Tuesday, 01 September 2020
Written by John Hood
Whether Democrat Yvonne Holley or Republican Mark Robinson wins the 2020 race for lieutenant governor, North Carolinians will be electing the first African American candidate to that post.
But the victor won’t be the first Black North Carolinian elected to a Council of State office. That was Ralph Campbell, the longtime Raleigh city councilman elected state auditor in 1992. Even before that, Henry Frye became the first Black member of the North Carolina Supreme Court, having been appointed in 1983 and then elected statewide in 1984.
If you follow state politics closely, you already know all that. But do you know the name of the first African-American to appear on North Carolina’s statewide ballot — and win?
It’s a bit of a trick question, I admit, because the election I’m talking about wasn’t, strictly speaking, for public office. The answer is Abraham Galloway, whom voters chose as one of North Carolina’s presidential electors in 1868.
Galloway is one of the most intriguing figures in the history of our state — and another North Carolinian who, in my opinion, deserves to be honored with multiple statues and monuments.
Born a slave in what is now Southport, Galloway became a skilled brick mason and joined a thriving community of Black craftsmen, sailors, and activists in antebellum Wilmington. He escaped to freedom in 1857 in the cargo hold of a schooner bound for Philadelphia. Making his way via the Underground Railroad to Canada, Galloway soon became an active abolitionist.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Abraham Galloway performed another brave act: he returned to the South to work as a spy, and later as a recruiter, for the Union Army. In his 2012 book “The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway & The Slaves’ Civil War” historian David Cecelski does a masterful job of relating Galloway’s exploits during the war — or, at least, the exploits for which there is a historical record, as Galloway was himself illiterate and narrated only some of his experiences to others after the fact.
Cecelski uses a particularly dramatic scene to kick off the book. A New England abolitionist and federal agent named Edward Kinsley arrives in New Bern in 1863 with a mission to recruit African Americans into the Union Army. It soon becomes clear, however, that he’ll have no success unless he bargains successfully with Galloway, already a leader of the local Black community.
Galloway demands equal pay and fair treatment for Black soldiers, as well as a pledge that the Union will fight for abolition, not just to reassemble the Union. Only after Kinsley agrees do Black recruits step forward — first in the hundreds, eventually in the thousands.
After the war, Abraham Galloway helped organize the new Republican Party in North Carolina, played a key role at the 1868 convention that drafted a new state constitution, and won election to the North Carolina Senate several months later, all the while “defying nightriders and assassins,” as Cecelski put it.
During his brief but momentous political career — Galloway died abruptly of natural cases in 1870 at the age of 33 — he not only championed the rights of Black North Carolinians but also fought for women’s suffrage and educational opportunity. If you’re a progressive, you’ll appreciate Galloway’s advocacy of new labor laws. If you’re a conservative, you’ll appreciate his advocacy of gun rights and deep suspicion of the state-subsidized railroad company.
While unyielding in his quest for justice, Galloway sought to build bridges and conciliate former adversaries whenever possible. Picked to give the opening address at the founding convention of the state GOP in 1867, he insisted he spoke as “neither Republican Black man nor Republican white man” but for the party as a whole. “A man may be a Dutchman or an Irishman, a Yankee or a Southerner, and I tell you I will give him a hearty shake and a warm welcome upon the Republican platform,” he said.
Whatever your politics, Abraham Galloway can and should be one of your heroes.
Picture: Abraham Galloway
Tuesday, 01 September 2020
Written by Bill Bowman
We seldom get to acknowledge a journalistic colleague that has come to mean so much to our organization and to the entire Fayetteville community. This is why we have chosen to recognize Jeff Thompson, a dedicated and talented news media professional whose journalistic talents and expertise have touched every aspect of the media industry. Truly, Jeff has forged his way through decades of an ever-changing media landscape, forcing him to recast and reinvent himself umpteen times to succeed in the highly competitive and cutthroat industry of radio news broadcasting. Fifty years! Jeff went from spinning records at Steve’s Tower in the Sky as a rock n roll disc jockey in the 70s to mastering almost every aspect of media. Radio, TV, and yes, in his later years, even daily and weekly newspapers.
Margaret Dickson, Up & Coming Weekly’s senior contributing writer and one of Jeff Thompson’s biggest fans has written a wonderful and heartfelt feature introducing our readers to Jeff and honoring him for his 50+ year career in the media industry. To infer that Jeff’s style of news reporting was “old school” would be an understatement compared to the coverage we have today. For decades, as WFNC’s news director, Jeff would tackle the most critical, spirited and controversial issues facing Fayetteville, Cumberland County and North Carolina. However, the difference between then and now was Jeff meticulously made sure the subject matter was covered fairly and accurately. If Jeff reported it, you could rest assured you had the whole story. This was Jeff Thompson’s legacy.
Full disclosure: The Up & Coming Weekly newspaper is celebrating its 25th year serving Fayetteville, Fort Bragg and Cumberland County. Our mission in January 1996 was the same as it is in 2020 — to showcase, accentuate and promote the assets and amenities that make the Fayetteville area a great place to live, work and play. In other words, if something was good for the Fayetteville community, we were going to support it, write about it and promote it. If something was not good for Fayetteville and we perceived it as detrimental to the community, we were going to take a stand against it. By 1998, our biweekly publication had been accepted and welcomed by the community, and it successfully took root — especially with the neglected cultural arts community. To this, the daily newspaper, The Fayetteville Observer, adamantly objected. Admittedly, as hard as I tried, I was no match for the multimillion-dollar publishing company and resolved that I was defeated.
So, in a final act of defiance, I contacted Jeff Thompson, who at the time was news director of WFNC — Fayetteville’s local and most trusted voice in news media — and Margaret Highsmith Dickson, who at the time was at the helm of the WFNC editorial board. The intrepid request I made to them when we met for lunch, and to which they reluctantly agreed, is why Up & Coming Weekly exists today.
I asked if I could appear exclusively on Thompson’s radio show the day we published an explanation as to why we were being forced out of business, along with an article on The Fayetteville Observer’s surreptitious tactics used to undermine our newspaper to eliminate competition and maintain its media monopoly — to the detriment of local businesses, organizations and community agencies. Jeff and Margaret allowed us to tell our story on the air to the adamant and arrogant denial of Fayetteville Observer management.
But it was too late. Jeff Thompson and WFNC’s local audience, at that time, was the heart and soul of the Fayetteville community. Despite The Fayetteville Observer denials, Fayetteville residents and businesses were aware of the tactics and knew the allegations had substance. The community rallied in support of our newspaper. Twenty-five years later, and without changing our mission or mandate, we are extremely proud to include both Jeff Thompson, as our senior news reporter, and Margaret Dickson, as our senior and longest-running contributing writer at over 19 years, as part of the Up & Coming Weekly family. Both have made significant contributions to the success of our organization.
Enjoy Margaret’s feature about Jeff Thompson, as she introduces you to one of her dearest friends and mentors. Continue to follow them both each week in Up & Coming Weekly. Neither has shown any sign of slowing down any time soon.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly. Please join our staff and me in congratulating Jeff Thompson for his first 50 years in media and his service to the Fayetteville community.
Pictured: Jeff Thompson