Civil Rights

McDougald Terrace Public Housing Units

Lawyer and civil rights activists Floyd McKissick proclaimed, “Tenants cannot be evicted without due process,” when he heard that community organizer Joyce Thorpe had been thrown out of her public housing unit for working to empower low-income black women. As a citizen, she is entitled to fair treatment in the judicial system, and public…

Aerial view of Hillside High School in the 1950s

What shall we teach our children about race and race relations? Wallace Nelson, a Cincinnati representative of the Congress for Racial Equality, silenced the Hillside High School Parent-Teacher Association meeting on January 14th, 1952.

Nelson’s answer was a boycott of segregated public spaces to prove that non-violent direct action was…

Inside of a Lincoln Hospital operating room  Photo courtesy of Durham Lincoln Hospital by P. Preston Reynolds, M.D. Ph.D

Lincoln was the only hospital within a 25-mile radius of Durham to treat African Americans until the early 1960s when Watts Hospital integrated its wards.  Blacks often turned to midwifes and home remedies for their healthcare. Dr. Stanford Warren, John Merrick, and Dr. Aaron Moore (Durham’s first black physician) founded Lincoln hospital in…

S.H. Kress Building in the 1970s

Lunch counter sit ins by young people in Durham were inspired by the moving speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Durham's White Rock Baptist Church in 1961. 

In 1963, a dark and lonely jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama served as the setting of the conception of one of the most important civil rights documents of the past 100…

Silent March ends with speakers in front of Durham City Hall (now the site of the Durham Arts Council)

Certain events are so monumental that they define the soul of a generation. Where were you when the planes hit on 9/11?  What were you doing when MLK was cut down by a sniper’s bullet? Such defining moments unite us all through our most basic commonality—being human. Black and white alike, Americans across the nation reacted with sorrow and…

Some of the students participating in the sit-down protest in Durham's Woolworth's Store on February 8, 1960.  Photo from Campus Echo on February 26, 1960

How powerful is silence? Can you really promote a cause by not saying anything at all directed toward authorities? North Carolina College students did just that. They vowed to fight against segregated serving policies through silent and peaceful protest. They would stand up, or, rather, sit down, for their rights. Following the February 1st sit…

Howard Fuller worked throughout North Carolina on poverty issues and was the leader of the group that founded MXLU. He is pictured (right) registering students for classes in 1969. Photo courtesy of Durham Herald Sun

In 1969 local activist Howard Fuller along with a group of Duke students founded Malcolm X Liberation University in an old hosiery mill in downtown Durham. Fuller and the students were unhappy with Duke's progress toward equal resources for black students and the formation of a black studies department, common concerns at the time in…

The picture shows Evans United Department Store in the 1950's.   Photo courtesy of the Durham Herald Sun

“Did the roof fall in today?” Mayor Mutt Evans asked the manager at Woolworth’s five and dime in the downtown Durham in July 1960. The business had just served a Coke to its first black customer. It was the start of a new era for the Bull City  and as Durham’s first Jewish mayor, Mutt Evans was uniquely equipped to navigate the period’s racial…

Protesters marched daily to demand that the Durham City Council enforce the local housing code against slumlord Abe Greenberg. Photograph by Billy E. Barnes, courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Billy Ebert Barnes Collection.

“Your Neighbor is a Slumlord.”
“High Rent for Firetraps.”
“My Children Sleep with Rats.”

Protesters with painted signs bearing these word marched outside both Abe Greenberg’s office and home during the summer of 1966 in response to his unwarranted hikes in rent and disregard for the needs of his tenants by not meeting Durham…

Attorney Conrad Odell Pearson (left) with attorneys, Hugh Thompson, Floyd McKissick, William G. Marsh, and John H. Wheeler.   Photo courtesy of The Herald Sun. Originally from North Carolina Collection, Durham County Library.

In 1933, Thomas Hocutt, an African American student from the North Carolina College for Negroes was rejected from the University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy due to the all-white admissions policy. After hearing his concerns, two African American lawyers from Durham, Conrad Pearson and Cecil McCoy took matters in their own hands and…