By Corey Davis
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Local people are being encouraged to attend an event hosted by a group of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill faculty members this weekend at Braswell Memorial Library to share recordings, memorabilia, and stories relating to the history of the Rocky Mount Mills. The UNC Community Histories Workshop, which brings together faculty, students and staff with local partners to preserve and share community histories will be hosting a “History Harvest” from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the library.
UNC American Studies Professor Robert Allen, who is one of the faculty leaders of the Community Histories Workshop, said the History Harvest is a collaborative, community-based digital project and learning initiative that aims to emulate history. He added the Rocky Mount Mills History Harvest is a collaboration between the UNC Community Histories Workshop, Braswell Library, the Department of American Studies at UNC and A/V Geeks, a Raleigh-based collector and digitization company.
Allen said people are urged to come to the History Harvest to help the UNC Community Histories Workshop identify places and people in historical photos of the Rocky Mount Mills, share memories in oral history booths and have experts digitize 10 to 15 photographs, 10 to 15 documents, and home movie films or videos from such things as VHS tapes or DVDs.
Traci Thompson, local history librarian at Braswell Memorial Library, also will help collect materials reflecting the history of Rocky Mount and the surrounding areas. Documents, photos and moving images harvested from the event will be used in future digital exhibits created by UNC Community Histories Workshop. “What we want to do is use new technologies or digital technologies to help people select their favorite photographs that reflect the history of the Rocky Mount Mills and the Mill Village,” Allen said. “Each participant will go home with digital copies of their own photographs, film or documents.”
Elijah Gaddis, who also is a co-founder of the UNC Community Histories Workshop, is leading the history harvest. Allen said it’s important the UNC Community Histories Workshop reaches out to the black community because of the many ancestors who worked at the mill and the first use of slaves in a North Carolina cotton mill was at the Rocky Mount Mills. Allen said there hasn’t been much written in the past about the period of slavery at the Rocky Mount Mills, which is something the UNC Community Histories Workshop plans to dig further into. “People think historians are only interested in the lives of famous people, but public historians want to preserve and share stories and recollections of everyday life, whether it was hard times as well as good times.”
“The rehabilitation of Rocky Mount Mills by Capitol Broadcasting Co. is a perfect opportunity for us,” he said. “We have the archives of the mill and of the Battle family of Rocky Mount, who owned the mill for 200 years in our Southern Historical Collection. Through activities such as the history harvest, we can create a community archive of shared images, memories and stories.”