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Landmark Lunch Counter Protest in Greensboro

This Day in North Carolina History - 12 hours 48 min ago

The Greensboro Sit-Ins. Photo from the
Greensboro News & Record

On February 1, 1960, four African American college students sat down at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s Department Store in downtown Greensboro and asked to be served. They were refused, launching a sit-in movement that would spread throughout North Carolina and the South.

The four students, Ezell Blair, Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil and David L. Richmond, were all freshmen from nearby North Carolina A&T State University.

Sit-ins by college students during the next several months forced the integration of businesses in the region. Local media attention led to national coverage. The protest spurred similar efforts across the country, sparking a national call to battle by civil rights activists who endorsed the nonviolent form of protest to demonstrate society’s inequities for blacks.

In April 1960, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an outgrowth of the sit-in movement, organized at Shaw University in Raleigh. The sit-ins and demonstrations throughout the South, slowly led to changes in local attitudes.

Nationally, these and other protests ultimately led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, both of which assured the legal rights of blacks.

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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.


The Carol A. Deering, “Ghost Ship”

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 06:30

The Carroll A. Deering. Image from the N.C. Maritime Museum.

On January 31, 1921, the impressive five-masted commercial schooner Carol A. Deering was found wrecked on Diamond Shoals off Cape Hatteras. At the time, she was returning to Newport News from a trip to Brazil. Built in 1919 by the G. G. Deering Company in Bath, Maine, the ship was among the last wooden schooners built before their eclipse by iron shipbuilding.

Two days before the discovery of the wreck, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse keeper reported seeing the ship. On the morning of the 31st, the Coast Guard discovered the foundered boat, ostensibly abandoned.

When the seas calmed four days later and the Coast Guard was able to reach the ship, it was clear the vessel had been abandoned—the crew and their navigational equipment, belongings, documents and lifeboats were all gone, but interestingly dinner was on the stove and the captain’s cabin was a mess. A few months later, the ship was hauled from the rocks and dynamited so it wouldn’t be a hazard to mariners in the area.

The mysterious circumstances of the wreck became the subject of investigation which included a visit to Dare County by the FBI. Various explanations for the wreck surfaced, including the effects of the Bermuda Triangle, Bolshevik pirates and mutiny. All of these explanations were discredited by investigation, and the cause remains a mystery.

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Freakish Weather Alarms Eastern North Carolina, 1940

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 06:30

An iceberg in the 1910s. Image courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.

On January 30, 1940, an iceberg was spotted off shore at Salter Path.

A Works Progress Administration (WPA) worker reported that the iceberg was the size of a small island, extending six feet above the surface of the ocean, and on a westerly trajectory. Others reported that at Atlantic Beach, ice floes had piled up so high in the Bogue Sound at the Atlantic Bridge that gulls were landing on them.

The Harkers Island ferry had to break through ice to continue its run, and a man in Beaufort pulled frozen fish from the water. He got the surprise of his life when he returned from fetching a knife to find that they had thawed and were still alive.

That January had been so cold that The Beaufort News declared it the “Ice Age.” Temperatures, though cold, were not of record levels. The thermometer dipped down to 18 degrees on January 20 and to 16 degrees on the 27th and 28th, though it did rebound to a balmy 21 degrees on the 29th  Farther north, at Lake Mattamuskeet, so many birds were stranded by the ice bound conditions that they had to be fed by the superintendent.

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.


Nantahala National Forest, Conservation Landmark

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 01/29/2015 - 06:30

Kimsey Creek in the Macon County portion of Nantahala National Forest.
Image from the New York Public Library.

On January 29, 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation establishing the Nantahala National Forest.

The area that is now Nantahala has a long history. Explored by early naturalists William Bartram and Andre Michaux, the forest initially included lands in Georgia and South Carolina in addition to those in North Carolina. When the national forests were reorganized in 1936 to follow state boundaries, Nantahala’s boundaries were changed to cover more than 500,000 acres in Macon, Jackson, Transylvania, Graham and Swain Counties adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Nantahala is the largest of North Carolina’s four national forests and features a number of notable attractions, including them the Appalachian and Bartram Trails; Whitewater Falls near Cashiers, which are the highest falls east of the Rocky Mountains; and the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, famous for its 400-year-old trees. Nantahala and the nearby Pisgah National Forest attract more than 5 million visitors each year.

