African American History

Archived illustrated image.
North Carolina State Archives

Even before the Lost Colony, great waves of emigration and migration were reshaping the region now known as North Carolina. As foreign empires invaded the land, new alliances and identities formed between the Tuscarora People along the coast and freed West Africans and Caribean Natives.

Andre Vann standing with a table of NCCU's history.
Courtesy of Andre Vann

Andre Vann has always been enchanted by the stories of others. He grew up in a small, tight-knit community in Henderson, N.C. that was founded by his great-great-grandmother. He was rooted to his family history in that neighborhood, surrounded by his relatives and close family friends.

Headshot of Rhiannon Giddens
photo by Ebru Yildiz

Grammy Award-winning artist Rhiannon Giddens is a North Carolina gem. Though she splits her time between the U.S and Ireland, her commitment to the music, culture, and stories of the South is still the driving force behind her work.

Image of the Simmons family.
Courtesy of Melody Hunter-Pillion

The number of black farmers in the United States has dropped exponentially since the beginning of the 20th century.  2017 data from the Department of Agriculture shows African Americans make up less than 2 percent of the country’s 3.4 million farmers. That year, there were just over 2,000 black farmers in North Carolina.

Two women point to an exhibit poster showing young African American girls.
William Birkemeier

Established in 1868, the Jarvisburg Colored School is believed to be the oldest African American school still standing in the state. It was a functioning elementary school until 1950, and starting in the late 1990s, former alumni and the community began efforts to restore and preserve it. 

Courtesy of Christina Proenza-Coles

History tells stories of America being founded by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, and discovered by Christopher Columbus. While many have challenged Columbus’ high importance in the history books, a new publication reveals a wave of settlers, conquistadors and revolutionaries that came long before the Europeans. These “founders” were of African descent.

a black and white photo of the front of the North Carolina Mutual building
Archives, Records, and History Center/North Carolina Central University

As Durham celebrates its sesquicentennial, host Frank Stasio invites a panel of community leaders, business owners and activists to look back at the history of the Bull City and trace how its economy, politics and culture have shifted in the past 150 years. They home in on Black Wall Street: a four-block district on Parrish Street that was once a mecca for black-owned businesses.

Courtesy of Nadia Orton

When Nadia Orton’s kidneys were failing, she sent letters to friends and relatives in the hopes that someone could be a donor or help defray the cost. Orton’s great-aunt Philgradore responded with money from her church. So a few years later, when Aunt Phil asked on her deathbed that her family not be forgotten, Orton knew she had to find a way to honor her ancestors. The problem was that she didn’t know who they were, or where to find them.

photo of pauli murray in her later years in priest's attire
UNC Digital Library and Archives

Pauli Murray is an often-overlooked civil rights trailblazer. She staged her first “protest” at 5 years old  when her aunt gave her grandfather three pancakes while she only received one. Murray was arrested for sitting in the whites-only section on a Virginia bus 15 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat.

photo of a garden area, with several spires made of earthy material, rising about 10-15 feet into the air
Courtesy of Clearscapes

The new “Oberlin Rising” monument in Raleigh commemorates one of the first African-American communities in the city. After the Civil War, Southern land was divided into parcels and sold to former slaves, and Raleigh’s Oberlin Village was made up of several of these parcels. It was established in 1866 as one of the first freedmen communities in the city. Oberlin’s history is largely overlooked, and development has nearly erased the community from the landscape.

close up photo of people exchanging rings during a wedding ceremony
Pixabay/Creative Commons

There was a time during slavery when black women could not legally marry. Yet, throughout history the single black woman has been vilified.

Slavery, Confederate Monuments, Duke University
Leoneda Inge

Universities from Brown in Rhode Island to Furman in South Carolina have commissions in place to study Race, Slavery and Monuments.  One institution where millions of dollars is being spent to make sure everyone has a say in how universities remember and mark the past is the University of Virginia.

John Hope Franklin, Duke University, African American History
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

A section of Interstate-85 in Durham has been named for the late John Hope Franklin, a preeminent scholar of African-American history and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Eddie Wise on the day of his eviction from his family farm.
Courtesy John Biewen

Eddie Wise comes from a family of farmers who worked the land for three generations. He and his wife Dorothy had dreams of raising animals together, so they decided to start their own farm near Whitakers, North Carolina. 

Stories from the President's Kitchen Cabinet

Mar 16, 2017

When Adrian Miller was researching his book on the history of Soul Food, he kept coming across references to African-American cooks who had served in the White House.

