A Journey Through History: 7 Civil Rights Sites in North Carolina

A Journey Through History: 7 Civil Rights Sites in North Carolina

We all know that the United States is a democratic nation. As a democratic republic, our country’s government has a responsibility to protect our interests. But when our government has failed in that responsibility, we’ve turned to civil rights movements, including right here in North Carolina.

The civil rights movements took place in many locations still standing today. Each of these sites offers a piece of North Carolina and U.S. history.

Civil Rights Sites in Durham

Hayti Heritage Center

Image courtesy of the US Civil Rights Trail.

The establishment of the Hayti Heritage Center (HHC) dates back to 1975. The organization sought to preserve the history of African American heritage and promote civic engagement through programs in the community. The HHC’s programs bridge cultural differences and unify communities through events such as Lyda Moore Merrick Gallery Exhibitions, the Bull Durham Blues Festival and the Hayti Heritage Film Festival. During COVID-19, the HHC is offering virtual programming (but also some socially distanced events).

North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company

Civil Rights Sites: North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company
Image courtesy of the NC Mutual Life Insurance Co.

North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company is the United States’ oldest African American-owned life insurance company. In 1906 the company relocated headquarters to Parrish Street in Durham and joined the ranks of Black Wall Street. Businesses and other corporations such as the YWCA have benefited from the company’s support throughout the years.

Black Wall Street

Images courtesy of Spencer Aubrey.

Durham’s Black Wall Street began to rise in the early 1900s as a collection of African American business owners and entrepreneurs. Black Wall Street borrowed its name from the New York City-based version to purposely distinguish the area as a hub for economic growth and commerce. Since the 1960s, much of Durham’s Black Wall Street and its legacy still live on throughout Parrish Street.

Civil Rights Sites In Raleigh

Shaw University

Civil Rights Sites: Shaw University
Image courtesy of Shaw University

Shaw University was founded in 1865 and has since overseen many achievements as a university.  Like what? It was the first four-year medical college in the United States and the first HBCU to admit women. Also, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), created by Ella Baker, began within the walls of Shaw University’s Etsy Hall.  So, SNCC went on to become an instrumental part of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Gardens

Civil Rights Sites: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gardens
Image courtesy of Raleighnc.gov.

The memorial gardens honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the work of many other civil rights activists were dedicated in 1975.  This 2.4-acre park was the first of its kind, and it commemorates civil rights in North Carolina with a life-sized statue of Dr. King and a granite monument celebrating other civil rights leaders.

Civil Rights Sites in the Piedmont-Triad

Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State University was originally founded in 1892.  Throughout history, the campus has played a significant role in the HBCU and Civil Rights community. One notable achievement? In 1925, Winston-Salem State University–then Winston-Salem Teacher’s College–became the first Black institution to provide nationally-recognized degrees for teachers of elementary grades. Subsequently, this change advanced the presence of African American education in the United States.

International Civil Rights Center and Museum

Image courtesy of The International Civil Rights Center and Museum.

The International Civil Rights Center and Museum sits in the original Woolworths building in downtown Greensboro.  The building was home to one of the most prolific civil rights sit-ins during the movement, preceded only by Durham’s Royal Ice Cream Sit-In of 1957.  The site features an extensive Civil Rights museum, along with the original diner counter present during the sit-in. The building is currently open during COVID-19, offering both in-person and virtual tours.

But you can find more civil rights sites in North Carolina, right?

Yes. Certainly, make sure to let us know if we missed anything. Above all, these civil rights sites in North Carolina are only a few of the many locations you can visit to learn a little more NC history.

And if you’d rather take a look at other notable ‘safecation’ sites in our state, check out our Lifestyle section. Maybe you’ll further your knowledge about North Carolina!

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