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The Behind the Veil Oral History Project was undertaken by Duke University's Lyndhurst Center for Documentary Studies in 1990. It seeks to record and preserve the living memory of African-American life during the age of legal segregation in the American South, from the 1890s to the 1950.

The Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South Records span the years 1940-1997 (bulk 1993-1997) and are comprised chiefly of interviews recorded on cassette tapes. The 1260 interviews, 1993-1997, in this collection cover a number of topics related to African-American life in the 20th century with a focus on the age of southern segregation. The collection includes interviews with people from Albany, Ga.; Fargo, Ark.; Birmingham and Tuskegee, Ala.; Charlotte, Durham, Enfield, New Bern and Wilmington, N. C.; LeFlore County, Miss.; Memphis, Tenn.; Muhlenburg County, Ky.; New Iberia and New Orleans, La.; Norfolk, Va.; Columbia, Orangeburg, St. Helena, and Summerton, S. C.; and Tallahassee, Fla. In addition to interviews conducted specifically for the Behind the Veil project, the collection includes six interviews from the James City Historical Society, Craven County, N.C. as well as eight interviews conducted by Paul Ortiz in Tallahassee, Fla., in the summer of 1997 as part of his dissertation research.

The collection includes duplicate sets of approximately 1700 interview tapes. The Master Tapes Series is closed except for appropriate use by authorized staff from the Behind the Veil project and the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The Use Tapes Series contains copies of the tapes for use by researchers. The Printed Materials Series provides biographical information about informants, interview agreement forms, proper names sheets, and brief summaries (one-three pages) of each of the 1260 interviews. Also included are some personal papers, the earliest of which is dated 1940. The Transcripts Series currently includes unverified transcripts of 314 interviews in the collection. These transcripts are also available as electronic documents. A disk directory log exists. Contact Research Services staff for more information. More transcripts will be available each semester.

The Behind the Veil collection will eventually include approximately 5100 photographs and slides. This Visual Materials Series will contain items donated by informants and others in the communities where Behind the Veil field-workers conducted interviews. The vast majority of these pictures show family and community members at home or at special events. A smaller number portray buildings and other local places. Images of political events are notably rare in the collection. We also anticipate the eventual addition of the Behind the Veil project's papers, which will be held as the Administrative Files Series.

Behind the Veil interviewers were provided with a list of Interview Questions before they entered the field. Although most interviews in the collection do not follow the list question by question, the list provides a useful research guide to the type of inquiry many interviews follow. The list of questions is included as an appendix in this guide. Frequently discussed topics include family history, local neighborhoods, educational background, employment history, religious institutions, experiences of segregation, local political activities, civic organizations and activities, black-owned businesses and local culture. Behind the Veil informants represent a number of occupational groups, including domestic workers, educators, homemakers, health professionals, manufacturing workers, miners, ministers, political figures, professionals and servicemen.


A Behind the Veil Database, created by Alex X. Byrd, will soon accompany the collection. The fields included are in two categories: Informant and Circumstance of Interview. The Informant fields are Last Name, First Name, Middle or Maiden Name, Sex, Zip Code, Date of Birth, Place of Birth, and Principal Occupations. The Circumstance of Interview fields are Date of Interview, Location of Interview, Processing Subseries, and Interviewers. The other fields are: was the informant part of a group interview?; has the interview been transcribed?; if part of a group interview, under whose name is the material filed?; number of tapes for interview.

Consult reference staff concerning the availability of the database.

The addition (acc# 2001-0183)(100 items, 1.5 linear feet; dated 1996-1997) includes a course syllabus, interviews of African-American North Carolinians on cassette tapes, some student self-evaluations, contracts, indices, and transcript excerpts. The area most represented is Durham, N.C. Students were to aim for insight into how African-Americans built communities during an age of racial oppression. The interviews include much information about family history and social and community issues.

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Cronly Family papers, 1806-1944 28 Linear Feet — 1,962 items

The Cronly family included Michael Cronly, Sr., auctioneer and real estate broker of Wilmington, N.C. and his wife, Margaret McLaurin Cronly and their nine children. Collection includes correspondence, legal papers, financial papers, writings, account books, volumes, clippings and printed material. It ranges in date from 1806-1944.

