Undergraduate Research: Ellen Saunders Duncan’s ‘Human Ecology of Honeybees’

Ellen Saunders Duncan is one of several American Studies undergraduate students to receive a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) from the Office of Undergraduate Research for Summer 2015. Duncan’s project, “The Human Ecology of Honeybees” is focused on documenting the narratives and work of beekeepers in North Carolina. With more beekeepers than any other state in the country, North Carolina exemplifies a practice that Duncan believes shows North Carolinians’ commitment to the land and sense of place, and serves as a balance between history and innovation. Over the summer, Duncan worked with beekeepers from a range of experiences to document their narratives through both oral history and photography. For her honors thesis, Duncan hopes to develop an interactive presentation of her research.

Congratulations on this huge accomplishment, Ellen! We’ve featured our other undergraduate SURF-grant recipients this week, including Katie Yelton’s ‘Mill Mamas‘ and Karen Seiber’s ‘Visualizing the Red Summer of 1919.’

Katy Clune (MA, 2015) in Our State Magazine

Katy Clune (Folklore MA, 2015) is on a roll. Or maybe a sticky rice ball would be more accurate. Clune, now digital editor for the Southern Foodways Alliance, has a piece in Our State Magazine, a state-wide publication that “celebrates the very best of North Carolina through authentic storytelling and stunning photography.” Clune’s article, “Asian Fusion Kitchen Brings a Taste of Laos to Morganton,” builds on the work of her thesis “Home in a New Place: Making Laos in Morganton, North Carolina,” which explored, through the world of one family, how Lao-Americans have crafted their home in a small southern community.

Monks eat lunch at Wat Lao Sayaphoum in Morganton, North Carolina

Monks eat lunch at Wat Lao Sayaphoum in Morganton, North Carolina

Clune reports that the Phapphaybouns family have already begun to see new customers in their Morganton restaurant because of her article. Congratulations Katy and Asian Fusion Kitchen!

Undergraduate Research: Karen Sieber Visualizes the Red Summer of 1919

Senior Karen Sieber has traveled over 7,500 miles (by car, that is) this summer to collect primary documents related to the Red Summer of 1919, an especially violent series of clashes between racial groups that resulted in “death and destruction and little accomplished.” For her honors thesis, Seiber is creating an interactive timeline and map made of primary documents related to the approximately thirty riots, which occurred anywhere from rural Georgia to Chicago to Bisbee, Arizona. Sieber believes it is one of the most violent periods in the nation’s history, yet unknown to most people. The lack of knowledge and research on the subject is due in part to a lack of access to original documents, an problem Sieber aims to solve.

Sieber was awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) from the Office of Undergraduate Research for Summer 2015 to acquire additional documents housed in over 20 collections across the US. Users will be able to compare letters, photographs, telegrams, court documents, newspaper articles, and even poetry, to look for trends and stories to emerge. She is also creating learning experiences for Grades 6-12.

She hopes that the tools will provide a more comprehensive history about the riots that includes topics like race, the threat of Bolshevism, lynch law, the role of prohibition, violence among soldiers and sensationalized journalism. “Visualizing documents in this way will allow for the history to tell itself far better than someone re-writing that history, “ Sieber says.

Maurice Mays

Maurice Mays

Seiber has uncovered and collected over 800 documents including this photograph of Maurice Mays, and a letter Mays wrote to the Governor of Tennessee asking him to visit him on death row.

Mays, a prominent African-American business owner in Knoxville, was pegged for the murder of a white woman named Bertie Lindsey. His arrest led to a lynch mob that destroyed the courthouse looking for him, leading to violent, deadly riots throughout the city. With little evidence against him and similar attacks on women continuing after his jailing, Mays wrote the Governor and other leaders in an attempt to clear his name. Mays was executed in the electric chair on March 15, 1922.

Maurice Mays, Letter to the Governor of, December 6th, 1921

Maurice Mays, Letter to the Governor of Tennessee, December 6th, 1921

Both documents were acquired at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in the Don Paine Collection.


