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UNC Libraries

Research Guide

Subject Headings

  • Capital punishment.
  • Capital punishment -- United States -- History.
  • Capital punishment -- United States -- Public opinion.
  • Capital punishment -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Capital punishment -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Capital punishment -- North Carolina.
  • Capital punishment -- North Carolina -- History.
  • Capital punishment -- Social aspects -- United States -- History.
  • Capital punishment -- Southern States -- History.
  • Discrimination in capital punishment -- United States.
  • Lynching -- North Carolina -- History.
  • Prison reformers -- Southern States -- History.
  • Prisoners -- Southern States -- History.
  • Prisons -- Southern States -- History.
  • Victims of crimes.
  • Victims of crimes -- North Carolina.
  • Victims of crimes -- Legal status, laws, etc.

Selected Primary Sources

From the Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Paul Green Papers, #3693
Collection contains about 400 items relating to Green's activities in opposition to capital punishment, from 1947-1971.

Marion Wright Papers, #3830
Contains approximately 2,500 items related to Wright's activities as director of North Carolinians Against the Death Penalty (1964-1982).

Henry Lee Canfield Papers, #2456
Includes correspondence, sermons, speeches, and articles by Canfield, concerning his interests in race relations, capital punishment, prison reform, the blind, and other matters.

Records of the Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons, #4655
The Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons was organized in 1974 with the missions of abolishing the death penalty, stopping prison construction and dependency on incarceration, developing alternatives to incarceration, and protecting the human and civil rights of prisoners. Collection contains about 2,000 items relating to these efforts.

Guy B. Johnson Papers, #3826
Includes Johnson's research files, notes, and published writings on the relationship between race and crime. Also includes anti-lynching and anti-Ku Klux Klan materials, as well as correspondence relating to his opposition to the death penalty. See also: "The Negro and Crime" under secondary sources.

Eleanor Kinnaird Papers, #5356
Includes notes and correspondence relating to Kinnaird's opposition to the death penalty. Collection also contains drafts of North Carolina Senate bills and other legislative records relating to capital punishment.

Sam J. Ervin Papers, Subgroup A: Senate Records, #3847A
Collection includes a number of files relating to Ervin's membership on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Items primarily relate to the United States Supreme Court ruling in the 1972 Furman v. Georgia case.

Jessie Daniel Ames Papers, #3686
Contains correspondence, notes, writings, and clippings on lynching and Ames's involvement in the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching.

From the Southern Folklife Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Bobby McMillon Collection, #20007
The collection of traditional ballad singer, musician, and storyteller Bobby McMillon of Lenoir, N.C., includes recordings of McMillon in performance, documentary recordings made by Bobby McMillon, and materials McMillon collected. Performance materials are from 1978 and 1997 and include the ballad and legend of Frankie Silver.

Daniel W. Patterson and Beverly Bush Patterson Papers, #20026
The collection includes material from several projects from 1963 to 2001 of folklorists Daniel Patterson and Beverly Bush Patterson (born Beverly Bush) of Chapel Hill, N.C. Collection contains material related to the folk legends surrounding Frankie Silver, history, and projects about Frankie Silver. Daniel and Beverly Patterson, along with Tom Davenport, worked on a documentary with Bobby McMillon called The Ballad of Frankie Silver. Daniel Patterson went on to write a book called A Tree Accurst: Bobby McMillon and Stories of Frankie Silver (2000).

Perry Deane Young Papers, #5169
The collection of journalist, author, and playwright Perry Deane Young of Woodfin, N.C., includes subject files on the death penalty and the folk legend of Frankie Silver.

From North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, N.C.

Court Records
Includes Colonial Court records, District and District Superior Court records, and North Carolina Supreme Court. Archives Information Circular #9, "North Carolina Courts of Law and Equity Prior to 1868" details the roles of early courts. A more detailed account of North Carolina's courts is available in North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History by Helen Leary (1996).

