Kathy Atwater is a Chapel Hill native. Born and raised in the Northside Community, she grew up with her neighbors and has witnessed the changes her community has faced over the years.
Her stories of home, community and Northside are some of many told through From the Rock Wall, an oral history project and interactive website built for Black Chapel Hill-Carrboro to tell their living histories.
It was developed by the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History and its Community Review Board, with funding support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Mellon Foundation.
The project is named after a low rock wall built in the 1930s that sits at the corner of Cotton and McDade streets, at the front edge of the Bradshaw/Patterson family home. The wall quickly became a gathering spot for kids, their parents and, in the early 1960s, for those fighting for Black freedom in Chapel Hill.
It has become a symbol of community sustenance and struggle, according to the project’s website.
“A lot of history has been made at that rock wall,” Atwater, co-chairperson of the Community Review Board, said.
From the Rock Wall provides a platform for residents to tell their stories orally through recorded interviews, and also hosts photos, documents and maps.
Chaitra Powell, co-chairperson of the Community Review Board, said the project’s main driving principle is to uplift the voices of past and present Black residents.
“The area around UNC is a complicated place and there is this legacy of exclusion and erasure,” Powell said. “Telling this history part is just one more way that these residents are saying we’re here, we’ve been here and we have stories.”