Keith Edwards

"You can only hold stuff in for so long."

- Keith Edwards

Keith Edwards is a native of Chapel Hill and has been a leader in the community for decades. Keith was one of the first black students to integrate Chapel Hill Junior High School in seventh grade. Ms. Keith later went on to work as a police officer for UNC Campus police. During her time as a police officer she fought and won a ten year anti-discrimination case against the University. Ms. Keith lives in her family home on McDade street and writes the monthly "Ask Keith" column in the community newsletter, the Northside News.

Keith Edwards

Carol Brooks and Keith Edwards - On the Civil Rights Movement in Chapel Hill

Carol Brooks and Keith Edwards - On the Civil Rights Movement in Chapel Hill

The interviewees provide an overview of the Chapel Hill Civil Rights Movement. They specifically note the emotion of CRM marches of Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham in 1963. They speak on Watt’s Hotel discrimination and Civil Rights leadership in the area, especially of the friendly Pottersfield neighborhood. They speak on teaching students today about the history of the marches and the diversity of their community. The interview goes on to provide insight into Lincoln High School and integration into Chapel Hill High School. Additionally, an interviewee speak on her aunt’s participation in marches and a teacher’s reactions to and participation in the marches, including Ms. Monroe's participation. Also, Hilliard Caldwell's participation. They go on to speak on the cheerleading team at Lincoln High School and the school spirit as students. The students who participated did not have any fear in marching and protesting, even to the point that the interviewees miss marching and fighting for change. One of the interviewees studied at Durham Tech and held an occupation as the secretary at UNC hospital. She worked at a pediatric ward with children and learned at church meeting how to march. Brooks was arrested twice. They speak on the Big John’s sit-in, weekend and after school marches, and balancing marching with school work. The recount singing and chanting during the protests and how Big John and his sons threw ammonia on some protestors. They specifically recall the police officer, David Caldwell and his father, David Caldwell, Sr. arresting many protesters. The interview includes the historical and emotional trauma of lynchings and Jim Crow laws. The interviewees speak about how President Obama is still disrespected because of his race as a connection to the present day. They each explain that white people who helped blacks were seen as traitors. Moreover, integration was seen as taking pride and support away from schools. They conclude the interview with an explanation of racism for the modern generation, such as Trayvon Martin’s murder. They also make other connections to the past with riots in Chapel Hill organized by radicals and how the National Guard dealt with riots. Storm Troopers started riots, and one man killed in Chapel Hill riot. Keith Edwards discusses the poor treatment she experienced after integrating into the Junior High School. Other topics include: Frank Porter Graham; fair salaries; poor whites treated harshly; ministers today; more community representation; excessive drinking; racial bullying; and the black community.
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Keith Edwards - On the importance of food

Keith Edwards - On the importance of food

This interview includes Keith Edwards’s viewpoint on the importance of food in the home and in the community.  She recalls specific recipes in the interview. Edwards was born and raised in Carrboro where Domino’s Pizza is now located. She was one of eleven children in her household, and she describes what meal planning looked like for her family with eleven children. Edwards describes her first kitchen. She recalls having to put wood or coal into a cook stove for cooking and warming the kitchen in the winter. She also recalls that Fridays were fish days for the community. The interview provides an account of food systems between black and white residents. White and black residents began buying farm grown food from each other to create an alternative food system. She describes making fried cornbread: water and cornmeal. Other recipes include tomato pudding and buttermilk biscuits. The interview concludes with a discussion of her family’s attachment to the animals they used for dinner.

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Civil Rights Story Circle - On their experiences in Chapel Hill in the 1960s

Civil Rights Story Circle - On their experiences in Chapel Hill in the 1960s

Freedom fighters Euyvonne Cotton, James Foushee, William Carter, Linda Brown, Keith Edwards, and Marion Phillips gathered upstairs at St. Joseph C.M.E. to talk about their experiences as young people in the freedom movement in Chapel Hill 1960-1964. Spurred by the recent publication of Courage in the Moment: The Civil Rights Struggle, 1961-1964 by James Wallace and Paul Dickson featuring previously unknown images, the participants recall marches and non-violent protests as well as police harassment, arrests, and imprisonment. They also credit the support they received from friends, families, and churches for the strength it took to continue the struggle.
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Keith Edwards - On the future of Northside and the impact of the Jackson Center