General Assembly Session Records, 1707-1974
Includes certificates of elections, journals, petitions, legislative bills, amendments, data on contested elections, reports of state officials, tax lists, resignations.

Governor's Office Records, 1688-Present
Includes letter books, general correspondence, minutes of the Council of State, requisitions and extraditions, lists of justices and notaries, records and reports of state agencies, pardons and paroles, appointments to official positions.

Other State Agencies
Varying quantities of records covering various dates are preserved for many other agencies of the state, including: Corrections, Crime Control and Public Safety, and Justice.

Selected Secondary Sources:

Selected Books

Bedau, Hugo A., ed. The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Rusher, James T. Until He Is Dead: Capital Punishment in Western North Carolina History. Boone, N.C.: Parkway Publishers, 2003.

Young, Perry Deane. The Untold Story of Frankie Silver: Was She Unjustly Hanged. Asheboro, N.C.: Down Home Press, 1998.

Selected Periodicals, Newspaper and Journal Articles

Aulis, Jack. "Nineteen House Votes Kill Capital Punishment Repeal." The News & Obersver (Raleigh, N.C.), 22 April 1971.

Coates, Albert. "Punishment for Crime in North Carolina." North Carolina Law Review 17 (1937): 205-232.

Eisley, Matthew. "Senate Supports Death Penalty Pause." The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 1 May 2003.

Greenhouse, Linda. "Justices to Enter the Debate Over Lethal Injection." The New York Times (N.Y.), 26 September 2007.

Johnson, Guy B. "The Negro and Crime." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Philadelphia, September 1941.

Krueger, Bill. "Lawson's Final Moments: A Killer Dies As Relatives of His Victim Watch the End of Years of Struggle." The News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 19 June 1994.

Lewis, Nell Battle. "Death Chair Sets Record; Stirs Lethal Gas Talk." The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 30 December 1934.

Olds, Fred A. "History of the State's Prison." The Prison News, vol. I, no. II (November 1926): 4-7.

Schmidt, William. "Woman Executed in North Carolina." The New York Times (N.Y.), 2 November 1984, A1.

Seitz, Trina N. "The Killing Chair: North Carolina's Experiment in Civility and the Execution of Allen Foster."The North Carolina Historical Review, vol. LXXXI, no. 1 (Jan. 2004): 45.

Weigl, Andrea. "New Ethics Policy Bars Doctors' Aid in Executions." The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 19 January 2007.

"Woman Watches Assailant Executed at State Prison." The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 13 October 1922.

Woolverton, Paul. "Execution Protocol Approved." The Fayetteville Observer (N.C.), 7 February 2007.

Wright, Gary L. "First N.C. Crime Victim Compensated Under Act" The Charlotte Observer (N.C.), 31 December 1987.

Selected Government Reports and Other Documents

Lewis, Nell Battle, ed. "Capital Punishment in North Carolina: Special Bulletin Number 10." Raleigh, N.C.: The N.C. State Board of Charities and Public Welfare, 1929.

Public Laws and Resolutions of North Carolina, 1909, ch. 443, s.1, 10:759, 761.

Selected Theses and Dissertations

Cheek, Roma S. "The Pardoning Power of the Governor of North Carolina: With an Additional Chapter on Parole Under Legislative Authority." Durham: Duke University (Thesis, PhD), 1932.

Craven, Charles. "North Carolina's Prison System: A Chronological History through 1950" (master's thesis, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 1987).

Kotch, Seth. "Capital Punishment in North Carolina, 1910-1936." MA thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2005.

Selected Online Resources:

"1998 NC Statutory Amendment Eliminates Execution by Lethal Gas." North Carolina Department of Corrections website:

"Executions in the U.S. 1608-2002: The Espy File Executions by State."

"Furman v. Georgia, Docket: 69-5003." Oyez: U.S. Supreme Court Media.

"History of Capital Punishment in North Carolina." North Carolina Department of Corrections.

North Carolina Victim Assistance Network website:

"North Carolina Crime Victims' Rights Act." North Carolina Department of Correction: Office of Victim Services website: