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The “Greensboro Four” at Woolworth’s. Photo from the (Greensboro) News & Record.

Fifty-six years ago today four students, now known as the “Greensboro Four,” sat down at the lunch counter at the Woolworth’s Department Store in downtown Greensboro and asked to be served. They were refused service, launching a sit-in movement that would spread throughout North Carolina and the South and transform the struggle for civil rights for African Americans.

The first page of a March 1960 memo describing Hodges' constitutional authority in law enforcement.

The first page of March 1960 memo describing Hodges’ constitutional authority in law enforcement.

Several documents available online through the North Carolina Digital Collections show how North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges and other state officials responded to the situation and demonstrate how public opinion was divided over the protests.

The Response from State Officials

The first—a public statement made by state attorney general Malcom B. Seawell on February 10, 1960—argues that though North Carolina did not have a law mandating the segregation of restaurants, businesses could refuse to serve whoever they choose.

Seawell calls the protesters as out-of-state “trouble-makers” and describes their actions as having:

posed and continue to pose a serious threat to the peace and good order in the communities in which they occur…Such trouble-makers are irresponsible, and their actions can only result in irreparable harm being done to racial relations here in North Carolina.

He also argues that the colleges which student protesters attend should work to curb their student actions, a sentiment Hodges later echoed in a phone conversation with a Woolworth’s executive.

Two memos—one laying out the governor’s constitutional authority to deal with the sit-in demonstrations and another describing the actions of governors in other states in similar situations—were immediately followed by a statement Hodges made on March 10 where he expressed his view on the sit-ins, saying:

…I do not think these demonstrations do any good or in the final analysis will even serve to accomplish the objectives of the demonstrators….I have no sympathy whatsoever for any group of people who deliberately engage in activities which any reasonable person can see will result in a breakdown of law and order as well as interference with the normal and proper operation of a private business.

A letter to Gov. Luther Hodges opposing the sit-in protesters.

A letter to Gov. Luther Hodges opposing the sit-in protesters.

The Public’s View

Four letters sent to Hodges’ office on the sit-ins reflect how divided the state’s citizens were on the issue.

A Burlington couple called on Hodges to close N.C. A&T and save what they viewed as wasted taxpayer money, while a Durham woman wrote that the demonstrations were “disgusting” and said that many of the protesters were “from the North.”

On the other side of the debate, a UNC-Chapel Hill student penned a note to express solidarity with the sit-in demonstrators and an ECU student rebuked the governor for not promoting freedom and free expression for all.

More to Explore

The papers described here are part of a larger Civil Rights digital collection that helps tell the story of the struggle for justice in North Carolina. An online exhibit from the N.C. Museum of History tells that story in another way.

A succinct overview of the Civil Rights movement can be found as NCpedia as can dozens of other in-depth articles on the subject.

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Last Friday, we debuted a GIF that showed the formation of North Carolina counties. You all seemed to love it, but also gave us some great feedback about slowing the speed down and adding the ability to pause.

We’ve cut the frame speed in half to give you a better view (available below and on our website) and also posted a version of the animation on our YouTube channel to enable you to pause, if that’s something you’re interested in.

As you watch this interestomh transformation, you might notice that some of the places listed on the map at certain points now longer exist. Here’s what happened to them:

  • Albemarle County was divided into Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank and Perquimans precincts in 1668, and ceased to exist the next year when each of those precincts became its own county.
  • Bath County, which was formed in 1696, suffered a similar fate in 1705, when the three precincts it was divided into became Beaufort, Craven and Hyde Counties (Beaufort County was originally called Pamtecough).
  • Organized by the Lords Proprietors around the mouth of the Cape Fear River in 1664, by 1667 Clarendon County was abandoned. Since it predated 1700, this name actually doesn’t appear in the animation, but we wanted to make sure it was mentioned.

A section of a 1775 map of North Carolina showing Dobbs County.
Image from the State Archives.

The remaining four defunct counties were all eliminated or had their names changed because the people they were named after became unpopular.

  • Since former royal governor William Tryon was serving as a British officer at the time, area citizens petitioned the General Assembly to divide Tryon County into Lincoln and Rutherford Counties in 1779.
  • Many North Carolinians blamed Bute County’s namesake, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, personally for the 1765 Stamp Act, so by 1779 it was divided into Franklin and Warren Counties.

Don’t forget to visit the DNCR website and NCpedia to learn more about North Carolina’s unique places.

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A 1923 map showing North Carolina's counties created by the U.S. Geological Survey and now held by the State Archives.

A 1923 map showing North Carolina’s counties created by the U.S. Geological Survey and now held by the State Archives.

North Carolina is known for its varied people and places. While researching a post for our This Day in North Carolina history about Avery County, the last county in the Tar Heel State to be formed, we got curious: how did those boundaries evolve over time? Where did some of those unique names come from?

Luckily, there’s a wonderful book on the subject, David Leroy Corrbit’s 1950 work The Formation of North Carolina Counties, 1663-1943. The book, now in in sixth printing, discusses the boundary changes in painstaking detail and also features some neat drawings that visually show the evolution.

