Lynching in the American South Workshop

On June 12 and 13, the Community Histories Workshop will host "Lynching in the American South: A Workshop."  Led by Seth Kotch and Elijah Gaddis, the workshop will bring participants into the work of the CHW and especially our project The Red Record.  Participants will learn about lynching in North Carolina and around the South, be introduced to and practice some new digital tools, and help us expand the project to other states around the South.  You can learn more and register for the workshop here: http://lynching.web.unc.edu/2017-workshop/ .   ...
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Building the Digital Archive

We started the Rocky Mount Mills Digital Archive as a way to gather together some of the thousands of archived items from the mill's two hundred year history. We started with digitized items from three main repositories: the Rocky Mount Mills Photo Archive and the Rocky Mount Mills Awards, 1970s-1990s, both hosted by the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Charles S. Killebrew Photographic Collection, 1948-2001, hosted by the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since these first items went up, we've continued to add more items to our online collections. There are photographs, newspaper articles, letters, posters, and other items housed in collections throughout North Carolina. Some are in formal archives–like the Rocky Mount Mills Records and the Charles Killebrew Photographic Collection at UNC, or the many collections at Braswell Memorial Library in Rocky Mount. Other collections are in family homes and attics and...
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Digital Loray project highlights

With the recent opening of the Alfred C. Kessell History Center in Gastonia, we've been reflecting on the years of collaborations between students, faculty, staff, and Gaston County community members that have helped produce this place. This video, produced by Will Bosley, gives an overview of our process and highlights just a small portion of that collaborative energy.   https://vimeo.com/194714191?utm_source=email&utm_medium=vimeo-cliptranscode-201504&utm_campaign=29220...
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The Life of Godwin Bush

The following is the first in a series of blog posts from Christina Kochanski, a Community Histories Workshop Undergraduate Fellow who is working on The Red Record project.    Godwin “Buddy” Bush has an incredible story. He survived a lynch mob, escaping his kidnappers and hiding in the woods as mob members and county officials hunted him down. Yet his story was repurposed to promote antilynching legislation. Godwin Bush the person got lost in the attempt to create Godwin Bush the symbol. The lynching attempt occurred in 1947, as lynching’s frequency in North Carolina decreased. Bush’s kidnapping presented an opportunity for legislators to make the final push in officially ending lynching. As the FBI investigated the mob members and Congresswoman Helen Douglas pushed for antilynching laws, Bush himself fell by the wayside. His name disappeared from newspapers within days of the attack. Even as the lynching attempt against him shaped national policy, he became invisible, quietly trying to reconstruct his life. Here, I will...
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Rocky Mount Mills Reunion

Watch the video below to learn more about our first preview of digital exhibits built in Prospect during the Rocky Mount Mills reunion on October 29, 2016. We welcomed around 75 former workers and their families to visit the mill, learn about our work, and share some of their own history with this place. Look for more material from this event soon.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJsNP5Cb_tU...
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Rocky Mount Mills and the City of Rocky Mount

On Friday, July 20th, 1920, The Evening Telegram of Rocky Mount, North Carolina published an article titled, “States Relation of Mill to City.” This article was a full 102 years after the Battle family acquired the land and founded the mill in what would become Rocky Mount. The article describes the ways in which the Mills made use of various public utilities, including lights, water, sewage systems, and gas. In the context of the pre-Depression era, and the Rocky Mount “gas shortage” of the 1920s, this article provides insight into the operations and finances of the Mills, as led by the Battle family. According to a Sanborn fire insurance map from 1917, the Mills were powered by electric lighting. As stated by Mr. T. H. Battle in the Evening Telegram article, “we have our own light plant and use it entirely... Our bill to you for lights is about $12.00 a month.” Based on inflation this amount would equate to about...
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Rocky Mount Mills Reunion

On October 29, 2016, we’re helping to host a reunion at Rocky Mount Mills. Along with Capitol Broadcasting, we’d like to invite every former worker, their friends, families, and communities to Rocky Mount Mills. We’ll be having conversations about your experiences and memories, and sharing with you some digital exhibits that we’re building to help tell the story of Rocky Mount Mills.   We’ve called this event a reunion to recognize that this is a kind of homecoming for many people.  Some families lived in the mill village and worked in the mill for generations. Others came when the mill integrated in the 1960s and commuted, sometimes from many miles away. We want to share the history we’re uncovering with everyone and hope you’ll share your stories and memories with us too.   On October 29, we’ll be recording conversations for a series we’re calling “Closing Stories.” These oral histories will focus on the last years of Rocky Mount Mills. We particularly...
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The Civil War Comes to Rocky Mount Mills

In the predawn hours of July 20, 1863, Union troops under the command of Major Ferris Jacobs of the Third New York Cavalry rode into Rocky Mount, North Carolina, intending to destroy the vital railroad bridge across the Tar River. They successfully burned the bridge, before turning their guns and torches to the rest of Rocky Mount. By the time Jacobs’s forces left town, they’d burned a railroad train and the city depot, the local telegraph office, a smaller county-operated bridge across the river, a four-story tall flour mill, Confederate supplies waiting for shipment, cotton bales, and around thirty wagons. In Jacobs’s own words “the destruction of property was large and complete.”  Among the most important of their targets was Rocky Mount Mills. Union  burned the building to the ground, stalling operations for years and changing the course of the mill’s history. Military raids were common throughout the Civil War, but the situation in eastern North Carolina during 1863 meant that...
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