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Vital signs
Kevin Dann, in "Black History: What Happens When We Forget" (Feb. 4), asserts that contributions by African Americans are inadequately commemorated in the Triangle. In making his case, Dann points to the familiar silver-and-black roadside markers. Such "history on a stick" has its limitations but, as the author notes, these publicly-funded signs do constitute, in a manner of speaking, part of North Carolinians' civic memory. It has been my responsibility to help administer the State Highway Historical Marker Program on behalf of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History for 20 years. But, that said, it should be pointed out that decisions as to what to commemorate are left to a committee of 10 history professors who take their task seriously. They look for events, individuals, and sites of statewide historical significance, that is, ones that played a part in shaping the shared past of all Tar Heels.

I am pleased to call readers' attention to several new signs which will go up this year. On Feb. 13, on Churton Street in Hillsborough, a marker was dedicated to Elizabeth Keckly, who worked as a slave for the Burwell family prior to gaining her freedom and working for the Lincoln family in the White House. Later this year this office will work with the City of Durham to place a marker with extended text at the junction of Mangum Street and Parrish Street, describing the history of the latter route, known as "Black Wall Street." In Raleigh, plans are underway to erect a marker at the junction of Hillsborough and Harrington Streets to denote the initial freedmen's convention held in September 1865 on the present site of St. Paul's A.M.E. Church.

Finally, with the completion of the U.S. 15/501 widening project, long-standing plans to dedicate a marker at that route's junction with Mount Gilead Church Road, just south of Fearrington, can go forward. That sign will recall for travelers the life of George Moses Horton who, while working as a slave on the nearby Horton farm, traveled to Chapel Hill to sell poems to students and in time became the first African American in the South to publish a book. These four new markers join seventy-three older signs across the state related to the history of African Americans.
Michael Hill

Funky stuff
A coworker told me my picture was in the Independent this week ("Greetings from Big Funk," Jan. 28). It was cool to see the picture and to see Big Funk on the cover, but the article didn't really divulge much about Big Funk's history. I'm not the one to fill in the blanks, as I did not live there; but I do know the history of the picture.

One Sunday, in the fall of 1969, we got a call saying, 'Come on over to Big Funk. We're going to take a picture for the yearbook.' Every year the sororities and fraternities at Duke got gussied up and had their group pictures taken for the yearbook. That year, some folks wanted to have an alternative group to give some contrast. So we showed up. Props were provided. Someone had a sign from an anti-war rally the day before in Fayetteville.

I didn't really think of us as hippies. Hippies turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. Being full-time students, some with jobs as well, we weren't exactly dropouts.

I don't know where most of these people are today. One, Henry, I've been married to for over 30 years. One was my best friend in college and now lives in south Georgia. One was killed a few years ago. One may still live near Hillsborough--maybe you'll hear from him. The guy with the sitar still plays music in the area.

The only other story I have to tell is about a party I attended at Big Funk about a year after the picture. Jane Fonda was there after giving an anti-war speech at Duke. Henry talked to her about his using comics to teach reading with under achieving kids. Then as we left, someone mentioned that we were getting married soon. Fonda, with a bit of a smirk, wished us a happy marriage. Makes a good celebrity story, and it didn't hurt, did it? We're working on our 34th year.
Joan Walker

More funky stories
Well we didn't think of our house as a "party house", rather as a community center if anything. Certainly our neighbor Simone was in the living room every afternoon watching Star Trek--it was 1969 or 70, not 1972--and more than once the big tom cat from next door removed a chicken from the kitchen table, since the back door was always open.

Parties? Sure, we really got wild listening to philosophy lectures by Lewis Lee, or to Hutch playing riffs on one of his many guitars or banjos, OK, there was more, but you know the old saying--if you remember the 60's you weren't there.

Five or six of us lived in the house, depending on if Art's girlfriend was in town or if Hawley was around. Most everyone else lived in houses next door or across the street. You wouldn't have to look very hard to find the six or seven people in that photo who are still Durhamites or close.

