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SNCC’s Raleigh Roots

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 06:30

A 1963 brochure for SNCC

On April 15, 1960, about 150 student leaders from 10 states met at Shaw University in Raleigh for the “Southwide Leadership Conference on Nonviolent Resistance to Segregation.” The meeting took place just two months after the Woolworth sit-ins in Greensboro had launched the protest effort.

The session was designed to consolidate isolated sit-in efforts and map strategy. It was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference whose executive director, Ella Baker, was a Shaw graduate. The conference created the “Temporary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee” headquartered in Atlanta.

The weekend’s keynote speaker, the Reverend James Lawson of Nashville, criticized established older groups such as the NAACP for moving too slowly and acting too conservatively. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a large group in Memorial Auditorium, urging students to adopt the nonviolent philosophy of Ghandi and face jail time for peaceful protest if necessary.

SNCC members were the “shock troops” and frontline leaders in the civil rights movement, especially in Mississippi in the summer of 1964. John Hope Franklin called them “probably the most courageous and the most selfless” of the civil rights workers.

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Fort Macon, Contested Ground during the Civil War

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 07:03

Sketches of the 1862 surrender of Fort Macon. Image from the State Archives

On April 14, 1861, a militia company from Beaufort, acting on its own, boated over to Fort Macon, near Atlantic Beach, and seized the fort in the name of the state from a lone Union army caretaker.

Only two days after the firing on Fort Sumter, North Carolina had not yet left the Union to join the Confederate States of America. By the time North Carolina did secede on May 20, Fort Macon was securely in state hands with hundreds of Confederate soldiers making it ready for war. Over the next year, the fort was armed with 54 heavy cannons.

However, the Confederacy did not manage to hold the fort for long. In April 1862, after an extended siege led by Union Brig. Gen. John G. Parke, Fort Macon’s Col. Moses J. White surrendered the garrison to Union forces. The fall of Fort Macon closed the port of Beaufort to the Confederacy. The seizure was part of the Burnside campaign which saw much of coastal North Carolina fall into Union hands.

Today, Fort Macon is one of 35 state parks.

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Journey of Reconciliation, 1947 Civil Rights Protest

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 06:30

On April 13, 1947, a mob attacked civil rights protesters at the bus station in Chapel Hill. Earlier that year, the Congress of Racial Equality laid plans to test the enforcement of a Supreme Court decision that declared segregation on interstate buses and trains unconstitutional.

On April 9, eight African American and eight white members of the group set out from Washington, D.C., on Greyhound and Trailways buses in what was billed as the “Journey of Reconciliation.” A few days later, the buses arrived in Chapel Hill where the organizers met with students and townspeople. As the buses prepared to depart on April 13, two blacks refused to move to the rear. Upon leaving the buses, several of the protesters were attacked and arrested.

In May, those who had been arrested went on trial and were sentenced. Organizer Bayard Rustin and two white protesters, charged with interference, surrendered at the courthouse in Hillsborough and were sent to segregated chain gangs. Rustin published journal entries about the experience. His writings, as well as the actions of the “Journey of Reconciliation” riders, in time inspired Rosa Parks’ nonviolent protest in 1955 and the Freedom Riders of 1960-1961.

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Sports Journalists Honored in Salisbury

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 06:30

On April 12, 1960, the first National Sportscasters & Sportswriters awards program was held in Salisbury. At that program, those in attendance formed the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. The group added a Hall of Fame two years later.

The idea for the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association started with local restaurant owner Pete DiMizio, who appreciated the regional sports media and decided to honor them. He hosted a banquet for them at his restaurant in 1953. The event launched the North Carolina Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and, after DiMizio’s death in 1958, a small group of Salisbury citizens continued and expanded upon DiMizio’s dream. The association went national the next year.

Today the association is dedicated to honoring, preserving and celebrating the legacy of sportscasters and sportswriters in the United States with the knowledge that what they do helps American sports fans form lifelong connections to sports. The organization also develops educational opportunities for those who are interested in pursuing a career in sports media. Salisbury remains the group’s national headquarters.

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Charles B. Aycock and His Mixed Legacy

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 07:19

On April 11, 1900, Charles B. Aycock was unanimously nominated as the Democratic candidate for governor of North Carolina.

Aycock practiced law and co-founded the Daily Argus newspaper in Goldsboro, but it became clear that politics was his true passion. He distrusted the Republican Party, which supported African American involvement in government and endorsed the idea that politics should be reserved for the white race.

As he sought to build a political reputation, Aycock worked tirelessly on behalf of the public schools, believing that education was the key to social change. After serving as a federal prosecutor, he toured the state in 1898, pressing his views on race and education in a statewide series of debates with Populist Cyrus Thompson.

Aycock handily defeated his Republican opponent in the general election, and his inauguration in 1901 launched a 72-year Democratic hold on the state’s highest elected position. As governor, Aycock touted the “Dawn of a New Day” and continued to press for educational progress. He also advocated strongly for child labor reform and temperance laws, but met mixed success on those initiatives with the legislature.

