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“We the People are All Immigrants.”

“Immigrants Make America Great.”

“No More Separation of Families.”


The North Carolina Lambda Youth Network, abbreviated NCLYN, was established in downtown Durham in July of 1996 as a youth-led, statewide leadership development network for LGBTQ youth ages 13-24. The Lambda Youth Network provided young people with an open, identity-affirming space, in which Durham’s young LGBTQ community could be nurtured as leaders and community organizers.

Today, this school building is seemingly ordinary – students with backpacks chat with their friends, struggling to carry their textbooks and school projects, as the busses line up outside on the street. Durham High School, founded in 1922 and now known as Durham School of the Arts, was a crucial site in the fight for school desegregation.  

Duke student led protesters to the Durham Draft Board donned in the somber black robes of the specter of death. Across the country, these coordinated protests were designed to call attention to use of deadly toxins in Southeast Asia and the death of young draftees.

Certain events are so monumental that they define the soul of a generation. Where were you when the planes hit on 9/11?  What were you doing when MLK was cut down by a sniper’s bullet? Such defining moments unite us all through our most basic commonality—being human. Black and white alike, Americans across the nation reacted with sorrow and anger to the news of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on April 4, 1968.

Thomas Hocutt, a Black student from Durham, wanted to become a pharmacist. But in 1933, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill denied his application to their Pharmacy school on the basis of race. Attorneys Conrad Pearson and Cecil McCoy took up his case and with the support of the NAACP, filed a suit against the University. This was one the first attempts to integrate higher education in the United States. Despite their best efforts, the case known as Hocutt v Wilson was dismissed because Durham officials withheld Mr.

It was a little chilly, but a beautiful day, the morning of November 29th, 1968. Everyone was lined up on Fayetteville Street as the yearly Christmas Parade began. The high school band played all of the best Christmas carols and performers were festively dressed to the nines.

It is impossible to miss the grand steeple topped with a Haitian vevè and the elegant stained glass windows of the Hayti Heritage Center as you walk down Fayetteville Street. Once the home to the congregation of the historic St.

Imagine a center of creativity and collaboration during the fight for civil rights; a place where leaders and protestors alike could come to stay the night and share their passions. Now imagine a family home on Roxboro Street, does that match up with what you had in your head? Maybe not but the McKissick family home, known as the “Freedom House” or the “Do-Drop-Inn,” served as  “action central headquarters.”

Throughout the 1960s, the East-West Durham Expressway came charging into Durham to make the city a hub of urban renewal. As the highway forged its path through the Bull City, planners were unaware of a major roadblock ahead. The center of Durham’s 200-household Crest Street community was the New Bethel Baptist Church. Located west of Old West Durham, the church was established in 1879 and served as a pillar of community strength and organization. When the expressway threatened to dismantle the church and its neighborhood, citizens took action.

Singing songs and carrying signs that read, “To Make Democracy More Than a Word,” students marched from North Carolina College to downtown Durham, where they entered restaurants and stores that upheld segregation policies. The passionate students refused to disperse until the police hauled 130 of them off to jail. The date was May 18, 1963.

The black community began protesting to integrate this signature athletic park, home to the Durham Bulls Baseball Club in 1957 when the first two black players, Bubba Norton and Ted Richardson, were added to the roster.

1957 in Durham was a year that hosted both the preservation of segregation as well as the onset of integration. At this time, the Durham Athletic Park resembled most recreational sites downtown. It mainly catered to the entertainment of whites but did have segregated seating for blacks.

El Centro Hispano (ECH) was founded in 1992 to advocate for and address the needs of Durham’s growing Latinx and Hispanic community. By 1997, ECH became an independent nonprofit, and in 2000, it was a partner in the opening of the first Latino Community Credit Union (LCCU) in the state. ECH has grown over the past 30 years from serving 200 people to serving thousands. It is now the largest grassroots Latinx organization in the state, with branches in Durham, Carrboro, and Raleigh, North Carolina.

El Chino Latino serves as a half restaurant-half night club, providing patrons with hybrid Chinese Latin American food and drag shows, dancing, and drinks. Open since before the early 2000’s, El Chino Latino represents a unique intersection of the Chinese, Latinex, and LGBT+ communities. Historically, the queer community has been a crossroads of people of all races, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds, from transgender women of color to homosexual Jewish men.

Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) is a Durham-based non-profit organization committed to fostering collaboration and understanding between students and farmworkers in order to promote justice in agricultural systems and equitable, safe, and dignified working conditions for farmworkers.

Feminary was a Southern Feminist journal, written and edited by a Lesbian Feminist women’s collective in North Carolina’s Triangle Area between 1969 and 1982. “Feminary” was actually the publication’s third name, succeeding “The Research Triangle Women’s Liberation Newsletter” and “The Feminist Newsletter.” The journal’s founders—most of whom were graduate students at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the time—originally designed the newsletter to help feminist groups in the Triangle Area communicate with each other.

“Your Neighbor is a Slumlord.”
“High Rent for Firetraps.”
“My Children Sleep with Rats.”

Protesters with painted signs bearing these word marched outside both Abe Greenberg’s office and home during the summer of 1966 in response to his unwarranted hikes in rent and disregard for the needs of his tenants by not meeting Durham’s housing codes. Most of the demonstrators were low-income black women, who, out of frustration, even tried to appeal to Mrs. Greenberg’s sympathy by describing the inadequate living situations of their children.

 “This is a real travesty of Justice.” The travesty of justice, which Eugene Hampton Junior was referring to, was the Bacon Street Project and the racial tensions in Durham surrounding public housing policy. On July 20th, 1967, a group of 300 African Americans marched the 10 blocks from St. Joseph’s Church to City hall  “to demonstrate to the white folks we [African Americans] could march peacefully,”

A safe space to gather, a safe place to unite. A place to be proud of your identity.  In 1971, eight years after Betty Freidan’s publication The Feminine Mystique provided a manifesto for the movement of second-wave feminism in the United States, the Durham YWCA opened its internally-sponsored Women’s Center. The program was first led by YWCA program committee chair Muriel Smith, with the original intention of simply creating a Women’s Library focused upon literature on women’s rights and history.

Durham has made a commitment to its youth since the founding of the John Avery’s Boys & Girls club. In the spirit of John Moses Avery, the John Avery Boys & Girls Club reflects a sense of community in Durham for African American youth and Avery’s pursuit for equality of African Americans and enforcement of his beliefs. John Moses Avery was a North Carolina native and tireless champion for the residents of Durham and used his influence as a member of the AME Church and a resident as well to empower and promote the values of education and the significance of family unity.

Lincoln was the only hospital within a 25-mile radius of Durham that would treat African Americans until the early 1960s when Watts Hospital integrated its wards. Before this integration, Blacks often turned to midwives and home remedies for their healthcare. Dr. Stanford Warren, John Merrick, and Dr. Aaron Moore, Durham’s first Black physician, founded Lincoln hospital in 1901 so that the African American community had its own medical facility where Black physicians and nurses could practice and receive training.

Geer Cemetery is the final resting place for many notable members of Durham and North Carolina’s Black community including Edian Markum, founder of St. Joseph’s A.M.E. Church, Margaret Faucette, the founder of the White Rock Baptist Church, and Augustus Shepard, whose son founded North Carolina Central University. But it all started in 1876 when an 11-year old boy working on the farm of Jesse Geer was accidentally killed by a horse, and his family requested that the child be buried under a tree near the site of his death.

“What shall we teach our children about race and race relations?” This question from Wallace Nelson, a Cincinnati representative of the Congress for Racial Equality, silenced the Hillside High School Parent-Teacher Association meeting on January 14th, 1952. 

iNSIDEoUT 180 empowers LGBTQ students in high schools across the Triangle. Run by the youth with adult support, the organization plans Queer Prom and helps students organize new Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) organizations in their schools. They often meet with resistance, but also give youth a strong voice and a safe place to be themselves.

Jackson: iNSIDEoUT is a network of local GSAs in the Triangle and it organizes events and basically unifies all of those high schools and even some of the universities.

In 1927, Marian Anderson, a famous African-American opera singer, performed at the Carolina Theater to a Black and white audience. Despite being granted admission to this event, Ms. Anderson’s Black fans were forced to enter through a different door, pay at a separate ticket booth, and use seats that required walking up three extremely steep, unsafe flights of stairs.

