February is Black History Month, a time to recognize and celebrate Black leaders who have not only shaped North Carolina’s history but are also shaping its future. Some of these leaders — teachers, parents, activists, community organizers, and more — are Fletcher partners and we want to lift up their incredible contributions that have brought North Carolina along on the path toward a more just and equal society.

This month, we’ll highlight episodes from our podcast Conversations at Fletcher, allowing listeners to hear directly from Black leaders about their personal stories that have led them to their life’s work, such as David Reese, President and CEO of the East Durham Children’s Initiative. We will also share episodes of UNC-TV’s Biographical Conversations that highlight a few of the many notable leaders throughout North Carolina’s history, including famed historian and activist John Hope Franklin.

This month is also a time to reflect on racial injustice in North Carolina and across the United States, while honoring North Carolina’s uniquely strong civil rights history.

Once home to slavery, the Wilmington Massacre, Jim Crow, segregation, lynching, redlining, and many more instances of violence against Black communities, North Carolina is also home to many sites of resistance. The sit-ins in Greensboro in 1960 beginning with four NC A&T students protesting segregation at a Woolworth’s store counter is one of the most well known actions of the civil rights movement. SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, emerged from a meeting at Shaw University in 1960 and became a central organizing force in the civil rights movement. The Hayti district and “Black Wall Street” in Durham became early sites of successful Black businesses and produced several civil rights leaders. North Carolina is also home to some of the earliest and most prestigious historically Black colleges and universities, including North Carolina Central University, St. Augustine’s College, Shaw University, and NC A&T, among others.

Each city and town has struggled with its own history of racial oppression and civil rights efforts, and we encourage you to learn more about the unique history of where you call home.

Though much work has been done and there are many leaders working actively against it, race continues to play a role in our society. Communities of color face structural barriers in access to education, health, and housing, as well as in legal, political, and environmental spheres. These are ongoing issues that many of our partners are working to address, and we encourage you to listen to their stories and learn more about their important work.

For information about racial justice issues, civil rights histories, to hear from Black leaders, to add your voice to the conversation, or learn about events and ideas for celebrating Black History Month, we offer you these resources and encourage you to continue exploring and thinking about these topics every month of the year.


Photographs:

  1. John Hope Franklin, Biographical Conversations
  2. Woolworth’s Store, Site of 1960 Civil Rights Sit-In (Photo by David via Flickr Creative Commons)
  3. Jakari, KIPP Durham Scholar, Pride of 2023
  4. Reverend Barber, Current NC NAACP President (Photo by Neeta Lind via Flickr Creative Commons)
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