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

About Joe

My photo
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.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Mrs. Spencer's era

The News & Observer, Raleigh NC, Jan. 15, 2005 - Letter to the Editor

To compare, as a Dec. 21 People's Forum letter-writer did, the racial views of Abraham Lincoln in 1858 with those of Cornelia Phillips Spencer in the Reconstruction era (1865-75) is to compare historical apples and oranges.

Between 1858 and Reconstruction, a great Civil War had been fought, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers had been killed, Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation and included black soldiers in the Union Army, and the Constitution had been amended three times with regard to former slaves. By the time of his death, the Lincoln of 1858 was no more.

And Lincoln wasn't the only white American whose racial views had changed. Samuel Phillips, Cornelia's brother, as federal attorney in Raleigh prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan so vigorously that President Grant appointed him solicitor general. And he wasn't alone. An entire political party (the Republicans!) acted as if they believed in racial equality.

Mrs. Spencer was not in good company. And today, Chancellor James Moeser is to be commended for his recent decision regarding the Bell Award.

Joe Herzenberg
Chapel Hill