Correspondence, financial records, legal and other papers of the Cronly family. Subjects include auctions and auctioneering, Wilmington social life, Civil War experiences, the Wilmington, Charlotte and Rutherford Railway Company, railroad bonds issued in North Carolina during Reconstruction, an earthquake that struck the Carolinas in 1886, the Democratic Party and politics in North Carolina, and blacks during Reconstruction. Includes information on the Beatty, McLaurin and Murphy families of North Carolina, and descriptions of Charleston, Atlantic City (N.J.), Denver, Genoa (Italy), and the Hudson Fulton Celebration in New York City (1909). Correspondents include Thomas Walter Bickett, Jr., Harley Lyman Clarke, Stephen William Cole, Newton Martin Curtis, William Darius Jamieson, Herbert Putnam, Don Carlos Seitz, William Nathan Harrell Smith, Waddy Thompson, and Platt Dickinson Walker. The collection ranges in date from 1806-1944.

Collection also contains numerous bound volumes, ledgers, and account books that have not been inventoried or described.

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Eliza Wright Murphy papers, 1847-1927 1.2 Linear Feet — 950 Items

Teacher, from Atkinson, N.C. The papers of Eliza Wright Murphy consist of correspondence, poems, school essays, receipts, printed material, reports, and photographs. Most of these items are the personal papers of Eliza and her brothers: Edwin Edgar Murphy (1874-1914), John Gerald Murphy (b. 1872), Paul Percy Murphy (b. 1878), Isaac Wright Murphy, and C.C. Murphy, referred to as "Neil." Also includes material concerning the Arran-on-Black River Literary and Historical Society in Wilmington, N.C., including programs, minutes, memos, and reports, and the Presbyterian Mission Hospital in Kiangyin, China. The correspondence consists of several hundred letters to Eliza and her brothers from friends and relatives in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. News about local events and the correspondent's personal life are the chief subjects discussed. Correspondents outside of the immediate family included members of the Vidal and Wright families.

The papers of Eliza Wright Murphy span the years 1873 to 1927 and consist of correspondence, poems, school essays, receipts, printed material, reports, and photographs. Most of these items are the personal papers of Eliza and her brothers; about 30 items, however, concern the Arran-on-Black River Literary and Historical Society or the Presbyterian Church. The correspondence forms the bulk of the collection.

The correspondence consists of several hundred letters to Eliza (circa 60%), and, from the 1890s to 1927, to her brothers (circa 40%), from friends and relatives living in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and elsewhere; very few of the letters are addressed to Eliza's parents. News about local events and the correspondent's personal life are the chief subjects discussed. Correspondents outside of the immediate family include Eliza's uncle J.C. Wright and other relatives in Coharie, N.C.; John W. Vidal, Adolphe L. Vidal and other cousins in Gainesville, Fla.; and Elizabeth Janet Black, or "Bessie," also a cousin, who lived in Raleigh, Lumber Bridge, and elsewhere in North Carolina before finally settling in Ivanhoe. Bessie's letters include a limited discussion of her teaching career, and, after 1919, her work for the Arran-on-Black River Literary and Historical Society as its secretary.

Eliza and her brothers also wrote frequently to each other. From 1898 to 1901, there are letters from John, Edwin, and Paul while they attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Isaac while he attended Oak Ridge Institute in Oak Ridge, N.C., and, to a lesser extent, from Neil while a student at Massey Business College in Richmond, Va. These letters concern student life at their respective schools, Isaac's volunteer work for the Y.M.C.A., and the usual family matters such as inquiries as to one's health, church, and social activities. Although Eliza's brothers pursued several different careers, very few of their letters discuss their professional and business activities; instead, the focus of their letters is on family news and social activities.

The Writings series (14 items) consist of short poems and school essays (1 p.) written by Eliza during childhood and early adolescence. The Legal and Financial Papers (40 items) consist of receipts, and undated tax list for the Black River section of Pender Co., N.C., and an undated contract for the distillation of grain. The Miscellaneous Papers (25 items) include two grade reports, one each for Edwin Edgar Murphy and John G. Murphy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, concert programs, a mimeographed copy entitled "Constitution, By-Laws, and Minutes of an Educational Association in Cleveland County organized about 1860," and three photographs (circa 1890s) of five women, one of whom may be Eliza.

