Civil Rights

News & Record file

As a law student in 1969, Flint Taylor wanted to make a difference in the fight for civil and human rights. He and other young lawyers teamed up and formed a law practice that went on to represent clients in high profile fights, including a civil suit that challenged the official story of slain Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton and a case that uncovered systemic use of torture by the Chicago Police Department to coerce confessions from African American men.

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.

Brian Lampkin looks down off camera.
Courtesy of Brian Lampkin

In the summer of 1973, three black men from Tarboro were sentenced to die in North Carolina’s gas chamber after being tried and convicted of raping a white woman. The story made national news, and Tarboro became the center of a larger conversation about race, civil rights and criminal justice. The men maintained their innocence and refused plea deals that may have lightened their sentences, but it was not until The Southern Poverty Law Center stepped in did they receive a new trial and a new chance at life.

BOB FITCH PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE / STANFORD LIBRARIES

Recently-released FBI files on Martin Luther King Jr. put his extramarital affairs back into the limelight. But a woman named Dorothy Cotton, who many only know as King’s “other wife,” deserves much more than the label of mistress, according to scholar Jason Miller, professor of English at North Carolina State University. She is a native of Goldsboro, North Carolina whose commitment to grassroots organizing led her from serving as a housekeeper to becoming the only female director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She was charged with running the SCLC's education initiative, the Citizenship Education Program. Two years before her death in 2018, Cotton sat down for an extended interview with Miller.

 

Carolyn Coleman serves on the NAACP National Board of Directors and as the First Vice President of the North Carolina NAACP
NAACP

Carolyn Coleman got her first taste of community activism as a young girl in a segregated community in Savannah, Georgia. She and her mother went door-to-door collecting signatures to advocate for neighborhood improvements. She continued to work for civil rights and social justice for close to six decades.

North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

On Friday, June 14, a highway marker in Halifax County will be dedicated to Louis Austin, an Enfield, N.C. native and the former editor of Durham’s preeminent black newspaper.

black and white photo of protesters holding signs
From the Raleigh News and Observer Negative Collection/Courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina / bit.ly/2Qsjbm2

Coastal Hyde County is the site of one of the longest and most successful civil rights protests in American history. In 1968 the African American community boycotted Hyde County schools in response to the county’s desegregation plan.

Autumn Karen

As a professional ghostwriter, Autumn Karen is usually forbidden to discuss her projects or her behind-the-scenes role in creating them. But the author of a recently-published book insisted that her name grace the cover along with his. “Mississippi Still Burning: From Hoods to Suits” (One Human Race Inc./2018) is James Stern’s incredible true story of being a black man incarcerated with Edgar Ray Killen, an Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and the man convicted of the 1964 triple-homicide of three civil rights activitsts. 

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.

photo of Bill Ferris and Marcie Cohen Ferris
photo courtesy of Bill Ferris

William Ferris is known around North Carolina as a folklorist — a man whose passion is to chronicle the stories, music and culture of the American South. His love for documenting his communities began as a boy.  At 12 years old, he was given a camera and began to take photographs around his neighborhood in Warren County, Mississippi. There are tales of young Ferris taking a reel-to-reel recorder to record hymns at church. 

A photo for the film 'Al: My Brother.'
Courtesy of Cash Michaels

Al McSurely is a white man who has been fighting white supremacy for almost 60 years. McSurely’s activism began in the early 1960s with groups like the Congress of Racial Equity and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He worked alongside civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, and eventually became an attorney who fought on behalf of victims of racial discrimination.

Actors reenact a 1946 lynching in Walton County, Ga. in which a veteran, his wife, and another couple were killed. The reenactment is an annual event staged by actors and civil rights activists.
Jay Price / WUNC

As they returned home from war, proud of their service, black veterans in the south often encountered suspicion, resentment, and - in some cases - brutal violence.

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.

L.A. McCrae holding a glass of her beer
Courtesy of L.A. McCrae

For L.A. McCrae, beer is a ministry. She owns Black Star Line Brewing Company – the first black-owned brewery in Western North Carolina. 

Supporters of the UNC Center for Civil Rights protest outside of a committee meeting of the UNC Board of Governors meeting on August 1, 2017.
Dave Dewitt / WUNC

Updated at 10:56 a.m., September 8, 2017

The UNC Board of Governors has passed a resolution that bans university-based centers from filing lawsuits. The resolution means the Center for Civil Rights, based at the UNC Chapel Hill Law School, can no longer sue on behalf of low-income and minority clients. 

