Doris Davis

Davis makes all manner of sewn items—dresses, skirts, blouses, underwear, overcoats, tote bags, slipcovers, drapery, and much more. “You’d be amazed at the things you can do if you just try,” she says.

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Debbie Lou Powell

In her teaching, Powell emphasizes that a quilt-maker can express his or her creativity, as well as be authentically traditional, whether sewing by hand or with a machine.

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Richard Holtzmann, Sr. and Richard Holtzmann, Jr.

True Ridgeway cantaloupes have become increasingly rare. Of the farmers who have brought the crop into the twenty-first century, among the very last are Richard Holtzmann of Ridgeway and his son, Richard Holtzmann, Jr.

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St. Sing Family

Perhaps most remarkable is the emotion that comes through in the St. Sings’ playing, a quality that is difficult to achieve, no matter the amount of practice. Robin says, “Somebody told me once, ‘You really play from your soul.’ Well, that might be a good way to look at it.” Robert concurs, “Music’s good for you—any kind.”

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Warrenton Echoes

Founded in 1957, the Echoes—who currently count founders Roy “June” Foster and James Carter, along with younger recruits James Martin, Jr., Previs Foster, Reginald Allen, and Smith, Jr., as members—have long been celebrated performers on the Upper South’s gospel circuit.

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Reuben Palmer

Reuben Palmer says that ever since childhood, “for some reason, I just had a passion for wood.” That interest has led him to become a master in multiple fields of working with wood, from carpentry to furniture making to wood-turning.

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Bishop Dready Manning

Inspired by the fleet-fingered playing of musicians like Blind Boy Fuller, Brownie McGhee, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Jimmy Reed, he had one goal: “I wanted to be a blues guitar player.”

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Freida Harlow

Each Saturday night, visitors can find Freida presiding over performances at the Opry House, often singing or playing a mountain dulcimer, or introducing visiting musicians to the enthusiastic audience. “If anybody needs me for anything special and I can help them out here with the Opry, I will do it.”

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Roy Burroughs

Work in Progress is a mixture of traditional hymns and contemporary music, all of which Burroughs arranges meticulously. “Music has always been in me,” he says, “and I suspect it always will be.”

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About the Project

In 2010 and 2011, the North Carolina Folklife Institute—with partners including the Warren County Library and Arts Council, members of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, and the Concerned Citizens of Tillery—conducted research on the living and historical traditions of Warren, Vance, and Halifax Counties. The project is a chapter of NCFI’s Statewide Heritage Initiative, which has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Resourceful Communities Program of the Conservation Fund.

NCFI folklorists Michael Taylor and Sarah Bryan interviewed dozens of tradition bearers in the three-county region, Taylor working primarily with musicians, and Bryan documenting non-musical traditions. The fieldwork was supplemented by interviews that Taylor conducted in 2009 with Warren County musicians, as part of the New Harmonies exhibit, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the North Carolina Humanities Council. Bryan also researched archival sources of documentation on the area’s folklife traditions. The Haliwa-Saponi Tribe made available interviews conducted in 2010 for the Haliwa-Saponi Arts Documentation Project, which provided important insight for the project as well. Photographer Christopher Fowler made portraits of many of the artists who participated in the project, and photographic documentation of their work. Throughout the research, NCFI received invaluable guidance from community-based advisors, including Sue Loper, former Director of the Warren County Library; Gary Grant, Director of the Concerned Citizens of Tillery; Marty Richardson, of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe; and Jereann Johnson, cofounder of the Heritage Quilters.


The audio recordings, transcripts, photographs, and other materials gathered in the course of this research are archived at the North Carolina Folklife Institute in Durham, and will be archived at the offices of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe in Hollister and at the Warren County Library in Warrenton as well.

Click here for an electronic copy of this report.

Click here for full-color PDF’s of artist profiles.

Full-color PDFs of artist profiles are available from the North Carolina Folklife Institute. Contact NCFI at (919) 383-6040 or