Charmaine McKissick-Melton – “Dr. Mac” to her students at NCCU – has led the kind of life that should be written down, analyzed, and learned from.

Dr. Mac is an accomplished public speaker and professor. She sits on education and nonprofit boards. She has done more than her part to make Durham a more equitable city, the United States a more equitable country. She is one of the people who bore the responsibility of desegregating Durham’s public schools. Her story is a testament to the sacrifice necessary to get where we are and how far we have left to go.  

In short: her story is important to get right.

One minute isn’t enough time to tell Dr. Mac’s story – or her siblings’ stories – or her parents’ stories – or her contemporaries’ stories. Her father, Floyd McKissick Sr., accomplished enough to fill multiple books. His and his children’s stories are material suited for historians and academicians – for award-winning and accomplished storytellers.

It is an immense privilege and responsibility to tell someone else’s story. An enormous amount of trust goes into putting your story into the hands of a stranger. To Dr. Mac, that’s pretty much what I was when I walked through her door: a stranger.

I am probably not the best person to tell Dr. Mac’s story. I’m young, new to the South, and to be frank: white. The level of experience I have with prejudice is microscopic and a lot of what Dr. Mac has gone through is foreign to me. In the telling of her story, the most I have going is a desire to learn and an effort to have sincere empathy for the people involved.

I encourage everyone in Durham – especially those who are not from here – to learn more about the history of our city. I hope this video prompts you to do so. Start with Pauli Murray, Durham: A Self Portrait, and Digital Durham. Visit the Museum of Durham History and Historic Stagville, North Carolina’s largest antebellum plantation. Journey with community elders on the Durham Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope.

If you know of additional resources for learning about Durham’s history, please leave us a comment. Thank you.

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About Elliot Blumberg

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