'Living generations of their leadership': Carrboro to honor first Black family with truth plaque
On Sept. 1, the Town of Carrboro will unveil a truth plaque at the historical Strayhorn House, located at 109 Jones Ferry Road.
Built in 1879 by Toney and Nellie Strayhorn, the structure became the home of six more generations. The Strayhorns were former slaves from Orange County, and the house was initially a log cabin with one room.
The Strayhorns were the first Black family in Carrboro. Toney and Nellie gave back to the community and worked as farmers, selling vegetables and cotton.
The current owner of the building is Dolores Clark, the great-granddaughter of Toney and Nellie. She spent her childhood in the home and later moved back to care for her aging family.
Carrboro’s Truth Plaque Task Force aims to educate citizens about the town’s history. The first plaque was created to acknowledge Carrboro's ties to its namesake, white supremacist Julian Carr, while denouncing his views and beliefs. Another plaque was unveiled in front of the former Freedman School in 2021.
“The point is to tell some kind of truth about history,” Terri Buckner, co-chair of the task force, said. “And the truth for the Strayhorn House is that they were an amazing family. They helped to build Carrboro.”
Barbara Foushee, a Carrboro Town Council member and the sole candidate for Carrboro mayor, said the work of the task force is important to honor the history of Black residents of the town.
“As a Black person, I’m very proud of the truth plaque and the truth that has been told, because a lot of times, our truth is not told. It gets kind of pushed back and almost deemed irrelevant,” Fousheesaid.
The Strayhorn House was recently renovated, and repairs were made possible with a grant that Preservation Chapel Hill helped them get, as well as support from Habitat for Humanity and Hope Renovations.
“It wasn’t necessarily a choice for us to do this now,” Lorie Clark, great-great-granddaughter of Toney and Nellie, said. “The house has been in need of repair.”
Restorations were made to the home’s deteriorating foundation and aging HVAC system, bringing them up to code with the Town’s laws.
“If you look at the historical preservation of homes, what you find are it's the wealthy homes that are preserved, the ones that have the beautiful architecture and fine woodwork and all of that,” Buckner said. “But that’s not Carrboro — Carrboro is a working-class town, and so this is a vernacular home. It tells the truth of the working people who helped build Carrboro.”
The descendants of the Strayhorn family continue to be involved in the community. Dolores Clark serves on the Truth Plaque Task Force, and her granddaughter, Nevaeh Hodge, works in local advocacy and with the N.C. NAACP. Hodge was also a James Cates scholar this summer.
“It’s like we’re living generations of their leadership and their commitment to community service,” Lorie Clark said.
The Strayhorn House Truth Plaque unveiling will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1, and will be open to the public.
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“It just makes me so happy to know that I had so many people that volunteered, and there's so many people that gave financial assistance, and just to see what has been done within the last couple of years has just made me very, very happy,” Dolores Clark said. "I'm just so thankful that I got a chance to see all of it."