The Durham Lesbian and Gay Health Project (LGHP) was founded in 1982 “to openly and affirmatively promote individual and community well-being of gay men and lesbians…”  Founders David Jolly, Carl Wittman, Timer McBride, and Aida Wakil wanted to connect gay men and lesbians with gay-friendly physicians and more information about their health needs, given that the HIV/AIDS crisis was looming, revealing deep homophobia in the healthcare system.

Sign 1: “Don’t give into fear seek truth”
Sign 2: “Hatred hurts us all”
Stop 3: “Stop vigilante violence”
Sign 4: “It is not acceptable to kill people because they are gay. It is not acceptable kill people at all”

On Friday, April 17th, 1981, 125 men, women, and children held up these signs and others as an act of protest in front of the Durham County Judicial Building. Their demands were universal, but their presence that day publicly denounced an incident of violence in their own community.

Affirming faith communities are very important to many lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. Imani MCC is one of those communities since its founding in November of 1977. Imani, meaning faith in Swahili, is open to all people including members of the LGBTQ community.

“Had I not found Imani, I think I would have been dead.” 

“Venir acá es como estar en el desierto y llegar a tomar agua. Al venir acá, me siento renovada.”

Coming here is like being in the desert and finding water to drink. When I come here, I feel renewed. — El Futuro Patient

How powerful is silence? Can you really promote a cause by not saying anything at all directed toward authorities? North Carolina College students did just that. They vowed to fight against segregated serving policies through silent and peaceful protest. They would stand up, or, rather, sit down, for their rights. Following the February 1st sit-in protests in Greensboro, Durham students took charge.

In 1969 local activist Howard Fuller along with a group of Duke students founded Malcolm X Liberation University in an old hosiery mill in downtown Durham. Fuller and the students were unhappy with Duke's progress toward equal resources for black students and the formation of a black studies department, common concerns at the time in universities across the US.

Mechanics and Farmers (M&F) Bank was established in 1907 to advance African American progress and build economic power. It is located in a National Historic Landmark building on Parrish Street, once known as Durham’s Black Wall Street.  Its founders—R.B. Fitzgerald, J.A. Dodson, J.R. Hawkins, John Merrick, Aaron M. Moore, W.G. Pearson, James E. Shepard, G.W. Stephens, and Stanford L.

On October 9, 2011, Occupy protests were taking place in over 95 cities across the world. In mid-October, the movement found its way to Durham, North Carolina, a city that in recent years had had to battle against social economic disparity and gentrification. Occupy Durham has devoted the last three months to fighting for financial freedom through a series of initiatives, one being the Move Your Money campaign. On November 22, I had the pleasure of chatting with Aurelia D'Antonio, organizer of the Durham Move Your Money Campaign at Francesca's, a locally owned coffee shop.

Recorded music was an important tool for Durham's African American community and their fight for civil rights. Snoopy's Discount records, open in the 1960s and 1970s provided access to a studio and an outlet for record sales. Led by Jimmy Liggins, this effort was an economic generator and a gathering place for local black musicians.

In August 1962, four students protesting racial segregation at the Howard Johnson Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor were arrested and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Later that same month, more than 1,000 people staged a follow-up demonstration and the following spring, in May 1963, the crowd grew to more than 4,000 people demanding that African Americans be served with the same courtesy and access as white patrons. It was the largest protest to date in Durham’s history.

Durham’s LGBTQ community used political activism to propel their fight for liberation into the public eye in the early 1980s. They were moved to action by two hate crimes: the murders of the Greensboro Five at a Communist Workers Party anti-Klan demonstration in 1979, and the anti-gay assault and murder of Ronald “Sonny” Antonevitch in April 1981 which led to a vigil at the courthouse. Debbie Swanner and David Ransom organized “Our Day Out,” North Carolina’s first gay and lesbian march a few months later as a response to these hate crimes.

It started with a murder, then a march, and now a parade. These are the words of John Short, the executive director of North Carolina Pride. Ronald Antonevitch’s 1981 beating and murder sparked a vigil, poetry readings, and North Carolina’s first gay and lesbian march, known as “Our Day Out.” These actions brought LGBTQ hate crimes to the headlines of Durham newspapers and to the forefront of Durham’s consciousness.