The name Nantahala comes from the Cherokee language, and means “land of the noonday sun.”

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.


Loss of the Challenger and of Capt. Michael Smith of Beaufort

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 06:30

The Challenger accident after launch. Image from NASA.

On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after its 11:38 a.m. launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The seven crew members, including the pilot, U.S. Navy Captain Michael John Smith of Beaufort, died in the disaster.

Investigators later determined that cold weather caused a seal in the craft’s right solid rocket booster to fail, allowing pressurized hot gas from the solid rocket motor to reach the external fuel tank. The spacecraft broke apart and disintegrated in a plume of white smoke over the Atlantic Ocean.

Image from NASA.

The fatal mission, which was to have deployed two satellites into orbit, received much media attention because it marked the first time a civilian, high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, was allowed to travel in space. After the disaster, NASA suspended shuttle flights for two years.

The Challenger’s remains were recovered, in part, from the ocean floor nearly two months after the explosion. Captain Smith was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in May 1986. There is a monument to Smith on the waterfront in Beaufort and the town’s Michael J. Smith Airport is named in his honor.

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Death of Governor William Tryon in New York, 1788

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 06:30

Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On January 27, 1788William Tryon, royal governor of both North Carolina and New York, died.

Born in England, Tryon was not formally educated, but was boosted by family connections. A professional soldier, he was first commissioned as a lieutenant in 1751 and rose through the ranks thereafter.

Tryon was appointed lieutenant governor of North Carolina in 1764 and moved to the colony with his family that year. He assumed the duties of governor in 1765 upon Arthur Dobbs’ death. Tryon erroneously believed that the colonists would not object to a tax levied to erect a capitol and governor’s residence.  The assembly appropriated funds and authorized Tryon to oversee the project, which quickly exceeded the budget.

Some North Carolinians felt that injustices in the colony, including the tax for “Tryon’s Palace,” corrupt officials and lack of representation for the backcountry, needed to change. They formed a resistance group known as the Regulators. After several defiant incidents, a special session of the assembly was called, which caused further agitation.

Tryon led militia into the backcountry in 1768 and 1771, defeating the Regulators at the 1771 Battle of Alamance. While on the expedition, Tryon was notified of his transfer to the governorship of New York.

He returned to England in 1780, and died there eight years later.

Visit: Tryon Palace in New Bern, a reconstruction of the home that Tryon constructed, and Alamance Battleground in Burlington, the site of Tryon’s defeat over the Regulators, are both now state historic sites open to the public.

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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.


“Lilliputian” Golf Rooted in Pinehurst

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 06:30

Photographs of holes number 10 and 12 on “Thistle Dhe” course
that appeared in the August 1919 edition of Popular Science.

On January 26, 1918, James Barber and his wife gave a garden tea and held a miniature golf tournament for the local ladies of the Advertising Golf League.

According to the following week’s edition of the Pinehurst Outlook, which termed the game “Miniature Golf” in its headline, the course could be “negotiated with a well pitched mashie shot, and bends and curves calling for nice and discriminating slices and pulls.”

A map of “Thistle Dhe” course that appeared in the August 1919 edition of Popular Science.

Like standard golf, the date and location of the invention of miniature golf remains the subject of debate. The Sandhills golf mecca, Pinehurst, is widely believed by many to be the ancestral home of miniature golf in the United States, and the January 1918 game may be one of the first mini golf games played in the country.

Barber, a wealthy New Jersey shipping magnate, built one of the country’s first, if not the earliest, “Lilliputian” golf courses at his Pinehurst home. Called “Thistle Dhu,” by its owner, the course was constructed sometime between 1916 and 1918. It was designed by amateur architect Edward H. Wiswell and was located on the west side of the Barber’s stately mansion amidst its formal gardens.

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.


