Martin: Four different looks at NC life

We can’t read them all.

It is what people say to me when I start talking about four important North Carolina related books that UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch will feature in January.

Even so, I say, you should know something about each of them.

NC Bookwatch by D.G. Martin

NC Bookwatch
by D.G. Martin

For instance, Bookwatch kicks off its new season with one of the most important books about the connection between our musical heritage and the music of the British Isles. Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia, by Fiona Ritchie, host of National Public Radio’s popular “The Thistle & Shamrock,” and Doug Orr, president emeritus of Warren Wilson College near Asheville.

Although we know that the music of the Appalachians is, like its residents, descended from the British Isles, we are not familiar with the details of the migration of those people to America or how their musical traditions have been affected by time and interaction with other cultures.

Ritchie and Orr follow the migration of people and their music from Scotland, to Northern Ireland, through the long ocean voyage to Philadelphia, down the Wagon Road, and into the mountain coves. The music survived these travels, but it was transformed at each stage by interaction with the music of other cultures. This program airs at noon on Sunday, January 4th, with a repeat at 5 p.m. on Thursday, January 8th.

WayfaringThe following week (January 11, 15) popular mystery writer Margaret Maron will tell viewers how she takes her readers into rural eastern North Carolina in Designated Daughters. It is the latest episode in the life of Judge Deborah Knott, who helps solve a murder in every book. This time the victim is Judge Knott’s Aunt Rachel, a hospice patient whose large family and many friends have gathered to be with her in her last hours. By the time Maron finally lets her readers know who the killer is, she has given them a long and satisfying inside look at the way of life in a North Carolina rural community.

A 1960s radical, Howard Fuller, will be back in North Carolina  (Jan. 18, 22) to discuss his new book,  No Struggle, No Progress: A Warrior’s Life from Black Power to Education Reform.

As a community organizer, Fuller led poor people to demand fair treatment, to work together to improve their lives, and to stand up to the establishment at every turn. He led marches and founded the short-lived Malcolm X Liberation University in Durham and Greensboro. Today he is a professor of education and director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University. As an advocate for state-funded vouchers for poor parents to pay for their children to attend private or parochial schools, he finds himself “a novelty, an outspoken black man and former large system school superintendent who supported a growing movement that was largely championed by conservative white people.”

struggleToday, Kerr Scott is remembered as the governor who appointed UNC President Frank Porter Graham to the U.S. Senate in 1949, leading to the knockdown battle between the liberal Graham and the conservative Willis Smith in the 1950 Democratic primary run-off.

But as Julian Pleasants (Jan 25, 29) explains in his new book, “The Political Career of W. Kerr Scott: The Squire from Haw River,” Scott’s victory in the Democratic primary for governor in 1948 and his term as governor from 1949 to 1953 were transformational. The stories Pleasants tells about how the mercurial Scott, a dairy farmer from Alamance County, shook up the traditional conservative power structure are entertaining and enlightening.

Even if you won’t be able to read a single one of these important books, let Bookwatch introduce you to the authors and give you an opportunity to learn more about the rich history and culture of our state.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For information visit

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