The Best of Enemies

Annette Brown / EPK TV

Hollywood loves to feed us stories of good friendships and happy endings. At first glance, "The Best of Enemies" seems to fit that mold. The film tells the story of civil rights advocate Ann Atwater and Ku Klux Klan leader C. P. Ellis. The pair vehemently hated each other yet managed to gain respect for one another as they argued opposite sides of the school integration debate. Author Osha Gray Davidson, who wrote the book upon which the movie was based, explains how their story goes much deeper than an improbable friendship to examine the complex constructions of race and class in Southern society. 

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.