ECSU hosts Great Dismal Swamp in Myth & Memory" Symposium"

LuAnne Pendergraft
March 01, 2006

Scholars from around the country will convene at Elizabeth City State University for "The Great Dismal Swamp in Myth & Memory," a symposium set for Friday, March 24 and tour on Saturday, March 25. Friday evening, March 24, will feature popular author and performer Bland Simpson who will recount the tales and tunes of the Great Dismal Swamp. Simpson, who grew up in Elizabeth City, is the author of The Great Dismal: A Carolinian's Swamp Memoir and member of the Tony Award-winning band, the Red Clay Ramblers. All events are free and open to the public and will take place in the Floyd L. Robinson Auditorium - Mickey L. Burnim Fine Arts Center. The interdisciplinary symposium will consider the unique place that the Great Dismal Swamp has in the culture, history and environment of North Carolina. The event is made possible through a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council awarded to the ECSU Department of History and Political Science, School of Arts & Humanities. Partnering with ECSU on the symposium are the Museum of the Albemarle, the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center and Port Discover: Northeastern North Carolina's Center for Hands-On Science, Inc. The North Carolina Humanities Council is a foundation, supported by state and federal funds and private gifts, whose purpose is to encourage and assist public education activities in the humanities for adults. Sessions to be presented include the role of the swamp in the lives of runaway slaves and North Carolina, the historical impact of the Dismal Swamp Canal, how humans perceive and interact with the swamp as a natural place, the unique environment of the Great Dismal Swamp, and current archaeological research underway in the Great Dismal Swamp. As part of the symposium visual artist Tunde Afolyan will exhibit a collection of ten panels of canvases titled "PASSAGE: Echoes of the Great Dismal Swamp Canal," inspired by his exploration of the history of the canal. The collection is from the Gail and Ken Henshaw Collection. Gail and Ken Henshaw will host an opening reception on Friday, March 24 at 8 p.m. in the ECSU Fine Arts Center Gallery. On Saturday, participants will travel to the Great Dismal Swamp for a tour of the swamp, the locks at South Mills and the construction site of the Great Dismal Swamp Natural Area. Guiding the tour will be Penny Leary-Smith, executive director of the Dismal Swamp Canal Visitors Center; Henry Stokes, superintendent of the Great Dismal Swamp Natural Area; Deloras Freeman, ranger, Great Dismal Swamp Natural Refuge; and George Ramsey, Director, SE Region, Virginia Canals & Navigations Society. In 2003, the Great Dismal Swamp was included on the National Park Service's National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program, due in great part to the work of Wanda Hunt-McLean of Elizabeth City State University. It is documented that the Great Dismal Swamp was used by more escaping slaves than any other swamp, forest, or pocosin in the South. In addition to the Underground Railroad designation, recent facility construction and special events have increased tourism and outdoor recreation interest in the Great Dismal Swamp. Development is currently underway for the Dismal Swamp State Natural Area, part of the North Carolina State Park System. For the past two years, the "Paddle for the Border" event on the Dismal Swamp Canal has attracted hundreds of paddlers from both North Carolina and Virginia to spend a day paddling the Canal. The symposium is free and is open to the public, however, reservations are requested. For more information or to register for the "The Great Dismal Swamp in Myth & Memory" Symposium, please contact Jackie Thomas, ECSU Department of History and Political Science, at (252) 335-3017, jqthomas@mail.ecsu.edu or www.ecsu.edu/specialevents/dss. SPEAKERS & SCHEDULE OF EVENTS Friday, March 24 8 a.m. Registration 8:30 a.m. Welcome 8:45 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. People's Perceptions of Wetlands
Dr. Christopher Meindl, assistant professor at the University of South Florida, will open the symposium with a presentation focusing on the "place of the swamp" in the American imagination 9:30 a.m. - 10 a.m. Environmental Significance of the Great Dismal Swamp
Suzanne Baird, manager, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the manager of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, will address environmental significance of the swamp and human contact over time 10:15 a.m. - 11a.m. Energy & Some Money: Commercial Interests and the Building of the Great Dismal Swamp Canal in North Carolina, 1792-1830
Joseph C. Mosier, Archivist, Jean Outland Chrysler Library, Chrysler Museum, will discuss the 1805 construction of the Great Dismal Swamp Canal and the subsequent opening of this significant trade route/ 11 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. In Search of the Great Dismal Swamp Maroon Communities,
Daniel Sayers, doctoral student, College of William & Mary, will present findings of his recent archaeological research of the Great Dismal Swamp. Sayers has spent the past two years examining the thickets of the swamp in search of small communities that fugitive slaves may have created. He has located six of these possible "maroon" communities that may have been settled between the late 1600s and mid-1800s. 11:45 a.m. - 1 p.m lunch on your own 1 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. Great Dismal Swamp and Underground Railroad
Facilitator: Dr. Jeffrey J. Crow, Deputy Secretary, NC Department of Cultural Resources and author of A History of African-American's in North Carolina, will facilitate a panel discussion on the Great Dismal Swamp and the "Underground Railroad". Panelists will include: Dr. Loren Schweninger, Elizabeth Rosenthal Excellence Professor,
Department of History, University of North Carolina at Greensboro Dr. Freddy Parker, Professor of History, North Carolina Central University Barbara Tagger, Southeast Region Coordinator, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program, National Park Service. 2:30 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. Don't Go Swimmin' at Deep Creek: Access and the Life of the Swamp
Dr. Jack Temple Kirby, professor emeritus, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio will consider how humans interact with nature, particularly the Great Dismal. In his publication, Poquosin: A Study of Rural Landscape and Society (UNC Press, 1995), Kirby charts the history of the low country between the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina and the James River in Virginia. Interweaving social, political, economic, and military history with the story of the landscape, Kirby shows how peoples have adapted to and modified this Tidewater area in the nearly four hundred years since the arrival of Europeans. 3:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. African Americans and the Great Outdoors
Carolyn Finney, Canon National Parks Science Scholar & Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, will present her research project "Black Faces, White Spaces: African-Americans and the Great Outdoors" that revolves around a position that parks, forests, other nature venues are racialized and therefore influences how African-American participate, or don't participate, in the environmental experience. 3:45 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Listening to the Swamp: the Acoustic Ecology and Soundscape of the Great Dismal Swamp
Dr. Douglas Quin, sound ecologist and Executive Director, NC Humanities Council, will conclude the day's session with an invitation to consider the "Swamp's Acoustic Ecology and Soundscape". Focused on a "soundwalk" of the Swamp, Dr. Quin will encourage participants to listen to the Great Dismal Swamp. 7 p.m. Bland Simpson
The Music and Stories of the Great Dismal Author of The Great Dismal: A Carolinian's Swamp Memoir Presented by the ECSU Lyceum Series 8 p.m. Opening Reception for
Passages: Echoes of the Great Dismal Swamp Canal,
As part of the symposium visual artist Tunde Afolayan will exhibit a collection of ten panels of canvases titled inspired by his exploration of the history of the canal. The collection is from the Gail and Ken Henshaw Collection. Reception courtesy of the Gail and Ken Henshaw Collection ECSU Fine Arts Building Gallery