One long, three short: reviews and reflections

We are, at our core, remembering and story-making creatures, and stories are one of the chief ways we find meaning in the flow of events.

Historical consciousness is to civilized society what memory is to individual will. 

The Anthony Amendment: Women’s suffrage in NC and beyond

When the United States Constitution was adopted in 1787, left to the states was the power to determine who should be allowed to vote in elections. While several states indeed permitted some women to vote in various elections, the right of suffrage was far from universal. 

A feast for readers: A Poor Man’s Supper

The years following the Civil War brought great changes to Western North Carolina. The railroads penetrated these coves and mountains, carrying tourists, flat-landers and goods to small towns previously isolated by their forbidding terrain. Following the railroads were the timber barons, eager to harvest the ancient forests and able now to move and sell the lumber to outside buyers. Though many of those native to the region remained in poverty, others were able to make their fortunes in the mountains.

Entwined with slavery: A brief local history

By Peter H. Lewis • AVL Watchdog | By 1860, about 15 percent of the population of Western North Carolina was enslaved. Only a small percentage of the White settlers, who had pushed out Indigenous Native Americans, owned slaves — about 2 percent of households, according to Katherine Calhoun Cutshall, collections manager, North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library — and of those, most owned one or two. The majority were owned by a handful of elite families, whose names are commemorated throughout the region. 

What’s in a name? For Asheville, signs point to history of racism

By Peter H. Lewis • AVL Watchdog | Vance, Patton, Woodfin,  Henderson, Weaver, Chunn, Baird — their names are familiar  to anyone living in Asheville and Buncombe County today. All were wealthy and influential civic leaders honored by having their names bestowed on statues, monuments, streets, schools, parks, neighborhoods, and local communities.

Dragging Canoe was Cherokee’s greatest military leader

Historian E. Raymond Adams has maintained that the warrior with the curious name of Dragging Canoe was “the greatest military leader ever produced by the Cherokee people.”  A review of Dragging Canoe’s military career doesn’t reveal many great victories that he led, but it does indicate that he was a clever and resourceful military leader who was able to sustain significant “dark and bloody” opposition to white settlement for many years. 

We’ve been here before … sort of

It’s funny how you can hear a story your entire life but don’t see its relevance until it smacks you in the face. 

Since childhood, my parents have told me the tale of the Hong Kong flu (H3N2 virus) during the winter of 1968. They weren’t sure where they contracted it initially. At the time, my dad was a student at Mars Hill College and worked as a short order cook in the student center. My mom was in her first year teaching public school. Both places were most likely rampant with germs. 

Churchill’s spirit comes through in new biography

Sometimes in a crisis it helps to take a look in the rearview mirror.

In The Splendid And The Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz (Crown Publishers, 2020, 546 pages), Eric Larson vividly revives those days when Britain stood alone against Nazi war machine and suffered almost daily aerial attacks on its military bases and cities. The Battle for Britain left 44,652 dead, 5,626 of them children, and wounded 52,370. After watching one of these attacks on a beautiful English night, John Colville, Assistant Private Secretary to Churchill, wrote in his diary “Never was there such a contrast of natural splendor and human vileness.”

History lessons being learned the hard way

By Jerry DeWeese • Guest Columnist | When in grade school, I wondered why my teachers spent so much time teaching history. What did it matter? This was old news. Now that I have reached “old age” status, I recognize that history is full of lessons and it repeats itself. If we pay attention, today’s society may be able to avoid making the same mistakes we learned about in history class.

In Fitzgerald’s fields

In Fitzgerald’s fields they toiled, sun-dappled and rain-soaked, caked in mud and in blood and in sweat. They raised corn and peas and potatoes and children and they always had plenty of butter and honey and wool so long as with ceaseless toil they coaxed the stubborn mountainside into giving up its seasonal blessings.

They worked about as hard as, and had about as much as, any other poor white Reconstruction-era Waynesville farmer except for the rights expressed in that document which begins, “We the people” because they were still somehow less than that. 

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