Finding black history in the backyard


Here is part of my typical, highly scientific February checklist.

Watch the Super Bowl, or at least some ACC basketball, with sticky, saucy hands.

Check.

Workmen construct the North Carolina College at Durham Marker in 1950. N.C. Central University is hosting notable Black History Month activities all February. For a schedule of events, visit NCCU's website or click here. (Photo courtesy of the James E. Shepard Memorial Library, NCCU)

Workmen construct the North Carolina College at Durham Marker in 1950. N.C. Central University is hosting notable Black History Month activities all February. For a schedule of events, visit NCCU’s website or click here. (Photo courtesy of the James E. Shepard Memorial Library, NCCU)

Pick up some fancy chocolates and a fluffy bear for my Valentine’s Day.

Check.

Brushing up on local African-American history?

That’s a lot easier than one might think.

Every town has it’s own story when it comes to black history, and it’s no secret that Durham’s is particularly unique.

Whether a teen looking for a book report topic this month, a culturist expanding horizons or the average Durhamite out for the day, here are a few free (or at least cheap) happenings outside of PSA announcements and parades that could help in bridging the cultural gap.

For example, interested in learning about the Southern plantation or daily communal slave life that eventually gave birth to the modern African-American community?

Historic Stagville out on Old Oxford Road may be a good stop.

A national historic site, the plantation was among the largest before the Civil War and was once home to about 900 slaves. To help celebrate Black History Month, Stagville and the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill are hosting a nighttime astronomy/history lesson, called Under the Stars, in African night sky myths and legends—stories slaves shared on the plantation.

If a different kind of storytelling is preferred, say for the family genealogist or individuals interested in local family trees, Stagville is also compiling genealogy information on its slave community that could be helpful to descendants and genealogists – many probably still in the area. To learn more about the compilation project, to find names or to help Stagville staff with information on the project, visit their website.

So, a trip out in the county not exactly your style? Maybe the Hayti Heritage Center’s Heritage Film Festival is.

From Feb. 12 – 15, the festival will celebrate “works of, by and about people of African descent” in support of the newest crop of talented filmmakers. Films this year follow themes like political awareness, family and romance.

To get more in touch with African-American culture, to learn more about the festival or to see a list of film screenings visit www.hayti.org.

Sticking with the film/documentary theme, the “Long Civil Rights Movement” project also offers a treasure trove of information regarding the region’s role in the movement.

The LCRM is collaboration between several local universities, UNC-CH, N.C. Central, Duke and N.C. State that have spent the past few years digitizing civil rights documents for general everyday online access.

The project digitized some 400,000 pages of local history including newspaper clippings, speeches, documents, photographs and other information relative to each institution.

With universities, churches and community organizations acting as catalysts that eventually forced racial integration, many local historical events like sit-ins and marches, were collected and are well documented.

The information provided documents the civil rights movement in not only the 1950s and 1960s; the period usually associated with the civil rights struggle, but in a broader sense the “longer” movement stretching from the 1930s through the 1980s.

The “Long Civil Rights Movement” includes monumental historical events that affected black and all disadvantaged people like Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal on to the social, economic and environmental justice movements of the 1980s that still continue today.

Using words penned by local civil rights legends, such as NCCU founder James E. Shepard, or info about local citizens, including photos and business records from the White Rock Baptist Church records – some dating back to the 1880s—the LCRM provides a chance to become familiar with events one might not know about.

Looking to get even more in depth?

To find a rare book, manuscript or photograph, there may be no better place to visit then NCCU’s University’s archives located in the James E. Shepard Memorial Library.

And then there are always more traditional, maybe simpler ways to explore local black history.

Maybe take a brief walk on Parrish Street, our nationally renowned “Black Wall Street” and continue on to the Durham History Hub on Main Street. Both are places where black history can be found interwoven in the city’s past.

History is in plain sight right in the backyard.

It only takes a few moments, an afternoon at most, to knock some black history, American history and Durham history off the list.

Carlton is the VOICE Teen Mentoring Coordinator and past editor of the Campus ECHO of NCCU.


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