Civil Rights in Chapel Hill, Photographs by Jim Wallace

Jim Wallace was one of several photographers on the ground during the civil rights struggle in Chapel Hill from 1961-1964, a movement led by local Black youth who attended the segregated Lincoln High School.  A student at UNC at Chapel Hill, Jim was a photojournalist for the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, which he describes as—at the time--particularly invested in calling out the injustice of segregation policies that prevented the as yet small number of Black students at UNC from walking across Franklin St. and sitting down to eat.  Jim gained unprecedented access to the struggle.  As you can see in these images, he was able to shoot from within the garage of the jail, from the second story of the building that housed the jail, and from inside police barricades.  He credits this, on the one hand, to the Chief of the Police, William Blake, who was an avid reader of Gandhi and who Jim believed wanted an accurate picture of what was happening in Chapel Hill.  On the other hand, Jim was a link between the Black leaders who sought media coverage (except for the DTH, little was forthcoming) and the police, who knew Jim knew where the next sit-in would be and followed him there.  (See James Wallace, “Photojournalism and Its Role in Shaping and Preserving Local History,” Keynote for the MCJC Civil Rights in Chapel Hill Weekend, November 2012, and Hutchins Lecture, Center for the Study of the American South,

How did the Jackson Center obtain these images?  They were gifted to us by Jim in the process of developing his important book, Courage in the Moment:  The Civil Rights Struggle 1961-1964 (2012), which features a selection of his photographs with text by Paul Dickson, former UNC student body president.  The book itself has a story.  As Jim was preparing for retirement from his 25-year role as Director/Curator of Imaging and Photographic Services at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., he revealed to his friend Lonnie Bunch, Director of the new National Museum of African American History, that he had a trove of images from his days covering the freedom movement in Chapel Hill.  Mr. Bunch describes his encounter with Jim’s collection in the Foreword to Courage in the Moment

"I had seen many of Jim’s photographs so I thought I knew much of his portfolio.  I must admit that when he brought many of the images that comprise Courage in the Moment into my office, I was stunned.  As Jim discussed each photograph I became more excited not only by the extraordinary visual quality of the images but also by their content.  Before the meeting had ended I knew that many of these images needed to become part of the permanent collection of the museum.  Fortunately for me, Jim agreed."

Bunch also encouraged Jim to pursue book publication.  But Jim had a problem.  While he could identify many of the police officers and white students in the photographs, he couldn’t do the same for most of the Black organizers and local participants.  In 2010, he connected with the Jackson Center, which then held 2 open houses in the basement fellowship hall of St. Joseph C.M.E., at which civil rights leaders, and their families, children, and neighbors began to sift through the 100 or more photographs that covered several folding tables, putting names to faces.  And then, as Jim recounts, “a very interesting thing happened”: 

People--younger generations . . . who weren’t here or were too young to be part of the civil rights movement, were looking at my photographs on these card tables at St. Joseph’s and saying “I had always heard about this but I had never really seen it.”  And then they would turn to some of the older parishioners who were there—because many of the marches started at St. Joseph’s—and they would go up to them and they would say “What did you do during the struggle?”

Answers to this question are relayed in the oral testimony of activists who grew up in historically Black Northside neighborhoods available on this site, particularly in the Chapel Hill Civil Rights Oral History Collection. 

Jim’s photographs are important for many reasons, not the least of which is their power to spur critical conversation across generations.  With rare intimacy, they reflect a movement uniquely led by teenagers who drew on principles of non-violent organizing and alliance to persist in courageous, escalating protest.  They also reveal the intransigence of white supremacy in a town renowned as a liberal beacon within the South.

All photographs are included here with the direct permission of Jim Wallace. 



 Arthur Beaumont reaches for a demonstrator blocking the entrance to the Woollen Gym parking lot.

Several weeks after the Chapel Hill Board of Aldermen failed to pass a public accomodation ordinance, the Chapel Hill Freedom Movement retaliated with a series of sit-ins and marches. Sit-ins blocked the exits to the Woollen Gymnasium parking lots.

 Sit-in at the exit of Woollen Gym parking lot

The sit-in at the exit of the Woollen Gym parking lot brings cars to a standstill after the end of the UNC-Wake Forest basketball game.Ruby Farrington is on the far left wearing a white hoodie. Sitting next to her on the ground is Annie Riggsbee, with her head facing away from the camera talking to…

 Arthur Beaumont drags a sit-in protestor away from the entrance to the Woollen Gym parking lot.

This is the entrance to the Woollen Gym parking lot. There was a protest after one of the ball games, where protesters blocked people from leaving Fetzer Field where they parked. Police dragged protesters away, including this UNC student.

 Students and townspeople line the intersection in front of the Chapel Hill Town Hall

Students and townspeople line the intersection in front of the Chapel Hill Town Hall to watch as arrested demonstrators are brought to the jail.

 Protestors plant themselves in a crosswalk on Franklin Street

Protesters plant themselves in a crosswalk on Franklin Street.TT Foushee is on the far right holding a sign that says “We reserve the right to refuse service to JIM CROW.” The uniformed men are police officers.

 Protestors march and sing in Chapel Hill

Pictured are Otto White, Ophelia Johnson, Kenny Farrington, Carolyn Farrington, Cynthia Hines, and Johnny Robinson

 Members of several rights organizations stand in front of the Chapel Hill Post Office

Members of several rights organizations stand in front of the Chapel Hill Post Office. They led this holiday march on December 7, 1963. Carrying letters addressed to political leaders to urge anti-discrimination legislation, they requested that fellow Chapel Hill citizens follow suit and "Send…

 Hilliard Caldwell

Hilliard Caldwell, one of the leaders of the Chapel Hill Freedom Movement, during a protest march on Franklin Street. Hilliard Caldwell was later elected to the Board of Aldermen in Carrboro, the town adjoining Chapel Hill.

 "Give Freedom for Christmas"

Bubba Riggsbee is walking in the front of the line, holding the “Freedom for Christmas” sign and wearing a light colored polo shirt and dark colored cardigan. The gentleman on the right behind him wearing glasses and a suit may be a student, because students always wore suits around campus. This…

 Chapel Hill - Carrboro Merchants Association Credit Bureau Chamber of Commerce

 "No More Uncle Tom"

Ms. Avery Brewer is holding the “No More Uncle Tom” sign. She was a resident of Lindsey Street, and was a wonderful cook. Mrs. Avery worked at Chapel Hill Cleaners for a number of years and during the time of the civil rights marches, she was noted to say "they want us to clean their clothes but…

 Eat at Joe's Protest

This was part of continuous protests of all of the segregated restaurants and lunch counters downtown. The Long Meadow Milk truck in the back was used as a paddy wagon to take people to the police department, because department did not have any at the time. The owner of Eat at Joe’s, one of the most…

 Offerings collected after a protest

Protestors line up in First Baptist Church to donate money into a church offering plate. Donations were always taken after rallies, to help pay bail and get everything needed for marches. The donations were not collected for the church.Sheila Bynum Florence is on the far right at the front of the…

 Man carried away by police at a protest

A UNC student is carried away during a protest.


Harold Foster is the man with his fist raised and his back towards the camera, talking to the crowd. Anita Booth is on the far left, wearing a button-up collared shirt with vertical stripes. Larry Foushee is to the right of Anita Booth, in the front row of the protestors wearing a printed short…

 Durham to Chapel Hill Walk for Freedom