A book signing and reception for Dr. William S. Powell, editor of the Encyclopedia of North Carolina, will be held at Barton College on Thursday, Nov. 15. The event, sponsored by the Friends of Hackney Library, the Friends of the Wilson County Public Library, and the Wilson County Historical Association, will be held in the Willis N. Hackney Library from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. This event is open to the public at no charge, and the community is invited to attend.

The “Encyclopedia of North Carolina,” published by UNC Press (2006) in association with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, features over 2,000 entries on 1,360 pages covering the entire history and culture of North Carolina. The single-volume work is the final installment of a series of three works edited by Powell that includes “The North Carolina Gazetteer” (1968) and the “Dictionary of North Carolina Biography” (six volumes, 1979-96), also published by UNC Press.
“The encyclopedia belongs in every home and every library. It’s that important,” says William Friday, former president of the University of North Carolina system.

As a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, historian for the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, librarian, writer, and editor, Powell exemplifies a professional commitment that has gained him the respect of countless students and colleagues. “Few individuals—if any—have done as much to promote the understanding of and interest in North Carolina through the written word as has [Powell],” said Robert Anthony, curator of the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library.

However, the encyclopedia is hardly the work of one man. Instead of soliciting a small board of scholars and experts to write the entries, Powell cast a much wider net, inviting individuals throughout the state to submit entries based on their expertise. The finished contributors list has more than 550 names, ranging from college professors and professional writers to amateur historians passionate about their region’s history and culture. All volunteered to contribute without compensation.

“It’s amazing to see how many people have contributed,” said Jay Mazzocchi, associate editor of the encyclopedia. “Bill should get all of the credit, because he was the main reason people were attracted to the project and wanted to help. When Bill called on them, they were very willing because of his incredible body of work and his deep love for the history of North Carolina.”

Contributors to this “people’s encyclopedia” of North Carolina submitted entries on practically every aspect of the state, including its discovery, exploration, and settlement; the national and ethnic origins of its people; politics and government; military history; the judiciary; religion; education; recreation and sports; business and industry; fine and folk art; customs and manners; agriculture; language and literature; transportation; geology; the natural environment; and legends and folklore. The passion each contributor shared for the encyclopedia led to a work unlike any previously attempted in this or any other state.

The authors of each article are identified, and readers will recognize many celebrated chroniclers of the state’s culture and history. For example, Thomas Parramore writes about “Aviation” and the “Gatling Gun.” Bland Simpson covers “Ghosts” and the “Great Dismal Swamp.” And Catherine Bishir surveys “Architecture.” Bibliographic references follow most of the entries and encourage further research and exploration.

The encyclopedia is a browser’s delight. One reader might pick up the encyclopedia hoping to learn more about the Blue Ridge Parkway and additionally discover the impact basketball had on North Carolina’s civil rights movement. Another might be searching for information about the Revolutionary War and be drawn in by the article on the famous Hollerin’ Contest in Spivey’s Corner.

The authoritative compendium is abundantly illustrated with more than 400 photographs and maps. Illustrations editor Jerry Cotten, who was for many years the photographic services librarian at UNC-Chapel Hill, managed the selection process and included a number of never-before-published images.

For additional information about the upcoming book signing, please contact Cynthia Collins, at 252-399-6503 or email: cecollins@barton.edu.

Questions? Please contact Kathy Daughety, director of public relations, at 252-399-6529 or email: kdaughety@barton.edu.

 

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