[caption id="attachment_151402" align="alignright" width="202"] Photo Credit Enabled[/caption] Southern Pioneers in Social Interpretation 1925 • edited by Howard W. Odum Don’t be fooled by the dry title: This collection of biographies
Southern Pioneers in Social Interpretation
1925 • edited by Howard W. Odum
Don’t be fooled by the dry title: This collection of biographies — gathered and edited by Howard W. Odum, a longtime UNC Chapel Hill faculty member in sociology and a UNC Press founder — is nothing less than revolutionary. By giving attention to both white and Black leaders, including President Woodrow Wilson and author and educator Booker T. Washington, Odum made a statement about the history and the future of the South — and he argued to the broader world that our region was as important and vibrant as any in the nation. A reviewer at The New Republic wrote, “A Northerner lays down the little volume aware of a quickening breeze from the South.’ ” In his preface, Odum himself wrote, “[I]t is hoped that the demand for studies of southern leadership will be such as to justify other volumes in the series.”
The Natural Gardens of North Carolina
1932 • B.W. Wells
In this volume, revised and republished as recently as 2015, botanist and North Carolina State College faculty member Bertram Whittier Wells described the plant communities, or “natural gardens,” found within our borders — from the sand dunes and salt marshes of the east to the former farmland and evergreen forests of the west. “Wells took the best scientific and botanical information at his disposal and used it to explain what today seems a deceptively obvious question: Why does our state look the way it does in terms of its plant life?” Simpson- Vos says. “Together with books like Charlotte Hilton Green’s Birds of the South , Wells’s book signaled that the region’s new university press was going to help celebrate and understand its natural world.”
The Lost Colony: A Symphonic Drama of American History
1937 • Paul Green
During his time on the faculty of the University of North Carolina, Paul Green wrote the play that would become his lasting literary legacy, commissioned by the citizens of Roanoke Island. The production brought new life and new visitors to the Outer Banks during the struggles of the Great Depression, and it pioneered the kind of outdoor theater that would invigorate communities across the United States. Over its 84 seasons, The Lost Colony has shared the story of the earliest English settlers — and their mysterious disappearance — with millions of audience members.
1939 • Stella Gentry Sharpe, with photographs by Charles A. Farrell
In the 1930s, UNC Press joined the Works Progress Administration in the publication of texts that continue to be literary landmarks, including this groundbreaking children’s book. Tobe follows an African American boy through his life on a Piedmont farm, illustrated with pictures of real local families taken by Charles A. Farrell, a Greensboro news photographer. In 2019, UNC Press published a new critical edition that includes interviews with some of those families and their descendants. It explores the importance of Tobe in its historical moment as one of the first respectful and complex portrayals of Black childhood, and considers the questions we ask today about whose stories are told, and who should tell them.
The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860
1943 • John Hope Franklin
From its earliest decades, UNC Press was committed to sharing the stories and experiences of all North Carolinians. It supported the early work of pioneers in African American studies like John Hope Franklin. This book — Franklin’s first — chronicles the challenges that emancipated Black Americans faced in antebellum North Carolina. Without possessing the full rights of citizens, the “free Negro” lived under laws so harsh that some chose to return to slavery. Over the years, UNC Press has continued to publish books on the history of race in America, such as Winthrop D. Jordan’s White Over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812, which won the National Book Award in 1969 and helped establish the press as a publisher to be reckoned with.
Atlas of North Carolina
1967 • Richard E. Lonsdale
If you grew up in North Carolina, you may remember this volume — big, cloth-bound, and packed with details about everything from the apparel industry to local newspapers — on the shelves of your school library. Compiled by a member of the Chapel Hill geography faculty, the Atlas of North Carolina kicked off the UNC Press tradition of publishing atlases that offered far more than maps. In 2000, two of the original editors, Douglas M. Orr and Alfred W. Stuart, updated the book as The North Carolina Atlas: Portrait for a New Century. “Orr and Stuart really captured that pivotal moment as North Carolina was rapidly becoming the urban, diverse, and global place we know today,” Simpson-Vos says.
Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking
1985 • Bill Neal
If you’ve ever had a beautiful plate of grits at an upscale restaurant, thank Bill Neal. In his too-brief life — he died in 1991 at the age of 41 — the chef had a profound impact on our understanding and appreciation of Southern foodways. At Crook’s Corner, the celebrated Chapel Hill restaurant he helped found, Neal brought the ingredient-driven energy of the New American food movement to the regional traditions he loved. Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking includes recipes that he refined at the restaurant and shares their roots in American Indian, European, and African cultures. “Southern food is not just food cooked south of the Mason-Dixon line,” Neal wrote. “It is a product of time and people as well as place.” The book helped establish UNC Press as a force in food publishing, a tradition that continues through the Savor the South series and other volumes.
Encyclopedia of Southern Culture
1989 • edited by Charles Reagan
Wilson and William Ferris When this 1,600-page volume was published, U.S. News & World Report celebrated it as “the first attempt ever to describe every aspect of a region’s life and thought … even the iced tea that washes down its catfish and cornbread.” It also embodied UNC Press’s commitment to helping Southerners understand their history and culture. Chapel Hill historian William S. Powell brought a North Carolina focus to this effort with the creation of the Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006), which included contributions from more than 550 scholars, librarians, journalists, amateur historians, and others who believed in the project’s mission to create a “people’s encyclopedia.”
Into the Sound Country: A Carolinian’s Coastal Plain
1997 • Bland Simpson, with original photographs by Ann Cary Simpson
“From my early years living in Pasquotank County, on a blackwater river in a town at most twelve feet above the sea … I have heard and known and loved this word sound,” writes Bland Simpson in the opening of his travelogue, memoir, and meditation on the beauty of the Coastal Plain, created in collaboration with his wife, conservationist and photographer Ann Cary Simpson. Simpson started his career as a songwriter and musician, but he soon began celebrating his native landscape in literary endeavors, too. In 2021, the Press published his latest work, North Carolina: Land of Water, Land of Sky, in which he explores the entire state.
Mama Dip’s Kitchen
1999 • Mildred Council
“You can think of Mama Dip as a beloved Chapel Hill figure, which she was, but she was also a path-breaking Black woman entrepreneur,” says UNC Press Executive Editor Elaine Maisner, who worked closely with the restaurant owner. The voice of Mildred Council — nicknamed Dip for how her long arms could reach the bottom of a barrel — comes through clearly in the introduction of this book, one of the first to celebrate what’s come to be known as Southern soul food. Mama Dip’s Kitchen shared recipes that continue to earn devoted regulars at her restaurant: country-style pork chops and fresh corn casserole, chicken pie and banana pudding. The wider public was hungry for Mama Dip’s cooking, too: When the book was promoted by QVC host and Chapel Hill alum David Venable, it sold around 8,000 copies in five minutes.
Hugh Morton’s North Carolina
2003 • Hugh Morton
Perhaps no one loved North Carolina more — or worked harder to inspire others to love it — than photographer Hugh Morton. From his college years at The Daily Tar Heel through a six-decade career that landed his images in National Geographic and LIFE (as well as Our State), Morton celebrated the people and places of his home state. When he inherited much of Grandfather Mountain, he created new access for visitors, including the now-famous Mile-High Swinging Bridge; brought native species back to the land; and took breathtaking photographs that established the site as one of the state’s greatest treasures. When UNC Press collected these and hundreds of other images in Hugh Morton’s North Carolina, published three years before his death at the age of 85, “lines of people queued up in Kenan Memorial Stadium to have Hugh sign copies,” Simpson-Vos recalls. “He was that beloved.”
Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook
2003 • Barbara R. Duncan and Brett H. Riggs
“North Carolina has the largest Indigenous population east of the Mississippi,” Simpson-Vos says. “If you want to understand our state, you have to understand not only its Native American history but also its Native American present.” Offering stories, history, and philosophy from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, this guide brought attention — and visitors — to seven communities and sites within the Eastern Band’s homeland. It also exemplifies the role of UNC Press as a driver of cultural tourism across the state. With titles like Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina and the three-volume Literary Trails of North Carolina, guidebooks from the Press have encouraged countless North Carolinians and travelers from beyond our borders to explore the rich history and cultures that live along our highways and back roads, coastline and mountain ridges.
Saving the Wild South: The Fight for Native Plants on the Brink of Extinction
2021 • Georgann Eubanks
Ninety years after UNC Press published The Natural Gardens of North Carolina and its call for appreciation of our state’s ecological diversity, it is sounding the alarm about the potential loss of beautiful and valuable plant species that make our region unique. Georgann Eubanks, author of the Literary Trails of North Carolina volumes, traveled across the South to speak with botanists, conservationists, and those who have observed and tended these plants all their lives about why species like Yadkin River goldenrod — found in only one place on earth — matter. For Eubanks, the quest was personal. “The South is where I was raised and have lived all my life,” she writes. “The love of place, plants, and trees has become the part of my heritage that I most treasure.”
Related: 100 Years of the People’s Press
A Q&A with Elaine Maisner of UNC Press
OS: How did the opportunity to print Mama Dip’s Kitchen come to UNC Press?
Elaine: Mama Dip’s is the press’s best seller, and our former editors called it our Harry Potter! We were contacted by a representative of Mildred Council — aka Mama Dip — and asked if we were interested in publishing the book. We knew that Mama Dip was an extremely important restauranteur in the state, and I met with her several times to get to know her. With our publishing, we didn’t just want to do a collection of recipes — we wanted there to be a contribution to cultural understanding and history. Mama Dip was such a willing collaborator as we aligned her interest in food with the press’s century-long interest and devotion to publishing about African American history. She was one of the first authors that we were able to do that with, and I’d say that it was a success!
OS: What was it like to work with Mama Dip?
Elaine: She was a beloved figure — we knew that Michael Jordan used to go to her restaurant all the time. Her recipes are very classic, although she was open to adjusting them, which was remarkable. I like to talk about her recipe for chicken and dumplings, specifically: In her first cookbook, she showed how to make a chicken and dumpling recipe with homemade dumplings, but then in her second cookbook, she featured a way to make the dish with strips of tortillas! That’s so interesting because of the Latino influence that she was open to — and it was a brilliant idea.
OS: Why do you think Mama Dip’s Kitchen resonates so much with readers?
Elaine: I think that it’s because of her down-to-earth personality that’s captured in the book, combined with the fact that people could go to her restaurant. One part of the book that people love the most is her introduction — and that’s what really makes the book her book. In the beginning, she spoke the introduction into a recorder, instead of writing it. Doing that doesn’t always mean that an author’s voice is going to come through accurately, but in this case, it did. She had an assistant transcribe it onto the page and we all edited it together, but our focus was preserving her direct, powerful voice and experience.
OS: As someone who observed the impact of Mama Dip’s Kitchen on the state, can you speak to the cultural significance of food in North Carolina?
Elaine: Well, all regions of the country have specialties that are based on what’s available, the immigrants of the region, and what they like to cook, and that is certainly true for the South. North Carolina is particularly interesting because it has both coast and mountains, and a very verdant middle section. The kinds of produce that we have available are just exceptional, and I always hope that we appreciate the rich, varied food scene here in the state.
OS: What do you remember hearing from readers when the book came out?
Elaine: One of my most distinctive memories from that time was when I was at a literary festival. One of our sales representatives was there, and he told me, “I love Mama Dip’s Kitchen. It means so much to me because when I made her tea cookie recipe, it took me back to my mother’s kitchen … it took me back in time.” That response and connection is very emotional, and I think that those recipes really strike people who grew up in the South. They embrace tradition — and Mama Dip not only did that, she was also open to improvisation and change. She was exceptional.print it