Sieber has previous experience heading up historic data visualization projects with both UNC’s Digital Innovation Lab and Open Durham. You can see the project Karen has headed up for the Digital Innovation Lab, Mapping the Mill Village, on Digital Loray.


Congratulations on this huge accomplishment, Karen! We’ve featured the work of one of our other American Studies SURF-grant recipients this Monday, and will feature another this coming Friday. Keep checking back for more incredible undergraduate research!


Undergraduate Research: Katie Yelton’s ‘Mill Mamas’ Project

Katie Yelton, of Rutherford County, North Carolina, is one of several American Studies undergraduate students to receive a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) from the Office of Undergraduate Research for Summer 2015. Yelton chose to use her research grant to explore and document the experiences of women who worked in textile mills and as mothers in Rutherford County, prior to the mill shutdowns at the turn of the 21st century. The Mill Mamas project consisted of oral history interviews conducted by Yelton with six women of different backgrounds, ages, and from different parts of the county. Yelton then created an ethnographic film showcasing clips that highlighted common themes from the interviews. Yelton presented the film at a community event hosted at her alma mater, R-S Central High School in Rutherfordton. Yelton’s hometown newspaper, the Daily Courier, was in attendance, and featured Yelton’s film and event on their front page. You can read the Daily Courier article here. Yelton has dreams for potentially expanding this project in her post-graduate life and hopes to continue to work to benefit the place she calls home.

Congratulations on this huge accomplishment, Katie!
We’ll be featuring the work of our other American Studies SURF-grant recipients later this week. Keep checking back for more incredible undergraduate research!

‘How to Study the South Today’ Featured In Southern Spaces

American Studies 410: How to Study the South Today, taught by Elizabeth Engelhardt, the John Shelton Reed Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies, has been featured in the journal Southern Spaces. Taught in Spring 2015, AMST 410 engaged in an innovative teaching exercise: a contest. Together, students chose the most interesting example of interdisciplinary methodology in a recently published southern studies article, reading articles in a number of different publications including Southern Spaces, Southern Cultures, MELUS, the Bitter Southerner, American Quarterly, and American Literature, among others.

Considering “approach, research design, genealogy of scholarship, and strength of method for each text, and intentionally privileging issues of methodology,” AMST 410 chose Simone Delerme‘s 2014 Southern Spaces article, “‘Puerto Ricans Live Free': Race, Language, and Orlando’s Contested Soundscape,” as its contest winner. You can read more about AMST 410 on Elizabeth Engelhardt’s blog post for Southern Spaces.

Katy Clune’s (MA, 2015) First (of Many More) SFA Web Feature

Katy Clune (Folklore MA, 2015) has her first web feature up on the Southern Foodways Alliance‘s (SFA) site. As the SFA’s new digital editor, Katy will be contributing to the SFA’s mission to use food as an entry point for storytelling about the people of the changing South by showcasing oral histories, films, and photographs from the organization’s vast archives in weekly longform web features. Her first feature, “My Food Speaks All the Languages I Cannot Speak,” is up now on the SFA’s website.

Katy’s thesis, “Home in a New Place: Making Laos in Morganton, North Carolina,” explored, through the world of one family, how Lao-Americans have crafted their home in a small southern community. Congratulations Katy!

Historic Loray Mill is “Worth Saving”

From Bit + Grain (co-founded by Folklore MA Sandra Davidson!), “Worth Saving” chronicles the efforts to preserve Gastonia’s historic Loray Mill, once a the largest textile mill in the South. A combination of exceptional persistence and, crucially, federal tax credits allowed Preservation North Carolina to works successfully with developers, who have renovated the 600,000 square-foot building and are now leasing space.

Bit + Grain's "Worth Saving"

Bit + Grain’s worth saving tells the story of the lengthy effort to save and restore Gastonia’s Loray Mill.

