Any work that aims at synthesis first and foremost owes a debt to those who have gone before. While working on this project I had the great good fortune to be surrounded by stellar efforts, not simply in the books that I read but in a group of fellow scholars with an abiding commitment to history, to the South, and to the many ordinary citizens whose lives and labors have made this country what it is.
John Kasson's work helped me to see how the smallest details of everyday life, manners, and mannerisms come freighted with meaning. As my dissertation advisor, he was both challenging and encouraging, cheerfully enduring endless drafts and consistently pointing me toward the larger ideas and trends my stories illuminated. He never told me the project was too large—that a century was too much time to cover in a dissertation—or that I could hardly hope to move effectively between so many communities and perspectives. Neither did he suggest it was too small—that a single, southern state was not significant enough to warrant such attention. For this and for his constant, gentle support I am enormously grateful.
Jacquelyn Hall also encouraged this work throughout the many years between its inception and this final version. Like a Family, the multiauthor study of textile mill life that she directed, and one of the first works of academic oral history I encountered, remains a model for me to this day. Her thoughtful comments and her insistence on good writing echo through these pages, I hope not too faintly. Over our many years of friendship and association, I have only grown more impressed by the volume of work she does, by the guidance she provides her many students, and by her commitment to the significance of history for the present day.
As a teaching assistant in Jim Leloudis's undergraduate survey of North Carolina history I learned as much as I did in any graduate seminar. The vision of North Carolina's past I gained from that experience, as well as Jim's own work on southern schooling, have profoundly shaped my approach to this project. Both he and Lu An Jones, another fine scholar and North Carolina native, have also helped me learn how to simultaneously celebrate and ask hard