Could Radar Be Used to Locate Graves in Greensboro’s Union Cemetery?

Probably the most historically significant African American graveyard in Greensboro is the Union Cemetery, which is located on South Elm St.

Here you can find the final resting places of many of the City’s most prominent African American residents from the late 19th and early 20th centuries — men like Harmon Unthank, Rev. Matthew Alston, Aaron Mendenhall, Rev. Peter F. Malloy, and Dr. J.C. Waddy.

But sadly, many of the burials at Union Cemetery are unmarked.  This is even true in the case of Unthank, despite the fact that he is remembered as the most prominent figure in the history of the important African American community of Warnersville, which was established in Greensboro with assistance from the Quaker Friends shortly after the Civil War.

And when you look down the barren slope in the rear of the graveyard, it’s easy to imagine that there may well be many dozens of other unmarked graves in Union Cemetery.

The relative absence of tombstones at this historic Greensboro graveyard is apparently not an unusual circumstance among African American cemeteries.  For researchers working on an African American graveyard in Boone, North Carolina, located adjacent to Appalachian State University’s campus, have been equally struck by the lack of marked burials in the black section of the town’s cemetery.  Perhaps many black families simply could not afford expensive headstones for their deceased relatives.

But investigators in Boone have at least arrived at a partial solution.  In two surveys conducted since 2007, they have utilized ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and an electrical resistivity system in order to identify disturbed soil which could indicate the presence of graves.  Though work is still not complete, anomalies located so far suggest the presence of as many as sixteen unidentified burials.  The work is being conducted by staff and students with the University’s Geology Department.

Would it not be neat if GPR or a similar technology could be employed to identify unmarked graves at Greensboro’s Union Cemetery? 

Use of such tools is certainly becoming more commonplace.  In addition to the work being conducted in Boone, late last year ground penetrating radar and electrical resistivity were used to survey the largely unmarked African American section of the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery (where football fans attending games at Kenan Stadium used to carelessly park), and this article reports on additional plans to use GPR in a survey of still another African American graveyard in Chapel Hill.

If you’re interested in researching old graveyards here in Greensboro, you may find any of the following works useful:  Guilford County Cemeteries, edited by Mary A. Browning; The City of Greensboro Municipal Cemeteries:  Forest Lawn Cemetery, Green Hill Cemetery, Maple Wood Cemetery, compiled by Bradley R. Foley; or Family Burying Grounds and Abandoned Church Cemeteries in Guilford County, N.C. and Immediate Environs by O. Norris & Rebecca H. Smith.  You’ll find other books on local cemeteries in Greensboro Public Library’s N.C. and genealogy collections.   

It’s also possible to search interments at Greensboro’s municipal cemeteries in a database which can be linked here

As for research on Greensboro’s African American community, try Otis Hairston’s Picturing Greensboro:  Four Decades of African American Community or William Chaffe’s Civilities and Civil Rights.

Primary Election Day, May 4, 2010

Next Tuesday (May 4, 2010) is the 2010 primary election day.  Polls open at 6:30 a. m., and they close at 7:30 p. m.  If you’re not registered to vote, you will not be able to vote on that day.  However, you can register to vote if you vote early.  Early voting runs through Saturday, May 1.  A schedule of days and times for early voting is on the 

Guilford County Board of Elections website at the link Early Voting Schedule and Locations for the May 4, 2010 Primary Elections.  If you’re registered as a Democrat, you can vote in  the Democratic Primary and the Nonpartisan Primary (judges and Guilford County Board of Education).  If you’re registered as a Republican, you can vote in the Republican Primary and the Nonpartisan Primary (judges and Guilford County Board of  Education).  If you’re registered as Unaffiliated, you can vote in the Democratic Primary and the Nonpartisan Primary OR the Republican Primary and the Nonpartisan Primary OR the Nonpartisan Primary only.  A pollworker will ask you whether you would like to vote in a party primary in addition to the Nonpartisan Primary.  If you’re registered as a Libertarian, your party does not have a primary, and you can only vote in the Nonpartisan Primary.    You cannot write in anyone on the primary ballot.  If you would like to see a sample ballot, you can go to the North Carolina State Board of Elections website.  Then, click on My Election information.  Next, put in your first name, last name, date of birth, and county.  Your voter information will come up.  Included will be precinct number, polling place, and a link to your sample ballot.  Every election is important.  Please do your part and vote next Tuesday!

