Blog | Center for Civil Rights

Center Co-chairs "Representing Arab and Muslim-Americans in the Trump Era" CLE

The Agenda from the "Representing Arab and Muslim-Americans in the Trump Era" CLE
The Agenda from the "Representing Arab and Muslim-Americans in the Trump Era" CLE

On April 11, the UNC Center for Civil Rights facilitated a seminar for lawyers on how to best represent Arab and Muslim-Americans under the current administration. Speakers included Christopher Brook of the ACLU of North Carolina, Bradley Banis of Barnwell, Whaley Patterson & Helms, Joseph Zeszotarski Jr. of Gammon, Howard & Zeszotarski, Manzoor Cheema of Project South and Catherine Kim of the University of North Carolina School of Law. Topics ranged from challenging naturalization and green card delays to counseling clients facing questioning by law enforcement to the Muslim immigrant bans. The Center was proud to cosponsor the CLE with the North Carolina chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and Project South.

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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Mon. April 17, 2017 4:19 PM
Categories: General, Professional Development

Recap: "Justice for All" Benefit Concert at the Haw River Ballroom

Naeema Muhammad, co-director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network.
Naeema Muhammad, co-director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, speaks about her experience working alongside the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

On Sunday, April 9th, the UNC Center for Civil Rights gathered with friends and colleagues for "Justice for All," a benefit concert hosted at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC.  Non-profit community outreach network Mighty Neighborly organized the concert in response to the UNC Board of Governors' ongoing effort to prohibit the Center for Civil Rights from engaging in any direct representation or advocacy on behalf of individuals, families or communities. 

Justice for All performers included Keny Roby, I Was Totally Destroying It, shirlette ammons, The Backsliders, Elizabeth Haddix and the Gurley Flynns, Pre-Raphaelites, Happy Abandon, Laurelyn Dossett, Molly McGinn, and Alice Gerrard.

Between musical performances, a number of speakers shared their support for the Center for Civil Rights.  Speakers included Senator Floyd McKissick, Senator Angela Bryant, Representative Graig Meyer, Professor Gene Nichol, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network co-director Naeema Muhammad, and the Center's managing attorney, Mark Dorosin.

Center staff thank the concert's performers, speakers, and organizers, as well as all who attended, for their support.  Photos from the event are below.

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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Wed. April 12, 2017 10:24 AM
Categories: General, Law Students

Center Receives UNC Diversity Award

The UNC Center for Civil Rights was among those honored at the University Diversity Awards on Tuesday, April 4th. UNC Law Professor and Librarian Donna Nixon presented the Center with the University’s 2017 Diversity Award for Department or Unit. Director Ted Shaw, accompanied by the Center staff, accepted the award and spoke on the importance of continuing civil rights advocacy even as we recognize the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Posted by Jennifer Watson Marsh on Wed. April 5, 2017 4:43 PM
Categories: General


To support the Board of Governors effort to prohibit the Center for Civil Rights from engaging in any direct representation or advocacy on behalf of individuals, families or communities, one BOG member circulated a memo to that mischaracterized the Center's work and mission. The following is to provide some context and clarification of that memo. 

Claim: The Center for Civil Rights has no oversight to ensure that it pursues UNC’s educational mission rather than the “personal causes and interests of center personnel.”
Fact:The Executive Director of the Center is a tenured member of the law school faculty and oversees the work of the Center, including its direct representation and advocacy. Additionally, before any litigation can commence, Center staff must submit a justification memo to the Dean of the Law School. The Center cannot engage in litigation without the Dean’s approval.

Posted by Mark Dorosin on Thu. March 23, 2017 3:13 PM
Categories: General, Law Students


The Supreme Court opinion

In a unanimous ruling, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision dismissing the constitutional challenge brought by the families of three victims of the state’s forty-year forced sterilization program whose claims under the Eugenics Compensation Act were denied in 2015.
Posted by Mark Dorosin on Fri. March 17, 2017 2:22 PM
Categories: Sterilization

State of Exclusion: Profile on Orange County


Following the 2013 State of Exclusion report, the UNC Center for Civil Rights released a series of county profiles, containing a more in-depth examination of exclusion and the legacy of racial segregation in the individual counties. The fifth in the series, Orange County, is released today. This report, the other county reports, and the statewide report, are all available at

Nestled in the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area, Orange County boasts three prosperous towns, a low unemployment rate and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Behind this prosperity lies a sharp divide between rich and poor, often along racial lines. As the county has grown, the cost of living has increased and the African American population has declined. The result is outward migration from traditional African American neighborhoods and the county as a whole.

The county’s remaining non-white population disproportionately live in areas with close proximity to solid waste or other potentially polluting facilities. Compared to other wealthy counties or to the state, Orange County has a smaller exposure rate to solid waste facilities for its overall population (3.20% compared to 5.34% statewide), but a higher rate for super majority non-white census blocks (16.72% compared to 9.37%). Additionally, racially identifiable excluded communities still have difficulty obtaining the infrastructure to supply water and sewer access. The County has been working with the cities to address this issue, but it is a slow process.

