Theme

Work and Labor

Working at the University has been a source of pride and resentment for Northside neighbors who built the early dorms, hospital, South Building, laid the brick walkways, hauled washing water from the “old well” to students in Old East, did copious amounts of laundry 7 days/week for $14 (which could go up to as much as twice that with the grueling “piecework” or pay-by-the-piece that came in with so-called liberal labor policies in the early 1940s), and continue to maintain its grounds and facilities. As Rebecca Clark has so pointedly said, “we were doing then what we were taught to do, work for a dollar.”

Neighbors also organized their labor power. Kennon Cheek, George Washington, and others founded the University’s first union, the Janitorial Association, which fought for and won the right to work for up to 56 hours per week and a one-week “vacation” benefit. They joined in the efforts of the CIO to form Local 403, the regional chapter of the new State County and Municipal Workers Association (SCMWA) in 1930. They struck against the treatment of food service workers, setting the ground for the Housekeepers Association in 1991 and its movement for fair wages and working conditions. When federal funding required UNC hospitals to diversify its staff in the early 1970s, women especially found new opportunities in nursing, medical technologies, and administration, and created an informal network of care across a hospital setting that had, until just a few years earlier, refused access to Black patients.

And many led distinguished careers. Robert Revels founded the first Mechanics Shop. Velma Perry supervised maintenance at the Carolina Inn. For 35 years, Belinda Caldwell was the “Voice of Carolina” at UNC’s switchboard. From her post in the office of the Dean of the UNC Law School, 1975 to 2003, Ms. Esphur Foster supported and schooled many of the region’s most prominent attorneys. Keith Edwards was UNC’s first Black female police officer. Professor Charlene Regester continues to teach in the Department of African, African-American,and Diaspora Studies.

But it’s a mistake to identify Northside too closely with the University. Doing so can perpetuate liberal myths of dependency and distract from the vibrant economy residents built within and beyond the neighborhoods.

Northside residents like R.D, Smith, Catharyn Butler, and Freda Andrews have always been revered teachers. The great tradition of music education at Lincoln High produced artists like Bubba Norwood and Prince Taylor. Artisans like Ezra Barbee and William “Smitty” Smith continue to be some of the most sought after masons in the area. Black entrepreneurs created hotel, food, and entertainment venues. Neighbors still run small farms, direct funeral homes, keep barber shops, and lead churches, civic/social organizations, and non-profits. Men didn’t always come out of the Army or Navy with the same new skills as their white brothers-in-arms but they turned what experience they had into careers as cooks, mechanics, and police officers. As Senator Val Foushee points out, the church gave its youth a second education in public speaking and political life—and set an abiding model for service in ministry (Morris Hogan/timeline, Heavenly Groceries, Rev H) and municipality (Wilson Caldwell/timeline, Howard Lee, Fred Battle, Nate Davis,Hilliard Caldwell)--or both. Across the board, residents hail the wealth of neighborhoods steeped in traditions of care, mentorship, apprenticeship, and self-sufficiency—even when the dollars didn’t always match up. As Raney Norwood reminds us,”If you called me poor, even back then, I couldn’t find anywhere for that word to fit in our vocabulary. My brother and I, when we sit down and talk now, we feel rich.”

Work and Labor

To learn more...

 Amanda Ashley - On food during her childhood and learning to cook

Amanda Ashley describes her experiences with food in her childhood as the interviewer introduces the Food Ministry. Amanda shares how her mother’s occupation as a nutrition teacher influenced her food intake. Food in her household was less processed. Amanda describes her learning experiences in…

 Betty Baldwin Geer - On her family, work experiences, and gentrification

"Thirteen years old and I gave my hand over to God. I've been in church ever since. Of course when you go off to college, you kind of drift away, but you always come back. I loved it. It was a good experience for me. It has always been a good experience for me." - Betty Baldwin Geer This interview…

 Betty King - On growing up in Chapel Hill, family, and Lincoln High School

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…

 Brentton Harrison - On growing up in Northside, Heavenly Groceries, and the Jackson Center

This interview provides Brentton Harrison’s early biographical information, reflections on his father’s life as a Reverend and his life growing up in Northside including participation in a band while in high school. He shares his involvement with Heavenly Grocery, overseeing the Pancake Jamboree at…

 Brentton Harrison - On his time at the Jackson Center

“It doesn’t feel like work, it feels like a calling, a mission, or a purpose." - Brentton Harrison Mr. Harrison is bidding farewell to the Jackson Center after 10 years of service to join the Hargreeves Community Center. With the whole staff bidding him farewell and asking questions, it leads to…

