North Carolina Human Rights History shines a spotlight on the state’s rich legacy of activism on human rights. As Duke students committed to the study and practice of human rights, we used our senior year and experience studying for the Human Rights Certificate to research and write about well and lesser-known human rights battles and the activists who fought them.

We take as a framework the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR sets out the economic, social, cultural, political, and civil rights that all human beings have at birth, even if governments violate them or seek to limit them.

Human rights run deeper than any country's constitution.

All human beings are born with rights grounded in concepts like dignity, fairness, equality, freedom, and independence. The UDHR aims to prevent and sanction the kinds of horrors people, especially vulnerable populations, experience at the hands of authoritarian regimes.

We invite you to learn more about the UDHR here .

Far from a minor theme, we learned that this state, home to Duke University since its foundation as a high school for white male students in 1838, has been a crucible for human rights. Mapping our state has helped us understand why human rights matter--and how so many have dedicated their lives, sometimes at great cost, to these ideals.

We see a profound two-sidedness of our history—ghastly abuses and brave campaigns to put a stop to them, ensure justice, and build better lives for citizens. We work in the spirit of Durham daughter Pauli Murray, who wrote in  Proud Shoes: the story of an American family

"True emancipation lies in the acceptance of the whole past, in deriving strength from all my roots, in facing up to the degradation as well as the dignity of my ancestors.”

Pauli Murray

We organized the stories by the decade in which they mainly occurred and by where they occurred in the state. If you see a map marker of interest, go to the decade of the date in question for more information. This structure allows us to continue to add stories and tell a fuller story of human rights in North Carolina.

Do you have a story to share (or a correction to make)? Please write us at