For April Parker, her family’s hometown is almost a map of her heritage.
Parker grew up spending every summer in Chadbourn, North Carolina, a predominantly Black agricultural town in Columbus County that historically developed as a major producer of tobacco and cotton. Straddling the eastern North Carolina-South Carolina border, a region once known as the Carolina Border Belt for its ideal soil conditions, Parker says Chadbourn is a town where the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow are laid bare.
“It’s like you walk back in time,” Parker, a clinical assistant professor at the UNC School of Social Work, said. “There’s literally train tracks that split the town.”
Twenty-three percent of Columbus County is farmland, and many of the old agricultural industries that were historically worked by enslaved Black folk remain.
Growing up, Parker says the fields were still where many in her family worked until the late 1980s.
Yet Chadbourn’s history with enslaved labor and its lasting legacy isn’t the only thing about the town that serves to viscerally remind Parker of her heritage; it’s also an area with a strong American Indian community. Parker is a proud Black woman, but grew up only distantly aware that her grandmother’s side of the family was also Waccamaw Siouan, a southeastern tribe located along small communities like Buckhead and St. James in Columbus and Bladen counties.
Being physically detached from these communities, Parker and her immediate family hardly considered themselves Waccamaw Siouan…