

 

— Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

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Commemorating the U.S. Entry into World War I

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To follow North Carolina’s history in World War I on social media, use the hashtag #NCWW1 (note: use the number “1” not an uppercase letter “I”)!

Today marks the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I, at the time called the “European war”.  On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson requested a declaration of war from the U.S. Congress. Four days later on April 6, Congress voted to declare war on Germany.  It was the 4th time the Congress had enacted a declaration of war. Several months later on December  7, the U.S. declared war on Austria-Hungary.

Iredell County World War I Memorial, Statesville, NC. From North Carolina Postcards, North Carolina Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.

Iredell County World War I Memorial, Statesville, NC. From North Carolina Postcards, North Carolina Collection, UNC Chapel Hill. More information on the memorial is available from Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina in NCpedia.

Wilson’s used the phrases “a war to end all wars” and “make the world safe for democracy” to confirm both a sense of the moral urgency to enter the conflict and some sense of optimism that war could even accomplish these goals.  World War I surely didn’t end the prospect of war for future generations, but it was truly a war that changed everything — from the devastating loss of a generation of young men who went to war, to loss of children and families, homes, towns and cities and culture to the very way war came to be fought.  It changed the course of science and technology.

For its part, North Carolina sent more than 80,000 soldiers overseas to the war effort and made many contributions and sacrifices from the home front. The U.S. Senate approved the declaration with a vote of 82-6, with both of North Carolina’s senators in support.  In the House of Representatives, sentiment was not nearly as unilateral, with a final vote of 373-50.  Congressman Claude Kitchin, a supporter and ally of Wilson, made a bold declaration against entry into the war.  He is remembered for delivering a passionate speech against when called on for his vote. He was applauded by both supporters of the war and those who stood with him and was later both renounced and revered for his stand. You can read more about him here in NCpedia. And of the war, the state’s governor, Thomas W. Bickett, who led the state through the troubled time said: “This is no ordinary war. It is a war of ideals.”

From now through the centennial of the conclusion of the war in 2018, we will be contributing to the commemorative effort by sharing North Carolina’s history in World War I — from its men and women who served on the battlefield to efforts on the home front.  We will try to bring you closer to stories, events, people and places by sharing collections and resources that bring the history a little closer to home.  Along the way, we’ll also share resources and collections that might help family history researchers locate records from family members who served.

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New in NCpedia: North Carolina Women

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New in NCpedia:  North Carolina Women

North Carolina Women: Portrait of North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Susie Marshall Sharp. From the Waller Collection, PhC.14, collection of the State Archives of North Carolina. Used with permission.

North Carolina Women: Portrait of North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Susie Marshall Sharp. From the Waller Collection, PhC.14, collection of the State Archives of North Carolina. Used with permission.

Women’s history month is rushing by!  Before it passes, NCpedia has new biographies to share on North Carolina women. These entries come us from our content partners at the University of North Carolina Libraries, the Research Branch of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, and the North Carolina Symphony.

If you’re in for a little browsing, visit this link to all NCpedia bios about women: http://www.ncpedia.org/biography/women

New NCpedia entries:

  • Marie Watters Colton — first female speaker Pro Tempore of the NC House of Representatives.
  • Elizabeth “Libba” Nevills Cotten — Carrboro native and key figure in the 1960s folk music revival.
  • Mary Claire Engstrom — long-time Hillsborough resident and instrumental in founding the town’s Historical Society and chronicling the history of Orange County.
  • Mary Nicholson — Early female commercial pilot from Greensboro, joined the British Air Transport Auxiliary during WWII.
  • Anne Penland — from Asheville, Penland became a pioneering nurse anesthetist and was the first women to serve as an anesthetist on the European front in WWI, in a British base hospital.
  • Susie Marshall Sharp — ground-breaking first female judge in the state’s history, first female member of the State Supreme Court and its first female Chief Justice.
  • Maxine Swallin — along with her husband, Benjamin Swallin, she helped revive the floundering North Carolina Symphony in the 1930s.

–Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

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