His restored birthplace in Wayne County is now a state historic site.

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Kenneth Noland and Abstract Art

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 06:30

Noland painting in 1968. Image from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

On April 10, 1924, abstract artist Kenneth Noland was born in Asheville. Noland devoted much of his career to the artistic genre of color field abstraction. He studied and painted the interaction of contrasting and complementing colors. His most famous paintings feature a circle or chevron pattern that contains a distinct array of colors.

After a four-year stint in the Air Force, Nolan enrolled at Black Mountain College, not far from his hometown. The experimental liberal arts college challenged students to learn through their own creative approach. During his time at Black Mountain College, Noland learned Professor Josef Albers’ color theory and was greatly influenced by geometric abstractionist Ilya Bolotowsky. From Black Mountain, he went on to Paris to study artist Ossip Zadkins in 1949 before returning to the United States and teaching in Washington, D.C. and New York for the remainder of his career.

Noland’s work has been shown around the world. It has been said of Noland he was “one of the great colorists of the 20th century,” and that, “he invented a n

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ew kind of American abstraction based on the primacy of color.”


Latecomer Strikes Gold at Reed, 1896

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 06:30

The nugget found in April 1896. Image from UNC-Charlotte.

On April 9, 1896, the last large gold nugget was found at Reed Gold Mine, the focal point of the nation’s first gold rush. The discovery came 97 years after John Reed first found a large nugget on his land.

Gold from the Reed property realized more than $2 million in sales by 1824. By the late 1800s, the mine had been mostly exhausted, and the prospectors who worked it had departed for other places like Colorado, Alaska and California.

Jake Shinn, though, hadn’t lost hope. On April 9, Shinn struck something hard only three feet underground. He ran off to clean what he had hit and see what he found, ignored by the fellow miners around him who were used to many false alarms. When he returned, it was clear that he was holding a 22-pound gold nugget. He eventually sold the nugget for around $4,800, which would be more than $100,000 today.

Mining at Reed continued to dwindle until the last operation closed in 1964. The property was acquired by the state in 1971 and opened as a state historic site in 1977.

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Tryon Palace, Rebuilt from Its Ashes

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 06:30

Image from the State Archives

On April 8, 1959, the restored Tryon Palace opened to the public.

Interest in rebuilding the parts of the Palace that were lost in a 1798 fire was shown as early as 1925, but it wasn’t until 1945 that Gov. R. Gregg Cherry appointed a commission to study the idea and organize restoration efforts. Maude Moore Latham, a New Bern native who had played in the Palace ruins as a child, served as commission’s chair and committed substantial amounts of her own money to the project.

Gov. and Mrs. J. M. Broughton ,and Mr. and Mrs.
C. A. Cannon in Williamsburg, Va. doing research for the restoration of Tryon Palace. Image from
the N.C. Museum of History

The commission acquired the site of the original Palace with money from the General Assembly and, in 1951, the Boston firm that had restored Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia was hired to help with the restoration.

Two original copies of drawings of Palace done by its first architect John Hawks, extensive historical research, and substantial archaeological evidence guided the work. Workers located the building’s original foundations as construction began. As the excavations progressed, interior designers were aided by the discovery of pieces of marble, brass, molding and glass.

The restoration’s total cost came in at around $3.5 million, and, after its re-opening, the Palace quickly became one of the most visited historic sites in the state.

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Oak Ridge, Military Prep School in Guilford County

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 06:30

A circa 1910-1920 image of the Oak Ridge Academy.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History

On April 7, 1850, citizens in northwestern Guilford County met and appointed a board of trustees to erect a schoolhouse. The school would eventually become Oak Ridge Academy, the first coeducational military high school in the nation.

Three years later the school opened with a traditional curriculum and 63 male students. In 1861 and 1862, the entire student body and faculty enlisted in the Confederate army. The loss necessitated the school’s closing. Set to reopen in September 1865, the school’s main building burned the night before classes were to resume. The school was moved to nearby cabins and private homes.

Many senior students volunteered for service during World War I, and the U.S. Army began recruiting graduates for service as officers. In 1926, the Army organized a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps there.

The school changed its name to Oak Ridge Military Academy in 1971, and that same year the school became the first military academy in the United States to admit females. Women had attended the school’s secondary courses since about 1929, but never in a military capacity.

In 1983, the 101-acre campus became a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


Bayard Wootten, Esteemed Photographer, of Chapel Hill and New Bern

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 04/06/2014 - 06:30

An image of Wootten from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill

On April 6, 1959, pioneering photographer Bayard Wootten died in New Bern.

Born in New Bern in 1875, Wootten left the area to attend college in Greensboro and then teach. She returned to New Bern to help family members. Once back, she did design work to support her family, eventually creating Pepsi-Cola’s first trademarked logo. She embraced photography in 1904 and, after displaying her first photograph that year, orders for her work began to roll in.

After working for the National Guard as photographer and director of publicity, she turned to aerial photography in 1919, taking pictures of New Bern and the Neuse River in a Wright Brothers plane.

