Oral History

Thomas Merritt - On his family history, the importance of land ownership, and life prior to and after integration

Interviewed by MCJC Staff on December 1, 2017

"Know what history really is. Know what history is all about. Dig deep."

- Thomas Merritt

In this interview, Mr. Merritt gives an overview of his family history in Chapel Hill and Carrboro by sharing memories of his childhood while discussing larger social shifts at work. Starting with a description of his family’s land, he explains the practice of land theft and its later influence on his father’s insistence on land ownership. He reflects back on the Black-owned businesses that used to thrive in the community like Bill’s Barbecue, M&N Grille, and Danziger’s Old World Restaurant. He recalls how race relations seemed peaceful prior to the integration efforts of the late 1960s. Yet his childhood memories with white friends contrasted his experiences of hatred at Chapel Hill High School. He notes that this division was intentional and meant to reduce communal power. While reflecting on his own spiritual and political journey, he encourages listeners to seek the truth and find their freedom.

Thomas Merritt - On his family history, the importance of land ownership, and life prior to and after integration

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Oral history interview of Merritt, Thomas conducted by MCJC Staff on December 1, 2017 at Marian Cheek Jackson Center, Chapel Hill, NC. Processed by Gilbert, Madison.

Citation: Marian Cheek Jackson Center, “Thomas Merritt - On his family history, the importance of land ownership, and life prior to and after integration,” From the Rock Wall, accessed July 21, 2024, https://fromtherockwall.org/oral-histories/thomas-merritt-on-his-family-history-the-importance-of-land-ownership-and-life-prior-to-and-after-integration.

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Ms. Esphur Foster

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In this Oral History