CHAPEL HILL -- The names of the first people approved for the town's new historical marker were all white. Where were the black people who helped lead the civil rights struggle in Chapel Hill, the local NAACP asked.
The NAACP recently recommended four additional names be added to the sidewalk marker planned for the Peace and Justice Plaza outside the Franklin Street post office. The Chapel Hill Town Council wants to install the marker in the fall.
The Naming Committee originally approved Joe and Lucy Straley, Charlotte Adams and Joe Herzenberg, who were active in the local peace and civil rights movements and other causes.
The NAACP proposed Henry "Hank" Anderson III, James R. Brittain, Hubert Robinson and Gloria Williams.
Then, at a recent Town Council meeting, a resident asked that Mildred Ringwalt's name be added to the marker.
The Naming Committee approved the additions.
The historical marker will be a tablet installed in front of the flagpole.
It will read: "Peace and Justice Plaza" at the top. Under that will be the names of the nine honored, in alphabetical order, said Town Council member Sally Greene, who sits on the Naming Committee. More names can be added later.
"Most of them are probably not as well-known as these other activists because, as someone has said recently, the black community tends to be invisible and overlooked," Yonni Chapman, a local civil rights historian, told the Town Council. "The NAACP, upon hearing the news of this initiative to honor peace and justice activists, certainly supported the names put forward, but we thought it would be appropriate to have some African-Americans added to that list."
The Peace and Justice Plaza wasn't just a focus of the anti-war movement, Chapman said.
"It was also the focal point of the civil rights movement, of all the Martin Luther King Jr. marches that have been held," he said. "It's been a rallying area for the black freedom struggle in Chapel Hill, which has been tremendously important to this entire community."
Ringwalt "was a fighter for racial justice in a time when that wasn't very popular," he said.
"Hubert Robinson broke the color line in Chapel Hill in politics," he said. It is believed that Robinson was the first black official elected in Chapel Hill since 1886. He sat on Town Council starting in 1951, Chapman said.
Brittain was the leader among the Lincoln High School students during the civil rights movement. He was 15 years old when he and other students initiated the first sit-in in Chapel Hill, Chapman said.
"He was one of those who was arrested many times and was sentenced to prison," Chapman said, and he re-established the local NAACP.
Williams, like most of her family, was part of the civil rights movement, Chapman said.
She was appointed to the Human Relations Commission in Chapel Hill at the beginning of civil rights movement, Chapman said.
"She wasn't as high-profile, attention-getting as some others," he said. "She became the head of the Joint Orange-Chatham Community Action Agency, which was the poverty program in this area."
She spent many years working for poverty, social justice and helped found the NAACP, and she died at an early age, he said.
Anderson is thought to be the first black Parks and Recreation director in North Carolina. Anderson Park in Carrboro is named after him. He also served on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.
"Hank was also Mr. Everything in the black community," Chapman said. "When he ran for the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, Fred Battle told me, he didn't even mount a campaign. He just put his name on the ballot, and he got elected."
"All of these people helped break the color line ... in breaking the back of Jim Crow during the civil rights movement," he added. "They continued a lifelong effort to accomplish these goals and fulfill the promise of America."