Floyd McKissick Family Home - Civil Rights Action Central
Imagine a center of creativity and collaboration during the fight for civil rights; a place where leaders and protestors alike could come to stay the night and share their passions. Now imagine a family home on Roxboro Street, does that match up with what you had in your head? Maybe not but the McKissick family home, known as the “Freedom House” or the “Do-Drop-Inn,” served as “action central headquarters.”
Floyd McKissick was an early leader of the civil rights movement and a lawyer who through his practice took on many desegregation cases defending those involved in sit ins. He served as the director of the Congress of Racial Equality and the youth chairman of the N.A.A.C.P. of North Carolina.
Floyd McKissick was not the only notable member of the McKissick household, his entire family helped to lead the fight. His eldest daughter Jocelyn was participating in sit-ins from a very young age, going on to sacrifice a great deal for the cause from getting arrested to being beaten, and was the first African American female to attend and graduate from Durham high school. His middle daughter, Andree attended the previously all white Carr Junior High School and his youngest daughter Charmaine and her brother Floyd Jr. were admitted to North Durham Elementary School, among the first wave admitted at the elementary level. Each one experienced undue hardship and torment on a daily basis and never gave up. This home was where the seeds were sown and where Floyd was able to instill the values in his children that made them so willing and able to join him in the fight.
In addition to being just a family home, the “Freedom House” served as a gathering place for civil rights activists. The McKissicks had regular visitors who were prominent leaders in the civil rights movement who came for the cultural and educational enlightenment as well as a bed when local hotels would refuse them. Evelyn McKissick, Floyd’s wife, often hosted dinners of 20 people that would overflow through the house. Thus, the home is not important simply for who lived there but rather for the conversations and meetings that it helped to foster. “Regular visitors to their home included NAACP leader Roy Wilkins and CORE leader and Freedom Ride organizer James Farmer.” Floyd McKissick Jr remembers sharing his bunk bed with CORE field secretary and Freedom Rider Ike Reynolds. Charmaine McKissick said of the nickname “Do-Drop-Inn,” “that’s what people did - they dropped in — and you never knew how long they were going to stay.”
The McKissick home is on the National Register of Historic Places study list and the family is hoping for it to serve as a headquarters or museum. This home serves as a monument to the incredible progress that Floyd McKissick, his family, and his fellow fighters helped to usher in and will hopefully find a worthy new owner.