 Charlene Regester - Speaking about life in Northside and time at UNC

This interview with Professor Charlene Regester is part of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center’s Oral History Trust conducted by two UNC students in conjunction with their performance and culture course taught by Professor Della Pollock. Professor Charlene Regester is an associate professor at UNC in…

 Charlene Smith - On her childhood, parents, education, student behavior, school integration

“What we had students don’t get now as easily. There’s something missing now for many of the kids…when I attended Lincoln there were Black role models around me everywhere…there were Black people around you, which you always had a sense of family, and a sense of community, a sense of safety, and a…

 Clarke Egerton - On his education, band, and teachers

"It was a chance for the students to say “look mom what I can do” and it gave them so much pride to be in a marching band, and everybody was just delightful. We all stepped together, we played music together, and it’s just a wonderful feeling. I just get goosebumps thinking about it right now. -…

 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…

 David Caldwell, Jr. - On his career, community, and the Rogers-Eubanks neighborhood

In the interview, Caldwell touches on the following points: his early family life on Rogers Road, which was underdeveloped and exploited; his experiences of discrimination and inequality at Phillips Middle School and Chapel Hill High; attending NCCU on a basketball scholarship; time in the air…

 David Caldwell, Jr. - On his parents, civil rights, and law enforcement

In this interview, David Caldwell, Jr., begins by discussing past generations of Caldwells that came from Chatham County and lived first on Merritt Mill Road, then Durham, then Northside. His family moved to Rogers Road in 1963 when land became available to African-Americans. A major topic is the…

 Delaine Norwood - On her childhood, family, and education

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…

 Delores Bailey - On her family home and preservation of community

Bailey describes the family history in the house she grew up in around 1975. She goes on to explain the expansion and uniqueness of the craftsmanship. She shares the memories from the neighborhood and the change of neighborhood over time. She has service involvement in the neighborhood to keep the…

 Donna Bell - On her family, career, and Northside

Chronological overview of Donna Bell’s life history; being raised in New Bern, NC; growing up in a single parent home; her undergraduate experience and involvement at UNC; career choices through studying English to working in Social Therapy; her move to Northside in 2001, her first house, her…

 Donny "Hollywood" Riggsbee - On growing up in Chapel Hill, segregation, and his work experiences

Donny ‘Hollywood’ Riggsbee, resident of Chapel Hill, gives his biography during his time in in the town. He describes his youth, growing with 10 siblings, how his mother worked in a kitchen and how the kids worked while growing up. He talks about racial experiences in the form of his employer (Big…

 Doug Clark, Sr. - On growing up in Chapel Hill and high school

Doug Clark, Sr., a musician, was born in Chapel Hill in 1936, where he lived in a close-knit Black neighborhood and attended Orange County Training School, which became Lincoln High School. He reflects on his family life and experiences growing up, such as seeing lines of Black children walk to…

 Edna Lyde - On the African American freedom struggle and Civil Rights Movement in Chapel Hill

"People have got to stand up for themselves. Black or white. If you don’t stand up for yourself, ain’t nobody going to do it for you." - Edna Lyde Edna Lyde, born in 1928 in Darlington, SC, recounts how being Black impacted her experience within her family, at the workplace, and in her community in…

 Edwin Caldwell - On the events leading up to school integration

“One of the most difficult times I had was looking [after] and protecting teachers. I felt like that was my job. Man, you know, teachers need to have some independence to be able to do what they need to do, and I let them know that I was going to protect them. That’s why teachers came to me when I…

 Elizabeth Carter - On growing up in Carrboro and school integration

“Because usually it ended up, truly, even though the schools were integrated, the classrooms were segregated, because whites were on one side and Blacks were on the other. Same typical thing, if you think about now, if you go into integrated situations, that people tend to migrate toward people that…

 Everett Goldston - On teaching before and after 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…

 Frances Hargraves - On childhood, family, education, and teaching

"I remember my mother always told me, 'Whatever job you must do, be sure you give it your best.' She said if it’s sweeping the floor, washing dishes, anything, do it your best. And as I grew, that was her philosophy - always give it your best. And I still carry that philosophy." - Frances…

 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…

 Fred Battle - On the African American freedom struggle and Civil Rights Movement in Chapel Hill

Audio recordings of interviews conducted by Yonni Chapman with participants in the African American freedom struggle and the civil rights movement in and around Chapel Hill, N.C.

