Oral History

David Caldwell, Jr. - On activism (clip)

Interviewed by Darius Scott on September 23, 2014

David Caldwell, Jr. (DC): We brought up the fact that they were not keeping the promises that were made. We would go to meetings to voice our protest and, I mean, we were met with disgust and disdain and, “Why are you guys back here again?” [Sound of train passing, whistle blowing] We were bringing signs and bottles of water to show this is what our water looks like. And, I mean, we were actually told one time that by one of the board members, that, My kids can’t drink this, but yours can because they’re used to it. And we were really blown away by that.

So, when we started to develop tactics, we got involved with different groups and bringing in other people, UNC being one, epidemiology, and the health department, and things. They came in and taught us, okay, how to N.C. State and Duke were involved how to take water samples, how to label them, how to read the results, how to do a power point, how to do these presentations when you went before the governments, what the next stages were, how to analyze the air. I mean, we had million-dollar equipment that we were able to get out and do it. And this was all with no money. I mean, we would work out ways of getting a grant to do we could only test the water for certain things, so we could only test for what we could afford. So, we ended up leaving a lot of things off. But we ended up getting published. We ended up writing a book. We ve been published in several articles, our research.

So, we've learned a lot and, as a result, we've traveled around the state and the country teaching other communities how to organize and how to do and telling our story. And for so long, we thought we were by ourselves. We got involved with the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. And I'll never forget my first summit I went to. There were so many people that were so much worse off than we were, that the government was not helping, and didn't know what to do. And they would come in and say, Well, what about this? And we were able to say, Look, let me save you a couple of years. We already did that, and this is the way you need to do it.

They would say, Well, these guys, well, RENA or the Rogers Road, they're experts! And we would say, No, we're not experts. We've been in it long enough where we've made all the mistakes, so we know what will work and what won't work. Now, if that makes us an expert, we'll be an expert. We just consider ourselves as knowing our situation, knowing it very well, and trying to help others in it.

David Caldwell, Jr. - On activism (clip)

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Oral history interview of Caldwell, Jr., David conducted by Scott, Darius on September 23, 2014 at Chapel Hill, NC.

Citation: Southern Oral History Program, “David Caldwell, Jr. - On activism (clip),” From the Rock Wall, accessed July 21, 2024, https://fromtherockwall.org/oral-histories/david-caldwell-jr-on-activism.

Rights: Open for research. The Southern Oral History Program (SOHP) welcomes non-commercial use and access that qualifies as fair use to all unrestricted interview materials in the collection. The researcher must cite and give proper credit to the SOHP. The SOHP requests that the researcher informs the SOHP as to how and where they are using the material.

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