A Student of History

April 8, 2007

231st Anniversary of Halifax Resolves

Filed under: NC History — John Maass @ 10:05 pm

Historic Halifax Celebrates 231st Anniversary of Halifax Resolves:


HALIFAX (April 5, 2007) — Make plans to mark 231 years of American independence from Great Britain on Thursday, April 12, at Halifax Day. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., festivities at Historic Halifax will celebrate the April 12, 1776, vote by North Carolina’s Provincial Congress to cut ties with the British Crown.

The program will feature costumed interpreters, living history demonstrations, “hands-on” activities, historic building tours, patriotic ceremonies and fun for the kids. It is sponsored by the Historical Halifax Restoration Association, Inc. All activities are free and open to the public.

Officials will honor the adoption of the Halifax Resolves in a commemoration ceremony at 2 p.m. During the ceremony, Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Lisbeth C. Evans will make a special announcement about the William R. Davie House restoration project. John Sanders, former director of the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Government, will be the guest speaker and discuss the history of the William R. Davie House.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 3 to 4 p.m., the site’;s historic buildings will be open for tours. Historical crafts and living-history demonstrations are also planned during these times. Visitors can learn about the Halifax area’s history through a self-guided museum tour and a 13-minute audiovisual presentation in the Historic Halifax Visitor Center, open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The 1776 Halifax Resolves resolution was the first official action for independence made by any of the 13 original American colonies. Recognized on the North Carolina flag with the date, April 12, 1776, the event is one of the most important in the state’s history. Though the resolves document itself was signed by only Secretary of the Fourth Provincial Congress James Green Jr., the resolution was passed unanimously by the 83 delegates present. This year also is the 250th anniversary of the Town of Halifax being chartered, which occurred on November 21, 1757.

The first 85 years of the town of Halifax’s life are recalled in the historic site&’s preservation. The Owens House —;with a gambrel roof and furnished as the home of a prosperous Halifax merchant—is the oldest building and dates from about 1760. Two other buildings are also 18th-century, Eagle Tavern and the Tap Room.

The Roanoke River Valley’s prosperity during the 18th and 19th centuries is reflected in the many Federal-style plantation homes built here from the 1790s to the 1820s. A particularly elegant example is the 1808 Sally-Billy House. The Burgess Law Office probably dates from the same period, though its design is the older Georgian style. Thomas Burgess owned the building in the early 1800s, and it is furnished as his law office and town house.

The two public buildings within the historic district — the Clerk’s Office and the Jail — were built by the same contractor. The Clerk’s Office, built from 1832-1833, is where valuable court records were once stored. One of its rooms is furnished as a court official’s office and one as a printer’s office, complete with a press.

The jail was built in 1838. Other site features reflect everyday life in Halifax: Magazine Spring, long a town water source; the cemetery; Market Square, which served as the town park, pasture, and marketplace; and the river outlook, near the site of an early ferry landing.

Historic Halifax is located in Halifax County, a little over five miles east of Interstate 95. Take exit 168 onto State Route 903 and follow brown historic site signs to the Historic Halifax Visitor Center. For more information call 252-583-7191 or visit www.halifax.nchistoricsites.org. It is an agency of the N.C. Division of State Historic Sites, Department of Cultural Resources, a state agency dedicated to the promotion and protection of North Carolina’s arts, history, and culture.

April 5, 2007

NC & Slavery

Filed under: NC History,The strange place called the South — John Maass @ 10:09 pm

From the AP today:

The North Carolina Senate apologized Thursday for the Legislature’s role in promoting slavery and Jim Crow laws that denied basic human rights to the state’s black citizens.

Following the lead of lawmakers in neighboring Virginia, the Senate unanimously backed a resolution acknowledging its “profound contrition for the official acts that sanctioned and perpetuated the denial of basic human rights and dignity to fellow humans.”

“This is a way to reflect upon this and express our understanding and our regret for official actions of our state,” said Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, a Democrat and the bill’s primary sponsor.