Inspired by the Digital Public Library of America’s amazing GIF IT UP contest that ended last month, we took the drawings in Corbitt’s book, originally done by L. Polk Denmark; added some highlights; and made a GIF of our own, illustrating the changes in the Tar Heel State’s internal boundaries.

Check it out below:

 

ezgif.com-gif-maker

(See a Larger Version of This GIF)

 

If you’re interested in learning more about North Carolina geography, NCpedia has a host of great resources, including an overview of each county and the entire North Carolina Gazetteer online for free. Corbitt’s book, available for sale from our Historical Publications Section and at a local library near you, is great, too.

We’ve also added a new page on our website aggregating these and other great resources our agency produces related to North Carolina places all in one location. Happy exploring!

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North Carolina has a rich tradition of folklore, and in honor of Halloween we thought we’d share a few of our favorite folk tales, eerie unexplained natural phenomena and historical mysteries from the Tar Heel State’s past.

1. Brown Mountain Lights, Burke and Caldwell Counties

Since at least 1833, as many as a dozen unexplained lights of a red, blue or yellowish color have appeared on Brown Mountain, northwest of Morganton, usually on warm summer evenings. The phenomena have been investigated to no avail and inspired countless songs and stories.

A composite image of some of the various lights seen at Brown Mountain. Image from Our State Magazine.

A composite image of some of the various lights seen at Brown Mountain.
Image from Our State Magazine.

2. “Ghost Ship” Carroll A. Deering, Dare County

Though investigated by the FBI, the wreck of the Carroll A. Deering remains a mystery. The Coast Guard found the ship abandoned but wasn’t able to reach it four days. When they did reach the ship, they found nearly everything missing (including all the crew), though dinner was on the stove. The Bermuda Triangle, pirates and a number of other explanations have been offered, but none seem to hold.

The launch of the Caroll S. Deering. Image from the National Park Service.

The launch of the Carroll A. Deering. Image from the National Park Service.

3.Blood Shower,” Chatham County

After a Chatham County woman thought she heard a hard rain fall in February 1884, she quickly discovered that the liquid falling from the sky wasn’t clear, but instead was a “shower of pure blood.” Samples were taken by a UNC chemist who confirmed the liquid was indeed blood, buthe unable to offer a scientific explanation for the phenomena.

UNC Chemistry Professor Francis Venable's analysis of the Chatham County Blood Shower. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

UNC Chemistry Professor Francis Venable’s analysis of the Chatham County
Blood Shower. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

4. The Disappearance of Nell Cropsey, Pasquotank County

The nation was gripped by the sudden disappearance of the beautiful Nell Cropsey from her Elizabeth City home in November 1901. Cropsey was found dead in the Pasquotank River a month later, and her boyfriend, Jim Wilcox, was implicated from the crime though he maintained his innocence and was ultimately pardoned by Governor Thomas Bickett. The death remains a mystery, at least for some, to this day.

Nell Cropsey. Image from Museum of the Albemarle (H.2005.80.50.

Nell Cropsey. Image from the Museum of the Albemarle (H.2005.80.50).

5. The Maco Light, Brunswick County

The legend of the Maco Light has its origins in an 1867 train wreck that occurred west of Wilmington. After the car he was riding in became uncoupled from its train, conductor Joe Baldwin attempted to signal an oncoming second train to stop by waving a lantern. He was unsuccessful and was killed in the resulting crash, and ever since, a flickering light has been seen close to the site of the crash.

An illustration of the Maco Light from Our State Magazine.

An illustration of the Maco Light from Our State Magazine.

6. Devil’s Tramping Ground, Chatham County

In western Chatham County, you’ll find a 40-foot perfect circle devoid of most vegetation. Though surrounded by normal vegetation, attempts to plant just about anything on the path through the circle have all failed and anything left there seems to mysteriously disappear. Local lore maintains that the circle is the result of Satan’s nightly walks in the area, where he paces in a circle.

devils-tramping-ground

Paying a visit the Devil’s Tramping Ground.

7. The “Ghost Train” of Bostian Bridge, Iredell County

One of the worst railroad disasters in history took 23 lives in August 1891 when a speeding train jumped the tracks and flew off a 60-foot high bridge west of Statesville. A ghostly specter of the train is said to be seen each year on the anniversary of the tragedy.

The Bostian Bridge Wreck. Image from the State Archives (N_88_9_12).

The Bostian Bridge Wreck. Image from the State Archives (N_88_9_12).

8. The Lost Colony, Dare County

One of the country’s most gripping historical mysteries, the Lost Colony hasn’t been seen since its founder, John White, left Roanoke Island in August 1587 on supply mission. When he returned in 1590, all White found was the word “CROATOAN” was carved on a post in where the colony once had stood.

Discovering

Discovering “CROATOAN” on a Roanoke Island tree.

Interested in reading more North Carolina folklore? NCpedia has a great set of articles for you to browse. If books are more your style, North Carolina Legends, published by North Carolina Historical Publications would make a great addition to your library.

Our friends at North Carolina Miscellany have also put together a great “Haunted North Carolina” series of blog posts worth a read.

Happy Halloween!

