Map of NC

Map of NC

April 10, 2019

National Library Week

This National Library Week, take some time to appreciate the people who help make libraries such a special place: librarians! Today we'll highlight a famous local librarian: Louis Round Wilson. Literary Map fans who live in Chapel Hill might have heard his name before, seeing as Wilson Library on UNC Chapel Hill's campus was named in his honor.

Wilson was born in Lenoir, North Carolina in 1876. He was raised by two teachers, and was one day expected to choose it as his profession. While he did go on to work as a professor at various points in his life, librarianship was his true calling. In 1901, he was hired as a librarian at UNC, where he pursued his master's degree in English and was later awarded a PhD. He was offered the chance to move on from his position in 1906, but declined the chance in order to remain dedicated to improving UNC's collections.

He was a firm believer in the value of libraries, eventually helping found the North Carolina Library Association in 1904, which improved the situation of libraries throughout the state. Wilson was an influential member of the Southeastern Library Association, and served as its president from 1924 to 1926.

During this period he pushed for the construction of a new library on UNC's campus, as the then-current one could not support its students' needs. In 1929, the library was finished mere days before the stock market crash. Despite the obvious struggles it faced in the years to come, it survived and even expanded its collection through the crisis via financial donations. For some time, this library went nameless, only referred to as "the library" until 1956, when it was renamed in honor of Wilson, its first librarian. Today it serves as the home of UNC's special collections and archives.

Wilson's accomplishments were so numerous that it is difficult summarizing them in one short blog post, which speaks to how important he was to librarianship in North Carolina. He served as the first dean of UNC's Library Science school, and continued to work in libraries until his retirement. You can read a complete summary of Louis Round Wilson's work at the NC Literary Map. If you're interested in learning more about the man himself, his papers can be found at Wilson Library.

The next time you visit your library, keep in mind Wilson's lifelong dedication to North Carolina libraries, and thank your local librarian!

March 27, 2019

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is one of America's most acclaimed authors and poets, known best for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which details her early years. She was born in Missouri in 1928, her parents gave her the name Marguerite Johnson, but it was her older brother Bailey Jr. that gave her the name we know her by. "Maya" was a name derived from years of him calling him "mya sister." She spent her early years being raised by her father in Stamps, Arkansas or at her mother's home in St. Louis. After a traumatic event in her youth, she went mute for a number of years, but it was during this time that she fostered a passion for literature. Her teacher, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, introduced her to literary greats, including black women writers.

Her early work was not as a writer, but an eclectic group of jobs ranging from dancer to street car conductor before she began to involve herself in the Civil Rights Movement. She worked as a coordinator for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and worked as a freelance writer and teacher in Africa. It was upon her return to the United States in the 1960s that she wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of six autobiographies which chronicle her life. It faced controversy in its day for its portrayal of race and violence, but inspired other black women writers to pen their own stories.

In 1981, Maya Angelou returned to the southern United States. She moved to Winston-Salem to teach at Wake Forest University, where she dedicated herself to education. Her writing pursuits did not end with her teaching career, however, and in the intervening years she directed movies, wrote novels and poetry, and more. She was chosen to recite her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration and was awarded the Medal of Presidential Freedom in 2010, the highest honor a civilian can attain. She lived the rest of her life in Winston-Salem, dying in her home there in 2014. To this day her works are inspirations to countless creators, and her influence can still be felt in popular music and literature.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Maya Angelou's other novels can be found at your local library or bookstore. If you prefer poetry to prose, collections such as And Still I Rise or Phenomenal Women, among others, are also available. You can find a complete list of Maya Angelou's works at the NC Literary Map!

March 20, 2019

Jan Karon

Jan Karon was born and raised in Lenoir, North Carolina. From an early age she had a keen interest in writing, having penned her first book by the time she was ten. After moving around the United States, she eventually settled in Blowing Rock, where she was inspired to begin writing weekly stories about an Episcopal priest named Tim Kavanagh. These stories eventually became her first published novel: At Home in Mitford.

At Home in Mitford was just the beginning of Father Tim's adventures. Karon has gone on to publish fourteen novels about him and the fictional town of Mitford. Mitford was based on the town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, a mountainous town and the perfect location for Karon's character-driven novels. Fans of the Mitford Years are invited to view the literary map's walking tour of Blowing Rock, which maps out the town through the eyes of Father Tim. Discover the real local businesses and parks which inspired Jan Karon, and learn more about a proud entry to North Carolina's literary heritage.

For those who haven't had the chance to experience Jan Karon's work can find At Home in Mitford and her other books at your local library or bookstore!

February 25, 2019

Pauli Murray

Before Black History Month ends, the North Carolina Literary Map would like to highlight the life and activism of Pauli Murray. Born in 1910, Murray was a civil rights activist whose activism preceded much of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s. She was born in Baltimore, but was raised in Durham, North Carolina. After leaving the state to attend school up at Columbia University, she returned when she attempted to apply to then-segregated University of North Carolina.

She was rejected, and in response wrote letters to President Roosevelt and other officials in protest. A few years later she and a female partner were arrested for sitting in the whites-only section of a bus. Both of these cases were considered by the NAACP, but ultimately the organization pulled out of representing her. Some speculate this was due in part to the fact that Murray had open romantic relationships with women and dressed in masculine clothing, occasionally presenting as a man. Despite resistance, Murray went on to become the first black deputy attorney general in California. Her critique of state segregation and the “separate but equal” facilities later influenced the court case Brown vs Board of Education. In addition to her contributions to black civil rights, she founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966.

Murray had been excluded from the discussion of the Civil Rights Movement and Feminist Movement, but there has been a recent resurgence of her interest in her and her work. In addition to her activism, she was an author and poet. You can read about her family history in the book Proud Shoes, which describes the lives of her ancestors who lived and worked in Durham. Fans of poetry can read her poems in Dark Testament and Other Poems. Those interested in learning more about Murray herself are invited to check out Song in a Weary Throat, an autobiography, or the oral history interviews available online via the “Oral Histories of the American South Project.”

February 11, 2019

Harriet Ann Jacob's 206th Birthday

Today, February 11th, is the birthday of abolitionist Harriet Ann Jacobs. She is best known for her moving autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Her book, first published under the name “Linda Brent,” tells the story of the sexual abuse she suffered as the slave of Dr. James Norcom and her life after her escape.

For years after her escape, she hid in the home of her grandmother, Molly Horniblow, before finally fleeing North Carolina in 1842, eventually ending up in New York. She was later reunited with her children, and much of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl recounted her attempts to free them.

Jacobs used her story to promote the abolitionist movement. Her book was one of the first to discuss the plight of female slaves, and was written to sway the hearts of Northern white women. After the publication of her book she continued to advocate for black Americans both in the United States and overseas. During the Civil War she nursed black soldiers by her daughter’s side, and after raised money for refugees from slavery.

More about her story and legacy can be found within the pages of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Visitors to Edenton, North Carolina can tour sites from her early life, including the site where Molly Horniblow's house once stood.