Exhibit, program to share history of local black community

June 05, 2009
Emily Eidenier holds a copy of her book about the Rogers-Eubanks neighborhood in Orange Co., N.C.

Emily Eidenier holds a copy of her book about the Rogers-Eubanks neighborhood in Orange Co., N.C.

The research of Emily Eidenier, doctoral student in health behavior and health education at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, will be featured in a new exhibit opening June 12 in the North Carolina Collection Gallery of Wilson Library on The University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill.

The exhibit, “We’re All Family Here: Preserving Community Heritage in the Rogers Road Neighborhood of Chapel Hill,” will remain open until Aug. 31.

For 37 years, the Rogers Road community in Chapel Hill has been at the center of a public debate about the impact of the Orange County Landfill, which borders the neighborhood. The exhibit will reveal a richer portrait, uncovering more than two centuries of the community’s history.

In a free public program on June 25 at 5:45 p.m. in the library, neighborhood residents will discuss their history. Panelists for the program, “Documenting Neighborhood History in the Rogers Road Community of Chapel Hill,” will include Eidenier, community leader Rev. Robert Campbell and other community members. The program will be preceded by a reception and exhibit viewing at 5 p.m.

Campbell, a member of Faith Tabernacle Church on Rogers Road, co-chairs the Rogers-Eubanks Coalition to End Environmental Racism and is president of the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association.

Eidenier, a Hillsborough native, wrote “Rogers Road,” a book illustrating the community’s growth over nearly 20 decades. She received a Robert E. Bryan Fellowship from the Carolina Center for Public Service at UNC for work toward the book, which includes photographs, personal histories and public documents about the community’s history.

The 75-item exhibit will focus on the development of the area between Eubanks and Homestead roads from an 18th-century white neighborhood into an African-American neighborhood, said Linda Jacobson, North Carolina Collection Gallery assistant keeper. Some of the deep-rooted community families bear names familiar in Chapel Hill, including Hogan, Nunn, Rogers, Caldwell and Purefoy.

The Nunn Family, shown here in 1927, were residents of the Rogers-Eubanks community. Photo courtesy of the N.C. Collection.

The Nunn Family, shown here in 1927, were residents of the Rogers-Eubanks community. Photo courtesy of the N.C. Collection.

Early 20th-century photographs show the daily life of community members. Maps from 1891 and 1944 display the evolution of community landmarks such as Hickory Grove Church, the Orange County Training School and Morris Grove Elementary School.

“It’s about African-Americans bringing life to a farm-viable community in North Carolina after emancipation, and a celebration of a long-standing tradition of supporting one another through conflict and hardship,” Jacobson said. “We’ll focus on the recent conflicts, too, because that’s why this neighborhood is in the news. That helped bring the residents together to pursue a number of goals.”

Those goals include fighting placement of a proposed solid waste transfer station in the neighborhood and advocating for installation of municipal water and sewage services.

A slide show of 50 photos donated from community members will also be on display, as well as information on researching ancestry in North Carolina using resources in the North Carolina Collection of Wilson Library.

“I was surprised by how much the history of community members on Rogers Road reflected stories I had heard told in my own family,” Eidenier said. “I hope this research will bring to the public an expanded view of county history – one that includes the histories of African-American citizens and African-American agriculture.”

“Rogers Road” is available online at www.lulu.com, a self-publication resource. Eidenier recently received a grant from the Chapel Hill Historical Society to publish copies of the book and distribute them to public libraries and high schools in Orange County, and to Morris Grove Elementary School on Eubanks Rd.

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Read more about the Rogers-Eubanks neighborhood in Carolina Public Health magazine (Spring 2009) .

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or ramona_dubose@unc.edu.