Abolitionist, diplomat, and lecturer, Hinton Rowan Helper was born December 27, 1829, near Mocksville, North Carolina. In 1857 he published The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It. This book ranked second only to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in its influence for abolition. Although a racist, Helper profoundly influenced American politics and doubtless hastened the demise of “the peculiar institution."
Author: Ronnie W. Faulkner
Dr. Faulkner holds an M.A. in History from East Carolina University and a Ph.D. in History from the University of South Carolina. He authored Jesse Helms and the Legacy of Nathaniel Macon (Wingate, 1998). He has also written entries for the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (Chapel Hill, 1994-1996) and the Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2006), and he has contributed to journals such as the North Carolina Historical Review, Tennessee Historical Quarterly, and The Historian.
A Democratic Congressman and U.S. Senator, Furnifold M. Simmons was born on January 20, 1854 to Furnifold Green, Jr., and Mary McLendel Jerman Simmons of Jones County, North Carolina. A leader in the "white supremacy" movement during the late 1890s, Simmons played an instrumental role in the disfranchisement of African Americans in North Carolina and served thirty years in the U.S. Senate, where his most notable achievements were obtaining funds for the Intercoastal Waterway and ensuring lower tariff rates and the passage of the Underwood-Simmons Tariff.
Originally devoted to agricultural issues in the Tar Heel State, the Progressive Farmer started publication in Winston, North Carolina, on February 10, 1886. Farmer, Confederate veteran, newspaperman, and former North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, Leonidas L. Polk (1837-1892) founded the journal.
A reporter, television-radio executive, and U.S. Senator, Jesse Helms was born October 18, 1921, in Monroe, N.C., to Jesse Alexander and Ethel Mae Helms. The Almanac of American Politics labeled the conservative Helms a “Jeremiah” for believing in an imminent doom and warning against the encroaching dangers of big government, communism, and abortion—to name three examples.
During the 1890s, a national phenomenon called Fusion politics united political parties. In some western states the Populist (or People’s Party) and the Democratic Party united, but in North Carolina the movement, spearheaded by agricultural leader Marion Butler (1863-1938), combined the Populist and Republican parties. In the presidential election of 1896, the Populist Party found itself ironically backing the Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) at the national level, while joining forces with Republicans at the state level.
Secession of the state of North Carolina from the American Union occurred on May 20, 1861; this date was chosen to celebrate the anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence of 1775.
Most remembered as the architect of political Fusion in North Carolina during the 1890s and for gaining Populist support for the 1896 presidential candidacy of William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), Marion Butler was born in Sampson County, North Carolina.
Many North Carolinians, and Americans from elsewhere, respected, if not adored, Gaston. John Marshall (1755-1835) once said that he would retire if he knew Gaston would replace him as U.S. Supreme Court Justice. In 1840, the state legislative leaders proposed Gaston as U.S. Senator, but he declined the honor.
Polk, Leonidas Lafayette (1837-1892). Agrarian leader, editor, and first North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, Leonidas L. Polk was one of the most influential figures in late nineteenth-century North Carolina.
Judge Susie Sharp was an old school Southern Democrat. She publicly opposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) of the early 1970s and even attempted to persuade legislators to vote in the negative. Some have credited her, along with her friend Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr. (1896-1984), for playing a big part in defeating the ERA in North Carolina.