My North Carolina trip was initially scheduled to be about two weeks long, but due to health issues it was truncated to 9 days. The primary purpose of the trip was to visit my “estranged” younger brother. I can happily say that part of the trip was a resounding success. I finally managed to let go of a contentious past that has separated us for too long. My brother had a pretty serious health issue about a year ago that he is still struggling with. I will try to keep up with him as best I can, but given my aging body, this might be the last time I see him in person. He has a wonderful wife and loving daughter to comfort him. I envy him for that.
While I was visiting my brother, I managed a short trip into Charlotte to see the Mint Museum. I mentioned in a previous post that they had a Picasso exhibit. It was nice, but didn’t really compare with the one at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL last year. But it did have a modern art wing that I enjoyed. Here are some artsy chairs there.
After my visit with my brother and his family, I set out for the NC coastline, searching for oysters. I will save that story for a future post.
The highlight of the NC Marshlands trip was New Bern. It had quite a history that I didn’t expect. But first, a little bit of personal history. During my corporate career in the early 1970s, I made several trips to Shreveport, Louisiana. It was during those times that I saw for the first time southern racism head-on. Even though the Civil Rights era was recent history, the factory lunchroom was still very much segregated. I remember Mel. He was proudly a good-old-boy who told stories that totally embarrassed me, especially since he made sure that anyone in the area, including many people of color, heard them. Mel stuck in my mind as a typical southern white man.
Getting back to the New Bern visit. I came across a very different view of the 21st century South. There was the story of Army Chaplain Horace James, who was given the job of providing food, shelter, and jobs for recent free men, women, and children. He established a refugee camp, later called James City. The camp, thanks to James’ compassionate leadership, became a self-governing, self-supporting black community. This story contradicted my view of Southern white people. Other placards in the museum reinforced that new enlightened view.
From there, I went to the State capital State Museum in Raleigh. Again, many of the placards in the museum dealt openly with the racism of the past. I’m certain that for some, and maybe many, racism still exists in the State, but the evidence displays of past admitted racism helped me to understand that not all Southerners exhibit that characteristic today.
One thing that surprised me, but actually shouldn’t, was the number of youngsters racing through the building on school outings.