Campaign flyer from Joe’s first Chapel Hill Town Council race, 1979

About Joe

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Chapel Hill, N.C., United States
Joe Herzenberg was born June 25, 1941, to Morris & Marjorie Herzenberg. His father owned the town pharmacy in Franklin, N.J., where Joe grew up. After he graduated from Yale University in 1964, Joe went to Mississippi to register voters for Freedom Summer. He joined the faculty of historically black Tougaloo College, where he was appointed chair of the history department. Joe arrived in Chapel Hill in 1969 to enroll as a graduate student in history at the University of North Carolina, and, along with his partner Lightning Brown, soon immersed himself in local, state, and national politics. Although Joe’s first campaign for the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1979 was unsuccessful, he was appointed to the Council to fill a vacant seat and served until 1981. In 1987, he was elected to the Council, becoming the former Confederacy's first openly gay elected official. Joe died surrounded by friends on October 28, 2007. He was 66 years old.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Leaders look to honor corner: Cite post office's historic presence

The Daily Tar Heel, March 29, 2006

Its history has never been quiet.

Beginning with the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, the Franklin Street post office plaza has remained a site where residents go to make their voices heard loud and clear.


To honor the plaza's unique history, the council is looking for a fitting tribute for the site, opting at its Monday meeting to hold a public hearing on the matter in the future.


Joe Herzenberg, a member of the continuing concerns committee, which was set up to address race relations after Airport Road was named in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., also suggested to the council Monday that three (local) men be commemorated at the site.

Then-UNC students John Dunne and Pat Cusick and Quinton Baker, a student at the N.C. College for Negroes (now N.C. Central University), participated in a vigil and fast in the plaza on Easter of 1964, Herzenberg said.

March, 1964. L-R: Patrick Cusick, LaVert Taylor, John Dunne, James Foushee. Photo by Jim Wallace.

Like the people who gathered there, the plaza has a history in and of itself.

Now owned by the town, the site was once the property of the federal government.

"Because of that, the Chapel Hill police could not arrest people on federal property," Herzenberg said.

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