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Michael E.C. Gery

18 TILLERY RESETTLEMENT Halifax County By Michael E.C. Gery


he African American community in Tillery during the past 40 years has assembled a movement of memory, pride and accomplishment that has gained national and international recognition. Today, you can visit the Tillery History House to get an idea of how it all happened.

THE HISTORY OF RESETTLEMENT Tillery’s History House at the community center shows how important the Resettlement was to local Tillery sits in what was one of families. the largest slave-owning regions in the state. One plantation here worked 273 slaves, another worked 150. After Emancipation protect the black school. Today, the non-profit CCT is widely and Reconstruction, black families organized successful praised for advancing education, health care, elder activities communities that later suffered under Jim Crow oppresand business development, as well as fighting environmental sion into the 1930s. A Depression-era federal government assault (notably hog factory farms) and economic injustice. program, the Resettlement Administration, bought land CCT’s primemover and executive director Gary Grant says from struggling white families throughout the U.S. and laid none of this progress would have happened without the comout cooperative communities to allow “resettled” families to munity first preserving its heritage. work and earn title to property. Tillery Resettlement (later called Roanoke Farms) was one of the largest anywhere, VISITING TILLERY TODAY 18,000 acres in 1934 designed for 300 families. It soon was The History House is where the public can see pictures, segregated (whites got the higher ground), and by the time furnishings and tools associated with the Resettlement the program faded in 1943, some 150 African American and its after-effects. Photos show resettlement families and families had settled here, and 93 of them owned their land. homesteads, many still family residences today. Of eight The first group came from some distance away, a second African American Resettlement communities nationwide, from neighboring counties and a third were enterprising only Tillery has been documented. History House itself was black farmers who tried working here after World War II. a Resettlement house moved to the site of the community “It made you feel like somebody,” remembered Lucille Parker store, now a meeting place. Also here is the former “Curin’ Cheek, “raising everything and being independent.” Each famHouse,” now a health center. History House is open 10 a.m. ily had a house, outbuildings, to 4 p.m. weekdays. Call ahead weekends and you might get mule and wagon. They grew a tour that includes the Roanoke Farms sites, churches and corn, peanuts and cotton. They schools, Caledonia Prison Farm and down-home meals at built a community store, Tillery the Resettlement Café. Chapel Church and a potato In 2007, the community unveiled a new highway historicuring house. The Rosenwald cal marker in downtown Tillery at Hwys. 561 and 481, and Foundation built schools. premiered the film, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” assisted by Subjected to discriminaDuke Center for Documentary Tillery Resettlement tion common in the area at the Studies. The local Joyful Sound 321 Community Center Rd. time, black families in the 1950s Gospel Choir sings that stirTillery, NC 27887 formed the Tillery Improvement ring old hymn and others on Association to assert their rights. a CD for sale. As they say in (252) 826-3017 the film, “If we want to have a That movement grew into The community has produced community that is alive, we too Concerned Citizens of Tillery a documentary video of the must sing the song.” (CCT), originally formed to Resettlement and its effects.


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20 Carolina Country Adventures Your Vacation Photos Literary & Culture Trails The 2008 Touchstone Energy Travel Guide—pages 45–82 INSIDE...


20 Carolina Country Adventures Your Vacation Photos Literary & Culture Trails The 2008 Touchstone Energy Travel Guide—pages 45–82 INSIDE...