Chapel Hill Civil Rights Initiative

by the Town of Chapel Hill, NC for the TLG 2019 Innovation Showcase program

Dec 19, 2018

Theme: Authentic Community Relations

Since November 2017, Chapel Hill’s Historic Civil Rights Commemorations (HCRC) Task Force has been developing and practicing innovative public history, facilitated and supported by the Town of Chapel Hill. The task force has designed a human-centered, collaborative framework to initiate and implement history projects with the explicit goal of connecting community members, history makers, and historians with local government. The history makers on the task force asked that this project begin by investigating what has been largely omitted from existing histories: the contributions of native Chapel Hillians—young, black high school students whose actions provided the catalytic spark for the direct action Civil Rights Movement in Chapel Hill. The task force presented a timeline of Chapel Hill’s Civil Rights Movement, developed using this framework, to Town Council in June 2018. Today, the project team continues to develop and implement public history projects and programs using our guiding values. We agree that our work is: Inclusive & Collaborative. We want to learn from the community through conversation and listening. We seek to find, document, and share stories that have not been fully told. We hope to bring new generations into the conversations about our shared histories. Accurate & Contextual. Resilient communities must reckon with their past in a collaborative, inclusive way. Such work allows us to enter honestly into difficult conversations about how we have arrived at our present and what we hope for our future. Transparent & Ethical. We want to honestly grapple with primary source documents, existing oral histories, secondary source accounts, and memories of living history makers. We seek to clearly document all sources used while acknowledging that history is imperfect. Our work is living history: open to new information and revision. Timely. When possible, we seek to honor our history makers for their actions within their lifetimes. 

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