Category Archives: History

Exhibit preserves history of Sycamore Hill community

“Beyond Bricks and Mortar: Revisiting the Sycamore Hill Community,” a photography project that shares the history of the displaced community, has opened at East Carolina University’s Joyner Library.

On display in the Janice Hardison Faulkner gallery through March 26, the exhibit illustrates that a community is much more than the bricks and mortar used to construct its homes. The photographs and narratives featured show how the ties that bind are often found in human connection.

Students, visitors and citizens of Greenville and surrounding areas are invited to visit the exhibit and learn about the predominately African American community that was displaced by a redevelopment project in the 1960s.

According to Joyner Library Director Janice S. Lewis, “The Beyond Bricks and Mortar project furthers the mission of Joyner Library and ECU to celebrate and preserve the life stories, art and images that represent the regional culture of eastern North Carolina. It is particularly timely as the Greenville City Council continues to discuss a planned memorial near the former location of Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist Church, now part of Town Common. Recent meetings attended by former residents and church members provided an opportunity for us to learn more about the community, its importance, and the need to document its history before more time passes.”

Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1860 and was originally known as the African Baptist Church. The name was changed in the 1880s and referred to the sycamore trees surrounding the church’s location on the corner of First and Greene streets. The large brick church featured in the exhibit’s historical photographs was constructed in 1917 and was a Greenville landmark for half a century. When the Town Common Park was created in the late 1960s, both the church and the vibrant community around it were forced to move.

Houses on West First Street with Sycamore Hill Baptist Church in the background. This area is where Town Commons is now located. (Photo Contributed by Joyner Library Digital Collections)

Houses on West First Street with Sycamore Hill Baptist Church in the background. This area is where Town Commons is now located.
(Photo Contributed by Joyner Library Digital Collections)

“We are honored to help the Sycamore Hill community tell their story and are excited about the possibilities with this project,” said Heather White, assistant director for assessment and engagement at Joyner Library. “It was overwhelming to have such a large participation in the portrait project, which speaks volumes to the strong sense of community and connection this group continues to feel even years later.”

On Dec. 27 and 28, former Sycamore Hill community members and their descendants were photographed as close as possible to the sites of their former homes. Narratives from the former residents and family members about their memories of living in the Sycamore Hill community were collected to accompany the portraits.

Historical images of Sycamore Hill Baptist Church and the surrounding neighborhood from the Joyner Library Digital Collection are also included in the exhibition.

Amber Nannette Harris, who participated with her father in the project, said, “Listening to these stories is a scar for me too. These sacred grounds will forever be home in our hearts,” said Harris. “This acknowledgment is a start of a healing process.”

A public celebration honoring the Sycamore Hill community and recognizing participants in the project will be held 5-8 p.m., March 3 in the Janice Hardison Faulkner Gallery in Joyner Library. The celebration will include a short program at 5:15 p.m. and will be a part of the First Friday Artwalk series with shuttle service by the Jolly Trolley.

After the exhibit closes, the images will be preserved and will continue to be available online as part of Joyner Library’s Digital Collections. The library hopes this project will be the seed for more extensive outreach and collection of regional history, including the history of communities that have been underrepresented in archival collections.
Joyner Library will also hold a Community Scanning Day on March 4 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist Church, 1001 Hooker Road, Greenville.

If you have historical photographs of the Greenville area or related items that you would like to have scanned, please contact Charlotte Fitz Daniels at fitzdanielsc16@ecu.edu or 252 328-0287.

 

-by Kelly Rogers Dilda, Joyner Library

ECU professor to serve as Steffy Lecturer

ECU maritime studies professor Dr. David J. Stewart was asked by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) to serve as the 2015-16 J. Richard Steffy Lecturer.

David Stewart

David Stewart

The lecture was established in 2008 to commemorate Mr. Steffy’s work in ship reconstruction and the interpretation of wooden ships.

Stewart will deliver a series of presentations to AIA societies on the Kyrenia Ship, Steffy’s most notable reconstruction achievement. The ship, which sank off Cyprus in about 285 B.C., is the best preserved ancient Greek hull available.

In 2011, Stewart led a team that conducted a complete 3D recording of the hull in Kyrenia Castle. He has been using computer modeling to gain a better understanding of the ship’s shape than was possible without the technology.

The ECU program in Maritime Studies is housed in the Department of History in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences.

ECU student discusses Tuscarora at UNCC Graduate History Forum

Matthew Esterline, graduate student in history at East Carolina University, discussed John Lawson and the Tuscarora War at UNC-Charlotte’s 25th Annual Graduate History Forum on April 19-20. The presentation, titled “Spanish Oyster-Shell and Blood: An Examination of John Lawson and the Tuscarora,” was presented to faculty from across the state.

The presentation focused on the mystery behind and reasons for Lawson’s execution as well as the tensions between the Tuscarora Indians and colonists which lead to the war.

Esterline also participated with media relations for the Nooherooka 300 Commemoration held at ECU and Snow Hill in March. He said he wanted to raising awareness of the Tuscarora.

The graduate history forum featured guest speaker Dr. William Kimler, NCSU history professor and scholar on the history of biology and evolutionary ideas.

ECU students spend Spring Break conserving shipwreck artifacts

PRESERVING ARTIFACTS: Eleven graduate students from ECU’s program in maritime history and four student interns from UNC-W spent their Spring Break working to conserve and catalogue artifacts from a Civil War-era shipwreck at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site. The artifacts were from the Blockade Runner Modern Greece. (Video courtesy of Brian Nestor, video producer, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.)

ECU researchers explore history near Columbia

Dr. Nathan Richards, far right, presents information about known shipwrecks on the Scuppernong River at the Pocosin Arts Center in June. (Contributed photo)

 

East Carolina University researchers are collaborating this fall with the UNC Coastal Studies Institute and the citizens of Columbia, N.C. to explore the region’s history and close connection with the state’s coastal waterways.

Initial findings will be presented at an Oct. 6 public forum to be held in conjunction with the community’s annual Scuppernong River Festival and at an information booth open at the festival Oct. 8. More detailed results will be shared in a public symposium planned for late 2011 and a publication in the works for 2012. A grant application related to the project is also under development.

An old photograph of the mail boat, the "Estelle Randall," is among the artifacts uncovered so far in the collaborative project. (date unknown; Source: Mariners Museum PB2876 C176).

The researchers will use side-scanning sonar to search for lost shipwrecks in Bulls Bay and the Scuppernong River, while local residents provide a backdrop through their stories of the region’s history. Topics for study include waterway modifications, the evolution of trade networks and the fishing, lumber and naval store industries in the area.

ECU history professor Dr. Nathan Richards, who specializes in nautical archaeology, met with residents in June to begin conversations about the project. Collection of oral histories has begun, including stories of how residents relied on boats from Elizabeth City to bring the mail and goods that were traded for vegetables, fish and crabs. Residents will provide river tours and house students and faculty participating in the research.

The grant application will seek funding for the development of a digital media project, The Scuppernong River Heritage Trail, which could be presented in tandem with the existing Scuppernong River Interpretative Boardwalk, a .75-mile wetlands trail near Columbia.

Richards said the area provides the perfect location for a maritime heritage trail because of the existing infrastructure, the extensive history in the area and the two prominent rivers in the area (the Scuppernong and Alligator Rivers). Columbia is also situated along a major tourism corridor, he said, as a stop along the route to the North Carolina Outer Banks.

For additional information, contact Richards at 252-258-4264 or richardsn@ecu.edu.

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Making sense of the Civil War: Prokopowicz selected as local project scholar

East Carolina University history department chair Dr. Gerald Prokopowicz will serve as project scholar for the “Let’s Talk About it: Making Sense of the American Civil War” series at the New Bern-Craven County Public Library.

Prokopowicz

The series includes five public conversations centered on the Civil War, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. The New Bern Craven County Public Library is one of 65 libraries nationwide to receive the competitive grant.

Prokopowicz will facilitate the discussions, which will take place from February through April 2012. Each session will focus on a different facet of the Civil War experience, including such topics as imagining war, choosing sides, making sense of Shiloh, the shape of war and war and freedom. Three books will provide material for the discussions: “March,” by Geraldine Brooks; “Crossroads to Freedom: Antietam,” by James McPherson; and the anthology “America’s War: Talking About the Civil War,” edited by Edward L. Ayers.

Prokopowicz said the series affords an opportunity for members of the community to talk about the war and its effect on the world today.

“The war took place 150 years ago, but the underlying issues are still active in American culture and politics. Too often those issues are oversimplified for TV cameras or debated in classrooms where only scholars and students can participate,” he said.

“This project creates an opportunity for people to have a meaningful, in-depth conversation and to share the many meanings that the war still holds for people in eastern North Carolina.”

The grant provides to the library $3,000 for project-related expenses as well as 25 copies each of “March” and “Crossroads to Freedom” and 50 copies of “America’s War.” Prokopowicz and Joanne Straight, head librarian and project director for the grant, will receive funding to attend an October orientation workshop in Chicago, Ill.

For additional information about the series, contact Straight at 252-638-7800 or by email at jstraight@nbccpl.org. Detailed information about the ALA grant may be viewed online at http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/ppo/programming/civilwar/ltaicw_guidelines.cfm.

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ECU to host National History Day competition

More than 250 middle and high school students are expected to participate March 30 in the regional National History Day competition at East Carolina University. Judging at the event, themed “Debate and Diplomacy: Successes, Failures, Consequences” will begin at 10 a.m. in Mendenhall Student Center. The public is invited to attend, said Chad Ross, teaching assistant professor of history.

“You’ll see the excitement and energy in these kids’ faces,” said Ross, who is in his third year of organizing the event.  Read more…

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