Such an apology, Rand added, will help us “to try to be better children of God and better representatives of all the people of this state.”

The resolution recounts a long history of discrimination against North Carolina’s black population, from the first slaves in the British colony of “Carolina” in 1669 through the Civil War and then Jim Crow laws that promoted inequality into the mid-1900s.

“The state went out of its way to deny its people the right to life and liberty,” said Democratic Sen. Tony Foriest, who is black and recalled during the Senate’s debate the segregation he experienced as a child.

The North Carolina House would have to approve the measure for it to be formalized. A similar resolution is pending in the state House, which adjourned for the Easter holiday weekend on Thursday without taking any action.

Black members of the Senate said they were pleased to see the resolution pass, but added that lawmakers also need to help improve the quality of life of blacks who still suffer from the effects of slavery and discrimination. They called for improvements to the state’s education system and giving black-owned businesses more access to state contracts.

“This is a noble gesture but I urge you, don’t let it end here,” said Democratic Sen. Larry Shaw. “There’s plenty of work to be done.”

Several white senators recalled their own links to slavery. Democratic Sen. Bill Purcell said his grandfather had owned slaves. Republican Sen. Jim Jacumin mentioned his ancestors’ own suffering due to religious bias.

“Any conflict or wrongdoing can never have a closure until there is an apology or reconciliation has occurred,” Jacumin said.

North Carolina Democratic Party leaders apologized in January for instigating a bloody race riot in Wilmington in 1898, which left as many as 60 people dead and helped the party gain political power.

March 18, 2007

N.C. & the Shaping of an Imperial Identity

Filed under: NC History — John Maass @ 8:03 pm

As I mentioned in a previous post, this May I will be going to the north of Ireland to a conference of history, specifically on empires and their contested pasts.  I am looking forward to this trip quite a bit, it will be my 4th time in Ireland.  I will be gone 8 days, and will have a lot of opportunities to see places and people while I am there.  (I will post on this subject in a few days.)

My paper is entitled “North Carolina and the Shaping of an Imperial Identity,” and I give the entire paper proposal here:

During the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763), the British Empire found itself locked in a struggle with France in the wilderness of America, in which imperial officials in London expected its transoceanic colonies to contribute to the war effort by providing soldiers, supplies and money.  The results were disappointing in North Carolina, where the provincial assembly was extraordinarily reluctant to answer the call of metropolitan officials for wartime aid.  Recruiting for British regular regiments met with little success in North Carolina, while the colony’s insistence on issuing paper money in defiance of the crown’s well-known aversion to the practice further reveals the limited effect imperial command had in the province.  The colony’s poor economic condition and its remoteness from the seat of war explain much of this unwillingness to participate in imperial designs.  The parsimony and autonomy North Carolina’s Assembly demonstrates the not only the decentralized, tenuous nature of British metropolitanism and imperial commands in the 1750s, but also the colony’s increasing spirit of self-rule and growing autonomy. Britain’s perceptions of the language of command and control for use in colonial policy often emphasized a disciplinary implication of a “parent-child” relationship; North Carolina conversely stressed the sanctity of its legislature and the autonomy of its people, with Britain playing “an external background” role ensuring stability and protection.  In this perception, Carolinians were in effect actually encouraged by none other than Prime Minister William Pitt, who treated the colonies as near equals in his military reimbursement schemes, issues of rank, and even chastised one imperial official serving in America for “exerting too much authority over the people.” The stiffening reluctance on the part of the colony’s lower house to help Britain by refusing to raise troops, failing to send provisions, sending its own agent to London, and battling with the governor also reveals that Carolinians were not simply transplanted Britons living on the Atlantic littoral. Rather, a distinct imperial identity in North Carolina emerged during this conflict.  This was a peculiar identity characterized by a lack of deference to trans-Atlantic metropolitan commands, with an emphasis on provincial themes.  Historians have noted that by 1765 Britain’s mainland colonies had developed many separate identities; this was especially true in the case of North Carolina. 

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