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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From Adaptive Reuse to Community History

From Adaptive Reuse to Community History: Why It Matters Here Historical Context Between 1885 and 1920, the economic, social, and cultural landscape of the southeastern Piedmont was transformed by what a contemporaneous commentator called the “Cotton Mill Campaign.” From Virginia to Alabama, thousands of textile mills and villages to house the families who worked in them seemed to sprout from the red clay. Nowhere was this transformation more pronounced than in North Carolina, where the number of mills increased five-fold. By the beginning of World War I, more than fifty thousand white men, women, and children (some younger than twelve) worked in mills. An even larger number of North Carolinians —white, black, and Native American— were connected to the mills in some way: growing, processing, selling, or transporting cotton; cooking in boarding houses and lunchrooms; caring for children; preaching in the mill churches; and teaching in the mill schools.[1]    The cotton mill boom was itself built on the modest success of pioneering industrialists...
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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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Prospect and the Rocky Mount Mills Digital Archive

This week, we’re launching the first iteration of Digital Rocky Mount Mills. This first project phase--an archive of digitized images--uses a digital humanities platform called Prospect to exhibit these materials. Prospect is a free WordPress plugin, developed by the University of North Carolina’s Digital Innovation Lab (DIL). Dr. Michael Newton, the DIL’s technology lead, created Prospect based on DH Press, the lab’s first digital humanities platform. The DIL’s most recent digital humanities project, Digital Loray, makes similar use of Prospect’s ability to convey data correlations and connections and serves as a model for the Rocky Mount Mills Project. Prospect visualizes many types of data but is particularly well-suited to display images, such as the 300 images related to Rocky Mount Mills. We will continue to expand the Rocky Mount Mills Project to include more images and other types of data pending future image digitization and data creation. This archive, like the “Loray Digital Archive,” will emphasize community provided content, and...
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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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Welcome!

In the summer of 2016, we're starting a history project about Rocky Mount Mills, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. We're conducting oral histories in Rocky Mount (you can sign up to talk to us here.) And we're looking through newspapers, letters, employee records, photographs and many other sources in places like the Southern Historical Collection and North Carolina Collection at UNC. Eventually, we'll have lots of information to share here. In the meantime, members of our team will be making frequent posts here. We'll write about our research process and share interesting discoveries with you. And we'll start to tell you a bit more about the people who worked at Rocky Mount Mills during almost two centuries of operation.  Please follow along, and get in touch if you've got comments or questions....
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