D.G. Martin

North Carolina’s British Queen

Here is a North Carolina history question: Which North Carolina counties were named in honor of women?   Dare, of course, in honor of Virginia Dare, the first child of English parents born in America. Wake was named for Margaret Wake, wife of Governor William Tryon. And then, Mecklenburg, named in honor of the wife of King George III, Charlotte, who grew up in the Mecklenburg region of Germany. German Mecklenburg was part of the old East Germany. There was almost no connection between the two Mecklenburgs until the Wall came down.   Last month in Mirow, a small town in German Mecklenburg, important people from all over the world gathered to celebrate a “Queen Charlotte” connection that binds Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.   Perhaps the most important person there was British Ambassador to Germany Simon McDonald, who reported, “I was puzzled at first to find the place teeming with Americans; until I realised they were from Charlotte, North Carolina.  The delegation was headed by the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Mecklenburg County, and included the Deputy Mayor of Charlotte …. Charlotte, NC, was founded in 1762, the year after Charlotte became Queen.  Its symbol is still Charlotte’s crown; the Deputy Mayor proudly pointed out that a crown tops Charlotte’s tallest building, the Bank of America HQ.”   What brought all these Charlotte-connected...

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The Civil Rights Revolution—inside and on the ground

Do you remember seeing photos of the 50th anniversary reunion of the Civil War battle at Gettysburg? Aging veterans from both sides of that war gathered to remember together the horrors of the battle and to celebrate their common homeland. As we begin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, I wonder if there could ever be a Gettysburg type of reunion that would bring together those who battled for equal rights and those who fought tooth and nail against them.   Unlikely. It is hard these days to find anyone who will stand up with pride and say that he or she fought against the movement for equal opportunity.   A new book by Joseph Howell, who is married to my sister Embry, brought back those times of the early 1960s vividly. His book, “Civil Rights Journey: The Story of a White Southerner Coming of Age during the Civil Rights Revolution” is a reminder to me of a question that must haunt every American who lived through the 1960s and did nothing, or very little, but sit on the sidelines as historic changes rushed by.   The question: Why didn’t I do more?   Howell asks the same question even as he describes how he led demonstrations for equal rights in Charlotte while he was a student at Davidson College in the...

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Fiction tells the truth about North Carolina’s changing rural landscape

We have changed. More urban. Less rural and farming. At least that is what the latest Census is telling us. But the story is more complicated. It is more interesting, too. Out in the formerly all-rural counties of our state, new kinds of residents have moved in. But lots of the old-time residents are still there. How do fifth-generation farming families interact with back-to-the-land newcomers, suburbanite encroachers, and retirement community residents? The census does not give us the answer. Maybe the answer can be found best in fiction. Chatham County’s award-winning writer Marjorie Hudson has given it a try in a new book of short stories, “Accidental Birds of the Carolinas: Stories about newcomers and natives, and the healing power of the rural South.” Hudson sets her stories in a fictional Ambler County, which is much like her own Chatham County. Like Chatham, Ambler is rural by tradition, but growth from nearby cities is expanding across the county lines. At the same time, idealistic young people from all over the country are still moving to rural Ambler to try their hands at living on the land and off the grid. The natives and the “accidental” newcomers are characters who move through Hudson’s stories. In “The Clearing,” a woman running away from a broken relationship moves into an old farmhouse in bad repair. When the pipes freeze, a crusty local...

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More help for farm fresh food eaters

Last week I introduced you to two authors of new food books that celebrate the joys of preparing and eating fresh farm food in season. In that column I wrote about Andrea Reusing’s “Cooking In The Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes,” which, as the title suggests, is organized by season, and “Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen,” which uses a more traditional cookbook approach of groups of related dishes. This week we feature Watauga County native Sheri Castle’s “The New Southern Garden Cookbook,” with groups of recipes organized into chapters on each of about 40 vegetables and fruits. Finally, we introduce Diane Daniel’s “Farm Fresh,” which organizes its information by the geographic location of the farms, markets, and other places to get fresh food. Castle is a popular food writer and cooking teacher who celebrates delicious and healthy home cooked meals made possible by fresh, local, seasonal food. She has packaged that enthusiasm into “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes.” Castle’s book has about 40 chapters, each one devoted to one particular fruit or vegetable from apples to zucchini. She suggests that you go to the market without a shopping list, buy what is the most freshly available and tasty, bring it home, consult her book, and find all kinds of ways to prepare your purchase. Castle...

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Help for farm fresh food eaters—part one

What is North Carolina’s most widely available summertime pleasure that we most often pass by without partaking? It is the bounty of delicious fresh foods that are available throughout the state all summer long. I have been spoiled by the year-round availability and wide selection of fruits and vegetables at our grocery stores. So I sometimes forget how much better foods are when they are fresh from the field, tree, or vine. Then somebody shares a fresh-picked ripe strawberry or peach or tomato. And I remember joyously the pleasures of in-season eating. This year I have help. It comes from four new books from food experts who celebrate the value of farm fresh eating. Each author takes a little bit different approach to getting the food from farm to table. James Beard award winning chef Andrea Reusing organizes her recipes and advice by seasons of the year. Sara Foster catalogues her favorite recipes and stories by types of dishes, from hors d’oeuvres to sweets. Watauga County native Sheri Castle puts her collection of recipes in separate chapters for about 40 vegetables and fruits. They are in A to Z order from apples to zucchini. Finally, travel writer Diane Daniel organizes by geographical location the farms, markets, restaurants and other places where we can find and buy in-season fresh vegetables and fruit. We will take up the Reusing’s and Foster’s...

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Why do North Carolinians love pirates so much?

Pirates in North Carolina again? Yes, we remember Black Beard. Most authorities now agree that the shipwreck we thought was Black Beard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge is just that. The big news about the recovery of the ship’s anchor has us talking about pirates again. The new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, although not as big a hit as its predecessors, brought the world’s attention to pirate mythology again. At East Carolina University, the Pirates nickname for its athletic teams makes all ECU fans justifiably proud of their pirate heritage. It is the same thing for many North Carolina high schools that have adopted this popular nickname. But, when we are pushed to explain why we are so enthusiastically romantic about pirates and their mythology, we begin to stutter. It is difficult to explain why we would want to tie ourselves so closely to a group of ruthless, brutal, selfish thieves. These are not the kinds of people we ordinarily would claim for our own. We simply do not have a good explanation for our love of pirates. Three new books might help us as we struggle to understand our identification with pirates. First, there is “Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life & Legend,” a biography by Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams. As noted in an earlier column, this book teaches us that Sir Walter’s colonizing efforts on our coast were...

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North Carolina books for summer reading

Summer is here. Are there some North Carolina books in your summer reading book bag? If not, here are some possibilities from authors who will be featured on upcoming programs on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch. Rachel, the blue-eyed child of a black American GI and a Danish mother, is the central character in an award-winning novel, “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky” by Heidi Durrow. Durrow herself is the child of a Danish mother and an African-American father, whose military assignments brought him to North Carolina. The author’s real struggle to find her identity provided the background for the similar fictional struggle that Rachel faced. But the novel is a darker story, a more compelling one, of a child whose mother loved her so much she wanted her child to die with her. (Durrow will be my Bookwatch guest at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, June 17, and 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.) Suzanne Hobbs, who teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, is a prominent public health professional and author of several books in the “for Dummies” series, including “Living Dairy-Free for Dummies.” Why would a distinguished professor want to write a book for dummies? She explains that the “dummies” formula is a big help for an author who wants to write clearly and simply. Lots of readers, most of whom are not dummies, appreciate the...

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Another war we cannot win?

One lesson America is reluctant to learn: Wars are easer to declare than to win. Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya elude the kind of total victory our country achieved in World War II.   And we have other declared wars that command national resources even though finding a strategy for a decisive victory has been elusive.   War on poverty. War on cancer. War on crime. War on terror. War on AIDS.   These wars confound us because we can find no way to total victory.   No war has been more confounding in that respect than the war on drugs.   Its cost over the last 40 years, some estimate, exceeds a trillion dollars.   Our criminal justice system continues to expend substantial resources tracking down drug sellers and users. Prisons are full of the “catch.”   Still, no victory is in sight. The use of illegal drugs rages on. Many otherwise law-abiding Americans “do drugs” or confess that they “did drugs” in the past.   Criminals run the profitable illegal drug marketing system that supplies the demand of American consumers. The high street cost of the illegal drugs drives drug addicts into criminal activities to raise money to buy the drugs.   Our jails are packed with such people.   So, is it time to surrender and give up the war on drugs by legalizing...

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A short North Carolina history lesson

Here is my list, compiled about 10 years ago of the most important events in 20th Century North Carolina. It is a good time to reassess, but I am sticking with what I wrote back then. The election of 1900. The white supremacy Democratic Party returned to power and Charles Brantley Aycock became governor. The adoption of a literacy requirement for voting (with a “grandfather clause” to protect illiterate whites) assured the Democrats’ victory, effectively froze most blacks out of North Carolina political life for most of the century, and made us a solid one-party state. The Wright brothers flight in 1903. Maybe the Wright brothers came from Ohio. But they came here. As a result we define ourselves as “first in-flight.” The creation of the State Highway Commission in 1921 under “Good Roads” Governor Cameron Morrison. The establishment of the Duke Endowment in 1924. The philanthropy of James Buchanan Duke assured the national prominence of Duke University and set the pattern for a rich philanthropic tradition in North Carolina. The textile strikes in Gastonia in 1929. The publication of Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel in 1929. The 1931 consolidation of the campuses of North Carolina State, Women’s College, and the University of North Carolina under one governing board and president, leading ultimately to the unified administration of all public higher education under the UNC system beginning in 1971....

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An aerotropolis in North Carolina?

But what about North Carolina airports? How do our major airports and associated metropolitan areas fit into the concepts for the future of the world’s mega airport cities discussed in the new book, “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next” by UNC-Chapel Hill’s John D. Kasarda 
and Greg Lindsay? Does any one of our “airport cities” have the potential to be a real “aerotropolis”? In an earlier column about this book, I promised to try to respond to these questions. “Aerotropolis” is a word that Kasarda popularized. It describes an airport-city where the airport is hub of a surrounding urban area. The urban area provides nearly “frictionless” connectivity for the airport’s passengers and freight. The urban area’s business, manufacturing, and brainpower élites thrive on the convenient and speedy global connectivity the airport provides. Several North Carolina airports have some of the attributes of an aerotropolis. Charlotte stands out in passenger boarding and ranks as one of the world’s major airports in this category. It is a major hub. Some people in Charlotte assert that this major hub status costs them money because tickets cost more than at non-hub airports.*** But, as Kasarda explains, the time saved is valuable in a just-in-time world, more valuable than the extra money spent on tickets. Businessmen can leave Charlotte in the morning, have face-to-face meetings with clients during the day, and get home in...

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