February 2024 events celebrating Black History Month in Orange County, North Carolina


By Laurie Paolicelli

Joseph Jordan, UNC-Chapel Hill Teaching Associate Professor.

One of the great moments in civil rights history took place in Chapel Hill on May 6th, 1969. That’s when Howard N. Lee was elected mayor of this town. In so doing, he became the first African American elected mayor in a predominantly white southern town since Reconstruction. Few people know that he was elected two more times, in landslides and with little fanfare. Voters were given the opportunity to change the town’s leadership and direction twice, and they chose to stay the course.

“Black History Month is a moment for celebration,” says Joseph Jordan, Teaching Associate Professor at the University North Carolina Chapel Hill. “It’s a call for reflection on our accomplishments as a people who forged ahead in the interest of social justice and our common humanity. At the same time, Black History Month is also a reminder of the need for caution, because those accomplishments are products of sustained, unyielding struggles at the cost of many lives … we should never, ever forget, and we are now reminded … never, ever go back.”

Carter G. Woodson, co-founder of the Association for the Study of African American History, conceived Black History Month. A son of freed Virginia slaves, Woodson earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard. His vision began as Negro History Week, aimed at sparking Black Americans’ interest in their history. Woodson believed schools ignored Black achievements in the early 1900s, fearing the race’s erasure without a rich history. He chose February for this celebration, aligning with Abraham Lincoln’s Feb. 12 and Frederick Douglass’s Feb. 14 birthdays. Woodson’s words underscored the importance: “If a race lacks history and tradition, it risks obscurity and extinction.”

Black history is an integral part of Chapel Hill’s narrative. From the struggle for civil rights at the university to Black leaders like The Chapel Hill Nine, and the current United States Representative, Congresswoman Valerie Foushee, who is a native of Chapel Hill

From left: Carrboro Town Council member, Catherine Fray; Congresswoman Valerie Foushee.Carrboro Mayor Barbara Foushee, and North Carolina State Representative Allen Buansi celebrate Libba Cotten Day in Carrboro, NC.

As we celebrate Black History Month, here’s a chronological list of events happening throughout February in Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and Carrboro and Orange County, North Carolina.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024
University of North Carolina Libraries presents “On the Books: Jim Crow and Algorithms of Resistance.”
Time: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Location: Zoom

Saturday, February 10, 2024
Lincoln High School and its Closing – a Video Presentation by David Mason, Jr
2 pm at the Seymour Center, 2551 Homestead Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27516.
David Mason, Jr. is a lifetime resident of Chapel Hill, one of the leaders of the Lincoln High Alumni Association, an active member of St. Joseph CME, and a community historian. He is also a member of the “Chapel Hill Nine,” a group of high school students who participated in demonstrations in support of civil rights and desegregation in the 1960s.

Saturday, February 10, 2024
PBS documentary, The Black Church – Part 1
Hosted by: Main Library in Hillsborough

Wednesday, February 14, 2024
Weave and Spin, Eno Arts Mill with Debbie the Artist
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm (Doors open at 6:30 pm)

Eno Arts Mill Gallery
Free admission, cash bar
Must be 18 to enter and participate

Thursday, February 15, 2024
2024 Black History Month Tribute Game
Time: 6:00 pm
Location: Carmichael Arena
UNC Women’s Basketball vs. Pitt Panthers

UNC Women’s Basketball.

Saturday, February 17, 2024
PBS documentary, The Black Church – Part 2, followed by a panel discussion.
Hosted by: Main Library in Hillsborough

Sunday, February 18, 2024
Historical Marker Unveiling for Manly McCauley
Time: 2:00 pm
Location: Carrboro Town Hall
Hosted by: Orange County Community Remembrance Coalition and the Town of Carrboro

Sunday, February 18, 2024
Black History Month Concert featuring Collective Groove Band
Time: 4:30 pm
Location: Carrboro Century Center, 100 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro NC 27510

Thursday, February 22, 2024
Lecture by Keisha N. Blain
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Research in Black Culture and History
Keisha N. Blain, a New York Times best-selling author and award-winning historian, will deliver the lecture. She is the author of “Four Hundred Souls,” “Until I Am Free,” and “Set the World on Fire.” Blain is also a columnist for MSNBC and received the 2022 Guggenheim and Andrew Carnegie fellowships.

Saturday, February 24, 2024
Discussion on the life of Elizabeth Keckly – Part 2
Lecture by Dr. Sheila Smith McKoy: “Elizabeth Keckly: A Life in Counter-Narrative”
Location: Mount Bright Baptist Church
Hosted by: The Burwell School

Sunday, February 25, 2024
2024 Pauli Murray Awards
Time: 3:00 pm
Location: Whitted Building, 300 West Tryon Street, Room 230, Hillsborough, NC 27278
Hosted by: Orange County Human Relations Commission

Sunday, February 25, 2024
“The Ongoing Fight for Freedom: Stories of NC’s Black Veterans”
Time: 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Location: University of North Carolina Friday Center
Hosted by: UNC-Chapel Hill Digital and Lifelong Learning
Featuring a one-man live performance by Sonny Kelly

Through February
Orange County Historical Museum in Hillsborough
“Mask and Reveal” Exhibit: African masks are a living tradition. For over twenty years, Gerald Shanklin has not only been collecting African masks, but also continuing the tradition of transforming wood by creating his own pieces.

Sam Fullwood.


“It’s great that Americans pause to recognize Black Americans in February,” says Sam Fulllwood, UNC Class of ’76 and Professor, American University School of Communication. “But it’s impossible to separate the history of Black Americans from the history of the United States and World history. What we know of this nation is rooted in and reflects the struggle of Black peoples’ yearning to be included in the national narrative. And that every month matters, not just the shortest month on the calendar.”

Laurie Paolicelli is executive director for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, a position she has held since 2005. Laurie has worked in tourism and marketing for twenty-five years, having served in leadership roles in Houston and California convention and visitor bureaus. She is a native of the Twin Ports of Duluth, MN/Superior Wisconsin. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Communications from the University Wisconsin-Superior and graduate certification in Technology In Marketing from the UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

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