Wootten moved to New York, and after a brief stint there and running a statewide portrait photographic service, she settled in Chapel Hill in 1928. She would remain there until her retirement in 1954. During her time there she received frequent invitations to exhibit her work, and assembled popular slide presentations based on her architectural and landscape photography. She also illustrated books for UNC Press, Houghton Mifflin and J.B. Lippincott publishers during that time.

Shortly after her retirement she returned to New Bern where she died five years later.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Library has collected a number of biographical materials and photographs associated with Wootten on this page.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


Jim Hunt Takes the Stage, 1976

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 04/05/2014 - 06:30

Gov. Hunt reads to children as part of the Summer Reading program.
Image from the State Archives

On April 5, 1976, James Baxter Hunt Jr. announced his intention to run for governor of North Carolina.

With 65 percent of the vote, Hunt handily won the election in 1976. He served as governor for a record-breaking sixteen years—with an eight-year break in between two sets of consecutive four-year terms.

Image from the State Archives

During Hunt’s administration, North Carolina became a model of educational reform and the growth of technology. He set higher standards for teachers and students and sought to raise teacher salaries. A signature part of Hunt’s agenda was helping young children grow and develop. To that end, he advocated for the establishment of the Division of Child Development and created the non-profit SmartStart to provide assistance to preschoolers.

Hunt also helped position North Carolina as a center of technology. He helped start the N.C. School of Math and Science in Durham, and worked to found the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina to give companies and students the opportunity to work with technology and grow the economy.

After a generation in the public eye, Hunt left office in 2001 as one of the most familiar actors ever on the stage of North Carolina politics.

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A Place for H. H. Brimley: The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 07:16

H. H. Brimley poses in the Museum of Natural Sciences in 1934.
Image from the State Archives

On April 4, 1946, H. H. Brimley died.

Visitors to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh encounter one exhibit that is distinctly different from all the rest. It is the cluttered office of Herbert Hutchinson Brimley, the museum’s original curator and first director. Brimley’s tenure at the museum stretched from 1895 until his death more than 50 years later.

Brimley and his brother Clement emigrated from England to America in 1880, and shortly thereafter opened a taxidermy shop in Raleigh. They quickly gained reputations as two of the South’s leading naturalists.

Their first work for the state was to create an exhibit on waterfowl and fishes for the State Exposition of 1884. The Department of Agriculture, which oversaw the display, found the exhibit too valuable to discard. The department found a more permanent place in its halls for the exhibit and, in time, found a more permanent place for Brimley, too, as the exhibit’s curator and director of the museum it began.

Once simply the State Museum, the institution has been the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences since 1986. One of North Carolina’s most popular attractions, the museum now averages more than 700,000 visitors per year.

Click here to see more historical photos of Brimley and the Museum of Natural Sciences from the State Archives.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


Thomas Dixon and the Genesis of Birth of a Nation

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/03/2014 - 06:30

Dixon works at his New York office in 1915. Image from
the North Carolina Digital Collections

On April 3, 1946, Shelby native Thomas Dixon Jr., whose novel was the basis for the film Birth of a Nation, died.

Educated locally and at Wake Forest, he won a scholarship to graduate school at The Johns Hopkins University. In Baltimore, he fell in love with theater and soon moved to New York to pursue an acting career. His disappointing experience there led him home to Shelby where he studied law.

Dixon was elected to the General Assembly in 1884 and passed the bar after serving in the legislature for a single session. Tiring of law, he became a Baptist minister. In 1895, he left the ministry to become a nondenominational speaker, achieving some as a lecture lecturer during that time and earning as much as $1,000 per engagement.

In 1901, Dixon wrote his first novel The Leopard’s Spots, calling for the exclusion of blacks from American society and for reconciliation between North and South. He wrote two more novels with similar messages, and, in 1905, adapted one of them into a play entitled The Clansman.

D. W. Griffith went on to adapt the play into the landmark motion picture, Birth of a Nation, in 1915.

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Horace Kephart, and the “Back of Beyond”

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 04/02/2014 - 07:13

Kephart cooking in at a camp in the Smokies

On April 2, 1931, naturalist and writer Horace Kephart was killed in a car crash near Bryson City. Kephart was riding in a taxi driven by another author, Fiswoode Tarleton, when the car plunged from the highway and overturned three times. Both Kephart and Tarleton were killed instantly.

A former librarian, Kephart came to the Great Smoky Mountains in 1904 seeking solace and spent the rest of his life there, writing about the environment and outdoor life. By 1913, he had published three books on self-reliant living and the natural world. He was an early advocate of the mountain region and tirelessly promoted the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Though born in Pennsylvania and raised in the Midwest, Kephart lived in a remote cabin on Hazel Creek in Swain County for much of his later life.

Kephart wrote many books and articles about the southern Appalachian culture and the natural environment of the area he adopted as his home, which he heralded at the “Back of Beyond.” His book Our Southern Highlanders, published in 1913, is the classic work on the region.

Kephart is buried in Bryson City on a hill overlooking the Great Smoky Mountains.

Western Carolina University holds many of Kephart’s papers.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


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