RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Every day hundreds of people drive past Oberlin Road. The area was once home to a vibrant village built by African-Americans. It’s now forgotten by many.
“In that regard, we all have failed but there there is a possibility of turning that failure and our past mess, as a message of success,” said Sabrina Goode executive director and founder of Friends of Oberlin Village.
Goode’s family were original founders of the village. Her close ties are part of the reason she wants to ensure its preservation.
“Regardless of all the countries and states we lived in, Oberlin has always felt like my home,” Goode said.
Oberlin Village was home to hundreds of former slaves and their descendants after the Civil War. It was the largest freedman’s settlement in the county.
Residents were self-sufficient, relying on each other’s skills as laborers, masons, teachers, or preachers. The community was thriving and prosperous.
Earl Ijames, a curator at the North Carolina Museum of History, said the village for the first time many Black Americans became property owners.
He said because of reconstruction-era politics, communities of color like Oberlin were not allowed to incorporate into city limits for many years.
“Oberlin, if it had established could have had a municipal presence not only through the Reconstruction but through the horrible era of Jim Crow and segregation. It began the decline of that community which unfortunately, has fragmented it to just a handful of African American owned residences and properties,” said Ijam.
Ijam said Oberlin Village remains one of the most well-known former slave settlements in the country.
“After politics, discrimination and racism over the last 150 years, the takeaway should the the knowledge and understanding of that history and hopefully something that could be embedded in our hearts and minds that could address and reverse the negative impact on that community,” Ijames said.
“These people did all the right things but somehow they were still marginalized, put aside and really not recognized,” said Goode.
That recently changed. Daniels Middle School, named after white supremacist Josephus Daniels will change to Oberlin Middle School.
Only a few remnants of what once was are left now in the form of preserved homes. Goode is hoping the renaming will renew interest in its preservation
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