African-American History

photo of Joseph R. Winters
Joseph Winters

For some, the election of America's first black president marked the victory of a long-fought struggle for racial equality.

Michelle Lanier

Michelle Lanier’s roots in North Carolina are so deep that she describes “every branch of her family tree having at least a sapling that crosses into the state.” She has a great-grandparent who preached at the oldest black Episcopal church in the state, one who was salesmen on Durham’s Black Wall Street, and one who helped establish the state’s first black high school.  

'Loves in need of love today' in Stefanie Jackon's 'Orpheus Soul Brothers' series
Stefanie Jackson

Artist Stefanie Jackson thinks of her drawings as works of fiction; they express emotions and evoke memories, but they focus on telling stories instead of documenting factual events.

Much of Jackson's work stems from important historical moments in African-American history that directly touched her own life, like the economic decline of Detroit, Michigan, or the devastation of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Charmaine McKissick-Melton at a ceremony for Sigma Tau Delta, an English honor society.
Chi Brown / NCCU Office of University Relations

In 1963, the Durham School Board extended the desegregation of schools to elementary school students. Third-grader Charmaine McKissick-Melton and her brother, Floyd Jr., were two of the first African-Americans to integrate North Durham Elementary School.

Marco Williams is a filmmaker and film educator. Here he is filming Lloyd Knight, Marth Graham Dance company for the film Echo.
Marco Williams

Note: This is a rebroadcast from earlier this year.

Marco Williams is a filmmaker who is not afraid of telling stories that others don't want to tell. 

He has produced more than a dozen documentaries exploring race, death, violence and the American psyche. His work has earned him an Emmy, a Peabody, and a litany of other documentary awards.

Image of a plate of soul food, including fried chicken, mac and cheese, collards, and fried okra.
Flickr/Jennifer Woodard Maderazo

Adrian Miller calls himself a “recovering lawyer and politico turned culinary historian.” He went from working as a special assistant to former President Bill Clinton and a legislative director for former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to becoming a soul food scholar.

“Practicing law was not the thing for me,” Miller says.“I was singing spirituals in my office, so I figured I needed to do something else.”


2015 marks the 50th anniversary of key moments in the civil rights movement, including Bloody Sunday and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Marco Williams is a filmmaker and film educator. Here he is filming Lloyd Knight, Marth Graham Dance company for the film Echo.
Marco Williams

Marco Williams is a filmmaker who is not afraid of telling stories that others don't want to tell. 

Image of actor Alphonse NIcholson playing the character Abel Green in Frieght.
Nick Graetz


A new one-man show by playwright Howard Craft tells the story of a man who exists in five incarnations at different points in American history. 

Raleigh Little Theatre

In popular culture, the term cakewalk means anything that is effortless and easy.

African-American children's book "Tobe"
UNC Press


First published in 1939 by UNC Press, the picture book Tobe was a rare children's story featuring an African-American protagonist.

The book follows a boy who works hard on his family farm. The story uses the real photos of people who lived in an African-American township just outside of Greensboro called Goshen.

The book gave a historical glimpse into African-American communities in North Carolina, but left open questions about what happened to these families in the decades to come.

The book, "Jim Crow Wisdom," (UNC Press/2013) explores stories black Americans tell about their past and the way those stories inform modern black identity. 

Dixie Highway Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900 to 1930 / UNC Press


Before the 20th century, Southern roads were little more than rubble and dirt. Traveling from county to county was difficult and state to state was near impossible. The Dixie Highway, constructed in 1915, shifted control and funding of road regulations from local government to state and federal authorities. 

Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men Of The South / Sweet Tea The Play

Television shows like Glee, Will and Grace, and Modern Family portray gay identity as white, northern, and secular. But that was far from E. Patrick Johnson's reality growing up in Hickory, North Carolina. Johnson decided to travel across the South to unearth stories of African American gay men and document his findings in the book Sweet Tea: Gay Black Men of the South (UNC Press/2008).

State of the Re:Union - Re:Defining Black History 2014
State of the Re:Union

The public radio program State of the Re:Union has a lofty goal. They want to tell the story of America, one community at a time.

On Monday January 20 at noon and 8 p.m. WUNC will present a State of the Re:Union special called Re:Defining Black History 2014. (Listen to the show here.)

Wikimedia Commons


Many people know that during the Trail of Tears, tens of thousands of American Indians were forced to walk to Oklahoma.


When Patricia Harris became leader of the North Carolina Department of the American Legion, she was the first African-American and the first female to take the post. 

UNC Press


The struggle for education equality in North Carolina was hard-fought for more than four decades.

It was not only a struggle for facilities that were equal to white schools, but a fight for integration and civic inclusion. Host Frank Stasio talks with Sarah Caroline Thuesen, author of “Greater Than Equal: African American Struggles for Schools and Citizenship in North Carolina, 1919-1965,” and a professor of history at Guilford College.

Bill Ferris' new book, The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists, presents 40 years of interviews and photographs.
UNC Press

For decades, Bill Ferris documented Southern African-American folklore.  His latest book The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists presents material from 40 years of interviews with writers, scholars and artists who reflected southern culture in their work.

Elizabeth Cotten conducting a guitar workshop at the 1968 Newport Folk Festival / flickr

In the early 1900s in Carrboro, a young Elizabeth Cotten took her brother's handmade guitar from under his bed.

She started playing the instrument upside down - with her right hand on the fret and strumming with her left hand. The young woman went on to become a famous blues and folk musician. Next weekend, Carrboro will dedicate a historic marker to honor Cotton’s legacy and ties to the town.

Culinary Historian and Judaics Scholar, Michael Twitty / Afroculinaria

This summer, celebrity chef Paula Deen’s use of the N-word stirred controversy. Food historian Michael Twitty wrote an open letter to Deen criticizing her appropriation and misinterpretation of African-American culinary tradition. Twitty will cook and speak about his work at Historic Stagville Plantation's Harvest Festival in Durham this Saturday, September 7th.  

America's Music is a film and performance series at the North Regional Branch of Wake County Libraries.

America’s Music is a film and performance series that traces the soundtrack of a nation. The program features documentary screenings and discussions about the history of 20th century American popular music from blues to Broadway and bluegrass to rock 'n' roll. 

The International Civil Rights Center and Museum faces ongoing financial struggles, and the Greensboro mayor wants the city to take it over.
Jeff Tiberii

The International Civil Rights Center and Museum opened in Greensboro nearly three and a half years ago.  A national sit-in movement began on February 1st, 1960 at an F.W. Woolworth lunch counter on Elm Street, and today that site remains a commemoration and celebration of a chapter in American history.

The film adaptation of Frank Yerby's 1946 best-selling novel, The Foxes of Harrow.

African-American literary authors like James Baldwin or Zora Neale Hurston are famous for their depictions of black life. But these novelists have also written books with white protagonists. Why is this unexpected? Is there a mandate that black authors write only about black characters?

The original deed book of slave records from Buncombe County.
Max Cooper, via

During the Great Depression, the New Deal funded a project to collect the narratives of former slaves.  Sarah Gudger came forward to give an account of her life as a slave in Buncombe County.  Her testimony was the same brutal story that is familiar to many of us.  She described a “hard life” of nothing but “work, work, work,” under the threat of abuse.