This North Carolina city has made appearances in many works of literature both under its own name and under the pseudonyms “Sydney,” “Millboro,” and “Farleigh.” Can you guess the city’s true name?
If you guessed Raleigh, congratulations! Though Thomas Wolfe, Barbara Neely, and Lucy Daniel preferred to give it other handles, they were indeed writing about our capitol.
Some must-sees in Raleigh for the literature buff:
Quail Ridge Books and Music
The founder of this nationally-recognized bookstore is Nancy Olson, who has launched many of the state’s most well-known contemporary authors, including Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain), Angela Davis-Gardner (Plum Wine), Jan Karon (At Home in Mitford), and Ron Rash (Serena). Quail Ridge frequently hosts appearances by renowned writers, musicians, and other artists. www.quailridgebooks.com. Mark your calendar for Thursday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. to hear Georgann Eubanks, the author of Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina, read from this final volume documenting the state’s literary heritage.
For those with a taste for architecture from the 1850s to the early 1900s, consider taking a stroll through the historic campuses of several of the universities in the area.
African American history and literature enthusiasts will enjoy stopping off at Shaw University and St. Augustine’s University in downtown Raleigh. Both are traditionally black schools. Shaw holds the distinction of being the oldest historically black college in the South. Two of the buildings on Shaw campus are listed in the National Registry of Historic Places: Estey Hall, built in 1873, was the first women’s dormitory in the U.S. to be constructed on a coeducational campus, while the Leonard School of Medicine was established in 1885 and was the first Southern medical school to offer a four-year program for black doctors and pharmacists.
St. Augustine’s can boast historic landmarks as well: St. Augustine’s Chapel, an Episcopalian house of worship completed in 1895, and St. Agnes Hospital, completed in 1909. In addition, the university can lay claim to Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, a poet and campaigner for the rights of women and African Americans. She began her life as a slave in Raleigh and years later graduated with a doctorate from the Sorbonne; she was both a graduate of and a teacher at St. Augustine’s during her remarkable career.
By the way Shaw is the alma mater of Lenard D. Moore, the first African American president of the Haiku Society of America.
William Peace University and Meredith College make intriguing visits from the feminist perspective. Peace, today a coeducational university, originally began as a women’s college. As such it is humorously parodied in the autobiographical short story “Old Lovegood Girls” by Gail Godwin, where it is referred to as “Lovegood College.” You can take a walk through Peace’s beautiful campus – be sure to note the Main Building, which was only half-built when it was seized by the Confederates during the Civil War for use as a military hospital.
Meredith, Baptist-affiliated and now one of the largest women’s colleges in the U.S., often hosts creative writing programs and workshops. Faculty members have included poet and winner of the North Carolina Award for Literature Betty Adcock, young adult author Suzanne Newton, and Raleigh essayist Suzanne Britt.
Get inspired and have lunch at the K&W Cafeteria
Before the days of Starbucks and bookstores with cappuccino machines cafeterias were the hangout for writers in Raleigh, including Carrie Knowles, who contributed an except on the inspiration of Raleigh’s cafeteria’s for the Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina. She has a new novel out, Lillian’s Garden and will be reading from the work, along with another North Carolina standout Peggy Payne. Also of Raleigh, Peggy is the author of the recently released Cobalt Blue. Stop by Quail Ridge on Sunday April 28 at 3 p.m. for their reading.
In the meantime, we leave you with this except from Carrie on the inspiration found at Ballentine’s Cafeteria, which closed in 1999. (Carrie and her group of writers now hang out at the K&W).
Hannah Allen is a contributing writer for the North Carolina Arts Council blog, NCArtsEveryday, and social media pages. A native of North Carolina, Ms. Allen is a 2011 graduate of Meredith College and has worked as a professional dancer, English teacher, and Russian teacher. She has lived abroad in Moscow and St. Petersburg.