John Hope Franklin, African American History, Books
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

Collectors, historians and everyday people packed the Durham, North Carolina, home of the late John Hope Franklin last weekend.

Frank C. Curtin / Associated Press

Note: This segment originally aired February 19, 2016.

Pauli Murray and Eleanor Roosevelt could not have come from more different backgrounds. Murray was the granddaughter of a mixed-race slave, while Roosevelt’s ancestry gave her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Image of 'Forsaken' cover by Ross Howell Jr.
New South Books

Virginia Christian is the only African-American juvenile woman ever executed in the state of Virginia. She was executed the day after her 17th birthday in 1912.

This fact is the backdrop for the historical novel "Forsaken" (New South Books/2016). The book tells the story of Christian through the lens of a young, idealist reporter Charles Mears. It's a tale woven with historical fact and fictional narrative that combines racial prejudice with hope and redemption.

Image of miner loading coal in Portal 31 in Lynch, Ky. in the 1920s.
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and the Appalachian Archives. These photos are part of the U.S. Coal & Coke and International Harvester Image Collection.

Note: This is a rebroadcast from last year.

Tens of thousands of African-Americans called Appalachia home in the early 20th century, yet most popular representations of the region rarely include details about the black experience.

Starting from the middle-top and moving clockwise, Thomasi McDonald as Dad, Amy White as Kimber, TJ Swann as Flip, Tosin Olufolabi as Cheryl, Marcus Zollicoffer as Kent and Moriah Williams as Taylor.
Curtis Brown Photography

When the LeVay family gathers at its Martha’s Vineyard home for the weekend, brothers Kent and Flip are excited to introduce their new partners to their parents. But like many planned family vacations, things quickly go awry—tensions rise and secrets are revealed.

This is the premise for Lydia Diamond’s play “Stick Fly,” that examines race, privilege, and the lesser-known history of affluent African-American culture on Martha’s Vineyard.

Animation still artwork
Ammar Nasri and Zhou Quan

During the Jim Crow era, many businesses and establishments were not friendly to African-Americans which made traveling both inconvenient and dangerous for black families.

Stock photo of a book
Horia Varlan / Flickr Creative Commons

When producer Sonja Williams began researching for the radio series, Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was, she found very little African-American radio drama from the 1940s. What little she found reinforced negative stereotypes.

A colleague eventually suggested she look into Destination Freedom, a series of weekly broadcasts created by journalist and activist Richard Durham that featured African-American leaders and heroes of the day.

Image of miner loading coal in Portal 31 in Lynch, Ky. in the 1920s.
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and the Appalachian Archives. These photos are part of the U.S. Coal & Coke and International Harvester Image Collection.

Tens of thousands of African-Americans called Appalachia home in the early 20th century, yet most popular representations of the region rarely include details about the black experience.

One young researcher sought to change that through an archival project that examines the history and culture of coal mining communities in eastern Kentucky. Karida Brown grew up in New York, but both of her parents are from Lynch, Ky.

Image of Damon Tweedy, who is a professor psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke.
Stock Photography

When Damon Tweedy was in his first year of medical school, he learned a number of startling statistics that led him to the conclusion that being black is somehow bad for your health.

He heard over and over how black patients were faring worse than other patients in almost every field of medicine, but nobody seemed to be talking about the reasons for this disparity.

Patrik Henry Bass is from Laurinburg, North Carolina and now he's the editorial projects director for Essence Magazine.
http://www.essence.com/

Patrik Henry Bass has spent the last 49 years searching for the extraordinary moments in life. 

As a child he found those moments in the books he devoured at the library—the stories he read carried him far beyond his hometown of Laurinburg, North Carolina. His love of literature led him to a career in journalism. Today he's an award winning writer and the editorial projects director of Essence Magazine.Host Frank Stasio talks with Bass about his life journey and the many careers that led him to his dream job in New York City as a curator in the literary world. 

A photo from Grenada, Miss., where Nan Elizabeth Woodruff studies the legacies of terror and violence against people of color.
Matthew Nichols / Flickr Creative Commons

  This year marks the 50th anniversary of many monumental moments of the civil rights movement.

And a group of scholars and activists gather today at the National Humanities Center to push for increased dialogue about how the historical violence against people of color continues to resonate today.

    

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of key moments in the civil rights movement, including Bloody Sunday and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Center for the Study of the American South

  

Anne Spencer's Lynchburg, Virginia house was a sanctuary for African-American artists, writers and intellectuals during the Harlem Renaissance.