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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Thu. March 9, 2017 4:14 PM
Categories: Community Inclusion, Education, Environmental Justice, Orange County, Race Discrimination

NC Supreme Court Hears Argument on Eugenics Appeals

Elizabeth Haddix, Virginia Ingram, Mark Dorosin
On February 13, the NC Supreme Court heard oral argument in appeals brought on behalf of three individuals who were forcibly sterilized by the State under North Carolina's forty-year eugenics program.  In 2015, the Industrial Commission denied their claims for compensation based solely on the fact that they died before June 30, 2013.  The eugenics compensation program was established to "make restitution for the injustices suffered" by the State's violation of one of the most fundamental human rights--the right to privacy of one's body and to bear children.  With the help of the UNC Center for Civil Rights and pro bono attorney Ed Pressley, t​he victims' heirs appealed to the Court of Appeals as required by the Eugenics Compensation Act and other statutory provisions, arguing that the arbitrary cutoff date violates their rights to equal protection under the North Carolina Constitution. 

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Posted by Elizabeth M. Haddix on Wed. February 15, 2017 10:30 AM
Categories: Pro Bono, Sterilization

EPA: "Deep Concern" Over Discriminatory Impacts of Industrial Hog Operations in North Carolina

On January 12th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) a letter expressing “deep concern” that the State has failed to adequately regulate more than 2,220 industrial hog operations concentrated in eastern North Carolina.  The News and Observer first reported on EPA's letter to DEQ Wednesday afternoon.

EPA’s “Letter of Concern” was sent to DEQ as part an ongoing investigation into a federal civil rights complaint filed in September 2014 by the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), and Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc., under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Current state law allows industrial hog operations to store swine waste in open-air pits, called “lagoons,” before spraying the feces and urine onto fields.  In North Carolina, African American, Latino, and Native American residents are disproportionately more likely to live in close proximity to these industrial facilities and be forced to contend with the impacts of these outdated waste management practices.

In October 2016, community members from eastern North Carolina travelled to Washington, D.C. and urged EPA officials to visit the region to experience firsthand the impacts that industrial hog operations have on communities of color.  EPA’s twelve-page letter to DEQ comes two months after agency officials completed their trip to eastern North Carolina and gathered testimony from more than 80 residents living near industrial swine facilities.

EPA’s letter advises DEQ to take immediate steps to address the discriminatory impacts of the State’s failure to adequately regulate these industrial hog operations.  The letter notes that available, alternative waste management technologies would reduce pollution and odor caused by the current use of lagoon and sprayfield systems.  EPA officials also express “grave concern” over the hostility and intimidation that community members who have brought complaints to DEQ have subsequently faced from representatives of the pork industry.

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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Thu. January 19, 2017 10:15 AM
Categories: Environmental Justice, Race Discrimination

Walnut Tree Community Denied Annexation by Walnut Cove Town Commissioners

On Tuesday, January 10th, the Walnut Cove Town Board of Commissioners denied an annexation petition filed by residents of Walnut Tree, a predominantly African American community adjacent to the majority white town in southeastern Stokes County.  The town board denied Walnut Tree’s petition by a 3-2 vote, with the board’s three white members voting against annexation.

Walnut Tree residents filed their petition under North Carolina’s voluntary annexation statute, which was amended by the General Assembly in 2011 to provide historically excluded, low-wealth communities with greater opportunity to seek annexation into neighboring municipalities.  These excluded communities, where a majority of residents are often African American, are unable to vote in municipal elections and frequently lack equal access to water and sewer, emergency services, and other municipal services.

The Walnut Tree subdivision was developed in the early 1970’s, with mortgages offered by the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) as part of an effort to encourage rural economic development and African American homeownership in the South.  Many of Walnut Tree’s first homeowners previously lived in rental housing within Walnut Cove’s town limits, and moved into their new homes with the understanding that they would soon be included in the municipality.  However, the Walnut Cove town board has denied multiple annexation petitions filed by Walnut Tree residents since the 1990’s.  Meanwhile, the town has annexed several predominantly white areas in the past twenty-five years.

The above map shows the town of Walnut Cove
The above map shows the town of Walnut Cove's municipal boundaries as of the 1990, 2000, and 2010 Censuses. The map also includes racial demographic data.

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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Wed. January 18, 2017 5:33 PM
Categories: Annexation, Race Discrimination

The UNC Center for Civil Rights Commemorates the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday

In 2017, as our nation commemorates the birth of D. Martin Luther King, Jr., we stand on the precipice of the inauguration of a new president of the United States. Our country is walking an uncertain path, divided by race, class, and partisanship. We collectively tend to remember Dr. King as one whose dreams gently prodded the United States away from segregation and discrimination by appealing to a sympathetic majority of Americans who supported his agenda. We further like to think about his work as having been largely accomplished, as we live in a largely post-racial society. We at the UNC Center for Civil Rights acknowledge the profoundly significant progress we have made as a nation on issues of race. Yet we also recognize the persistence of structural inequality and stubborn racism that continues to define important aspects of American life.

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Posted by Theodore M. Shaw (Ted) on Tue. January 17, 2017 9:17 AM
Categories: General
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