Acclaimed Beauty Ava Gardner, Pride of Grabtown

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 01/25/2015 - 06:30

Image from the New York Public Library.

On January 25, 1990, Johnston County native and world-famous actress Ava Gardner died in her London apartment.

Born on a Grabtown farm, Gardner moved around North Carolina as a child, graduated from high school in Wilson County and began a program in secretarial studies at what is now Barton College.

Discovered by chance after her brother-in-law posted a photograph in the window of his New York City studio, Gardner was offered a contract with MGM Studios. Since her mother would not allow her to head to Hollywood alone, both Garner and her sister moved to the West Coast in 1941.

Appearing in mostly minor and nonspeaking roles during the first five years of her career, Gardner saw her profile raised significantly after her 1946 performances in Whistle Stop and The Killers. Gardner went on to make at least 55 movies, including On the Beach (1959), The Night of the Iguana (1964) and Earthquake (1974). She also achieved notoriety for her marriages to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.

Gardner moved to Spain in 1955 to escape constant hounding from the press, and after nearly decade there, moved to London, where she spent the final years of her life.

Visit: The Ava Gardner Museum in downtown Smithfield holds an extensive collection of artifacts from Ava Gardner’s career and private life.

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.


The 1759 “Enfield Riot,” Precursor to the War of the Regulation

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 01/24/2015 - 06:30

On January 24, 1759, a group of men from Halifax and Edgecombe Counties rode to Francis Corbin’s house in Edenton and seized him during the night. The men were upset because Corbin had extorted money from them when collecting rents for Lord Granville who controlled the land on which they lived.

Corbin was taken to Enfield, where he was held in jail with his co-conspirator Thomas Bodley. The pair was forced to pay a bond as a guarantee to appear in court in the spring and agree to new rules governing rent and tax collection. Furthermore, they promised not to sue their captors. During the court session, Corbin and Bodley were released after they promised to return all illegal fees and taxes they collected.

Though Corbin eventually was removed from office by Lord Granville, the Colonial Assembly investigated the incident, now called the “Enfield Riot” and punished some of the “rioters” severely, imprisoning several. In response, sympathizers and friends broke the imprisoned out of jail.

Modern historians considered the actions of the Halifax citizens as a foreshadowing to the War of Regulation.

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.


Light Returns to Cape Hatteras Beacon, 1950

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 07:30

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1991. Image courtesy
of the National Park Service.

On January 23, 1950, after a 14-year hiatus, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse once again shone its beacon over the Atlantic Ocean to warn mariners of the dangers of Diamond Shoals. The 208-foot tower had been abandoned because of the encroaching sea, and its signal was temporarily replaced by a light atop a steel structure, known as the skeleton tower, built near the lighthouse site.

At the time of its construction in 1870, the iconic black and white-striped lighthouse was 1,500 feet from the ocean. The lighthouse was constantly at risk from the quickly receding shoreline, but several measures were taken to keep it safe.

During the 1930s, a Civilian Conservation Corps crew constructed sand dunes and planted grasses that helped to build up the shoreline in the area. The construction of groins, the placement of sand bags and the installation of artificial seaweed offshore were also tried at the time, but by 1936 waves had reached the structure’s base, forcing the Lighthouse Service to close it.

After being saved in 1950, the lighthouse was threatened once again by the Atlantic during the 1980s, when waters came within 200 feet of its red brick base. Because of its historical and cultural significance, several options for preserving the structure were discussed by scholars, public officials and lighthouse lovers. After much debate, the 2,800-ton lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet from the shore in 1999.

Other related resources:

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.


Justice for Edgecombe County Slave

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 08:11

A court document from the State v. Negro Will
case. Image from the State Archives.

On January 22, 1834, Will, a slave belonging to James Battle of Edgecombe County, killed a white man. The killing resulted in the State v. Negro Will case, in which the North Carolina Supreme Court protected slaves from a charge of murder when acting in self-defense.

