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D.G. Martin

One on One: Good Friends and Books Can Change Us

  Why have the attitudes of people in our state towards gay and transgender people changed so quickly and so dramatically? Before even trying to answer, I should acknowledge that many people have not changed so quickly and some have not changed at all. That said, there has been a dramatic and almost unbelievable change in many people, something you would not have predicted only a few years ago at the turn of the millennium. Why so fast? A powerful factor in changing our attitudes has been what we learned from people we came to know and admire. Whether...

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One on One: Lessons from Tillis for Speaker Moore

Can lessons learned in a successful effort to provide compensation for victims of state-sponsored sterilization help solve the problem HB2 (the “Bathroom Bill”) is causing North Carolina? In his recent book, “Rage to Redemption in the Sterilization Age: A Confrontation with American Genocide,” John Railey, editorial page editor at the “Winston-Salem Journal,” showed how a determined legislative leader can persuade colleagues to put aside opposition to legislation that would remove an ugly stain on North Carolina’s reputation. As Railey explains, during the last century, North Carolina had one of the nation’s most aggressive eugenics programs. It provided for the...

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One on One: Galifianakis – Nick or Zach?

Did you ever feel so let down after an election? Many North Carolina Democrats have been asking each other this question every day since they learned the results of the latest presidential election. Some old timers remember other times when they felt like they had been hit in the stomach by disappointing election results. There are still people around who remember the way they felt after the primary election in 1950 when the legendary progressive, former university and incumbent U.S. Senator Frank Graham lost his bid to keep his office. Others will tell you the empty feeling they felt...

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One on One: Books for New Year’s Reading

So, have you got something about reading more books on your list of New Year’s resolutions? If so, I have some help. Four different books, at least one of which will be right for you. A best-selling inspirational cookbook-memoir by North Carolina’s most celebrated woman these days. A novel set in contemporary times about a half-human, half-bull creature who tries to make his way as a blue-collar worker. A look back at the racial turmoil of the 1960s through the poignant experience of one of North Carolina’s greatest basketball stars, and a literary novel about a troubled marriage that...

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One on One: Keep Calm and Carry On

What can Democrats look for Santa Claus to bring them this year? It has been a bleak holiday season so far. So maybe Santa could bring them something more than just lumps of coal that have already made their way into their stockings hung by their fireplaces with care. Lumps of coal like Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory, the Republicans’ retention of control in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and the N. C. Republican Party’s preservation of veto-proof control in the state legislature. Last week Republicans even turned Democrat Roy Cooper’s victory in the governor’s race from...

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One on One: Facing Lobotomy and Other Stories

When the actions of a mentally challenged teenaged boy begin to frighten other children and alarm their parents, what should be done? By the boy’s family? By the state? Is it time to institutionalize the boy? Are there medical procedures that can eliminate his offensive and dangerous conduct? These questions and these situations can tear families and communities apart. Award-winning poet and novelist Elizabeth Cox, formerly at Duke and more recently at Wofford College, deals with such challenges in her latest novel, “A Question of Mercy.” Set in the North Carolina of the early 1950s, we learn the family’s...

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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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