Contested space
Place

Carolina Theater

"Let's reflect back to Chapel Hill...that's where you had the Varsity Theater, Carolina Theater, in Chapel Hill. Then we had a Rialto Theater in Carrboro, on the main street. That was a Black theater. But here again, if it left scars on me, the scars are there for me, it's the fact that I would have to pass these theaters to go to the Rialto Theater."

- Fred Battle

"My parents—we didn't do the movie scene. I don't ever remember going to the movies. So even when we were sitting in at the Carolina Theatre, I had not actually experienced going to the movies. So I didn't have the experience of sitting upstairs in the balcony. So I don't—I can't relate to those kinds of activities because we never did them—you know, I was never allowed to do that. And that's why I said earlier I think I lived rather a sheltered life because I didn't do some of the things that many people in Chapel Hill probably did."

- Clementine Self

Carolina Theater opened in Chapel Hill, NC in 1942 as a segregated movie theater serving whites only. In early 1961, the theater showed Porgy and Bess , which featured an all-Black cast, but would not allow Black patrons to purchase tickets. The local community organized sit-ins there and at the Varsity, Chapel Hill's other downtown movie theater. In the fall of 1961, the Carolina Theater agreed to allow Black university students to attend showings, and ultimately integrated in response to community pressure in March of 1962.

Carolina Theater

Tags: ,

Citation: “Carolina Theater,” From the Rock Wall, accessed February 4, 2023, https://fromtherockwall.org/places/carolina-theater.

To learn more...

Carlton's Rock Pile

"That was a very bad experience, because about four or five of us walked in, and Buddy Teagert was the leader, and he said 'sit on the floor..." And then the owner came over and said 'There’s dirt on the floor, I’m going to mop it'” and then he started to pour ammonia on people, hold their nose. So…

 Clementine Self - On her childhood, civil rights, education, and school integration

“I was going for my education, I was really going to make a statement that I’ve integrated this school–or desegregated, it was never integrated–desegregated the school. That was my goal.” - Clementine Self Clementine Self is a former student of Lincoln High School in Chapel Hill, NC. She discusses…

 Clyde Perry - On his childhood, family, education, and integration

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…

Colonial Drugstore

"...we had Colonial Drugstore, the Rock Quarry, a number of other restaurants around here that we were able to desegregate. And what it caused, students, with the leadership of some adults like Hilliard Caldwell and some others, we began to demonstrate and ask the peoples for service at the lunch…

Dairy Bar

"Big John, who was known as the most racist drugstore guy, you know, you couldn't, he didn't allow blacks to come in there and do anything in his store. He had made it known that he was a racist, so when you walked down his street you had to look for him, when you walked past the drugstore you had…

 Fred Battle - On his childhood, education, sit-ins, and school integration

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…

Lenoir Dining Hall

"I’ll never forget, down at the university when I worked in the food service, they were picketing in Lenoir Dining Hall, Chase Cafeteria, and the Student Union. We all had to group together because they didn’t want to pay us minimum wage, and the hours were so long. So, a guy came in from Georgia…

Memorial Hospital

"And that was 1952, when the hospital was opened. That's when jobs really became available. And then, if you got a job at the university hospital, twenty-five dollars a week, a hundred dollars a month. That was a long way from paying seven dollars a week." - Rebecca Clark "My grandmother didn't do…

The Pines Restaurant

"As a kid I worked for The Pines down there, where they didn't let no Blacks come in there and eat, and my mommy and my daddy worked back there in the back. By the time I was a senior in high school, you had broken the rule where they could, Blacks could come there and eat." - Thurman Couch Located…

Trailways Bus Station

"Me and my Mom used to go to the Trailways bus station to catch the bus to Durham ~ they had black, well it was "colored" back then, on one side and "white" on the other, and we had our place on the bus, we had our water fountains for coloreds and our bathrooms for coloreds, and we figured that's…

Varsity Theatre

"My dad, when we was growing up he worked at the Varsity Theatre as a janitor, and that gave us the opportunity to go and see some of the movies. As you know, back in the early '50s and the '60s and maybe up into the '70s, you know, you were not, African Americans was not allowed to go to the…

Watts Restaurant and Watts Motel

"We may have had a few incidents, and I remember at the Watts Motel, they would throw acid and pee out the window, embarrassing. But they just didn’t want us to integrate, that was the biggest problem." - Carol Brooks "They was picketing that place because they wouldn t let Blacks go in there and…
"We’re writing our own history, thank you!"

Ms. Esphur Foster

Want to add in?  Have a different view?  What do you think? Want to upload your own photos or documents?

History is not the past.  It’s the sense we make of the past now. Click below to RESPOND—and be part of making history today.

Respond