The Saga of James H. Ruffin of Rocky Mount Mills

On February 9, 1899, James H. Ruffin, former manager of Rocky Mount Mills, attempted to end his life on his way to New Orleans via train to attend a carnival. People found him in the restroom nearly dead from loss of blood after slashing his wrists. He had $21,450[1] in cash and checks on his person. He expressed that he was tired of living and had no immediate family.[2][3] He had resigned as manager of the mill in 1898 citing ill health. The summer of that year, Ruffin had an “attack of nervous prostration” due to overwork.[4] He took two trips to improve his health but his ill health continued, forcing him to resign. Thomas H. Battle replaced him at Rocky Mount Mills. Ruffin’s official diagnosis was “melancholia superinduced by nervous prostration.”[5] Ruffin was named treasurer and superintendent of mill operations in 1886 during a period of administrative reorganization. In this period in the 1880s, the Battle Family relinquished financial control...
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Graduating CHW Fellow Morgan Vickers recognized (again!)

Graduating CHW Undergraduate Research Fellow Morgan Vickers was profiled in Endeavors, the research magazine published through the UNC Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. At the Chancellor's Award Ceremony in April, Morgan received the Peter Baxter Award as outstanding graduating American Studies major, and the William S. Powell Award as the senior who has added most to our understanding of the first state university and its traditions. Morgan is one of fifteen college juniors and seniors in the country to receive this year's Gilder Lehrman History Scholar Award, recognizing excellence in American history or American Studies as well as their commitment to public service, leadership and community involvement.   She will spend six days in New York City in June, participating in meetings with fellow honorees and eminent scholars. On May 13th, she was graduated with Honors in American Studies and a double major in Communication Studies. Morgan was an inaugural undergraduate research fellow in the CHW in 2016, and has contributed enormously and continuously across...
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CHW Recently Tours Rocky Mount Mills

On April 19, 2018, several members of CHW took a trip over to Rocky Mount to meet with Rocky Mount Mills Development Manager Evan Covington Chavez in order to discuss progress of our work, future directions, and what CBC has planned in terms of programming and public spaces. We toured the site, which is quite a busy construction zone. What a difference between April and October! October was the last time we toured the property. Then, the mill interior was empty and cavernous. Now, the frames for the apartments are up, a new parking lot is being built, the hydroelectric generator room is cleaner, and new windows are going into the future event space. Another purpose of our visit was to examine the contents of CBC's storage room, which contains a lot of material they pulled from the mill and the mill village. What treasures! The rooms were stacked full of prints, machine parts, antiques, manuals, and file cabinets full of...
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CHW Attends the Black Communities Conference

The historic Carolina Theatre in Durham hosted the Black Communities Conference for three days from April 23-25. It was a multi-disciplinary conference hosted by The Institute for African American Research and NCGrowth, which brought together participants from various fields to discuss issues pertaining to African American history, culture, business, art, identity, etc. There were many lectures, workshops, and working groups that allowed for collaborative thinking on how to address the challenges black communities face. One amazing pop-up was the VR experience "I Am A Man," developed by Dr. Derek Ham from North Carolina State's College of Design. Using an Oculus Rift headset, users can place themselves within the 1968 Sanitation Worker's Strike, complete with lifting up and holding signs, photos, and documents in a virtual environment. "I Am A Man" will be at the National Civil Rights Museum in Tennessee and will eventually travel to more places. ...
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Teaching the Asylum: Health Humanities

Over spring semester 2018, the Community Histories Workshop partnered with Professor Jordynn Jack (Director of the English M.A. Program in Literature, Medicine, and Culture; and Director of the Health Humanities Lab at UNC Chapel Hill) to introduce students to the world of the nineteenth century insane asylum through the lives of individual patients. Students in Professor Jack’s Research Seminar in Aging and Mental Health were the first anywhere to work with admissions ledgers from the North Carolina Insane Asylum (later Dorothea Dix Hospital).   CHW undergraduate research fellow (and soon to become the inaugural CHW post-graduate research fellow) Dani Callahan and graduate research fellow  Sarah Almond (pictured above) provided Prof. Jack with admissions ledgers covering the period 1860 to 1870. In February, Dani and Sarah met with the class to demonstrate the transcription project the CHW is involved with, which will lead to the creation of the first patient database for a nineteenth century American asylum—more than 7000 records from 1856 to 1917. ...
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Teacher Fellows Featured in The Rocky Mount Telegram

Renny Taylor, history teacher at Nash Central High School, and Elijah Kane, history teacher at W.A. Patillo Middle School, have been featured in The Rocky Mount Telegram. The article documents their efforts in bringing to life the history of Rocky Mount and Rocky Mount Mills for their students. They are instrumental parts of Carolina K-12's initiative to bring the resources of UNC-Chapel Hill to area educators and key role players in utilizing and sharing CHW's oral histories, historical findings, and digital platforms. Read the article here: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/News/2018/04/16/Local-teachers-trace-history-of-mill.html...
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Supporting our colleagues at the NC Digital Heritage Center

From our first digitization efforts in Gastonia around the Digital Loray project in 2013 through our current work in the CHW, the NC Digital Heritage Center has been our steadfast and invaluable partner in collecting, digitizing, curating, and sharing community history.  They are  finalists for a much-deserved national award given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. ...
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The Land & Rocky Mount Mills

The Rocky Mount Mills team recently published a historical narrative about the mill that considers how the environment shaped the town and industry of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Rocky Mount's Tar River especially encouraged initial human occupation of the land and was central to 12,000 years of continuous settlement. Some archaeological studies have even uncovered evidence of Native American occupation for thousands of years prior to the city or the mill. Read more about the fascinating connection between the environment and its various occupants on our Rocky Mount Mills project website.  ...
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