African American History

Jamea Richmond-Edwards / Courtesy of E. Patrick Johnson

Writer E. Patrick Johnson was hesitant to collect the stories of queer black Southern women. He is a cisgender gay black man, and the divide between the male and female experience was something he felt he could not portray on the page. But after being encouraged by women who wanted their experiences known and shared, he found a way to spotlight their voices.

Collins sits at a table under a George Floyd mural that reads "George Floyd Rest in Power."
Courtesy of Armando Collins

For Armondo Collins, growing up in a predominantly-black neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota meant several things. It meant that he had to pass through majority white, wealthy communities whenever he wanted candy from the corner store. And it meant that he got stopped by the police a lot. 

Two old photos of Smallwood
Courtesy of Arwin Smallwood

Arwin Smallwood grew up in the rural town of Indian Woods, in the northeastern part of North Carolina. The ten-square-mile community is the home to descendants of the Native American, African and European people who lived there over hundreds of years. Smallwood came of age there in the 60s and 70s. 

Jade Wilson

Jaki Shelton Green joins us on her birthday to discuss “the wind of freedom” which billows through the North Carolina poet laureate’s new album of verse and song, “The River Speaks of Thirst” (Soul City Sounds/2020). 

North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

When Hurricane Matthew flooded his hometown in 2016, Mayor Bobbie Jones understood the magnitude of the decisions ahead. As the National Guard drained the floodwaters back into the Tar River, some of the 2,200 residents considered relocation. 

Author Carole Boston Weatherford reads to students
Carole Boston Weatherford

Carole Boston Weatherford wrote her first poem in first grade. She dictated it to her mother on the way home from elementary school in Baltimore. 

Neuwirth stands in front of the exhibit with her two children.
Courtesy of Edward Neuwirth

As a child, Brandi Neuwirth remembers family chatter about her great-great-grandfather owning a school in North Carolina. But she was young and North Carolina seemed a world away from the life she lived in New York City. Her great-great-grandfather the Rev. Morgan Latta had a vision of a school that would educate the children of freed slaves.

SNCC Digital Gateway

David Forbes arrived at Shaw University in 1958. In the winter of his sophomore year, the Civil Rights movement swept through North Carolina when four students in Greensboro led a sit-in. Forbes and hundreds of other Shaw students followed suit at the Woolworth’s in Cameron Village. 

Brian Robinson, UNCG

Many African Americans searching for their family histories hit a wall when they get to the 1860s or 1870s. During slavery, the only public records for enslaved people were deeds, which classified them as property and said nothing of their lived experiences, or even marked their birth or death.

Courtesy of Ronnie Pepper

Ronnie Pepper loves to hear stories as much as he loves to tell them. He grew up in the small Appalachian town of Hendersonville during the era of the civil rights movement in a house with no plumbing and only four rooms.

Sign reading "Mechanics and Farmers Bank Established 1908."
Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks are iconic figures in the country’s Civil Rights Movement. But who led the charge in North Carolina? The prominent, but little-known black banker John Hervey Wheeler played a large role.

Freelon sits on a tractor wheel with one of her tissue-paper pieces draped on the tractor.
Chris Charles for Garden & Gun

Durham artist Maya Freelon’s large tissue paper installations have hung in the halls of the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building and the North Carolina Museum of Art. She has received commissions from Google and Cadillac and was recently named one of five young artists to watch during Miami Art Week 2019. Her techniques transform tissue paper from schoolhouse craft to fine art and create community in collaborative quilt-making workshops.

Headshot of Holloway
Esther Hicks Photography / Courtesy of Karla Holloway

Karla FC Holloway was raised in Buffalo, New York in the midst of the battle over school desegregation. Her parents were both school administrators, and although she was not aware at the time of just how involved they were in that fight, she keenly observed their commitment to racial equality.

Historical sign
Flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/31557195515

The term “Underground Railroad” evokes the image of the legendary Harriet Tubman engineering daring escapes in a false-bottomed carriage or slaves following the North Star through dark woods. Researcher and longtime history professor Adrienne Israel says those popular images only tell a sliver of the story.

Old Oberlin Road schoolhouse archive photo.
Albert Barden Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

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

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.

There Is No Other Like Rhiannon Giddens

Sep 25, 2019
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.

Before Rosa Parks There Was Pauli Murray

May 18, 2018
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.

Marriage And The Single Black Woman

Apr 11, 2018
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.

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