Pauli Murray, influential 20th Century human rights activist, grew up in Durham's West End neighborhood. Murray was a lawyer, feminist, poet and Episcopal priest.Her childhood home was named a National Treasure in 2015 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

A year long boycott of Mount Olive Pickles by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee began in 1999. One local leader, Joan Priess, led this effort at a local Kroger Grocery. Donning a pickle tiara she founded the Triangle Friends of United Farm Workers and mentored many young activists.

“Don’t spend a nickel on a Mount Olive pickle!”
“Justice for farmworkers!”
“Hasta la Victoria!”
“Just because the label says ‘k’ doesn’t mean they’re kosher.”

On February 8th, 1968, the police shot and killed three unarmed Black student protesters and injured dozens of others at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. In the aftermath of this massacre, civil rights leaders organized coordinated demonstrations in cities across the South. However, the Durham Orangeburg Protest marks the only such demonstration that became violent, an exception to the city’s long history of nonviolent protest. 

Lawyer and civil rights activists Floyd McKissick proclaimed, “Tenants cannot be evicted without due process,” when he heard that community organizer Joyce Thorpe had been thrown out of her public housing unit for working to empower low-income black women. As a citizen, she is entitled to fair treatment in the judicial system, and public housing agencies must provide explicit reasons for evicting tenants.

African American leaders in Durham understood the power of the word. They knew their community needed a safe haven where they could gather to read, learn, and discuss ideas. Thus was born the Durham Colored Library, later renamed as the Stanford L. Warren Library. 

"Church World Service Exists because they recognize that human rights are violated in countries where these people are fleeing from, so I would say human rights activism is a core value of Church World Service." Since 1946, this refugee resettlement organization has been working earnestly in partnership with community partners and volunteers to welcome more than 80,000 refugees across the country including more than 200 refugees to the Triangle each year.

Lunch counter sit ins by young people in Durham were inspired by the moving speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Durham's White Rock Baptist Church in 1961. 

“Did the roof fall in today?” Mayor Mutt Evans asked the manager at Woolworth’s five and dime in the downtown Durham in July 1960. The business had just served a Coke to its first black customer. It was the start of a new era for the Bull City  and as Durham’s first Jewish mayor, Mutt Evans was uniquely equipped to navigate the period’s racial tension and lead Durham towards a brighter future.

In 1969, there were only 85 Black students among Duke University’s undergraduate population of 6,000. The University was one of the last major institutions to integrate. Without a significant number of Black faculty or University leadership, the students had to advocate for themselves. They wanted an African-American studies department, a Black student union, protection from police harassment, and increased enrollment and financial support for Black students.

"It takes a village to build a village and sometimes it takes a village to build an individual house" [Philip Azar]

A Ku Klux Klan leader and a civil rights activist becoming best friends? Who would have thought? Certainly not CP Ellis and Ann Atwater, but this is exactly what happened after a meeting was organized to discuss the status of Durham public schools.

CP Ellis was the president of the KKK in Durham and Ann Atwater was a black civil rights leader. They were complete opposites in ideology, race, and ideas about racial rights and power. The only two things they had in common were their low economic status and their power in their respective communities.

Duke University Hospital workers fought for the opportunity for collective power in the face of an institutionally discriminatory Duke Hospital Administration… With worker’s rights  movements buzzing around Duke’s campus starting in the late 1960s, the Duke Medical Center was on the verge of drastic changes. In 1974, Duke Medical Center workers had finally reached their tipping point.

A silent vigil by 125 Durhamites of all races, faiths, and sexual orientations met 63 members of the KKK when they marched through downtown Durham on June 14, 1987. Wearing checkered arm bands, the coalition powerfully announced their disapproval of this blatant display of hatred.

On Sunday, June 14th, 1987, sixty-three members of the Ku Klux Klan marched through downtown Durham chanting “K-K-K! K-K-K!,” Across the state, Klansmen branches in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro were also rallying to grow their ranks by recruiting new members.

Village of Wisdom (VOW) is a Durham community organization that seeks to uplift Black youth by closing the academic opportunity gap between students of different races and cultivating a positive racial self-concept for Black children. To eliminate racial injustice in education, VOW develops resources and tools for students, teachers, and parents to support Black students in their intellectual pursuits and encourage curiosity.