North Carolina Icons: The Great Dismal Swamp

NC IconsThis week in our North Carolina icons series we’re featuring the Great Dismal Swamp, which stretches from Norfolk, Virginia to Elizabeth City, North Carolina. It’s number 80 on Our State magazine’s 100 North Carolina Icons list, where it’s described: “Birds don’t find the swamp dismal at all. More than 200 species of birds can be spotted there during the year. Grab your binoculars and go.” The State Library of North Carolina has additional information on the Great Dismal Swamp and other NC icons. Today we have two books that can help you learn more about the Great Dismal Swamp and its history.

 The Great Dismal: A Carolinian's Swamp Memoir, by Bland Simpson

In The Great Dismal: A Carolinian’s Swam Memoir, Bland Simpson combines history and his own experiences to describe the Great Dismal swamp. Just below the Tidewater area of Virginia, straddling the North Carolina–Virginia line, lies the Great Dismal Swamp, one of America’s most mysterious wilderness areas. The swamp has long drawn adventurers, runaways, and romantics, and while many have tried to conquer it, none has succeeded. In this engaging memoir, Bland Simpson, who grew up near the swamp in North Carolina, blends personal experience, travel narrative, oral history, and natural history to create an intriguing portrait of the Great Dismal Swamp and its people.


Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, by Harriet Beecher StoweDred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp is Harriet Beecher Stowe’s second antislavery novel, which takes place in the Great Dismal Swamp. It was written partly in response to the criticisms of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) by both white Southerners and black abolitionists. In Dred (1856), Stowe attempts to explore the issue of slavery from an African American perspective. Through the compelling stories of Nina Gordon, the mistress of a slave plantation, and Dred, a black revolutionary, Stowe brings to life conflicting beliefs about race, the institution of slavery, and the possibilities of violent resistance. Probing the political and spiritual goals that fuel Dred’s rebellion, Stowe creates a figure far different from the acquiescent Christian martyr Uncle Tom.

In his introduction to the classic novel, Robert S. Levine outlines the antislavery debates in which Stowe had become deeply involved before and during her writing of Dred. Levine shows that in addition to its significance in literary history, the novel remains relevant to present-day discussions of cross-racial perspectives.

Keep an eye on our NC Icons tag as we suggest more books related to North Carolina icons.