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D.G. Martin

One on One: Our most important lawyer

The most important lawyer in modern North Carolina history finally has a biography. This week UNC Press is releasing “Julius Chambers: A Life in the Legal Struggle for Civil Rights” by Richard A. Rosen and Joseph Mosnier. If you do not agree with my assertion about the importance of Chambers, read the book, and then we will talk. When Chambers died in 2013, I wrote,  “Simply put, Chambers’s work and the work of others he inspired are directly responsible for North Carolina casting off a culture of segregation and repression and replacing it with one of inclusion and opportunity.”...

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One on One: Politics and barbecue, together again

Did North Carolina barbecue help Donald Trump win the presidency? North Carolina’s barbecue guru, John Shelton Reed, has a theory. More about that in a minute, but first let’s celebrate having two books from Reed about barbecue ready for your holiday giving to friends who love to talk about and eat our state’s favorite pork product. Reed’s new book, titled simply “Barbecue,” is a short, but comprehensive, cookbook that sets out in simple steps how to prepare a variety of meat dishes cooked slowly over wood coals. Soon after publishing “Barbecue,” UNC Press reissued in paperback “Holy Smoke: The...

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One on One: “Bad Girls at Samarcand”

If you asked almost anybody in the world to tell you about Samarcand and you got any answer at all, it would be about an ancient city still existing in modern day Uzbekistan. But if you asked a North Carolinian and got an answer, it might be about a reform school for girls, in Moore County, where some inmates in 1931 set fires that destroyed two residential buildings. The girls were charged with arson, then a death penalty crime, and put on trial for their lives. That story was recounted three years ago in  “The Wayward Girls of Samarcand” by Melton McLaurin and Anne Russell. On November 18, at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association in Raleigh, a new book about Samarcand won this year’s Ragan Old North State Award Cup for Nonfiction. Karin L. Zipf, an associate professor of history at East Carolina University, is the author of “Bad Girls at Samarcand: Sexuality and Sterilization in a Southern Juvenile Reformatory.” Zipf uses the 1931 fire only as a starting point to tell more disturbing stories. She explains, “The Samarcand arson case and investigation served as a turning point in NorthCarolina’s public policy history. This public policy shift, from reform and redemption to classification and parole, represented a new construction of white supremacy, a racism that defined whiteness more narrowly and stripped its privileges from...

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One on One: Trump, Helms, and Democratic unity

Are there silver linings for North Carolina Democrats after Donald Trump’s sweep in our state on his road to victory in the presidential election? The apparent victory of Roy Cooper for governor, of course, if it holds, could provide Cooper the opportunity to serve the state and to keep Democrats involved in state government. Josh Stein as attorney general and Mike Morgan on the state supreme court are important victories with more than a little silver in the linings. But these are exceptions in a barrel full of disappointments. Hillary Clinton and Deborah Ross, after well-funded and vigorous campaigns fell well short. Two long serving members of the Council of State, Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, lost in close races. No incumbent Republicans lost. Republicans also maintained their solid, veto-proof majorities in the General Assembly. But Democrats should take heart. The election returns show that North Carolina remains a purple state, one that is competitive for both parties in statewide elections if they can nominate and finance appealing candidates. And, if they can find something to unify them. The Republicans found that unifying something this year. It was not Donald Trump. Divided on policy and support for their presidential candidate, they united in their dislike of their opponent, Hillary Clinton. “I am not voting for Trump,” my Republican friends told me over and...

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One on One: One Campaign’s Happy Ending

By the time you read this, the election will be over. Some will be licking wounds, others celebrating. While the candidates have been appearing in every corner of our state, I have been traveling, too. I spent October on a non-political tour, campaigning to help bookstores sell my new book, “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints.” Thanks to those booksellers and many of you, the book is selling well. It made the Southern Pines Pilot’s weekly Sandhills Best-Seller List for most of the past two months, three weeks as No. 1 in the Paperback Non-fiction category. On the road, I have learned a lot more about other people’s favorite eating-places. People like to talk about food and the restaurants they visit when they are traveling. One question I got at every stop is this: “Have you got Meadow in your book?” People love this buffet restaurant on I-40 (Exit 334) near its intersection with I-95, not far from Benson. Because there are no signs to show the way, some folks think that Meadow is their personal secret stopping place on the way to the beach. They can regale you with descriptions of Meadow’s meats, vegetables in great abundance, and its unbelievable assortment of pies and cakes, all for one modest price. I found out new stories about eateries I included in...

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One on One: Taking a Knee and Remembering Dean Smith and Charlie Scott

Do you grit your teeth when an athlete or performer takes a knee during the National Anthem before a game begins? We have mixed feelings, don’t we? Like UNC-Chapel Hill basketball coach Roy Williams, who was angry when he first heard about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s pre-game protests of police violence against black men. Then, after talking to members of his team, Williams changed his mind and recognized that Kaepernick was not saying that our country was bad.  But there is a specific problem, Williams says, and “I think he is correct.” Williams’ comments reminded old-timers of...

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One on One: Stealing our Shadows

Has this year’s presidential election stolen our shadows? “What do you mean?” I can hear you asking that question. To understand about such shadows, it helps to read North Carolina beloved former poet laureate and UNCG Professor Fred Chappell’s new book, “A Shadow All of Light.” It is a magical, or speculative, story set in an Italianate country hundreds of years ago. Readers are required to suspend disbelief as Chappell asks them to believe that our shadows are something more than the images our bodies cast by interrupting a light source. These shadows are an important, integral part of a person’s being. They can be stolen or given up. When lost, the person is never the same. In Chappell’s tale, an ambitious rural man, Falco, comes to a big port city where he attaches himself to a successful shadow merchant, Maestro Astolfo. Over time Falco learns the trade of acquiring and selling shadows that have been detached from their original owners. The business is a “shady” one because the acquisition of human shadows often involves underhanded or illegal methods, something like today’s markets in exotic animal parts and pilfered art. But Maestro Astolfo and Falco, notwithstanding public attitudes, strive to conduct their business in a highly moral manner. Although losing one’s shadow can be devastating, the situation can be mollified if a similar replacement can be secured from shadow...

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Why Democrats Could Benefit from a Trump victory

Most Democrats are happy that Donald Trump’s campaign is stumbling. But some, looking at the long term, might think that a Trump win next month would be a good thing. Not for the country, they would explain, but for the future of the Democratic Party. Just like Barack Obama’s win in 2008 hurt Democrats in elections later on, Trump’s victory would be terrible for the Republicans in future elections. Obama’s victory seemed to be the prelude to a long period of Democratic dominance and control of the House and Senate. But it did not last long because Obama’s victory provoked a powerful Tea Party-like response from an angry segment of the public. These motivated crowds marched to the polls in 2010 and reversed Democratic gains, retook control of Congress, and gained control of the state legislature in North Carolina. Control of state government, sealed in 2010, enabled Republicans in North Carolina to redraw congressional and state legislative districts to insure their party’s long-term dominance. The same thing happened in other states. Most Democrats hope that a Trump loss in North Carolina would help Democrats gain in the U.S. Senate and state legislative races. Still, nobody thinks control of the North Carolina legislature can be returned to Democrats this election. But, if Trump were to win and become president, he would provoke anti-Trump and anti-Republican voters in the 2018 and...

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Eastern North Carolina is my Tuscany, my Szechuan, my Provence

Who is the most famous woman in North Carolina today? Think Eastern North Carolina. Think restaurants. Think public television’s popular program, “A Chef’s Life.” Then, on October 4, think books. On that date, the revolutionary new cookbook of our most famous woman, Vivian Howard, hits the bookstore shelves, and her photograph on the lovely book cover will be everywhere. “Don’t you dare skip this introduction!” she writes. Good advice, because she explains in that introduction how and why her book is no ordinary cookbook. She writes, “This book is the story of my life so far, told through the...

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The election will be over, not HB2

What do you hate more? The presidential election campaign? Or the furor over HB2? The good news is that one will be over in a few weeks. The bad news is that the other won’t. On November 8 the election campaigning ends. The heavy doses of drug-like campaign ads and cable news coverage the mean-spirited, misleading, and malicious barrages fired by and at the candidates will halt. But HB2 will still be with us, tearing us asunder, holding our state up to ridicule. Unnecessarily, because reasonable people could have worked out a common-sense solution that recognized, respectfully and practically,...

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