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Celebrating Black History Month in North Carolina

By Anthony S.
  | Feb 18, 2016

Self-Help’s mission is to create and protect ownership and economic opportunity for all, especially people of color, women, rural residents and low-wealth families and communities. With that in mind, we are recognizing February as Black History Month by featuring a small bit of North Carolina’s African-American history in connection with some of the cities where we have branches.



41 percent African-American (2010 US Census)

Sit-in four men at counterLunch Counter Sit-Ins Begin

On February 1, 1960, four young black men – freshmen college students on academic scholarship at North Carolina A&T State University – were refused service when they sat down at the Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. Their actions launched the sit-in movement, which challenged segregation and the unequal treatment of blacks at restaurants and other public accommodations. The Greensboro sit-ins lasted for five months before Woolworth agreed to integrate.


Lynch with PresidentLoretta Lynch

North Carolina native Loretta Lynch currently serves as U.S. Attorney General in the Obama Administration.  Appointed to the post in 2015, Lynch is the first African-American woman to ever hold the position. Loretta Lynch was born in Greensboro and raised in Durham.  Other African-American North Carolinians also serving in the Obama administration are former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx, who serves as transportation secretary, and former Congressman Mel Watt, who leads the Federal Housing Finance Agency. 



13 percent African-American (2010 US Census)

McKissick - UNC law 4 men
The first four black men to  gain admittance to UNC Chapel Hill's school of law. McKissick pictured at bottom right 

Floyd B. McKissick

Born in Asheville, NC, in 1922, Floyd McKissick Sr. became one of four black men to be the first African-Americans to gain admittance to UNC Chapel Hill’s school of law. He did so after joining a successful lawsuit against UNC in 1951. McKissick served as the National Executive Director of the Congress on Racial Equality in the 1960s, and in the 1970s, he broke ground on a planned community, on 1,800 acres of land in rural Eastern North Carolina, which he named Soul City. McKissick lived in Soul City until his death in 1991.  



20 percent African-American (2010 US Census)

Wilmington 10 - group shot b-wThe Wilmington 10

In 2013, a 40-year legal battle with the criminal justice system came to an end for nine black men and one white woman, when then outgoing-North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue issued an official pardon for the group’s accused crimes. The Wilmington 10, as they had become known, were convicted in 1972 for various crimes in connection with an arson attack on a white-owned Wilmington, North Carolina grocery store. The most celebrated of the 10 is Oxford, North Carolina-native Ben Chavis, who in 1993 became national executive director of the NAACP.


Meadowlark Lemon - Globetrotters group shot - colorMeadowlark Lemon

Born in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1932, basketball hall of famer Meadowlark Lemon is best known as a stand-out member of the Harlem Globetrotters. Known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball,” Lemon entertained the world for 26 years as a Globetrotter from 1954 until 1979.  Inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2003, Lemon passed away in Arizona in 2015. 



62 percent African-American (City Data and Censusviewer 2010)

St Luke CU 2St. Luke Credit Union

St. Luke Credit Union was founded in Windsor, North Carolina, in 1944, by members of the local African-American church of the same name.  Today, St. Luke Credit Union is a branch of Self-Help Credit Union and continues to serve the local African-American community by providing fair and affordable financial products and services to residents. 



41 percent African-American (2010 US Census)

Marker - Black Wall StreetBlack Wall Street

During the first half of the 1900’s, Durham’s black middle-class created what has become known as Durham’s Black Wall Street.  Several major businesses grew out of that success including several black-owned banks and the nation’s most successful black-owned insurance company. In the 1970s a controversial highway project cut through much of Durham’s African-American business corridor, greatly contributing to its destruction, and physically dividing the predominantly African-American “Hayti” section of Durham from the city’s downtown center. 


Ann Awater - later in life with CP EllisAnn Atwater

Ann Atwater was one of the central figures in the effort to desegregate Durham public schools in the early 1970s. Once bitterly opposed by Durham’s leader of the Ku Klux Klan, she persisted, and the two eventually became allies in the effort.  Their unlikely friendship is immortalized in the book, “The Best of Enemies.”  



68 percent African-American (2010 US Census)

Maceo with James Brown - b-wMaceo Parker

Born in Kinston, NC, in 1943, saxophone player Maceo Parker may be best known as a member of the James Brown band, which he joined in the 1960s.  Parker is credited with defining the jazz/funk fusion style of horn playing, and has received a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to music.



47 percent African-American (2010 US Census)

Laurinburg Institute bannerLaurinburg Institute

Founded in 1904, the Laurinburg Institute is said to be the oldest remaining historically African-American boarding school in the United States. Noteworthy alumni include the former Premier of Bermuda, Sir John Swan; legendary jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie; and basketball standout Charlie Scott, the first African-American scholarship athlete at UNC Chapel Hill. 


More on Black History Month in North Carolina:


Photo credits for video and photos on this page:

NC Office of Archives & History, Greensboro Historical Museum,, Doc.south – UNC,, Stateofhbcus –, Foxnewsinsider – gretawire,,,,,,,,,,,,, Durham News Service, Financial,, CharlesPaolino - wordpress,,,,,,,,,,

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