 Gladys Pendergraph

 Gloria Warren - On growing up in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, family, and education

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…

Heavenly Groceries

"Reverend Harrison was seeing that they were throwing away the day-old food at the Food Lions and then it became, 'How is this happening? So much food is being wasted. Why are we not surplussing this food and giving it to the need for the community?' And that is how Heavenly Groceries started at St.…

 Howard Lee - On education policy, politics in Chapel Hill, and desegregation

Lee, who was elected mayor of Chapel Hill in 1969, 1971, and 1973 talks about education policy, politics in Chapel Hill. Overview of Chapel Hill and Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools in early 1960s; closing of Lincoln High School; disparate concerns of black and white communities during his 1969 mayoral…

 Howard Lee - On politics and Black electoral progress in the south

This interview is part of a project conducted from 1973-1975 by Jack Solomon Bass and Walter De Vries with political leaders, journalists, editors, party officials, political scientists, campaign directors, union officials, and civil rights leaders from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia,…

 Howard N. Lee - On his political career, race, and class

This interview is part of a project done from 1995-1997, aimed at understanding how North Carolinians have dealt with post-Great Depression changes. Overarching themes are the realignment in North Carolina party politics and the Republican reemergence, the evolution of African American political…

 James Foushee - On the Civil Rights Movement, family, and Northside

Foushee speaks on growing up in Northside which includes his educational experiences, and his family overview. He goes into the dynamics of his relationship with his aunt. Furthermore, he talks about his relationship with his neighbor. He takes the listener through the beginning and organization of…

 Keith Edwards - On growing up in Carrboro and the role of teachers

“The thing I remember the most coming up in the Black community, the Black community supported the schools, not only financially, but they also supported the schools by parents having involvement in the children’s schooling.” - Keith Edwards Keith Edwards was born in 1950 and grew up in Carrboro and…

 Mark Royster - On his family, community, and church

Rev. Mark Royster is the minister of Cedar Rock Missionary Baptist Church in New Hill, NC. He has spent decades working as a banker (VP of SunTrust), minister, school board member (leader of the Blue Ribbon Task Force), and community developer and activist in Orange County, and has strong ties to…

 Mary Manning - On her childhood, education, and segregation

“Church had a good influence on my life." - Mary Manning Mary Manning was born in Carrboro on Birch Street and moved to Chapel Hill. She reflects on her childhood and her life living in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. She mentions several memories of her growing up in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. She only…

 Mary Norwood Jones - On her experiences at Orange County Training School

“First of all, I think that any person who comes to this community to teach in the school system should have a tour of Chapel Hill prior to teaching, so that they will know where the different neighborhoods are and what the neighborhoods are all about. They should know where the historical places…

 Nate Davis - On the Hargraves Community Center

Nate Davis remembers that during his childhood, the Hargraves Community Center as a safe space to hang out and play sports with friends, and now, after years of working first part time and then full-time for the Center, he is the director. Davis tells the story of Hargraves starting in the 1940s. It…

 Parrish Brothers, owners of one of the oldest African-American owned farms in Orange County

The Parrish brothers’ farm is one of the oldest African-American owned farms in Orange County. Here, they pose behind the truck they bring into town each day to Northside to pick up expired food from “Heavenly Groceries” to use on the farm to feed the animals and make sure that nothing is wasted.…

 Polly McCauley - On growing up in Chapel Hill and her educational experiences

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…

 Rebecca Clark - On the African American freedom struggle and Civil Rights Movement in Chapel Hill

Audio recordings of interviews conducted by Yonni Chapman with participants in the African American freedom struggle and the civil rights movement in and around Chapel Hill, N.C.

 Regina Merritt and Mary Cole - On land ownership, integration, and racism

“My parents always taught us you know who you are, no matter what you say to me or what you call me, I know who I am. And that stayed with me for years. Because people are going to talk about you, you cannot stop people from talking. They can say what they want to say to you, but you know who you…

 Rev. JR Manley Speaks

Rev. JR Manley speaks at a Sustaining OurSelves meeting in 2011.

