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Race & Demographics

Preserving The History Of Black Excellence In Raleigh

Oberlin Village is an important part of Raleigh’s history — but there is not much of the historic African American community left.

It was founded by former slaves around 1870 as one of the first freedmen communities in the city. In just a decade, Oberlin Village had grown to up to 1,000 residents. For years it was a thriving community made up of carpenters, brick masons and seamstresses. Since the 1940s, Increased development in Raleigh has razed over most of the landscape of Oberlin Village. Preservation North Carolina has rescued two homes from the community and preserved them. They commissioned playwright Howard Craft to create a new production to celebrate the community. It is called “Bending the Arc: Willis Graves Jr. and the Pursuit of Justice.”

Host Frank Stasio talks to Craft about the play and the role that Oberlin Village played in shaping civil rights leaders. Then Brandi Neuwirth joins the conversation to share the history of Latta University, a school and orphanage based in Oberlin Village. Neuwirth is the great-great-granddaughter of the founder of Latta University and the chair of the Latta House Foundation, working with Friends of Oberlin and others to preserve history. Craft’s play will be read as part of a two-day symposium hosted by Preservation North Carolina, on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 2:30 p.m. at Shaw University in Raleigh.

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