Ella Baker and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

SNCC members harassed during a protest. Image from the Ella Baker Center.

On December 13, 1986, Ella Baker, civil rights leader and organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), died. Called “the mother of the civil rights movement” by one scholar, Baker culminated a life dedicated to civil rights work by helping to establish SNCC at her alma mater, Shaw University, in April 1960.

Raised in Virginia and Halifax County, Baker graduated from Shaw in 1927. She moved to New York in 1903 and joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League with the aim of developing black economic power through collective planning. In 1940, she began work for National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as field secretary, where she eventually rose to become the director of branches.

In 1957, Baker joined with Martin Luther King Jr. and others to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); she was the only woman present. After the sit-ins in Greensboro, she organized the meeting at Shaw in April 1960 that gave rise to SNCC.

She advocated that the budding organization be student-directed and not under the umbrella of the SCLC. The members of SNCC were the “shock troops” of the civil rights movement, called “probably the most courageous and the most selfless” of the activists of the 1960s by John Hope Franklin.

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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.

 

George Ladshaw, Accidental Hero to Kayakers

Part of Ladshaw’s initial plan. Image from American Whitewater.

On December 12, 1906, George Ladshaw submitted a survey of the Green River basin in Henderson and Polk counties, proposing dams and hydroelectric power plants along the waterway.

His report on the “Available Power and Cost of Development” would have destroyed the riverbed and natural flow of the Green River, which today is legendary among kayakers for its exciting slides and drops. Other parts of the river are popular for tubing, canoeing and kayaking for beginners.

A postcard of the Green River. Image from the Buncombe County Public Library.

A postcard of the Green River. Image from the Buncombe County Public Library.

The most treacherous section of the Green, called the Narrows, consists of a series of Class V rapids with names such as “Go Left and Die,” “Gorilla” and “Sunshine,” that challenge even the most seasoned kayakers. Since 1996, Saluda has been home to “The Green Race,” a world-class kayak race on the Narrows attracting participants and thrill-seekers from around the globe.

Devotees of the Green River rapids have become aware of the so-called Ladshaw Plan, possibly because of an archival collection of documents related to speculation lands digitized by UNC-Asheville. Today kayakers celebrate the great near miss of having never known the precipitous rapids of the Green River by recognizing December 12 as Ladshaw Day.

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Modern Novelist Discovered Farquard Campbell

On December 11, 1790, a state Senate resolution declared that Farquard Campbell’s actions during the Revolutionary War were justifiable.

Campbell’s early life remains a mystery, but it is known that he emigrated from Scotland by the 1750s. He rose to prominence in Cumberland County, first as a justice of the peace and then as surveyor and a representative in the legislature. Campbellton, which later became Fayetteville, was named in his honor.

After the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, Campbell was found guilty of aiding the British and was imprisoned for about two years. He reestablished himself politically and was thus forgiven.

The name Farquard Campbell might sound familiar to readers of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series of books. Much of the fourth book, Drums of Autumn, takes place in 18th century North Carolina, and in that volume Campbell appears as a fairly significant character in the book—a local justice of the peace and loyal friend of Jamie Fraser’s aunt Jocasta. He is described in the novel as “the usual justice in this district.”

Gabaldon paid considerable attention to the veracity of her portrayal of North Carolina in the 1700s, writing about a great many real and thinly-veiled characters from the state’s history.

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William Miller, Governor During War of 1812

Image from the State Archives.

On December 10, 1825, former North Carolina Governor William Miller died in Key West, Florida.

Born around 1783 in Warren County, Miller worked as a private lawyer, the state’s attorney general and a member of the General Assembly before first being elected governor in 1814. He went on to serve three terms in the post, and was the first to occupy the newly completed Governor’s Palace at the south end of Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street.

Active on the national political stage, Miller supported the military policies of President James Madison during the concluding weeks of the War of 1812 by ordering out additional militia forces for potential service on the southern frontier.

In North Carolina, he lent his support to the early efforts to establish a system of public education, helped improve trade and transportation and sought to reform the penal code and judicial system. One of his appointees to the bench was instrumental in the organization of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

In 1825, President John Quincy Adams appointed Miller a diplomatic agent to Guatemala. He died of yellow fever en route to assume his new post, and was probably buried at sea.

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Confederate Prison at Salisbury Opened, 1861

An 1864 sketch showing a bird's-eye view of the prison. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

An 1864 sketch showing a bird’s-eye view of the prison.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On December 9, 1861, the Confederate prison at Salisbury took in its first Yankee prisoners.

Early in the war, the Confederacy purchased an old cotton mill in southeast Salisbury for $15,000 and converted the structure into a place of confinement. Many of the incarcerated spent their time writing, whittling or playing baseball. These constituted some of the first baseball games played in the South. One prisoner noted that early life within the prison was “more endurable than any other part of Rebeldom.”

In time, however, the Salisbury prison reached capacity. In the autumn of 1864, it contained almost 7,000 prisoners, far more than the facility was designed to accommodate. Statewide supply shortages and rampant disease led to a surge in death rates, forcing guards to prepare mass graves for deceased inmates and casualties from nearby hospitals.

Near the close of the war, conditions at the prison convinced leaders to conduct prisoner exchanges, the most notable of which took place in February 1865. In April of that year, General George Stoneman’s Union troops set fire to the prison, which had been abandoned and converted into a supply depot. Only the garrison house survived from the original prison camp, along with a few artifacts including a tattered Confederate flag.

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S. B. Alexander, Advocate for Agriculture

S. B. Alexander. Image from Archive.org.

On December 8, 1840, Sydenham Benoni Alexander, Confederate officer, legislator and agriculturalist, was born in Mecklenburg County.

Though Alexander graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1860, the Civil War intervened before he could begin his professional life. He enlisted in the First North Carolina Volunteers in April 1861, saw action and was promoted through the ranks to captain before he joined the staff of General Robert Hoke as an inspector-general.

After the war, Alexander became a successful farmer. He was appointed the master of the Grange in North Carolina in 1877. Two years later he was elected as a Democrat to the state Senate, where he would go on to serve several terms.

As his involvement in state politics deepened, Alexander was fundamental in the formation of the college that would become North Carolina State University. He was appointed commissioner of the state board of agriculture, as well as president of the North Carolina State Fair and the North Carolina Railroad. That same year he became first president of the North Carolina Farmers’ Alliance.

Alexander was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for two successive terms. In 1901, he returned to the North Carolina Senate where he aided in the appropriation of $200,000 for public schools.

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Archaeology Work at Future Jordan Lake

On December 7, 1970, the groundbreaking for what would become Jordan Lake took place. The lake was full about 12 years later.  Its namesake was U.S. Senator B. Everett Jordan.

Today many North Carolinians enjoy the water, beaches, trails, and woodlands at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, but the area was not always a recreational space. After a devastating tropical storm in 1945, the government began to look at methods of flood control for the Cape Fear River basin.  In 1962, the Army Corps of Engineers submitted a plan that recommended building three reservoirs. Ultimately only the construction of Jordan Lake was realized.

As a regulatory requirement, a thorough archaeological investigation had to be made.. The cultural resources management project was conducted in 1978 and 1979 by a Michigan company, led by principal investigator Steve Claggett, who ultimately would return to North Carolina to become State Archaeologist.

The project’s archaeological surveys determined that there were about 350 sites in the area; two were the focus of extensive excavations. Archaeologists verified that Indians had inhabited the vicinity as far back as the Early Archaic period—or about 10,000 years ago. To this day the work stands as one of the largest salvage archaeology programs carried out in the state.

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.

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