How can I better know the county?

I want to increase my knowledge of the history and politics of Orange County over the summer in preparation for my editor job at the DTH. Do you have any recommendations? Books, articles, etc.

I'm getting ready to get "The American College Town" from the library as a start. 




Actually was in Japan at the time reading about CH with a friend from Michigan, so an odd combination, but I remember the book as being very interesting. 
Chapel Hill: An Illustrated History

Theres lots of cool little communities that most OC residents never see.  To get a nice intimate look at the county today, get a bicycle and ride the county.  It's about 15mi x 25mi--you could get a nice up close look in a weekend.  If you've got more time, pack a tent and do a slower tour, stopping at every little country store for a drink & a chat.  Do the Bikefest ride out of Hillsborough in August, and some Carolina Tarwheels weekend rides.

Local History as a subject is the Rodney Dangerfield of history.  It gets no respect.  However, since the late 1960's, there have been a few works of local history in America that have attracted legitimate academic admiration.  One such book happens to be about the civil rights struggle of the early 1960's in Chapel Hill: John Ehle's The Free Men.  Any OP reader who has not read The Free Men should do so soon.  The book is not a perfect portrayal of the events of 1962-4, but it is nonetheless an outstanding work of local history and an inspiring tale of the power of a few young people with justice on their side.Of course, The Free Men only covers one aspect of Orange County history and only a short time period as well.  Probably the most comprehensive history of Orange County is Elizabeth Ryan's Orange County Trio.  No single history book is going to be complete, but her book is a great introduction to Orange County, Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Carrboro.To tell the truth, no book covers the modern era in Orange County in detail.  The single best source of information on the last 25 (or even 50) years of events in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County might well be the morgue at the Daily Tar Heel.

Thank you so much, Mayor Chilton. And it was good seeing you at the forum this morning!

with Shirley Marshall is well worth the effort.  Nice resolution, Carrboro Aldermen!

What exactly constitutes people and politics and history of Orange County? There are thousands of people that work at UNC that don't live in Orange County.  They get into their cars each morning, drive to UNC work, work the day, then drive home to another county to where they live.  They are an integral part of UNC and UNC is the dominant force in Orange County and also of course is the reason there is a DTH and a DTH editor. For that matter, the boundaries of Orange County are arbitrary.  UNC is in the southeast corner of Orange County.  Why should something 15 miles in one direction be of speical interest because it's in Orange County instead of something 5 miles away because it's not in Orange County?

Take some time and visit with the county and municipal clerks.  There is an enormous amount of information on the respective websites and the clerks can walk you through basic information and search tools. 

Also, it will be beneficial to develop a professional relationship prior to the many requests for public information which are sure to come. 

Of course it's all relevant. What's your point?

here a couple of years ago in which people chimed in with their memories of Chapel Hill from the 60's & 70's. It is full of colorful nuggets of local history. I couldn't find it though - anybody else remember what keywords might work?

The book Andrew notes is a very recent publication from the University of Massachusetts Press: .  It sounds both useful for Andrew and interesting for the rest of us. In fact, I'm curious enough about what the author (who's won an award for this book) has to say that I'm wondering if OP-ers might consider an informal book-discussion-group, on line or in person, in which we compare what Gumprecht says with our own experience.   Andrew might find the exercise interesting, too.  Note: I haven't read the book, so I don't know how tough-going it might be, but one of the reviews called it "highly readable."Any takers, or do we all have enough on our summer-reading list?  

Buy me one and I'll tell you a few stories.

Buy a sixpack and I'll bet you'll get even better stories.


after that, the law of dimishing returns kicks in . . .

Maybe we could have interested folks gather periodically to share history. Maybe even record it. There's a vast amount of local knowledge just among the OP community. Especially of activist campaigns and grass-roots issues that doesn't usually find its way into the formal histories that are recorded. It would be fascinating to hear.  

Wow, Mark, a salon.  What a cool idea. 

If you really want to get to know the county then you've got to get out of Chapelboro. Orange is still a lot more rural than some might imagine. Come on out to the 14th anual Farm Tour this weekend and meet some of the people that grow the local produce for the various local farmer's markets and for Weaver Street Markets.  

If there's more of the tax protests scheduled, come on out and talk with the people present about what's on their minds.

Interview some of the folks particpating in the PLANT at Breeze program and find out why so many people are interested in relocalizing food production and getting their hands dirty in small start up farms.

Come talk to residents of White Cross, Hillsborough, Cedar Grove, Efland and Mebane about their concerns regarding being county residents. And if you want to know OC history, there's no better place to start than Hillsborough.

A lot of the recent churn in Orange County has come from rural-urban relationships. To get a better understanding of that history, listen to the Cane Creek oral histories available through Documenting the American South and search on "Cane Creek." Many of these same folks are now fighting against the waste transfer station.If you search on "orange county" you'll get interviews on civil rights, being gay in the South, school integration, the role of the Rape Crisis Center, etc.If you search on "hillsborough" you'll get interviews documenting the loss of the furniture factories in Hillsborough and Mebane. For some fun reading (take it with a grain of salt) on Hillsborough, try Doug Marlette's novel entitled The Bridge. I also liked Life Without Water by Nancy Peacock as a commentary on the hippy era of Chapel Hill.     

UNC's Southern Oral History Program does indeed have a good number of local histories recorded. They recently created a special web site of Chapel Hill area histories for the "Our Stories, In Focus" community art and history project. And hey, Andrew, I've still got The American College Town checked out! If you put a hold on it, I promise I'll hurry up to finish it. Sally Greene  

While I was waiting for my bar exam results back in 1975, I worked part time for the Southern Oral History Program transcribing interviews. I can't remember what I transcribed, but it was probably a couple of the 1973-1975 interviews at 

Mr. Dunn, I challenge you to get out and experience community events. Take in the 4th of July events at Carrboro and the parade at Caldwell on the 4th of July. There are all kinds of events both in town and in the rural area. Watch and interact with people as I do each Saturday at the Carrboro Farmers Market where I sell my products. There was a customer who is no longer with us and he would ask me about where a location was becasue that they were having a fundraising dinner that day and he would treat himself by going. Book learning cannot tell you everything about a location. Experience life outside of Chapel Hill/Carrboro. Hillsborugh has all kinds of events.

On this I tend to agree with Poppalax, although I defend the usefulness of books to provoke discussion, even if they're unread.*I would also suggest attending some soccer games -- Rainbow, Liga Hispanica, adult league.  And the Whole Foods Dogwash.   (*very subtle but nonetheless shameless plug for my own book)

J bus, F bus, NS bus, 420 bus to Hillsborough.  Try to ride NOT in the middle of rush hour, but towards the end of morning rush hour, or the beginning or end of the evening rush hour.   You'll find people going to different places, for different reasons.  Talk to them.


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