Sunday, October 5, 2008

Oberlin Village Needs You ...

Oberlin Village -- on the edge of Hayes Barton, Wade Avenue, Cameron Village, and University Park -- is on the verge of becoming a historic marker. When you know the story of this community, you have learned also about the history of the areas surrounding. This placard gives a glimpse of the rich history that Oberlin Road connects.

As a steward to the community; we will serve as a vessel to promote the history of the Latta School, its founder and other historic facets of Oberlin Village. These offerings will be rendered through educational and cultural
opportunities for all.


Following the Civil War, parcels of land were subdivided and sold to freed slaves. Oberlin Village would be one of Raleigh’s first communities of freed slaves. The land had belonged to a wealthy plantation owner, Duncan Cameron who was a North Carolina state politician and state banker. Former slave, James E. Harris, established Oberlin Village in 1866. He graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio for which the community was named after due to its opposition to slavery. It was also an institution that opened enrollment to African Americans. The 149 acres primarily consisted of farmland where its new citizens pursued self-sufficiency by erecting schools, businesses and places of worship. Some of the original homes were quaint and of Victorian style. Today, few can be found along Oberlin Road, Wade and Clark Avenues.

  • Wilson Temple United Methodist Church- Founded in 1865, the church was established to meet spiritual needs and to provide ministry to the Oberlin community. The church continues to this day to be a refuge with open hearts, open minds, and open doors. All are welcome! - W. E. McLeod, pastor.
  • Oberlin Cemetery- Located on Oberlin Road behind RE/MAX, the 142-year-old cemetery has laid to rest generations of Oberlin Village’s earliest residents. Some born unto slavery. The last burial is as recent as 2007.
  • Latta University-A former school and orphanage for the children of freed slaves. Founded by Reverend Morgan London Latta in 1892. The former slave of the Cameron family was one of Shaw University’s first graduates. The historic landmark was lost to a fire in January of 2007. It was the last of remaining of 26 structures. The 2-acre site is currently owned by the City of Raleigh. It’s the Latta House Foundation’s desire for it to be converted into a memorial teaching park and cultural center.
  • The following are some of the privately owned homes listed with the National Registry of Historic Places: Willis M. Graves House, Rev. Plummer T. Hall House and the John T. & Mary Turner House.


  • Dr. James E. Shepherd – In 1909 founded North Carolina Central University. Formerly known as the NC College For Negroes, it was one of the first state supported colleges in the nation for African Americans.
  • John H. Baker (1935- 2007) -served as North Carolina’s first black sheriff for nearly 2 decades. He was also a former pro football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • In 1956, Joseph Holt Jr. and his family would be one of the first to challenge Raleigh’s segregated school system.
  • Historic Oberlin Village had a host of educators, doctors and those who served in the military. Some honorably sacrificing their lives for our country.

  • “As a child, I can remember the early morning visits from the milk truck and the ice man. The neighbors who had farms would come by to sell fresh vegetables.” – Mrs. Minnie Pearce Turner Williams
  • “Easter Sunday everyone would visit Mr. Arthur Sheppard’s flower garden for a corsage or lapel. They would also pick flowers to place on the graves of loved ones passed.”- Mr. Joseph Holt
  • “There was a pond off lake Boone Trail where people would walk down for baptisms.”- Mrs. Rose Morgan Goode
  • “I do remember during the summer months when gypsies would set up camp in Cameron Woods. (Location of Harris Teeter) They would come in their wagons and were dressed in colorful clothing. They would stay for weeks.”- Mrs. Mamie Haywood

  • Contact the City of Raleigh’s Historic District Commission
  • Visit your local library or book store to read Culture Town by Linda Simmons–Henry
  • Tour the Raleigh City Museum
  • The senior residents are your best source yet. Make an introduction today!

This outreach placard was brought to you by
and sponsored by the

Oberlin Village has been vigilant in its civic participation to protect its heritage, key buildings, and cemetery. This inside-the-beltline community has given up homes for the city to build Jaycee park, the Wade Ave overpass, and has negotiated with developers on Oberlin Rd to protect their cemetery and a way in. It is giving up many of their old homes one lot at a time for business development, on Oberlin south, and new homes, on Oberlin north, of Wade.

Having recently resolved a way to coexist with the new developments across the street from Wilson Temple, they are sounding the alarm again, the problem now being the Crescent project at Cameron Village.

The City Council will be hearing this zoning request at 1:00 pm on Tues, October 7. Research the issue here at See ya downtown on Tuesday.

The community’s history is often overlooked, and the village is often erroneously referred to as Cameron Village, a shopping center built in 1949 within Oberlin’s parameters. In recent years, development has erased much of Oberlin Village’s physical and historical landscape. While welcoming economic opportunities and urban growth, many descendants of the original villagers are ensuring that Oberlin Village is preserved and its history told.

Source:  Linda Simmons-Henry, Culture Town : Life in Raleigh's African American Communities (Raleigh, 1993) By Judith Guest, Latta House Foundation


Tania Allen said...

This is a great resource! I am a graduate student at NC State in Graphic Design and my thesis is potentially going to be rooted in the history of Oberlin Village. I'm wondering if you have additional historical references (I have Culture Town and some online resources) and/or if you would be willing to meet and discuss the history of Oberlin Village with me? Thanks in advance for your time and willingness to help. My email is

all the best, Tania

Fallonia Parker said...

Glad you found this site helpful. The best resource for history on Oberlin Village is probably the Latta House Foundation.

They are actively involved in the efforts to create a proper historical preservation site where the Latta House stood. I suggest contacting them for links to the community and the architectural studies.

I can contact you off site to give you contact info if their website does not respond.