Finding Edna Ferber’s Showboat

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-02-14 01:23Z by Steven

Finding Edna Ferber’s Showboat

David Cecelski: New writing, collected essays, latest discoveries

David Cecelski

Souvenir program from the world premier of the first Showboat movie in 1929. Courtesy, Beinecke Library, Yale University
Souvenir program from the world premier of the first Showboat movie in 1929. Courtesy, Beinecke Library, Yale University

I don’t know how the great American novelist, short story writer and playwright Edna Ferber heard about the little river town of Winton, N.C.

But I know she did. In a collection of her research notes that I found at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale when I was in New Haven, Conn. last summer, she scratched the following:

Winton, N.C.—The Croatans, relic of the lost Roanoke Island

settlement. Tar River. White negroes.

Winton is a no-stoplight town in Hertford County, on the Chowan River (not the Tar River), in a rural part of northeastern N.C., between the Albemarle Sound and the Great Dismal Swamp.

I was a surprised to find a reference to Winton in the notes of a New York writer like Edna Ferber.

I was also a little surprised to discover a reference to Winton in an archive like the Beinecke Library, a sleek, modern, glass-walled vault of literary and historical treasures in the heart of Yale’s campus.

So of course I had to wonder: why was Edna Ferber interested in Winton? And what did the Croatan Indians and the “lost Roanoke settlement”—the Lost Colony—have to do with anything? And last but not least, what did she mean by “white negroes”?

In today’s post, I’d like to explore those questions. By the end of considering them, I hope we will understand northeastern N.C.’s history a little better and understand where Edna Ferber found at least some of the inspiration for her most popular and enduring literary work…

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The Chowan Discovery Group: Documenting the Mixed-Race History of North Carolina’s “Winton Triangle”

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2013-03-20 21:53Z by Steven

The Chowan Discovery Group: Documenting the Mixed-Race History of North Carolina’s “Winton Triangle”

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners

Vikki Bynum, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of History
Texas State University, San Marcos

Here’s another region of the South with a fascinating history of mixed-race ancestry. I discovered the Chowan Discovery Group after Steven Riley, creator and moderator of, introduced me via email to the Group’s Executive Director, Marvin T. Jones. The “Winton Triangle,” located in Hertford County, North Carolina, encompasses the three towns of Winton, Cofield, and Ahoskie. Here, people maintain a distinctive identity rooted in Native American, European, and African ancestry.

According to Marvin Jones, the Triangle traces its origins to before the 1584 arrival of the English to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where Chowanoke (Choanoac) Indian settlements were prominent along the Chowan River. After the English invasion, diseases (to which Native Americans lacked immunity) and territorial disputes decimated and disrupted the Chowanoke settlements of present-day Hertford County…

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Winton Triangle history in Chicago!

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2012-11-10 17:36Z by Steven

Winton Triangle history in Chicago!

Chowan Discovery Group

Marvin Jones

In Chicago, the CDG got the opportunity to introduce our history to a national audience of academics and students at the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference at DePaul University in Chicago.

Writer Lars Adams, of the Chowanoke Descendants website, presented the history of the Choanoac (Chowanoke) people from the earliest evidence in the 8th century, to their encounter with the English in 1586 in Hertford County and to their decline and supposed demise in Gates County 1821. Adams finished his account by relating the re-assertion of Choanoac heritage: the growth of the Robbins family near Cofield, the rise of the Meherrin-Chowanoke people, based in the Hertford County, and the Choanoac marker in Harrellsville that was erected last year.

My latest presentation of the Winton Triangle has since added the recent findings and events of the past year and a new map of Winton Triangle schools. Several audience members told me that is was best presentation they had seen so far, and on that strength, several of them returned to attend the next day’s panel about Melungeons and other mixed-race people in Appalachia. S. J Arthur, President of the Melungeon Heritage Association, and Wayne Winkler, from East Tennessee State University and author of Walking Toward Sunset, documented the historical diversity of mixed-race people in Appalachia. This panel was moderated by the Chowan Discovery Group…

…I’d like to thank Laura Kina of DePaul University for paving the way for our two panels, Meherrin-Chowanoke artist Gerry Lang for moderating the Choanoac-Winton Triangle panel, and Mayola Cotterman, a longtime family friend, for taking me into her comfy, lovely and conveniently-located home and attending both panels. Our friends Steven Riley and Julia Cates of Mixed Race Studies attended, and as always, were supportive…

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