Senior Job Fair Coming Up at Central Library

When:  Thursday, May 13 from 10 am to 1 pm
Where:  Central Library, 219 N. Church St.

Seniors are invited to Central Library for the Fifth Annual Spring Job Fair.  Representatives from area companies will be available to talk with senior citizens about employment and volunteer opportunities.  Companies and organizations that will be on hand include:  Adecco, Bayada Nurses, The Carillon, Comfort Keepers, EJ’s Staffing Services, Goodwill, Guilford County, GTCC, Home Health Professionals, Home Instead Senior Care, Key Resources, Volunteer Center of Greensboro and more.

The Greensboro Public Library serves job seekers with computers to help search for available positions and fill out online job applications.  Customers can also create resumes with our online ResumeMaker software, take computer classes and learn new job skills.

For more information on the Library’s Senior Job Fair, please contact Belinda Lam at 373-2169.

Don’t Forget! Friends of Greensboro Public Library Book Sale Coming Up Saturday, May 1st!

If you’re a booklover and want to spend your May Day having a blast, why not come to our semi-annual Friends of Greensboro Public Library book sale?  The sale is held at Central Library, located in Greensboro at 219 N. Church St., starts at 9 AM Saturday, just as the library opens, and runs until 2 PM with a bag sale to follow from 2:30-3:30 PM.    

You’re sure to find all kinds of great bargains! 

Also, while you’re here, be sure to stop by our Friends of the Library Booklovers Shop.  They’ve got plenty of books at bargain prices too!  And, just in case you have some “gently used” books you ‘d like to give to a worthy cause, the Booklovers Shop is where our book donations are accepted. 

Please, if you are donating, we’d prefer not to receive magazines, textbooks or condensed books.  Tax receipts are available. 

Interested in the next sale?  Well, mark your calendars for Saturday, November 6th.

All proceeds go to the Friends of the Library. 

Remember, Central Library, May 1st, 9 AM.  Be there or be square!

Nottingham Caves Survey Coincides with Opening of New Robin Hood Movie

Undoubtedly there are many Russell Crowe fans out there just chomping at the bit in anticipation of seeing the star of Gladiator (2000) in yet another Ridley Scott cinematic spectacle this spring, Robin Hood, which is due for general release in theaters on May 14th.

Anyway, among the stories associated with this legendary figure — Robin Hood, not Crowe — is his imprisonment by the Sheriff of Nottingham in one of the ancient English town’s many caves.  In particular, it is believed he was held in an “oubliette,” or underground dungeon, which is now part of a tourist attraction called the Galleries of Justice.

Knowing little about it, I’ve always associated Nottingham in my mind with a forest, but it so happens the city itself is quite literally covered up with over 450 sandstone caves — which is why it’s sometimes called “The City of Caves.”  None of the caves are natural.  They were rather cut out of the soft sandstone by people for use as dwellings, cellars, workplaces and so on, and some have been dated as early as the 13th century.

At any rate, a new Nottingham Caves Survey (there was also one in the 1980s) is now underway to make three-dimensional scans of the caves using laser technology.  Many are considered dangerous, so the survey will help officials to determine which can be opened to the public and developed for tourism.

Greensboro Public Library has got lots of books about the mythical Robin Hood, and even some about caves, if you’re interested. 

Paul Creswick’s Robin Hood, illustrated by N.C. Wyeth, would probably be a great place to start on the legend, and J.C. Holt’s Robin Hood will afford some historical background and criticism.     

