We are home now after our two week research/vacation trip. Internet access was a bit of problem so I was not able to post as much as I would have liked. I have written before about the immediacy of blogging and how I sometimes just ignore that imperative. This turns out to be one of those times.
Our trip to Raleigh was very interesting, particularly because it was a Southern city. It seemed segregated; we did not see that many people of color in restaurants or at the university. Nine percent of the student population of North Carolina State University is African-American. This seemed low to me but there is a historically black college North Carolina Central University nearby in Durham, which is ninety percent African-American.
The underlying context of my new book, Dames, Dishes, and Degrees, is the changes in higher education in the past 100 years. After being in Raleigh, I wonder about the continued existence of historically black colleges, especially when they are state institutions.
I think my reaction to the lack of diversity in Raleigh is understandable, but I realize that Amherst, where I live, is not necessarily that much more diverse. The comparable public university in Amherst is the University of Massachusetts. Four percent of its student body is African American. The other two schools in Amherst, Amherst and Hampshire College are both private schools. Amherst College apparently does a good job in attracting a diverse student body since ten percent of its students are African-American.
My point is that I was approaching Raleigh from a holier than thou Northern perspective. On reflection, many places in America, both north and south, need to do a better job of creating and sustaining diverse, integrated communities.
Our last day in Raleigh we did sightseeing, which was very enjoyable. The Capital is a very pretty building and we got to go inside the Governor’s mansion, which was also very nice. The museums in Raleigh are free which is great. The history museum had a wonderful exhibit of pictures from the Depression and the natural history museum had a spectacular butterfly environment, which was spectacular.
The beer got better as we went along, and in the end I found two good craft beers: Carolina pale ale and Bad Penny. Both were very enjoyable.
The people in Raleigh were very nice, hospitable, and friendly. My original impression of Raleigh was that it was similar to Springfield, Massachusetts. After six days there, I still feel this is true. Raleigh is a city with certain tourist attractions on an urban level but it does not have the energy, vitality, and thriving downtown of the great cities such as New York, Paris, Boston, Edinburgh, or San Francisco.