There are many stories, right enough--a web of stories and lives connected across years and places, from the mill houses in the Oregon Street neighborhood to Farrington Road and Big Funk to Hillsborough, Monkey Top and Monkey Bottom, African Violets, the Plantation and many more.
Love to all
The girl on the left pillar
Dawn Hall Hails

Go after Congress, too
I am so grateful for the Independent's effort to defeat Mr. Bush. But, please remember that we also must remove many of the people in Congress! The president doesn't do things by him/herself. There is ssooo much attention on the presidential position that the real positions get bypassed by the general public. So, if the paper can, please start suggesting that this issue must be looked at too.
Helen Cleereman

N&O right on
As a passionate Edwards supporter, I have no problem with the N&O headlines, which have displeased Cat Warren because they fail to take note of the Kerry bandwagon. The mainstream national media, which now proclaims that, were also proclaiming the inevitability of Howard Dean just a month ago. According to The New York Times of Feb. 12, only 556 of a total of 4,321 delegates have been allocated thus far. Why is Ms. Warren so anxious to nominate an unelectable candidate like John Kerry, while ignoring the only electable Democrat, Sen. Edwards? I hope the Democratic party will realize this in time, and there's plenty of time left to do so.

National mainstream media has now been forced to recognize the weight of Edwards' candidacy and screeds against him, like that of Ms. Warren, show his growing importance. Fortunately the N&O's "Eye on Edwards" has provided a valuable alternative to the national slighting of his candidacy.

Surely Ms. Warren, who writes for alternative media, should appreciate the value of the N&O's indispensable coverage, not available elsewhere.

Finally, Ms. Warren's liking of Christensen's reportage is puzzling since Mr. Christensen's blatant cynicism about Edwards often spoils his objectivity. I would have thought a journalism professor more critical of editorializing in a news story. No doubt Christensen's biases don't disturb Warren since she holds the same views. So critical of perceived prejudices in others, she is utterly blind to her own.
William Birken
Chapel Hill

He enlisted, after all
I am not inclined to write editors on a frequent basis and people's anger and the woes of mankind tend to keep me from being a regular paper reader. I am bothered enough to write after reading the article on the Fayetteville soldier who ran to Canada under Quaker cover when being faced with deployment ("Fort Bragg Soldier Flees to Canada," Feb. 11).

This is not a situation like the Vietnam era when we had the draft. I remember those days well and this situation should not be compared. The answer is in the second line of the article. This man enlisted. He had time to read the fine print, look at the benefits and consider them into his future. He had time to talk to recruiters and other soldiers. I have no sympathy for him if things suddenly look scary for him and he has realized he doesn't want to "make a difference" after all. Times and the government's leadership have changed since he signed that paper. The rules haven't changed. He lived on the government-provided salary with the government-provided benefits until he realized the gravity of his decision to freely enlist.

When he was small did he quit when his team was losing? Did he cry all the way home when he skinned his knee? It seems to me he could have made a bigger statement if he faced court martial after refusing to go. But hey, failure to take responsibility for one's actions has become a familiar theme these days. "It wasn't me" finger pointing is the political norm it seems.

Do I support the war we are in? Hell no. But I do support the troops and families who are fighting and dying for what they think is right and/or are being told to do. You don't have to be a war monger either to support them. You DO slap every one of them in the face supporting your article's deserting little weasel.

If I could talk to him, I'd tell him one thing: Stand up for what you believe in, come back and live with your enlistment. I'm guessing someone in your position fought at one time so your wife or some of her family could live here.
C.J. King
Cedar Grove

Exit helped
I just read your article on the firing of John Strange from the NC Catholic ("X-mas Exit," Dec. 31) and I was amazed, as always, at the lack of responsibility taken by those who claim our Church is ailing. Those grumbling over the need to cure Her ills fail to see themselves as the oozing infection.

Is the Church "wounded and in need of healing"? Indeed! Part of the remedy has been administered in the exiting of Strange. As for his boss ... Bishop Gossman has never acted swiftly to any individual problem. He is a man who acts after much deliberation and contemplation. It is impossible to believe that Strange wasn't warned.
Marianne Barber

talk back
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