Born in 1925, Isabel Atwater has near a century of lived experience in Orange County. A self-described “country girl,” she grew up raising animals and building gardens. Atwater remembers growing up in the Jim Crow South and finding strength in the Black community and the Black-owned businesses that used to line Franklin Street. In the ‘60s, Atwater witnessed the marches and direct action demonstrations that took place Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
Isabel Atwater - On growing up during World War II, Black businesses, and Civil Rights
Ms. Atwater speaks about life growing up in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area during World War II. She shares her experiences with her husband, Roy Atwater and her education at the rural Merritt School and Orange County Training School. She was familiar with food rations throughout the time and had various occupations including the laundry business, sewing work, and cashier work. She attended church service at Mount Zion Baptist Church and also attended Civil Rights marches in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. She shares her stories of segregation and the interpersonal dynamics during Civil Rights, especially her relationships with neighbors. She speaks on the black businesses that used to be on Franklin Street that are now obsolete. She mentions the Durham Laundry the Blackwood Family; raising animals and gardens; Sutton’s Drugstore; Empowerment Inc.; community in Northside neighborhood. She concludes the interview with her thoughts on growing older.
"We’re writing our own history, thank you!"
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