International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro
International Civil Rights Center & Museum

Duke Energy might again cut off the lights at the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, unless the nonprofit makes payments on an $18,000 credit deposit.

Duke mandated the deposit following an alleged late payment earlier this year. Duke shut off the museum's lights for a few hours one day in February. The museum refunded visitors that day, during Black History Month, its busiest time of year.

Pauli Murray, National Historic Landmark, Civil Rights, Women's Rights
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

The childhood home of Pauli Murray in Durham is now a National Historic Landmark. Relatives, community leaders and the Pauli Murray Project celebrated with a homecoming.

A picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dick DeMarsico / Wikimedia Commons

Martin Luther King Jr. is an inimitable cultural icon known for his vast contributions to the advancement of civil rights in the United States. A new play features an intimate portrait of the civil rights figure by putting his inner concerns and vulnerabilities on display.

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.

photo of Joe Webster
Efren Renteria

When Joe Webster became an attorney, one of his first cases was a civil rights lawsuit he filed against his hometown of Madison, North Carolina. He successfully argued that it was wrong for the town to deny him, a black man, his own office space in a predominantly white neighborhood.

Allen County Public Library via Flickr

The U.S. Department of Justice has notified Governor Pat McCrory that House Bill 2 violates Title IX of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, potentially jeopardizing millions in federal funding for public schools.

The department, in a letter signed Wednesday, gave state officials until Monday to respond confirming whether or not they will comply with their advisory. If the department’s opinion is upheld by the courts, North Carolina could lose federal school funding for violation of Title IX, which bars discrimination in education based on gender.

Durham students wearing the gele in celebration of Black History Month.
Jamaica Gilmer / The Beautiful Project

On the first day of Black History Month, Durham School of Creative Studies (SCS) students Natalia Artigas, Assata Goff and Naima Harrell showed up to school with their heads wrapped in geles, a colorful fabric many black women wind around their hair as a sign of cultural pride.

In the South, African-American and Latino coalitions are coming together to support civil rights and immigration rights.
Fibonacci Blue / Flickr Creative Commons

In the last several decades state legislatures across the South have considered measures to limit the rights and privileges of immigrant populations. In response, new coalitions have formed between traditional civil rights groups and nascent immigrant rights organizations.

These new groups have leveraged political power to affect change in states like Mississippi and Alabama.

Classroom
WUNC File Photo

A K-12 charter school in Rutherford County has suspended all club activities after parents voiced concern over the presence of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender club.

classroom
Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

A coalition of community members has filed a federal complaint accusing the Harnett County school board of perpetuating racial inequalities within its school system.

Charmaine McKissick-Melton at a ceremony for Sigma Tau Delta, an English honor society.
Chi Brown / NCCU Office of University Relations

In 1963, the Durham School Board extended the desegregation of schools to elementary school students. Third-grader Charmaine McKissick-Melton and her brother, Floyd Jr., were two of the first African-Americans to integrate North Durham Elementary School.

An image of Julian Bond
Eduardo Montes-Bradley / Wikipedia Creative Commons

Julian Bond, civil rights leader and former chairman of the NAACP, died this weekend. He was 75.

Bond fought for equal rights for decades, leaving behind a legacy of social justice as one of the original leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and former president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Lucille Ervin, Durham, St. Mark AME Zion
Leoneda Inge

There was a special birthday celebration for one of Durham’s long-time residents Tuesday.

Lucille Ervin turned 108 years old.  About 30 people gathered on the lawn of St. Mark AME Zion Church to wish her well and sing "Happy Birthday".

Ervin moved to North Carolina from South Carolina 80 years ago.  And she’s been here ever since.  She was born in Charleston and raised by an Aunt and Uncle who lived on land handed down by their slave owners, according to Dorothy Fuller, Ervin's cousin.

Rev. Gil Caldwell (far right) with Martin Luther King, Jr.
truthinprogress.com

In 2007, Methodist Reverend Frank Schaefer performed the marriage service for his son Tim's wedding.

The seemingly routine action dramatically altered Schaefer's career because the same-sex union was prohibited by the church. Schaefer’s performance of marriage vows put him at the center of a controversy. He was stripped of his credentials but after a trial, the defrocking was overturned.

Alicia Garza is the co-creator of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza first wrote the phrase “black lives matter” on Facebook as a note to her friends and followers the day George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin. 

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