The first category (15 items) in the Tropical Series concerns the Arran-on-Black River Literary and Historical Society. Incorporated in 1919, its chief purpose was to collect and publish materials documenting the heritage of Scottish emigrants from the island of Arran, off the west coast of Scotland, who settled in the Black River section of Eastern North Carolina. Included are programs, minutes, memos, and reports dating from 1919 to 1923. Letters concerning this society are located in the correspondence from 1919 onward.

The second category (12 items) concerns the Presbyterian Church, especially its foreign missions. Included is a manual of the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmington, N.C. (1904); newsletters from the Foreign Missions Executive Committee (1908-1910); and a handwritten report (1913) on the hospital fund campaign, submitted by Eliza Murphy to the Wilmington Presbytery, for the mission in Kiangyin, China.

This collection best documents a young woman growing up in North Carolina during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as her relationships with her brothers and the relations among the brothers themselves, separate from her. Other aspects documented include student life in college, teaching, a family's support of the Presbyterian Church, missionary activities in China, and the Arran-on-Black River Literary and Historical Society.

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Will Inman papers, 1910-2009 69.5 Linear Feet — 42,754 Items

The correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, clippings, and printed material in the Will Inman Papers span from 1939-1999, and serve to document the life and literary career of the poet, essayist, editor, educator, and publisher.

Inman was a prolific corespondent and maintained regular correspondent relationships with his friends and family, as well as with his readers and other editors and authors. He also regularly wrote to political and social figures during the 1960s. These letters to public and political figures express admiration and voice concerns about political events and social conditions. Inman protested in favor of civil rights, ending the war in Vietnam, and various environmental causes, and his letters reflect his thoughts and opinions on these subjects. Inman was also in regular contact with the editors and publishers of various literary magazines and the letters to these individuals document his efforts to publish his work. The collection holds many of Inman's out going correspondence as he regularly kept copies of his own letters.

Inman's copious diaries provide almost daily detail of his life from 1950-1994. In his diaries Inman recorded daily events, poetic inspirations, and his responses to world events. The diaries also include information about the poetry he is working on and several include typescripts of completed poems.

Inman also kept detailed records concerning his completed writings. He kept typescript copies of his poems and other writings, ordering them chronologically into notebooks, and recording publication information onto the typescripts. In organizing this collection, Inman's notebooks were discarded, but the typescripts maintain the order they held while bound in the notebooks, and serve to provide a chronological overview of Inman's published and unpublished writings.

This collection also contains copies of several of the anthologies and literary magazines where Inman published his work and several of the poetic monographs that Inman authored.

Inman regularly published his early work in newspapers in North Carolina. The collection contains clippings of these early published works as well as clippings of Inman's mid 1960's newspaper column "Conchsounds in the Hills."

There are also photographs of the McGirt family from ca. 1910, chiefly mounted in albums, as well as Inman's baby book from 1923. (16 accessions from 1998 and 1999) (35,475 items, 59 linear feet; dated 1910-1999)

The addition (accession #2001-0195) (1676 items, 2.7 linear feet; dated 1940-2001, bulk 1976-2001) comprises mainly personal correspondence to and from Inman and Jimmy Santiago Baca, 1971-1995, including typescript poetry. It also includes typescript poetry by Inman as Bill McGirt, 1940-1956; other poetry by Inman; professional correspondence; and a journal kept by Inman, 2000-2001.

The addition (accession #2002-0143) (2250 items, 3.60 linear feet; dated 1982-2001) consists primarily of incoming and outgoing personal correspondence. Topics include Inman's poems, publication work, and his political activites. There is also poetry and prose by Inman and others, and 20 black-and-white and 148 color photographs.

The addition (accession# 2003-0124 and 2003-0181)(2775 items, 3.6 linear feet; dated 1957-2003, bulk 1970-1989) contains published and unpublished typescript poetry written by Will Inman. Also includes literary newsletters, periodicals and brochures; a notebook containing poetry, biographical information and professional correspondence; and a paperweight.

Addition (2009-0263) (500 items, 0.6 lin. ft.; dated 1976-2009) includes correspondence, poetry by Inman and others, press releases and reviews, official documents (such as his birth certificate, insurance information, and medical documents), and materials from Inman's death and funeral.