Oberlin Village has a rich history that dates back to the 1860’s, when Abraham Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation speech ended slavery across the U.S. Parcels of land were given to African American freedmen in order for them to begin their new lives, and Oberlin Village became one of the first parcels of land in N.C. that was recognized as a freedman’s community.
The previous owner of the 149+ acres was a wealthy politician and banker named Duncan Cameron, who was said to have owned 1,900 slaves, more than anyone else in N.C. The name Oberlin Village came from Cameron’s former slave James E. Harris, who attended Oberlin College in Ohio, which allowed African American enrollment at the time.
Even though houses were not established in the community until the 1870’s, many of the freedmen worked in the surrounding area as blacksmiths, carpenters, farmers, shoemakers + masons while the women would work as cooks, seamstresses + farm laborers. With time, the community grew to at least 160 families, close to 750 people, by the 1880’s.
When the community members were not hard at work, they would spend their leisure time on the stretch of land that is now located on Oberlin Rd. between Mayview Rd. and Bedford Ave. This road is where the community developed their churches, shops + their only two story houses, a big deal for that time and the community. Earlier this year, the Preservation N.C. organization saved two of the historic houses by moving them out of a new development tract and into a new location on Oberlin Rd. The houses were then connected through the basement + Preservation N.C. is restoring and transforming the houses into their HQ.
🏘A trip down memory lane: click here to see the historic tour route for Oberlin Village.
🏘A helping hand: click here if you want to learn about volunteer opportunities with Friends of Oberlin Village.