New research has revealed a previously unknown chapter of Oberlin's history—it is no ordinary freedmen town but an antebellum free Black enclave that grew into an African American municipality, built away from White supervision by former slaves freed during or after the Civil War. Because it was rooted in freedom, Oberlin Village provided a legacy of freedom and land ownership, creating an enduring Black settlement with an elevated degree of home ownership, artisinal pride, and an irreproachable reputation.

Little, M. Ruth. “Rooted in Freedom: Raleigh, North Carolina’s Freedmen’s Village of Oberlin, an Antebellum Free Black Enclave.” The North Carolina Historical Review, vol. XCVII, no. 4, Oct. 2020, p. 425.

Historical Timeline

1858

1858

Oberlin Enclave Begins: Free Black Jesse Pettiford purchases 16-acre parcel for $160.

1865

Civil War Ends; Reconstruction Begins; Wilson Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church founded (later Wilson Temple)

1866

Lewis Peck, wealthy white grocer, divided his farm into lots sold to African Americans at about $50/acre; Emerging Black enclave along old Hillsboro Road referred to as “Peck’s Place,” “Save Rent” and later “Morganton.”

1869

(1) Raleigh Cooperative Land and Building Association provided financial aid to freedmen to purchase land and build homes. (2) Oberlin School began in Wilson Chapel, and by 1882 was in a wooden one room school house.

1870

New Hillsboro Road renamed Oberlin Road

1872

Oberlin community drafted letter to Daily News editor that their village should be known as “Oberlin.” Presumably it was named after James H. Harris’ alma mater Oberlin College in Ohio.

1873

(1)Wilson Temple United Methodist church building completed, named in honor of Wilson Morgan, a Wake Co. State Representative and resident who donated the land. (2)Oberlin Cemetery officially established. According to oral tradition, the site was previously a slave graveyard.

1875

Dr. James E. Shepard, founder of the North Carolina Central University located in Durham NC, was born in Oberlin Village.

1877

Reconstruction ends, marking the return of “home rule” in the South.

1880

First Baptist Church of Oberlin formally established in the 2000 block of Wade Avenue, under guidance of the formerly enslaved Rev. Plummer T. Hall. The church was often referred to as “Halls Chapel.”

1885

1885

Oberlin Graded School is added to the Raleigh Public School System, after Raleigh approves tax for segregated public schools in 1877.

1892

1892

(1) Rev. Morgan L. Latta founds Latta University along Parker Street. The school provided industrial or vocational education, a night school, and orphanage. (2) A rural suburb, Oberlin opened a post office that was discontinued in 1894.

1896

Plessy v. Ferguson: “separate but equal” doctrine established.

1907

1907

Community Grocery at 901 Oberlin Road begins as a small grocery store, one of many neighborhood stores along Oberlin, but the only one still existing.

1911

1911

Wilson Temple United Methodist Church under construction, located at 1023 Oberlin Road.

1912

Halls Chapel and Mt. Moriah Baptist Church merge to form Oberlin Baptist Church at its current location, 806 Oberlin Road.

1916

1916

Oberlin School builds new, large brick building with eight classrooms, built in from of the older wooden school at 1012 Oberlin Road.

1922

Oberlin is annexed by the city of Raleigh. Oberlin Road is paved soon after.

1947

1947

Construction begins on Cameron Village Shopping Center. (Picture c. 1948 from the Albert Barden Collection, State Archives of NC)

1948

Shelly v. Kramer: discriminatory restrictive covenants illegal to enforce. Raleigh neighborhoods like Cameron Park, Hayes Barton, and Oakwood all had restrictive covenants excluding black ownership.

1954

(1) Wade Ave. Extension: Work begins to widen Wade Avenue and extend it east to Capital Boulevard. Part of a larger trend of Urban Renewal in the country, which disproportionately displaced black communities. (2) Brown v. Board of Education: school segregation is unconstitutional

1956

1956

(1) Joe Holt, Jr. of Oberlin Village is denied admission to the all-white Josephus Daniels Junior High School, in the first attempt to desegregate the Raleigh public schools. (2) New brick church built to replace Oberlin Baptist Church building that was destroyed by fire in 1955.

1958

1958

Oberlin Road overpass spanning Wade Ave splits Oberlin Village in two. Oberlin Village homes are demolished for the project.

1960

Forty-one Black students were arrested and charged with trespassing while protesting the “Whites only” lunch counter at F.W. Woolworths located at the privately owned Cameron Village shopping center.

1964

Civil Rights Act: outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

1966

The Raleigh School Board permanently closes Oberlin School. Oberlin School was the district’s sole black school in western Raleigh.

1968

Fair Housing Act: protects the buyer or renter of a dwelling from seller or landlord discrimination. (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968)

1974

1974

Vacant Oberlin School building across from Wilson Temple church is demolished, and a new YWCA building is erected in its place.

1983

Large office building is constructed across from Oberlin Baptist church (801 Oberlin Road). This construction displaced several Oberlin Village houses.

1992 – 1996

First wave of Oberlin Village houses receive Historic Landmark designation by Raleigh Historic Development Commission.

2007

2007

The last remaining building of Latta University is destroyed by fire.

2010

2010

Latta House and University site is designated a Historic Landmark.

2011

2011

The Friends of Oberlin Village (FOV) was founded.

2018

2018

The Willis Graves House is relocated to 812 Oberlin Road.

2020

2020

Daniels Magnet Middle School is renamed Oberlin Middle School (Global Studies and Language Immersion).

2021

The Cameron Village Shopping Center name is changed to the Village District.