John Hope Franklin, From Greenwood to the White House

Image from the Washington Post.

On September 29, 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to John Hope Franklin of Durham.

A pioneering historian who focused on the social and economic conditions of African Americans, A native Oklahoman Franklin was educated at Fisk and Harvard before moving to North Carolina in 1939 to teach at St. Augustine’s and North Carolina Central. He taught elsewhere and returned in 1982 to join the history faculty at Duke, where he remained until his death in 2009.

Not just a historian, Franklin helped shape American history. His research formed the historical basis for the groundbreaking NAACP brief that led to the Supreme Court’s dismantling of school segregation in the 1954 Brown v. Board decision and, in 1965, Franklin joined a cadre of academics who supported Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march.

During the course of his long career, Franklin wrote more than 15 books and received honorary degrees from almost 100 institutions. His 1947 book From Slavery to Freedom is still widely regarded as the best single-volume history of African Americans and has sold more than 3 million copies.

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.

David Walker and His Appeal, a Transformative Book

On September 28, 1829, North Carolina native David Walker published his Appeal.

A free-born African American raised in the Wilmington area, Walker traveled south to Charleston, which had a large free black population, before settling in Boston by 1825. A businessman, Walker also founded the Massachusetts General Colored Association, which actively opposed the colonization of free blacks to Africa. He spoke out publicly against slavery and racism. The Appeal carried those efforts into print.

The Appeal argued for the black community to take action against slavery and discrimination. Walker argued the key was to transform one’s self through individual moral improvement by education, temperance, religion, regular work habits and self-regulation. Through action, Walker contended, blacks could refute racism and claim the rights of citizenship. Walker did not advocate overthrowing the government, but rather sought to transform society.

The reaction of North Carolina’s white leaders to the Appeal was typical of that seen in other Southern states. Unsuccessful in their attempts at restricting the rights of free blacks prior to Walker’s Appeal, legislators quickly passed a series of limiting acts – including the ban of similar materials from entering the state – once the book was presented to the assembly.

Walker died in 1830 and is buried in an unmarked grave in Boston.

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.

Circus Tragedy in Charlotte, 1880

A preserved Chief visits the University of Cincinnati after his death.
Image from the University of Cincinnati.

On September 27, 1880, Chief, a performing elephant, killed his trainer, John King, in Charlotte.

The John Robinson Circus, of which Chief was a part, had arrived in Charlotte that day with two shows planned. Crowds of spectators were camped out near the circus, anticipating the next day’s shows. Many of them witnessed the horrifying events of that evening.

John King’s grave marker in Charlotte. Image from the University of Cincinnati.

Chief, a large male elephant, charged his keeper and smashed the man into a railcar, mangling him to the point that he was dead within minutes. The elephant then charged away from the scene, chased by circus workers who finally caught and lassoed him to an older, female elephant named Mary. Mary appeared to grasp the enormity of the younger elephant’s deed and beat him with her trunk as they were returned to the circus grounds.

King was buried in Elmwood Cemetery with the circus band playing and two other circus elephants in attendance. For the grave, Confederate veteran Billy Berryhill carved an obelisk monument with an elephant in the shaft.

Chief never worked in the circus again, although he remained with them and marched in the parades until he was exiled to the Cincinnati Zoo. Unfortunately, he did not curb his murderous ways and, after killing several other keepers, Chief was killed himself.

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.

Adelaide Fries and the Moravian Archives

On September 26, 1911, Forsyth County native Adelaide Fries was appointed Archivist of the Southern Province of the Moravian Church.

Born in 1871 and from a long line of churchmen, Fries graduated from Salem College with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Guided to research primary sources from a very young age by her father, Fries learned to read Old German script so that she could translate the diaries in which she was interested. The culmination of that education came in 1899, when Fries accompanied her father to Germany where she examined many of the earliest records of the church.

Fries’s work as archivist of the Salem church began very unofficially when someone suggested that she find a room somewhere to house all the manuscripts that she was collecting. After that, with no official sanction, she began an intense collecting campaign that resulted in the preservation of many valuable papers.

Fries held the official position of archivist for the rest of her life, while pursuing companion interests in genealogy and church history. A popular speaker and author, Fries received honorary doctorates from Wake Forest and UNC.

She died in 1949 and was laid to rest in the Moravian burying ground known as God’s Acre.

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.

Greensboro-Born Doctor Pioneers “Tommy John Surgery,” Saves Baseball Careers

Tommy John (left) and Dr. Frank Jobe talking to each other. Photo from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Tommy John (left) and Dr. Frank Jobe talking to each other. Photo from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On September 25, 1974, Greensboro native Frank Jobe, an orthopedist for the Los Angeles Dodgers, replaced pitcher Tommy John’s torn medial collateral ligament in his pitching arm with a tendon from his wrist.

The injury had ended pitching careers since the beginning of baseball but, thanks to Jobe’s efforts, John resumed his career after a successful rehabilitation, playing for another 14 years and amassing 164 victories. The procedure, which has come to be known as the “Tommy John Surgery,” has saved the careers of countless pitchers and position players in all levels of baseball ever since.

Jobe, born in 1925, joined the Army at 18 and served as a supply sergeant in a medical unit with the 101st Airborne during World War II. He was inspired to become a surgeon after witnessing the bravery of army doctors on the battlefield, later recalling, “These guys would be operating in tents with bullets and shrapnel flying around. […] These guys became my real heroes.”

Jobe was honored for his pioneering contributions to baseball during the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame awards ceremony, seven months before his death. Dodger’s president Stan Kasten remembered Jobe as a “medical giant and pioneer” who helped “athletes around the world.”

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.

Charlotte’s Thomas Polk Saved the Liberty Bell, 1777

libertybell

On September 24, 1777, Mecklenburg County resident Thomas Polk arrived safely in Allenton, Pa., after escorting the Liberty Bell there from Philadelphia.

Born in Pennsylvania, Polk and his family moved to Anson County, before becoming one of the first settlers of Mecklenburg County, and promoting the establishment of Charlotte. He  became a prosperous planter and was active in the local and state political scenes. As the American Revolution began to come into full swing, Polk was appointed colonel of a regiment of North Carolina militia. He fought at Brandywine and spent a harsh winter at Valley Forge.

As invading British forces approached Philadelphia in 1777, Polk was tasked with escorting some important items out of the city to avoid capture. The city’s bells—including what was then called the State House Bell and is now known as the Liberty Bell—were included among Polk’s precious cargo so they wouldn’t be melted down by the British to make cannon.

After saving what is now one of our nation’s most precious artifacts, Polk continued a successful military career, served on the Council of State and hosted George Washington during his southern tour. He died at his Charlotte home in 1794.

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.

James Kenan and the Family Legacy

On September 23, 1740, civic, military and political leader James Kenan was born.

Kenan began his long career in public service at age 22 when he was elected sheriff of Duplin County. After leading local opposition to the British Stamp Act, he served in the colonial assembly and the provincial congress. As a member of the militia in Duplin County, he helped lead a group of volunteers against Scottish Loyalists at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge in 1776.

Kenan continued his involvement in politics after the Revolutionary War, serving in the state Senate for more than 10 terms and as a delegate to the State Constitutional Conventions.

Outside of the political arena, Kenan was a member of the original board of trustees for the University of North Carolina, where several buildings are now named for the Kenan family. He was also the first Master of the original Masonic lodge in Duplin County.

Kenan died in 1810 and is buried in Kenansville. His descendants have continued his legacy of philanthropy and public service, making significant contributions to the arts and education in North Carolina.

Liberty Hall, his father’s plantation and the site of his grave, is now open to the public as a museum.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 852 other followers