African Americans, particularly in North Carolina, sacrificed more to build schools than any other group. Despite this, many educators accept the myth that African American families are less interested in education than others. Historically, nothing could be further from the truth. I call this damaging stereotype “the inversion.”

Nida Hayes Murphy, early teacher in Pender County, NC. Undated image courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library, identification provided by local family members

If you teach in Title One (high poverty) schools as I do, then it is likely that you have endured many workshops focused on student deficits. Title One schools are likely to have a higher proportion of students of color than their wealthier counterparts. At one point, I taught in a school…


Mom,writer, filmmaker, teacher, recovering New Yorker

Editing my feature film Sharecrop

My writing, filmmaking and teaching are all knit together by my fascination with stories. Over the past 17 years I have created documentaries centered on oral history of historic African American schools, and on sharecropping. (You can learn more and link to film trailers, and stream four of my films on Amazon, see my website below for more information).

Regarding my writing and what I publish on Medium, many of my articles are related to the history that is addressed in my documentaries. I have also shared personal essays and short fiction. I grew…


Photo by Stephen Phillips — Hostreviews.co.uk on Unsplash

Dear Mr./Ms. Spammer,

Frankly, I am astonished that anyone opens your emails. I am sure I speak for many of my peers when I say we don’t need color business cards or CBD lotion, and we know that the deposed ruler of an obscure country does not really need our help. If you expect anyone to read your messages, I suggest you take a fresh look at our real concerns. Some marketers suggest that empathy is the key to selling stuff to moms, who make the majority of spending decisions for their households.


Image by Lucie Hosova on Unsplash

When I am bestride him, I soar; I am a hawk; he trots the air.”

-Shakespeare, King Henry V

When six-year-old Kayla (not her real name) rushes up to kiss Butterball on the nose, she isn’t thinking about the fact that he was selected because he is an unusually gentle horse. Once she is happily in the saddle, she isn’t aware that she is improving her core strength. As she chats away to her instructor, Kayla doesn’t notice that she is producing words more easily than at other times. During the time that she spends at her therapeutic riding…


Photo by Vivian Arcidiacono on Unsplash

The week after Sonia’s talk with Miss Sarah, she returned to the stable on Tuesday as always. Sonia didn’t miss a lesson if she could possibly help it, and waited expectantly for her turn. But something was wrong, she did not see Willow trotting patiently around the ring with the beginner girl who always rode in the lesson before hers. In fact, she could not see Willow anywhere in the ring.

The instructor was holding the reins of a small mare when she called Sonia over. The mare’s roan coat made her a tawny peach color.

“You’ll be riding Sugar…


Illustration published in Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper, 1866 Oct. 20, p. 72. Subjects: Rice culture on Cape Fear River, N.C. / from sketches by James E. Taylor. Library of Congress, Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication. Call Number: Illus. in AP2.L52 Case Y[P&P]

This story is inspired by a road that is named for the Hermitage plantation, which was located eight miles north of Wilmington, NC. The Hermitage was one of several plantations owned by John Burgwin (1731–1803). A wealthy English merchant, Burgwin inherited the plantation from his first wife, Margaret Marsden Haynes, who was the granddaughter of English pastor Richard Marsden. Burgwin was one of the largest enslavers in the Cape Fear region. In 1790 alone, Burgwin is listed as enslaving 81 people, and (as we shall see) the evidence suggests he took their work and loyalty for granted.

Europeans first laid…


Picture by Claudia Stack

Some people love cars, some people love clothes. And some people will do anything for retired Thoroughbred racehorses. Once, I spent my last dime on a goat that was supposed to be a good companion for my high-strung mare. (For the record, my mare never cared about the goat, so all that happened was that the goat ate my only rosebush.)

I grew up in New York City in the 1970s, the child of a struggling single mom, so owning a horse was certainly never in the realm of possibility back then. However, I walked dogs and cleaned houses for…


Southern General Stores Played Many Roles

Matthis Sharpless and George Buckner Daniel Parker, III at the GDB Parker Store in Chinquapin, NC. Mr. Sharpless sharecropped for the Parker family, then left the area to serve in the military and work for General Motors. Mr. Parker’s grandfather, GBD Parker, Sr., established the store c. 1890 and had a reputation for being blunt, but fair. Picture by Claudia Stack

From the American Revolution to the years just before the Civil War, American planters whose main crop was cotton grown by enslaved people sold most of that cotton to European “factors.” These were financiers who loaned money to the planting class, accepted their cotton when it arrived in Europe, and then sent payment and goods requested from Europe. (Beckert) However, this arrangement changed dramatically after the Civil War, as Beckert notes in Empire of Cotton (pp.317–319)

Where factors had typically advanced capital to planters, sold their crops, and provided them with supplies, now they were displaced by merchants… As transportation…


Image from author’s private collection

Lois Keith in her nursing uniform in an undated photo outside the Canetuck Community Center (former Canetuck Rosenwald School), picture courtesy of Lois Keith.

Prior to 1922, the only school available to African American children in the Canetuck community of southeastern North Carolina was an old lodge building, where classes were held sporadically. Lois Keith recalled in a 2004 interview that she was afraid of the dark lodge building. She was glad to be part of the first class to enter the Canetuck Rosenwald school, completed in 1922. The genesis of the school was $1,226 raised by African American residents…


Skating_in_Central_Park_Frank-S.-Armitage-American-Mutoscope-And-Biograph-1900.ogv ‎image by Ogg Theora. Per Wikimedia, This media file is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1926, and if not then due to lack of notice or renewal.

“Maggie, child, where are you?” Rose called. As the governess and supervisor of Miss Sarah’s education and recreation, Rose had made a decision: Miss Sarah’s lessons were finished for the day, and they would take some exercise by skating on the frozen Hudson River.

Rose called for Maggie after…

Claudia Stack

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