Civil rights beyond MLK weekend

If you’re interested in the Civil Rights movement, including information on visiting historic sites, there’s a wonderful book just out called “On the Road to Freedom: A Guide Tour of the Civil Rights Trail,” by Charles E. Cobb Jr. (Algonquin, $18.95). The sub-sub-title is: “The Marches, the Book cover On The Road To FreedomStruggles, the Triumphs, Speeches, Profiles, 150 Photos, Maps, Web Sites, and 400 Historic Sites.” Unfortunately, there’s no accompanying website, but the book is absolutely worth buying to learn about black history and civil rights sites in DC and the South.

Author Cobb will be touring in DC and the South almost daily through February and a bit beyond.

It’s funny. Folks talk about how racist the South is, but I’ve lived in the Tampa, Fla., and Boston areas, and now Durham, NC, and Durham is by far the most integrated place I’ve experienced. And it’s interesting, isn’t it, that the majority of Black Enterprise Magazine’s “Ten Best Cities for African Americans” are in the South. (None are in the north!) This makes me proud.

Absolutely, the South has had more than its share of atrocities. Like the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot, where riots broke out after blacks registered to vote and some 22 people were reported dead, all black. Only this year did our state leaders express “profound regret” about that awful chapter in history. Growing up in Raleigh in the ’60s, I remember how segregated we were. I was bussed to an “inner city” junior high school, which for me was an eye-opening experience.

After moving back to North Carolina in 2003, and especially since living in racially mixed Durham, I’ve been much more aware of the fight for black equality here, and have visited many sites, including the former Woolworth department store in Greensboro, where on Feb. 1, 1960, four students held one of the first sit-ins; and Parrish Street, aka “Black Wall Street,” the commercial strip in Durham that was home to many black-owned enterprises. There’s now an advocacy group working on the Parrish Sreet Project to commemorate its history and spur economic revitalization along a central downtown corridor. You can learn all about it during Preservation Durham’s free walking tours April through November.  So y’all come on over for a spell.

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