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A look inside the tobacco barn at the State Fair.

A look inside the tobacco barn at the State Fair.

Late last week, teams of three squared off in what has become an annual State Fair tradition—Duke Homestead’s Tobacco Looping Contest.

The contest highlights what was once a common chore on farms across North Carolina: farmers tied tobacco onto sticks and loaded them into barns, where the crop was cured.  The practice largely fell by the wayside in the mid-20th century as technology improved and tobacco began to be cured in a bulk barn in large containers.

Things to See and Do This Year

The contest also kicks off a host of activities that we’re proud to present at the fair to help you explore our state’s history and heritage. Here are three things to be sure you see on your visit to the fair this year:

  • Explore a working tobacco barn in the Heritage Circle area, managed by Duke Homestead and the N.C. Tobacco Growers Association. You can take a peek at the curing process if you visit during the week, or see the finished product if you stop by on the weekend.
A visitor learns about historic military uniforms after our 2014 revue.

A visitor learns about historic military uniforms after our 2014 revue.

  • Discover the Tar Heel State’s connections to World War I at an exhibit we’ve created in the north lobby of Dorton Arena. You’ll see how the fairgrounds were used a training center and learn more about the how the Great War impacted North Carolina.
  • See interpreters portraying soldiers from throughout American history during the Military Appreciation Parade and our 2nd annual historical uniform revue at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively, Wednesday.
  • Experience a mock tobacco auction in the Heritage Circle area Friday at 2 p.m. Though now largely replaced by contracts between tobacco companies and farmers, tobacco auctions were once the center of the economic and social life of many rural North Carolina communities.

A horticultural exhibit at the 1910 State Fair featuring apples
and other fruit. Image from the State Library.

Explore State Fair History from the Comfort of Your Home

Even if you’re not a regular to the N.C. State Fair, you can’t argue that the annual event is part of our state’ rich culture and that it has a deep history. To commemorate those deep roots and help you explore them, the State Archives and State Library offer several great resources:

  • Blue Ribbon Memories: Your History of the N.C. State Fair, is an online exhibit that showcases photographs, premium lists, newspapers clippings and other materials available on our State Fair Ephemera Digital Collection and allows fairgoers to share memories of their own State Fair experiences.
  • Two videos from the State Archives, posted here and here, show the fair as visitors saw it in the 1940s and 1960s, respectively.

Happy exploring! We hope to see you out there at this great North Carolina tradition.

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A genealogy workshop in Raleigh, a celebration of model trains in Spencer and demonstrations of historic tatting in Pineville are just a few of the opportunities for fun and discovery you’ll find this weekend across North Carolina.

Here are seven things on our weekend agenda:

1. Discover how you can use materials from the State Archives and State Library during a workshop in Raleigh Saturday.

 

 

2. Join the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer Saturday and Sunday for a celebration of model trains.

 

 

3. Participate in a hands-on demonstration of the historic art of tatting Saturday at the President James K. Polk Historic Site in Pineville.

 

 

4. Explore the history of Southport by bike during a tour led by the N.C. Maritime Museum there Saturday.

 

 

5. Watch a movie about space under the stars at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh. The museum will be showing 2001: A Space Odyssey Friday and Interstellar Saturday.

 

 

6. Experience one of the many outdoor dramas offered across the state before the summer ends.

 

 

7. See what life was like at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson in Winnabow during the colonial and Civil War periods during the site’s Living History Saturday program.

 

 

Check out DCR’s calendar for more information on these and other events, and a enjoy a great North Carolina weekend!

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Schools across North Carolina and out and summer has been here officially for a week. There are so many great things to see and do over the coming season that we decided to put together a list of 10 things that are on our agenda for the summer:

1. Discover North Carolina’s rich history of film and television production at the N.C. Museum of History’s Starring, North Carolina! exhibit. The museum is running a Starring, North Carolina! summer special, with all tickets marked down 50%.
MoH-Summer
2. Try to strike it rich by panning for gold at Reed Gold Mine in Midland.
Reed-Summer
3. Take a look back at the Tar Heel vacations of yesteryear through photos and videos made available online by the State Archives. The Outer Banks History Center’s Flickr site, the Travel and Tourism Digital Collection and the State Archives’ Travel and Tourism Videos playlist are three great places to start your search.
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4. Stop by one of our historic sites or museums near your beach house or on the way to it.
Roanoke-Island-Summer
5. See a movie or concert under the stars at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh.
NCMA-summer
6. Attend a summer arts or music festival or watch an outdoor drama. The N.C. Arts Council has a great list of the not-to-miss events.
7. Add a North Carolina novel or work of non-fiction to your summer reading list.
Reading-Summer
8. Check out I DO! Weddings in the Albemarle, 1831-2015, a new exhibit at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City.
MoA-Summer
9. Beat the heat and cool off in the air conditioning at one of our nine art and history museums across the state.
Museums-Summer
10. Step aboard President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train when it makes its only stop in the Southeast at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer August 29 and 30.
NCTM-Summer

Check out the summer section of our newly-redesigned website for more tips on experiencing authentic North Carolina arts, history and culture this summer. Happy exploring!

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