GAINBORO, N.C. – Walking through history right in our own backyard.
To celebrate Juneteenth, a local historian guides a group through Gainsboro on Friday, teaching about the neighborhood’s rich African American history.
Jordan Bell walks a group of people through the neighborhood his family grew up in.
Full of African American history, he’s now made it his mission to pass on the stories he grew up listening to.
“I think it’s important that everybody knows the history of the city they live in,” Bell said.
Gainsboro today is a remnant of the original 1835 settlement that was once one of the most vibrant centers of Black culture and business in the South.
Bell is working to keep that memory alive one story at a time.
“There’s a lot of forgotten stories, even doing this there’s a lot of forgotten stories that have not either been recorded or been told,” he said.
As he collects stories of Gainsboro, dozens are interested in hearing them, even asking questions to learn more.
“Some of the questions made me feel they really wanted to learn it one, but then they want to do something about it.”
Parts of Gainsboro, like the Claytor Building, are reminders of Roanoke’s troubled past with urban renewal, a practice forever changing Black neighborhoods.
“I just want people to understand when they say urban renewal they really need to look into what was being renewed, so it was just a destruction of a community,” said Bell.
As the neighborhood looks to the future, which includes a newly renovated library, Bells hopes those listening return to join the work of revitalization.
“I would like for everyone who goes on these tours to come back to this community outside of the tours and do community work in the area.”