Peace and Justice Plaza tribute


Friday, August 28, 2009 - 1:00pm


Franklin Street Post Office, Chapel Hill

To celebrate the recently-named Peace and Justice Plaza (formerly known at the square in front of the downtown Post Office on Franklin Street where we always have rallies and community events) the Town and the local NAACP are having a rally today and a reception on September 20th when they formally unveil the public marker there. I'm going to try to swing by this when I get off the bus today.

From the Town of Chapel Hill's press release:

Chapel Hill and NAACP Honor Nine Community Activists on the Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington

On Friday, Aug. 28, the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, the Town of Chapel Hill and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP will jointly sponsor the first of two programs to honor nine local peace and justice leaders.

An outdoor rally will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Peace and Justice Plaza outside the Post Office-Courthouse at 179 E. Franklin St. The program will include biographical tributes read by members of the community and remarks by Michelle Cotton Laws, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP. Following the program, there will be a reception inside the Post Office featuring light refreshments and an educational photo display.

Three weeks later, the public unveiling of a tribute marker at Peace and Justice Plaza will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20. Family members and others will speak of the nine peace and justice honorees. A reception for the families and all others in attendance will follow at the home of Chris and Sharon Ringwalt, at 8 Cobb Terrace, Chapel Hill, N.C.

The header on the granite marker reads "Peace and Justice Plaza" and commemorates nine local activists: Charlotte Adams, Hank Anderson, James Brittian, Joe Herzenberg, Mildred Ringwalt, Hubert Robinson, Joe Straley, Lucy Straley, and Gloria Williams. The quote on the marker comes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "True peace is not merely the absence of some negative force, it is the presence of justice." The Town Council has established a process to honor additional peace and justice leaders in the future.

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963. Attended by some 250,000 people, it was the largest demonstration ever seen in the nation's capital, and one of the first to have extensive television coverage.

The Town of Chapel Hill has recently increased efforts to commemorate its history from the civil rights era, when the local movement played a leading role in ending Jim Crow. The Town Council in 2006 named the plaza the Peace and Justice Plaza in honor of the energy and spirit of the thousands who have stood in the shadow of the Courthouse and exercised their rights to assembly and speech and have spoken out on issues as diverse as the Vietnam War, environmental justice, women's rights, gay rights, the death penalty, and racial justice.

From 1960 to 1964, black Lincoln High School students led a powerful civil rights movement, including weekly marches that began at local black churches and ended at the old Post Office, now Peace and Justice Plaza. UNC students joined the civil rights movement in large numbers. They became increasingly vocal in their protests of local racial segregation, legislative restrictions on free speech (the Speaker Ban Law) and national events. Students used marches, sit-ins, and strikes to support the 1969 UNC cafeteria workers strikes and to protest the Vietnam War. Charlotte Adams and other members of the local chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom led a weekly peace vigil in front of the Franklin Street Post Office that began on Jan. 4, 1967. The weekly vigils continued every Wednesday until 1973.

In February 2009, national and local civil rights leaders gathered in Chapel Hill to unveil a historic state highway marker at the corner of Rosemary and Columbia streets. This is the first state marker to commemorate one of the most important North Carolina civil rights protests before the sit-ins of 1960. The Journey of Reconciliation, known as the "First Freedom Ride," consisted of an interracial group that used non-violent resistance to test a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1946 that ruled state Jim Crow laws on interstate buses and trains were unconstitutional. Their Chapel Hill stop created national news when local segregationists threatened and attacked the Freedom Riders. Four of the riders were sentenced to the state chain gang. The incident prompted a community wide debate on Jim Crow that had lasting impact.

For more information about the Aug. 28 rally, please contact Suepinda Keith, NAACP History Committee, or 919-338-2065 or Catherine Lazorko, Chapel Hill Public Information Officer, or 919-969-5055.



 "who have stood in the
shadow of the Courthouse and exercised their rights to assembly and
speech and have spoken out on issues as diverse as the Vietnam War,
environmental justice, women's rights, gay rights, the death penalty,
and racial justice"If that is the correction location, then I'd like think I've had a hand in that.     I organized a small lgbt equality rally there after the CA supreme court ruled in favor of prop 8 standing.  I thought a court house was an appropriate spot both in its relation to a court decision being what we were protesting, and a courthouse's connection to civil marriages. That was after having a hand in helping organize earlier rallies like this in Raleigh:  and this candle light vigil/food drive in Durham at the Streets of Southpoint.    That sign has got a lot of use out of it.  It's pretty worn from all the rain and wind from some rallies its been at, despite being laminated.  But I imagine it has many more uses left in it.

Great post, Jake!  Joe Herzenberg use to be fond of saying: "There is no substitute for a seat at the table."   Important words for us to remember this fall.  You don't need to have known any of the honorees to be an heir to their work.  All of them would be so proud of your outspoken struggle for freedom.  I have fond memories of some of the folks who are being remembered with this plaza; James Brittian, Joe Herzenberg, Joe Straley, Lucy Straley, and Gloria Williams were all people who gave me a chance in 1991, when they did not have to.  I hope I live up to the responsibility.

at the Town web site: hope more of us will turn out for the September 20 unveiling of the plaque honoring community activists who used the area in front of the downtown post office to protest segregation and the Vietnam War. As, above, it's often still used for various peace and justice issues.

I happened to walk by while the actual marker was being installed in the ground yesterday morning.

I wanted to go today, but after doing a few hours of putting up campaign signs (with a brief foray into the Botanical Gardens) by the time I looked up the time had already passed.  I'd love to see pictures if anyone got more.


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