The day started with an argument between Will and a slave foreman named Allen over the possession of a hoe. Tempers flared and Will broke the hoe before going to work at a nearby cotton mill. After learning of Will’s behavior Richard Baxter, Battle’s overseer, set off on horseback with his gun. Allen followed with his whip. Confronted by Baxter, Will attempted to flee but was shot in the back. Wounded and running for his life, Will was overtaken. Armed with a knife with poison on the blade, Will fought off Baxter. A deep knife wound to Baxter’s arm proved fatal.

After looking at the evidence Battle believed that Will acted in self-defense, and he hired two prominent lawyers to insure that Will received justice.

The case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that any slave under such provocation could only be charged with manslaughter. This challenged the 1829 State v. Mann decision which held that a master’s power was absolute.

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.


Burnt Swamp Association, Set Up in 1881 to Serve American Indians

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 06:30

On January 21, 1881, the elders of three churches met at Burnt Swamp Baptist Church in Robeson County to form what became the Burnt Swamp Association.

The formation of the group solidified what had been a strong, informal relationship. Burnt Swamp Baptist was founded in 1877 by 20 Lumbee Indians. They received encouragement from two local white churches, Raft Swamp and Clyburn Baptist. Prior to Burnt Swamp’s organization, impromptu religious meetings and revivals had been held for two decades, but no organized religion was available to the community.

At their 1885 meeting, members resolved to adopt Burnt Swamp Indian Association of the Croatan Indians as their official name, the first in a series of name changes over the years. After years of struggling to gain acceptance, the Association was admitted to the Baptist State Convention in 1929.

The Association was instrumental in the effort to develop schools for Indians in Robeson and surrounding counties. In 1887, members helped organize Croatan Normal School, the forerunner of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Today the Association includes Indian churches in nine counties in North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as in Baltimore. The Association now consists of 69 churches and a mission. The tribal groups represented include the Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Pee Dee, Coharie, Waccamaw-Siouan and Tuscarora.

Other related resources:

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.


Old Bute County, One for the History Books

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 06:30

A 1775 map from Davidson College showing Bute County.

On January 20, 1779, the North Carolina General Assembly abolished Bute County less than 15 years after establishing it.

The legislature had established the northeastern county in June 1764, and named it in honor of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. A Scottish nobleman, Bute was the tutor of Great Britain’s Prince George. After the prince became King George III in 1760, Bute served as the king’s advisor and eventually became prime minister.

James Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. Image from the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Carved from eastern Granville County, Bute County provided the residents of the area better access to local government. In 1766, the legislature expanded the county by annexing part of northwestern Northampton County.

By the late 1760s, though, the Earl of Bute had become very unpopular with Americans. Many blamed him personally for instituting the 1765 Stamp Act. With Bute County’s population growing, support for dividing and renaming the county grew during the mid-1770s. After two years of discussion, the General Assembly decided to divide Bute County along Shocco Creek with the northern part becoming Warren County and the southern part, Franklin County.

With the incorporation of the two new counties, Bute ceased to exist. The courthouse that once served Bute County no longer stands.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit the N.C. Department of 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 Facebook and Twitter.


Department Store Magnate Paul H. Rose

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 06:30

Paul H. Rose. Image from the State Library.

On January 19, 1955, Paul Howard Rose, founder of the chain of Rose’s discount department stores, died at age 73.

Born in 1881 in Seaboard, Rose discovered his knack for merchandising early on. At age 12, he set up a wooden packing crate outside his hometown pharmacy and sold bundles of wood, his mother’s homemade cookies and other items. After business school in Virginia, Rose opened a store in Littleton. At times his capital was so limited he used empty shoeboxes to help fill the shelves. For a time he worked as a traveling salesman. He used that experience to educate himself about competitive pricing strategies.

Rose partnered with two businessmen, purchased stock in United 5 & 10 Cent Stores and opened retail outlets in Henderson and Charlotte. The venture failed, but in 1915, Rose borrowed $500, bought a shop in Henderson and opened the first Rose’s store. Rose removed merchandise from behind counters (where it had to be retrieved by stock clerks) to shelves that shoppers could peruse at their own pace.

The entrepreneur eventually operated 280 Rose’s stores in 11 southeastern states. Today, about 106 Rose’s stores remain.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit the N.C. Department of 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 Facebook and Twitter.


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