Reenactment of Polk's 1847 Visit to Chapel Hill

Welcome to Chapel Hill President Polk!

The Preservation Society of Chapel Hill will be recreating the 1847 visit of President James K. Polk to Chapel Hill on Saturday, May 3, 2008. The event will be from 10 am to 4 pm at the Horace Williams House at 610 E. Rosemary Street. Costumed reenactors will be preparing for the President’s arrival while Mexican War soldiers drill on the historic lawn of the 1840s Horace Williams House. Children’s games, period music, and demonstrations will also be part of the day’s activities. The event is free and open to the community.

Recreating the visit of one of America’s least known Presidents seems, at first, to be less than thrilling but the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill thinks just the opposite. On May 3, 2008, the Society will host President James K. Polk’s return to Chapel Hill, complete with period decorations, music, and soldiers of the era. The event seems like a pleasant day of living history but why Polk? “I had originally planned the event based on the age of the Horace Williams House” says Preservation Society Director Ernest Dollar, “but the more I learned about Polk’s presidency, the more I realized it eerily mirrored current events.”

Polk took a rare trip away from the Whitehouse in 1847 to visit his alma mater. Polk attended the University of North Carolina in 1816 and became the 11th President of the United States in 1844, only one of three from North Carolina. During his visit to Chapel Hill national issues such as war, immigration, and the economy consumed America. By highlighting the similarities between the 1840s and the first decade of the 21st century, Dollar hopes to make history relevant.

“I was struck by the comparison between the dubious beginnings of the Mexican War and the controversy surrounding the invasion of Iraq,” said Dollar. Another similar issue Dollar highlights as another connection with the American of Polk age is the question of immigration, “then it was the Irish and now it is the Latinos.” The irony of the event is embodied in the comparison Polk’s election in 1844 to George Bush’s in 2000. Polk was the country’s first dark horse candidate and won when a third political party siphoned away votes from the popular candidate Henry Clay. Dollar concluded by adding, “It really makes you consider the old axiom of history repeating itself.”

Dollar is confident the children’s games, period music, and demonstrations slated for the day will be fun for all ages, but in the end, he hopes the public will come away with an increased appreciation for history’s role in our modern lives and how it ultimately shapes the future.


Saturday, May 3, 2008 - 6:00am to 12:00pm


Horace Williams House, 610 E. Rosemary Street

April 4, 1968 - A Significant Date

I just saw a clip on the noon news with former President Bill Clinton reflecting on the Death of Martin Luther King, Jr. on this day, 40 years ago. ("Clinton remembers King during visit to N.C."). The night of April 4, 1968 and the days that followed are hard to forget.

Discussion: "The Great Debaters"

From a CHCCS press release:

CHCCS to host Black History Month event
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will host a special Black History Month event for middle and high school students, their families and members of the community.

The district encourages these groups to view the film, "The Great Debaters." The district will then host a community dialogue on the film on Sunday, February 24, from 2-4 pm in the Smith Middle School Auditorium.

"The Great Debaters" recounts the true story of the debate team from Wiley College in Marshall, TX. The debate team represented a historically black college and was one of the first to break the color barrier by debating teams from white colleges. The film stars Denzel Washington and Forrest Whitaker. It was produced by Oprah Winfrey.

CHCCS reminds parents that the film is rated PG-13. Parents should know that the film contains one graphic lynching scene and a romantic scene. Parents should use their discretion and their knowledge of their child to determine if the film is appropriate for him or her. To learn more about the film, please visit www.thegreatdebaters.com.

A viewing and thinking guide for the film is posted on the district's homepage under quick links. Light refreshments will be provided at Smith for the event.


Sunday, February 24, 2008 - 9:00am to 11:00am


Smith Middle School Auditorium

Pauli Murray Awards Ceremony

This just in from Orange County:

Pauli Murray Awards Ceremony

The Orange County Human Relations Commission will present the Pauli Murray Awards and Human Relations Essay Contest winners from 3-5 p.m. on Sunday, February 24, 2008, at The Little Theater of New Hope Elementary School (1900 New Hope Church Road, Chapel Hill). Additionally, the student winners of the 2007 Human Relations Month Essay Contest will be acknowledged and the winners will read their essays. This annual contest is open to students from all schools in the County and offers cash awards of up to $100. During this ceremony, Durham’s Instruments of Praise Dance Ministry and The Newman Center Choir of Chapel Hill will provide entertainment.

The award is in recognition of the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray. The Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray was a remarkable woman who never let racial and gender discrimination and intolerance keep her from achieving her goals. Instead, these events were a catalyst for a life of activism. Former recipients include Rebecca Clark, Lightning Brown, Joe Herzenberg and Shirley Marshall; Balloons & Tunes (Carrboro) and Sports Endeavors (Hillsborough).

This event is free and opened to the public.

Contact: James Spivey, Orange County Human Rights and Relations (919) 968-2288



Sunday, February 24, 2008 - 10:00am to 12:00pm


The Little Theater of New Hope Elementary School, 1900 New Hope Church Road

Hidden Voices - Because We're Still Here (And Moving)

I just saw the 10:00 AM performance of Because We're Still Here (And Moving) at the ArtsCenter. If you're not familiar with the show yet, it's a theatrical retelling of 140 years of Chapel Hill and Carrboro's African-American History. The fine people at Hidden Voices have spent two years working in the community to collect hundreds of stories and photographs.

The production was wonderful. It uses an authentic style of African-American multi-generational storytelling to make connections between the past and present. I most enjoyed the stories of Ruth Stroud, especially her recollections of her grandparents' story about being freed from slavery. I also picked up a copy of the accompanying neighborhood walking tour guide, and I learned so much about what was here (long) before I arrived in 1998.

I highly encourage you to see the FREE production tonight at 8:00 at the ArtsCenter. And if you know a young person that you can take with you, make sure you do. It has the potential to be a wonderful opportunity for community building.



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