If you prefer recent fictional adaptations of the tale, we have Stephen Lawhead’s Tuck and Scarlett, as well as some interesting looking graphic novels such as Tony Lee’s Outlaw:  The Legend of Robin Hood and Robin Hood:  Outlaw of Sherwood Forest:  An English Legend by Paul D. Storrie.

As for caves and cave exploration, we especially have a number of fairly recent juvenile titles.  Older readers may prefer Caves:  Exploring Hidden Realms by Michael Ray Taylor.  We also have a very interesting title on the history of caving on order:  The Great Cave Race:  The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth by James M. Tabor.

Research by ASU Professor Suggests No Cannibals in Famous Donner Party

I suppose most folks have heard of the story of the Donner Party, a group of pioneers, 87 in number, who set out to California by wagon train from Missouri in the spring of 1846, only to be delayed by an untried shortcut through the virtually impassible terrain of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains and snowbound in the Sierra Nevadas.

Stranded in those high mountains during the winter of 1846-47 and short on provisions, many of the party starved to death, and at least some of the survivors resorted to cannibalism in order to survive — or so it has long been believed. 

The consumption of human flesh has leant a sensationalism to the Donner Party tale which continues to fascinate even today.  And thus it has become one of the most enduring tragedies in the history of the Old West.     

But check out this interesting article on research by Appalachian State University anthropologist Dr. Gwen Robbins, who has studied bone fragments from the site in the Sierra Nevadas where the Donner Party was encamped and found no human bones.

So, is the cannibalism of the Donner Party myth or reality?  Perhaps this is a case where historians, who rely upon documentary sources, such as memoirs, correspondence, and newspaper articles, will never quite see eye to eye with their colleagues in the hard sciences.  For some of these documentary sources, such as the diary of Patrick Breen, do indeed suggest that cannibalism took place (see entry for February 26th, 1847).  On the other hand, those citing a lack of physical evidence for the consumption of human flesh have suggested mid-19th century yellow journalism as an explanation for the more lurid side of the Donner Party tale.     

If you’d like to learn more about the tragic story of the Donner Party, Greensboro Public Library may have some books which will interest you.  Try some of these:  Desperate Passage:  The Donner Party’s Perilous Journey West by Ethan Rarick (2008); The Donner Party by Scott P. Werther (juvenile); and Ordeal by Hunger:  The Story of the Donner Party by George Rippey Stewart (1936/1960).  

A recent (2010) fictional account from a feminist perspective is Gabrielle Burton’s Impatient with Desire:  A Novel, which, according to Publisher’s Weekly “reimagines the tragedy through the eyes of Tamsen Donner, 45-year-old wife of George Donner, the leader of the party.”

Registering to Vote When You Vote Early!

Did you forget to register to vote by April 9 for the May 4 primary?  Don’t despair!  If you vote early, you can still register to vote at the same time.  Early voting begins on April 15.  Days, locations, and times can be found on the Early Voting Schedule and Locations link on the Guilford County Board of Elections website.  To register to vote when you vote early, you must have with you an acceptable form of identification showing your current name and address.  A list of acceptable forms of identification can be found at the Registering to Vote During Early Voting link on the Guilford County Board of Elections website.   Please register and take advantage of this further opportunity to let your voice be heard!

“Really, Most Sincerely,” Wizard of Oz Munchkin is Dead

Back when I was a kid in the 1960s, in the days before DVDs, video cassette recordings, and the multitude of cable television stations we enjoy today, the annual showing of the classic movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) was an anxiously awaited TV event.  

So much of the film has been impressed upon my memory:  the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East, protruding from underneath Dorothy’s house; the tapping of the magical ruby slippers; the silhouettes of the flying monkies against a full moon; the melting of the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy tosses water upon her (intended for her burning broom); and last, but not least, the high-pitched voices of the wonderful munchkins as they point Dorothy down the yellow brick road. 

And of these last characters, the muchkins, we are saddened to hear today of the death, at age 94, of the diminutive coroner who pronounced the Wicked Witch of the East dead.  His name was Meinhardt Raabe, and he was a twenty-two year old midget performer when the movie was filmed in 1938. 

