The North Carolina Civil Rights Trail is adding three historical markers to the trail system. The trail will physically mark sites across the state that are critical to the Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina.
The N.C. African American Heritage Commission is leading the initiative with funding from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, and with support from Visit North Carolina and from the North Carolina Office of Archives & History. The commission will work with communities across the state to designate up to 50 sites where trail markers will be placed. An interactive web portal will highlight these places and others to guide people to history and experiences from the past.
The first three markers will be located in Cleveland, Hertford, and Lenoir counties. They will mark:
• New Ahoskie Baptist Church in Ahoskie, North Carolina, where church members led 1960s civil rights efforts. Their word expanded access to public offices, resources, and employment.
• Adkin High School in Kinston, North Carolina where students walked out in protest of inferior facilities. Their protests eventually led to the construction of new classrooms and a gymnasium.
• The February 1960 sit-ins in uptown Shelby, North Carolina, which were led by local high school students.
The markers themselves will be installed during the summer of 2021. Local community groups including the Chowan Discovery Group, New Ahoskie Baptist Church, Adkin High School Alumni and Friends Inc., and the City of Shelby applied for the markers in hopes of bringing recognition to the history of their communities.
“We are delighted to be a part of this milestone moment for the N.C. Civil Rights Trail,” said Deryn Pomeroy, the William G. Pomeroy Foundation’s director of strategic initiatives. “These first three trail markers are the culmination of tireless efforts given by many individuals, organizations and communities. We commend them for highlighting this significant history and helping to make the N.C. Civil Rights Trail a reality.”
“The national reckoning over systemic injustice heightens the relevance of our effort to develop the N.C. Civil Rights Trail,” said Angela Thorpe, director of the African American Heritage Commission, which is part of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “Understanding what has come before will inspire and fuel the work ahead. We need to hear the voices and proclaim the victories that have brought us this far.”
“Those sites underscore North Carolina’s role in channeling student energy into the movement,” said Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell. “We’re excited about providing a more comprehensive look at what has unfolded across the state and give residents and visitors an opportunity to share the experience.”
Forty to 50 sites will be designated with at least 10 in Tier I and 2 rural North Carolina counties in alignment with Gov. Roy Cooper’s Hometown Strong initiative.
Thorpe expects the trail to include a wide array of locations, including established historic sites as well those that may only be known more locally. One example is the YMI Cultural Center in Asheville, which was commissioned in 1892 for Black construction workers employed to build and furnish the Biltmore estate. Funded by the Vanderbilts, the Young Men’s Institute became a center of civil, cultural, and business life in the neighborhood known as The Block.
Other candidates include the Montford Point Marines Museum, which tells the story of the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps (1942-49), and the Montford Point Marines Memorial in Jacksonville; the Pauli Murray Center in Durham, where the influential lawyer, Episcopal priest, and activist for civil and women’s rights grew up; and the Historic Magnolia House in Greensboro, a Green Book site that hosted Black entertainers, icons, and civil rights leaders.
The new round of applications for the program are open now through October 2021.
About the N.C. African American Commission
Created in 2008, the African American Heritage Commission works to preserve, protect and promote the state’s African American history, art, and culture for all people. Its endeavors include the identification of heritage sites, compiling resources for educators, extending the work of national programs such as the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom Underground Railroad, and independent initiatives, including Oasis Spaces: Green Book Project. aahc.nc.gov.
adapted from a news release from the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.