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.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Blacks added to plaza names: Marker naming rights leaders will be installed in the fall

Chapel Hill News, May 25, 2008

By Meiling Arounnarath

CHAPEL HILL -- The names of the first people approved for the town's new historical marker were all white. Where were the black people who helped lead the civil rights struggle in Chapel Hill, the local NAACP asked.

The NAACP recently recommended four additional names be added to the sidewalk marker planned for the Peace and Justice Plaza outside the Franklin Street post office. The Chapel Hill Town Council wants to install the marker in the fall.

The Naming Committee originally approved Joe and Lucy Straley, Charlotte Adams and Joe Herzenberg, who were active in the local peace and civil rights movements and other causes.

The NAACP proposed Henry "Hank" Anderson III, James R. Brittain, Hubert Robinson and Gloria Williams.


The historical marker will be a tablet installed in front of the flagpole.

It will read: "Peace and Justice Plaza" at the top. Under that will be the names of the nine honored, in alphabetical order, said Town Council member Sally Greene, who sits on the Naming Committee. More names can be added later.

"Most of them are probably not as well-known as these other activists because, as someone has said recently, the black community tends to be invisible and overlooked," Yonni Chapman, a local civil rights historian, told the Town Council. "The NAACP, upon hearing the news of this initiative to honor peace and justice activists, certainly supported the names put forward, but we thought it would be appropriate to have some African-Americans added to that list."

The Peace and Justice Plaza wasn't just a focus of the anti-war movement, Chapman said.

"It was also the focal point of the civil rights movement, of all the Martin Luther King Jr. marches that have been held," he said. "It's been a rallying area for the black freedom struggle in Chapel Hill, which has been tremendously important to this entire community."

Friday, May 2, 2008

First names proposed for post office plaza

N&O, Orange Chat, May 2, 2008


The Chapel Hill Town Council will consider the first names to be engraved on a marker outside the Franklin Street post office on Monday.

The council voted in 2006 to name the spot the "Peace and Justice Plaza" in recognition of the political gatherings that have taken place there.

In a 2007 story, we reported that the the council voted to engrave the names of longtime activists Charlotte Adams and Joe and Lucy Straley on a 5 foot by 5 foot granite marker outside the post office.

Now comes word, by way of Monday's Town Council agenda, that town leaders have decided to add some other names to the marker.

The council will consider a recommendation to engrave the following names: Joe and Lucy Straley, Charlotte Adams, Joe Herzenberg, Hubert Robinson, James R. Brittain, Henry "Hank" Anderson III, and Gloria Williams.