Keith Edwards - On the future of Northside and the impact of the Jackson Center

Keith Edwards discusses the impact the Jackson Center and student organizations on the Northside community as well as the challenges posed by ongoing gentrification of the neighborhood brought about by the conversion of single family homes into high occupancy student accommodation. Edwards expresses pessimism regarding the fate of Northside as a functional African-American neighborhood due to the inability of longtime residents and their heirs to afford property taxes or outbid investors. She reflects on the changing attitudes of student residents in Northside, contrasting the technologically-induced solipsism she observes in contemporary students with the activism displayed by students during the Civil Rights movement. Edwards observes that white residents have never had to bear the costs associated with integration- the loss of social institutions- and notes the irony in the area's current high property value. She comments on the necessity of the Jackson Center and like organizations in the wake of the failure of churches to execute their role as guardians and political leaders of the black community. Also addressed is the complicity of the town government in the current affordable housing crisis through its willingness to issue permits to developers. Edwards closes by predicting the total displacement of African-American residents within five years' time (as of 2012).
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Keith Edwards - On Carrboro, gentrification, and white students' involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Keith Edwards - On Carrboro, gentrification, and white students' involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Edwards discusses her life in Carrboro and how she felt safe within the Black community but unsafe within the city of Carrboro as a whole. She recounts incidents of violence, Ku Klux Klan activity and police intimidation in the 1930s and 1950s. She moved to Chapel Hill to be provided a different, less fearful environment. The black students at local school faced bullying. The behavior of wealthy Whites was different. She discusses White students’ involvement in the fight for civil rights and the relationship between White fraternities and sororities and the Black community. She describes how the atmosphere in Chapel Hill has changed so that there is less student involvement in the community. In her childhood, there was frequent violence in Chapel Hill, and less diversity. The wealthy citizens drove diversity to outskirts, and made it difficult to preserve the community. UNC is partially responsible for the destruction of the community because they’ve purchased homes and land for student housing, driving up prices, and facilitation the process of gentrification. Banks refused to grant loans to Blacks for houses.
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Keith Edwards - On housing and gentrification in Northside

Keith Edwards - On housing and gentrification in Northside

Keith Edwards has lived at the same address on McDade St. in Northside since she was born but now resides in a different house, built with support from a development grant that Chapel Hill received in the early 1970s. She became the first black female police officer at UNC in 1974 and later won a discrimination suit against the University after a white male officer with less experience was promoted over her. This interview was done as part of the “Histories of Homes” initiative of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History. Topics include: procedure for condemned houses, real estate companies in Northside, and relationship with student neighbors. The interview focuses on property tax increases and the resulting gentrification that Carrboro and the Northside neighborhood in Chapel Hill are experiencing. She speaks on her childhood, home, building a new house, and the difference between a house and a home. Northside was seen as a safe space during integration with the solidarity that existed in the community. Race relations in Chapel Hill and Carrboro are a pressing topic considering the history of Civil Rights in the area.  The interview concludes with a description of Bank of America’s discriminatory lending, current regressive trends, racial solidarity in economic crises, how Northside has changed, and white allyship.

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Keith Edwards - On race in Chapel Hill compared to Carrboro

Keith Edwards - On race in Chapel Hill compared to Carrboro

This interview is part of an oral history project called Southern Communities: Listening for a Change: Mighty Tigers--Oral HIstories of Chapel Hill's Lincoln High School. The interviewes were conducted from 2000-2001, by Bob Gilgor, with former teachers, staff, and students from Chapel Hill, N.C.'s Lincoln High School, the historically black secondary school that closed in 1962 when a school desegregation plan was implemented. Interviewees discuss African American life and race relations in Chapel Hill, as well as education, discipline, extracurricular activities, and high school social life before and after integration.
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Keith Edwards and Barbara Ross

Keith Edwards and Barbara Ross

This interview is part of a group of interviews conducted by Susan Simone exploring the lives and struggle of various members of the Northside community: a historically black and primarily residential neighborhood located immediately northwest of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and downtown Chapel Hill, NC. The community has long been involved in a struggle to prevent developers from buying up property to build new and expensive housing developments that would break up the black community and drive low-income residents out of Chapel Hill, as Northside contains the majority of the remaining low-income housing in the city.
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