If you’re interested, Greensboro Public Library has Raabe’s memoir, Memories of a Munchkin:  An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road (2005), which Library Journal calls “an essential read for anyone interested in munchkin lore and The Wizard of Oz.”  Mickey Rooney did the forward for the book, by the way. 

I know there are plenty of other folks who have fond memories of this American classic, and if you want to learn still more about the movie as well as L. Frank Baum’s famous book, try some of these:  Finding Oz:  How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story by Evan I. Schwartz; The Road to Oz:  Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum by Kathleen Krull (juvenile); Oz:  The Hundredth Anniversary Celebration, edited by Peter Glassman (juvenile); The Wizard of Oz:  Selections from the Original Motion Picture (sound recording); and The Wizard of Oz:  The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History by John Fricke, Jay Scarfone, and William Stillman.

State Releases County Unemployment Rates for February

The North Carolina Employment Security Commission released its county unemployment data for February today, the News and Record reported.

As you might have guessed, joblessness remains high across North Carolina.  As the chart above indicates, most county unemployment rates in the state fall in the 10.1-14.0% range (59 counties).  Guilford County’s February rate, which was unchanged from January at 11.8%, falls close to the middle of this range.  All regions of North Carolina are well represented in this large group.

However, over one-quarter of the state’s counties (27) have rates over 14.1%, and well over half of these (17) are concentrated in the western mountain and western piedmont sections.  These especially hard-hit counties include:  Alexander (14.5%), Alleghany (15.3%), Ashe (16.2%), Burke (15.6%), Caldwell (17.6%), Catawba (15.3%), Cherokee (16.8%), Cleveland (15.5%), Gaston (14.5%), Graham (19.4%), Lincoln (14.7%), McDowell (16.0%), Mitchell (14.4%), Rutherford (17.9%), Swain (17.6%), Wilkes (14.6%), and Yancey (14.5%). 

Many of these western and western piedmont counties had suffered from declining manufacturing, e.g., textiles, even before the Financial Crisis of 2008, but it is perhaps also significant that none of these counties benefit from the presence of a state university.  In fact, the western piedmont is one of the few contiguous regions in North Carolina which lacks a state university.     

The correlation between the presence of institutions of higher education and low or at least lower unemployment is also evidenced among the fourteen counties which come in with less than 10% jobless rates.  Those counties which have been most resilient to the impact of the recession upon employment include the Research Triangle’s Orange (6.9%), Durham (8.5%), and Wake (9.2%), as well as Buncombe (9.7%) and Watauga (9.4%).  Of course, all of these counties include significant state and/or private universities and colleges.

If you’re out-of-work and looking for a job, please remember Greensboro Public Library’s Job and Career Information page.

Some Great Spring Book Sales Coming Up in Greensboro!

Hey, if you’re a book collector or just love books and like to read, we’ve got a couple of great book sales coming up here in Greensboro that you will not want to miss.

First of all, one of Greensboro’s best annual sales is held each April by St. Francis Episcopal Church.  Back when I was a real fanatic, I used to get up at four in the morning just so I could be first in line at this one.  This year the sale will be held Thurs., April 29th (10 AM-8 PM), Fri., April 30th (10 AM-8 PM), and Sat., May 1st (10 AM-2 PM).  The church is located at 3506 Lawndale Drive.

On the same day St. Francis’ sale wraps up (May 1st), the Friends of Greensboro Public Library hold their Semi-annual Spring Book Sale at Central Library, located at 219 N. Church in downtown Greensboro.  Hours for the sale are 9 AM-2 PM & 2:30 PM-3 PM.  The latter time I believe is for their bag sale.

St. Francis’ sale is huge, estimated at about 50,000 volumes.  Greensboro Public Library’s is not so large, but you bibliophiles will find plenty of goodies at both.     

While I’m enumerating local sales, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the Beth David Synagogue Book Sale, but that’s a wintertime event & for the next one you’ll have to wait until January 29th-31st, 2011.          

If you’d like to learn more about book sales in North Carolina and elsewhere, you may want to check out