Just four years into his career as a journalist, Carolina alumnus Horace Carter endured death threats to report on the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, and received a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts. A documentary about Carter and his stand against racism airs Thursday, Jan. 9 at 10 p.m. on UNC-TV.
The Editor and the Dragon, narrated by actor Morgan Freeman, was produced by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for the Study of the American South and Memory Lane Productions. In the early 1950s, Carter was the editor of the Tabor City Tribune in southeastern North Carolina and used the editorial authority of his newspaper to protest the Klan’s racist rhetoric and vigilantism. Carter continued to report on the Klan’s activities in his town even after his life and the lives of his family members were threatened.
The bold reporting helped lead to the first federal intervention in the South during that era and later the arrest and conviction of nearly 100 klansmen. In 1953, the Pulitzer committee honored the then-32 year-old Carter with its Prize for Meritorious Service.
Carter’s story is one of the first stories William Ferris, Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History and Senior Associate Director of the Center for the Study of the American South, heard when he arrived in Chapel Hill in 2002. “Carter’s refusal to allow the Ku Klux Klan to attack black and white citizens in his beloved Tabor City community is a great American story,” Ferris said. “This film will inspire its viewers and remind them that Horace Carter’s life is a model to which we should all aspire.”
Walter Horace Carter was born on January 20, 1921, in a small house owned by the Efird Cotton Mill in Albemarle, North Carolina. Both of his parents worked at the mill, where he later worked as well. Carter arrived in Chapel Hill as a student in 1939, worked at the UNC News Bureau, and was elected editor of The Daily Tar Heel. Service in the U.S. Navy during World War II interrupted his schooling, but he completed his degree in journalism in 1949, by which time he was already editing and publishing the Tabor City Tribune.
By Rob Holliday, University Relations.
Published January 6, 2014.