Listening to Our Elders

posted in: Blog | 0
Mr Braxton Foushee


At the core of the Jackson Center’s education work is the Community Mentor Team. These Northside and Pine Knolls elders are the best sources for local African-American history and the best communicators of that history to young people, most of whom have never heard about the major impact local civil rights activists had on Chapel Hill. Their voices and narratives tell a more complete, truthful story and disrupt the popular narrative of Chapel Hill as the “Southern part of Heaven.” The connections Community Mentors make with students by telling their stories — live!– in classrooms lets all kids know about the abundance within the African-American community here and the importance of acting to challenge injustice. Community Mentor and former teacher, Ms Gwen Atwater, put it like this: “By us going into the classroom and telling students about our lives, it shows the students that they can do the same thing. They need that encouragement. The children need to see us.”


At the first Community Mentor Team meeting of the school year in late August, mentors from Northside shared some of their most memorable stories: 


Mr Braxton Foushee: “The time of the civil rights movement [1960-1964] was a creative time when some changes needed to be made, and we decided we were going to make those changes and never look back. We didn’t think it was a big deal. I think we accomplished what we set out to do, to make a change in town. I’m very proud of what we did.” 


Rev Albert Williams: “John Carswell [the owner of Colonial Drug on Franklin Street] knew everyone in the community. So when we began to protest, he said, ‘I’m going to give you all a few minutes to leave.’ And we didn’t. And that’s when he called the police, and they put us under arrest and served warrants later on. He put us on a $10 bond and that’s what stirred it up.”


Mr Ronnie Bynum: “When I was growing up, once you crossed the tracks where Cat’s Cradle is in Carrboro, you were in no man’s territory, as we called it. You didn’t cross the tracks after dark. In second grade at Carrboro Elementary, I was chased by Klan members off the bus and into the school.” 


Ms Pat Jackson: “I have had the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of a lot of people in my community and church. Because I felt so proud of my community, my church, my town, I made it my business to let everyone know that this is MY town. I consider it my life’s mission to make sure history is not forgotten.”


Ms Linda Carver: “When the civil rights movement came around, my father told us we could not go, because he had to deal with a lot of business and he didn’t want to lose his white customers. If we went out there and if we had been seen, they could have shut his business down. So we would sneak and go. I thank God that we did it, because we would have missed out on that opportunity. I don’t know how many times children now have the chance to do something that powerful.”


“There are a lot of people who try to tell our story, but when it really comes down to it, we’re the only ones who can tell our own story.”  Braxton Foushee

Side quote:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *