Ann Atwater

Durham Civil Rights, Civil Rights, Ann Atwater, The Best of Enemies
Leoneda Inge

 In 1971, C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater were asked to sit down together to solve the problem of school desegregation in Durham, and at the time no signs pointed to that being a good idea. Ellis was a Ku Klux Klan leader, Atwater was a black community organizer, and the two were enemies.

Taraji P. Henson on red carpet in Durham.
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

In 1970s Durham, N.C., two of the most unlikely people became what we would call today – “frenemies.” The relationship between a Ku Klux Klan leader and a civil rights activist would go down in history and is now on the big screen.

Ann Atwater, Durham, Civil Rights, Ku Klux Klan
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

Durham Civil Rights activist Ann Atwater – best known for the relationship she forged with her biggest enemy, a member of the Ku Klux Klan – has died. She was 80.

Atwater's fight for justice began at home where she lived in dilapidated housing with no electricity. She tirelessly fought for better housing for blacks in Durham.