 Robert Campbell - Speaking about community, faith, and activism

Min. Robert Campbell is a well-known local activist who was raised by his grandparents in the Northside neighborhood. He attended Northside and Lincoln and was in the first desegregated graduating class at Chapel Hill High School (Class of ’67). He moved to Rogers Road in the 1970s where he has been…

 Robert Lee Campbell - Speaking on his childhood, faith, and environmental justice

“All God's people coming together and then you hear the voice that said, "I went to the mountain top and what did I see?" I saw all God's people coming together, black, white, red, holding hands and chanting "peace and unity. What do you want? Justice!" And just to hear that echo and look around and…

 Robert Revels - On influential people in his life

Throughout this interview, Mr. Revels discusses the most influential people in his life as being the Danziggers, his mother and father, and his grandmother. He touches on a lot of lessons he’s learned from each of these individuals throughout the interview, such as the importance of work and…

 Robert Revels - On working in the food industry

This interview includes the interviewee’s background and his occupational history with food. He considers his first kitchen to be at the Carolina Inn in the 1940s and 1950s. His favorite dish to cook at the Carolina Inn was roast beef. Revels states that his favorite place to cook at was the Zoom…

 Sheila Florence - On her childhood, education, and school integration

“Lincoln High. That was the school back then. Everybody couldn’t wait to get to Lincoln High School.” - Sheila Florence Sheila Florence, a nurse lab technician, grew up in Chapel Hill during the 1950s and 60s. She reflects on her experiences growing up in the Northside district, attending Northside…

 Shirley Bradshaw - On her childhood, education, 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…

 Shirley Davis - On her childhood, education, 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…

 Sylvester Hackney - On growing up in Chapel Hill and school integration

“For me, high school was a good experience because I had my friends. We were in this big environment, and we had to stick together. We learned to love each other and care about each other. We didn’t know it, but we were nurturing each other.” - Sylvester Hackney Sylvester Hackney, a native of rural…

The Lenoir Strike:  A Story of Food and Fearlessness

The UNC Food Workers Strike, or what is commonly known as the Lenoir Strike, of 1969 catalyzed concern about the working conditions of cafeteria workers at UNC, many of whom were Northside residents. Led by Mary Smith and Elizabeth Brooks, the nearly year-long strike put gender and race at the…

 Thomas Bell - On growing up in Northside, involvement with the community, and the Civil Rights Movement

Thomas Bell, a long time Northside community member and employee at Hillsborough Prison, attended Lincoln High School immediately before the desegregation of Chapel Hill public schools. He reflects on growing up in the Northside (walking to high school football games in Carborro, playing at…

 Thomas James "Bubba" Norwood - On growing up in Carrboro and playing music in bands

Thomas James “Bubba” Norwood was born in Durham in 1942 and grew up in Northside and Carrboro. At seventeen, he went on tour with the Ike and Tina Turner Revue and went on to play with bands including The Monkees and Albert King, before ultimately returning home to Carrboro. He reflects on growing…

 Thurman Couch - On his childhood, family, and school integration

This interview with Thurman Couch covers growing up in Chapel Hill during high school in the 1950-60s. He attended Lincoln High School before it was shut down in 1962, and then he attended Chapel Hill High School. Couch reflects on his lifestyle, neighborhood, family, religion, school, football…

 Velma Perry - On the history and future of Northside

In the interview Ms. Perry discusses the early history of the Northside community going back to the founding of the University and the introduction of slaves to the area. She then goes on to describe her family history, including her grandfather’s work as an undertaker and a carpenter who built many…

 Virginia Jones - Speaking about her education, career, and family

This interview is part of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center’s Life History Series. Ms. Virginia has grown up in Chapel Hill and lived here her entire life. She was born on Mitchell Lane. She is the 10th of 10 children. Her mother worked at UNC at Chase Hall and her father worked within landscaping.…

 Walter Durham - On school integration, his childhood, and race

“[Lincoln] was a school that you could go in and… no paper on the school campus. Hallway shines like new money all the time. You could drink out of the commode in the bathroom. And it was kept just that clean.” - Walter Durham Walter Durham discusses growing up as part of a large family on his…

 William Carter - On school integration and the Civil Rights Movement

William Carter discusses the movement and his background. He was born in the Bronx, New York in 1949 and discusses his heritage with a grandma being a Lumbee Native American and father being an African American. Carter moved back to North Carolina because his aunt was in poor health and he discusses…

 William Smith - Speaking about his masonry career and business

William E. Smith, also known as Smitty, grew up in Durham with his parents and seven brothers. His strongest influence growing up was his grandfather, who he spent a great deal of time with – including helping out on his farm in Orange County. He graduated from Hillside High School, which he…

 Willie "Brad" Bradshaw - On his childhood, education, and career coaching sports

“If you have good football teams, it permeates throughout the entire school and it helps the other things that you’re going to do come up to par, come up to snuff or whatever you want to call it. It cuts down on a lot of discipline problems. Kids want to do more in school, because they see the…
"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