Friends of Oberlin Village Fights for Survival of Historic Community

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — Oberlin Village is one of the last known surviving freedmen’s villages in the state and some people believe it is on the verge of extinction.

There are grave concerns that this part of Raleigh’s rich history is in the process of being destroyed.

“It’s not just a local neighborhood. It’s a state landmark that should be respected and valued,” said Friends of Oberlin Village Executive Director Sabrina Goode. “I think we have an obligation to the city of Raleigh, the state and the nation to preserve significant areas of history.”

Oberlin Village was founded in 1866. A freed Black resident purchased 16 acres of land and created a settlement.

A cemetery there today holds the distinction of being on the National Register of Historic Places, but all around the landmark new homes are going up and buildings are being constructed at a feverish pace.

FOV posted a plea on social media asking residents to join efforts to slow development.

The organization said there are more than a dozen projects happening right now around the village district and that developers have an upper hand over preservation efforts, even though Oberlin has been accepted into Raleigh’s Historic Overlay District.

“It still has not given us the comfort and protection for it not to be demolished,” said Goode. “For this past year, so much teardown has occurred that I feel that we are really against the clock. I would hazard to say that in five years, will there be nothing left that resembles Oberlin and it’s very distressing.”

It’s been hard for Barry Young to see the changes. He is a pastor at Oberlin Baptist Church. The sanctuary is located near new homes that are selling for more than $1 million.

The price tag is out of reach for people who grow up in Oberlin.

“These are our people, who have laid the foundation here and so we are here, and I think we need to continue to build on that foundation for our future generation, and for kids to come so that they can see and have hope — hope in knowing what their ancestors have laid and what African-American have laid here in this particular community,” said Young.

ABC11 has reached out to the Raleigh Historic Development Commission about the concerns, as well as Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin. We’re waiting to hear back for comment.