Moving forward, looking back

So far this semester, my work on the two oral history projects has moved forward slowly, yet steadily. I got back in touch with Derrick Jones, the Hogan Rogers House resident and hope to be recording that interview very soon! Also, I’ve met and talked with several members of the community who knew Clelue Johnson. Mrs. Clelue Johnson was a housekeeper for Horace Williams but later went on to be a nurse at UNC Hospitals. One woman I spoke to knew Mrs. Clelue Johnson once she was a nurse. She remembers living with Mrs. Clelue and her husband Mr. Williard Johnson when she was in junior high. The stories she had to tell about Clelue were so helpful and really provided insight on her character and her life. The stories also included her own accounts of attending school the first year of desegregation in Chapel Hill. That was the same year she lived with the Johnsons and she spoke highly of their support for her and the trials she faced as an African-American student in a newly integrated school.

Other people I’ve spoken to knew Clelue because they were neighbors or attended the same church, First Baptist of Chapel Hill. Many people who only knew Clelue in passing have still be helpful in suggesting others to talk to. The project is difficult at times when I feel that I’ve hit a dead end or can’t get in touch with someone; however the conversations I’ve had with interested community members have made up for any of the frustrations. I look forward to talking to more friends and neighbors of Mrs. Clelue Johnson and learning more about her life as well as theirs in the history of Chapel Hill.

Aside from the oral history projects, I have also begun a new project. I am using research done by a past intern to move toward finishing PCH’s contract with the Town of Chapel Hill to place signs in 3 of the historic cemeteries of Chapel Hill: Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, Barbee-Hargrave Cemetery, and West Chapel Hill Cemetery. I am editing the text prepared by a past intern and searching for photos to include on the signs. I am also writing text for an online component of the project, a website that will feature information about each of the cemeteries. The website will have information for researchers in addition to the signs actually located in the cemeteries.

I’m excited to continue to move forward on these projects and hope to have more updates on the oral history projects soon!

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