A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

[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

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

[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

Photography courtesy of UNC Press

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.”

Photography courtesy of UNC Press

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 [1933], Wells’s book signaled that the region’s new university press was going to help celebrate and understand its natural world.”

Playwright Paul Green’s most famous work is performed at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site’s Waterside Theatre in Manteo each summer. photograph by Chris Hannant

Photography courtesy of UNC Press

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.

Photography courtesy of UNC Press

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.

Photography courtesy of UNC Press

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.

Photography courtesy of UNC Press

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.

Photography courtesy of UNC Press

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.”

Photography courtesy of UNC Press

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 photography, some of which is gathered in Hugh Morton’s North Carolina, spans six decades and captures the essence of the place we call home. Photography courtesy of HUGH MORTON PHOTOGRAPHS AND FILMS #P0081, © 1972, NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION, UNC-CHAPEL HILL LIBRARY

Photography courtesy of UNC Press

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

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This story was published on Mar 25, 2022

C.A. Carlson

C.A. Carlson is a writer and editor living in Asheville.