North Carolina folk medicine practitioner and herbalist Emma Dupree was widely regarded for her specialized knowledge in the art of traditional healing.
Born in 1897 to parents who had been enslaved, Dupree grew up along the Tar River where she first cultivated her abilities. Dupree would gather up wild plants to prepare her homemade remedies, honing her understanding of traditional apothecary with insight and focus. Her reputation earned her the nickname, “Little Medicine Thing.”
Dupree, a longtime resident of Fountain, N.C., was a dedicated community healer who was sought out by the medical establishment for her expertise in North Carolina’s native herbs. She maintained a “garden-grown pharmacy,” which had everything from silkweed sassafras and maypop to rabbit tobacco.
To celebrate Dupree’s life and legacy, the Fountain community established “Emma Dupree Day” in 2019. As part of the celebration this past April, a Legends & Lore marker recognizing Dupree was dedicated at the Fountain Presbyterian Church. Family, friends and community members gathered for the ceremony, which included musical performances and a church service.
An in-depth article about Dupree and the marker dedication was also published by regional newspaper, The Daily Reflector. In the story, Dupree’s great-granddaughter, Veronica Newton, shared: “This has been very insightful and overwhelming. Just knowing the impact that she made on the community is heartwarming, and the family is delighted to hear the other people’s stories and the impact she made is really wonderful.”
Among Dupree’s many accolades and tributes, she received the Brown-Hudson Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society for her significant contributions to folklife in North Carolina. She also received North Carolina’s Heritage Award, a lifetime achievement honor for her dedicated work as a folk medicine practitioner.