Saturday, November 24, 2007

Another Ocracoke Thanksgiving

Ten years ago, Paul started a family tradition that he'd enjoyed as a child himself: Thanksgiving on Ocracoke. This year's trip was especially memorable--a bear crossing the road in front of us on the way to the Swan Quarter ferry, a baby harbor seal in apparent distress (or possibly not) on the south point of the island, another great benefit concert for the Ocrafolk Festival. This year we also had the treat of being the house guests of Peter, Mary, and Michael Vankevich, who are transitioning to becoming full-time O'cokers.

We all had a lot to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Remembering Thomas Ruffin

As a prologue to the symposium "The Perils of Public Homage: State v. Mann and Thomas Ruffin in History and Memory," which takes place tomorrow, Sanford Levinson, Eric Muller, and I were on WUNC's "The State of Things" today.

The symposium runs all day tomorrow.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A useable past

Dateline Edenton, N.C.:

Michael Montaro, who owns the Taylor Theatre on Broad Street, has appealed the Edenton Town Council's decision on the Southern Bank's expansion project at the corner of Queen and Broad, next to his property. "Montaro specifically objects to the demolition of the Furlough building that would in turn demolish the Taylor Theatre's rear 5' by 20' structure, used during segregation as the 'historic black bathrooms.'"

Thursday, November 08, 2007

To the courthouse--finally

After a painstaking restoration project that took an awfully long time, the Chowan County Courthouse reopened in October 2004. I said at the time that I wished I had been there for the reopening. Today, finally, I got there. They leave it open during the day. You can walk in and imagine what it was like to be in court there in the nineteenth century, or eighteenth (the building was built in 1767). Upstairs was a grand ballroom where President Monroe was lavishly entertained in 1819. They partied so hard then and on other occasions that by the latter 19th century it became prudent to add columns to the courtroom below.

This is the courtroom where, in the fall of 1829, John Mann was found guilty of assault upon a hired slave named Lydia, an opinion that Thomas Ruffin for the North Carolina Supreme Court overturned.

Thank you, Chapel Hill!

When I won my seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council four years ago, I felt buoyed, uplifted, carried forward on waves of support of so many folks who believed in me, had confidence that I could do the job. That was a great feeling.

This Tuesday's win was even more gratifying and humbling. My reelection--with would not have happened without the help of so many--says that the voters believe I've been true to my campaign pledges and have worked hard to make them a reality. And more: that my continued work on the Council is valuable and important. I am overwhelmed and honored to have earned the confidence of the voters of Chapel Hill again.

I will indeed continue to work on homelessness, affordable housing, neighborhood protection, historic preservation, environmental preservation, sustainable development, and issues of social justice. I will continue to count on you all to let me know what's important to you as we all work together to keep Chapel Hill the progressive, inclusive place that it has been for generations, even as it has changed and grown.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

1957, fifty years later

Although the 1960s bore the brunt of the civil rights movement, with bombings in Birmingham, violent protests in Selma, and on and on, the 1950s were not all sock hops and saddle loafers. Fifty years later, scholars are convening at Binghamton University to discuss "Black Liberation and the Spirit of '57." The major papers are online.

David Garrow's treatment of Little Rock exposes President Eisenhower's utter lack of commitment to the cause of civil rights. I recommend it.

But if you can only find the time for one of these essays, I highly recommend Robert Darden's “Sam Cooke, ‘You Send Me,’ and the American Highway." Darden deftly links the infiltration of black music into white popular culture to a dramatic rise in black mobility thanks to a combination of the new interstate highways (authorized by Eisenhower from his sickbed in 1956) and the public accommodations provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

When Cooke created his own record label following the success of "You Send Me," one of his first projects was with the Pilgrim Travelers. But long before that day, their first hit back in 1948 had been "Standing on the Highway," which included the mournful line,

She left me standing out on the highway
Left me wondering
Which way to go.

The promise of the Federal Aid Highway Act, which ultimately would be fulfilled in a way that not Eisenhower . . . and not even Sam Cooke could imagine, would provide the answer to the Travelers' question. Which way to go? It was another small stap on the road towards an America someday that lives up to the considerable promise of its own origins, where all men and women are free.

[Peter] Guralnik calls his biography of Cooke, Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, and the title is taken from the Langston Hughes poem of the same name:

Good morning, daddy!
Ain't you heard
The boogie-woogie rumble
Of a dream deferred. --Langston Hughes, "Dream Boogie"

In this, at least, the intersection of the on-going struggle for civil rights for all people and a relatively obscure piece of federal legislation, worked together to see that the dream would not be forever deferred.

It took me a little while to realize that I know Bob Darden. He was a master's student in journalism at the University of North Texas when I was an undergraduate journalism minor. We often worked the rim together. I believe Doug Starr was usually in the slot.

(Via Cliopatria.)