Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Article excerpt

Byline: By Karen Bartlett

Ava Gardner was born there. Zelda Fitzgerald died there, forgotten in an insane asylum.

The first flight took place on one of its beaches, while the first lunch counter sit-in at a downtown branch of Woolworth's kicked off the civil rights movement in 1961.

North Carolina has a beautiful coast at one edge, and awesome mountain ranges on the other. In between there are barbecue stands, Nascar speedway racing, and a lot of miles of not very much.

Sandwiched between the more snobby Virginia to the North and fierier South Carolina, which until very recently still officially flew part of the confederate flag, North Carolina has always struggled a little with its identity.

But if a trip across the "Tar Heel" state can seem nondescript, it has nonetheless often played a surprising hand in the history of the modern United States. At the beginning of the 20th Century North Carolina native Thomas Dixon Jnr wrote The Clansman, which later became America's first, and most notorious, film about the Ku Klux Klan, Birth of a Nation.

Less than 100 years later Maya Angelou, Black activist, author of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Bill Clinton's favourite poet, had made it her home. Once largely rural, North Carolina has shown itself to be better equipped than most at taking advantage of new technology jobs when they came, and from the literal ashes of an economy based on tobacco farming and textiles the state has funded three of the best universities in America.

It is a state capable of transformation. Now again North Carolina, in its characteristically self-effacing way, has produced a local boy made good who has already been described as "The most important man in America." The most important because, as his local newspaper pointed out, John Edwards is the man who could win or lose the next Presidential election. The addition of John Edwards to the Democratic ticket as Vice Presidential candidate has thankfully ruled out the possibility that John Kerry would choose someone as unlovable and wooden as himself.

In picking Edwards, Kerry has staved off sudden death, and given a glimmer of hope to all those around the world who nervously pray for an end to the disbelieving sense of Groundhog Day that was ushered in when George Bush proved that we'd all "misunderestimated him" four years ago. …

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