The Mill will host the Loray History Center and inspired Digital Loray, a Digital Innovation Lab project spearheaded by Robert C. Allen, James Logan Godfrey Distinguished Professor in the Department of American Studies. Digital Loray is a collection of material relating to the history of the mill and its mill village, which can be deployed across a wide range of on-site and online public programming.  This material has been collected from the UNC Library, national and regional archival sources, local cultural heritage organizations, churches, and local collectors. Digital Loray currently contains nearly 1000 objects with links to many more, including photographs, oral history interviews, musical recordings, films, maps, census enumerations, and newspapers.

Announcing Cultural History and its Publics: A Symposium on the Occasion of the Retirement of John Kasson

Cultural History and its Publics:
A Symposium on the Occasion of the Retirement of John Kasson

Saturday, October 3, 2015
Johnston Center, Graham Memorial,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Sponsored by the Departments of History and American Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors Program, and the Graduate School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The broad rubric for this symposium, Cultural History and Its Publics, is intended to stimulate reflection on the kinds of work that we do in History and American Studies, the people whom we wish to engage beyond the academy, and the means and modes by which we do so. We invite speakers to draw on their own efforts, perhaps highlighting one or more specific projects, as well as reflecting on the broader challenges and opportunities that scholars face at a time when universities, museums, publishers, and digital communications are all in rapid flux. We do not wish to minimize the personal and professional stresses of the field. Yet we also wish to capture the creativity and emerging new possibilities for scholars of cultural history, broadly defined, including those now in graduate school, the varieties of ways that we make our work public, the various communities that we hope to reach, and the kinds of public engagement we most desire.
Invitations and Registration Information will be sent via e-mail in late August. Here is a tentative preliminary schedule:

Morning Panel Discussion, Imagining American Publics
Kresge Foundation Common Room, Graham Memorial 039 (lower level)

9:00 a.m. Welcome: W. Fitzhugh Brundage, William B. Umstead Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of History, and Bernard Herman, George B. Tindall Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies
Introduction to the Symposium: John Kasson

9:15-10:15: First Panel Session
Moderator and Commentator: Bernard Herman
Timothy Marr, Associate Professor of American Studies
Seth Kotch, Assistant Professor of American Studies
Jerma Jackson, Associate Professor of History
Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Adjunct Professor of History and American Studies

10:30-11:30: Second Panel Session
Gabriel Berlinger, Assistant Professor of American Studies
Kathleen DuVal, Professor of History
Molly Worthen, Assistant Professor of History
Commentary: Bernard Herman

11:30-11:50: Reflections and General Discussion

12:00-12:50: Informal Luncheon Buffet, Graham Memorial

Afternoon Symposium, Cultural History and Its Publics:
Kresge Foundation Common Room, Graham Memorial
1:00 Brief Welcomes
Moderator: W. Fitzhugh Brundage
1:10: Brent Glass (PhD, UNC-CH. 1980), Historical consultant and former Director, national Museum of American History
1:35 Discussion
1:45 Pamela Grundy (PhD, UNC-CH, 1997), Independent scholar, author, and museum consultant, Charlotte, NC.
2:10 Discussion
2:20-2:35 Break
2:35 Michael Kramer (PhD, UNC-CH, 2006), Editor — Design, Publishing, and New Media Department, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; (on leave as Visiting Assistant Professor — History, American Studies, Digital Humanities, & Civic Engagement, Northwestern University.
3:00 Discussion
3:10 Kimberly Kutz (PhD, UNC-CH, 2013), Post-Doctoral Associate, Department of History, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 2014-15
3:35 Discussion
3:45-4:00 Break
4:00 James W. Cook (PhD, 1996, University of California at Berkeley). Professor of History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
4:35 Discussion
4:50 Brief remarks by John Kasson

A reception and light buffet supper will conclude the symposium.

Carolina Cooks, Carolina Eats!

Carolina shone a spotlight on Carolina Cooks, Carolina Eats today. This of course is Professors Sharon Holland and Marcie Cohen Ferris’s course (AMST 375) that combines experiential learning, expert instruction, and traditional academic practice into a course experience that engages students with their communities through food. Read more here!