Civil rights activists who dedicated their lives to promoting individual freedom in Chapel Hill were remembered and honored Sunday.
The town added the names of Yonni Chapman, Rebecca Clark, Rev. Charles Jones and Dan Pollitt, to a granite plate in front of the post office at the Peace and Justice Plaza.
“Some memorials are set to remember the people, but other memorials, like the one here today, are dedicated to remember the movement made by the people,” said Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The recipients were honored posthumously.
“They have left an extraordinary legacy for us,” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “Not one of them stopped working, even when they reached some success.”
One of those honored, Pollitt, a UNC law professor, worked to desegregate businesses and the University. He also helped recruit UNC’s first black basketball player.
“It is easy for us to recognize these people, but we have to remember it was not easy for them,” said N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, Pollitt’s wife.
Clark lived and worked in the town as one of the University’s maids. She was discriminated against by Jim Crow laws, but became known for encouraging black residents to vote.
“She knew how to support you, how to stand behind you, how to love you, but also she knew how to hold you accountable,” said Reginald Hildebrand, an associate professor for African and Afro-American Studies.
Chapman fought for the rights of workers and blacks and defended communists and non-communists during the 1950s, said Sandi Chapman Osterkatz, his daughter.
Jones founded the Community Church of Chapel Hill and allowed people of color to attend his service.
His granddaughter, Karen Abbotts, asked residents to not bury her grandfather’s aspirations with his ashes during her speech.
Kleinschmidt said he continues to see a vibrant social justice movement in the town.
“I think it’s because of the legacy they left us,” he said. “We have to own it ourselves.”
Courtney Wilson, a senior psychology major, said she had looked at some of Chapman’s cases in her class — and that brought her to the ceremony.
“It connected the older generations with the younger ones,” she said.
Sarah Baker, a senior sociology major, said she found the event personally relevant.
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