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Seth Kotch, assistant professor of digital humanities, delivered the keynote address at a forum, convened by the Tar River Center for History and Culture, on the desegregation of public schools in Franklin County, North Carolina. Kotch spent a year consulting with a team of local historians who crafted an oral history project examining the desegregation process, which began nine years after Brown v. Board. 

historical marker for desegregation of Franklin County schools
A historical marker notes the lawsuit filed to force the Franklin County school board to desegregate its schools nearly a decade after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board.

During those nine years, African Americans who tried to send their children to all-white schools endured threats, intimidation, and outright violence. The Reverend Luther Coppedge, whose name remains attached to the court order enforcing desegregation (Coppedge and United States v. Franklin County Board of Education), lay asleep when someone fired a shotgun into his bedroom.

The oral history project, which netted twelve interviews with Franklin County residents who experienced the desegregation process, was sponsored by the North Carolina Humanities Council.

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