Soul City

Roman Mars:
This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars.

Roman Mars:
In the 1960s, American cities were in crisis. Infrastructure was crumbling, traffic and pollution were terrible. Crime was up. Cities weren’t particularly nice places to live. White people were able to flee urban centers for the suburbs, thanks to federal help with mortgages and new freeway development. That process would come to be known as ‘white flight’.

Katie Mingle:
Meanwhile, black populations in cities, were dealing with housing discrimination and police brutality. Riots were breaking out in cities all over the country and this awful time was referred to by scholars as the ‘urban crisis’.

Roman Mars:
That’s our own Katie Mingle.

Katie Mingle:
And the civil rights movement was happening in parallel to the urban crisis, but it wasn’t really addressing the problems for black people in cities.

Roger Biles:
The overarching question was, can the cities be saved? How can we make urban life better for people – for all people?

Katie Mingle:
That’s Roger Biles, professor of history at Illinois State University.

Roger Biles:
And there were some folks who looked at the situation and just threw up their hands and said, “You know, we just can’t salvage what’s here. The answer is starting over again.”

Roman Mars:
In other words, urban planners thought maybe the problems facing cities were too big and too complicated to fix.

Katie Mingle:
And it’s within this context of the urban crisis and the civil rights movement that the federal government would come to consider an idea like Soul City.

News Report:
“Floyd McKissick offered an idea today, a new city to be built in the country in North Carolina to be called Soul City and to be populated mainly or entirely by Negroes, he says would move there from the ghettos.”

Katie Mingle:
This tape is from a 1969 NBC National News broadcast and this new city was being proposed by a civil rights leader named Floyd McKissick.

Floyd McKissick:
“In establishing our new city in North Carolina, we will create new jobs and new careers for black people.”

Roman Mars:
As a response to the urban crisis, the federal government had announced plans to provide financing to about a dozen brand new towns and Floyd McKissick wanted Soul City to be one of them.

Floyd McKissick:
“In this new town, persons will be able to control their own destinies.”

Jane Ball-Groom:
We have the power to actually be a part of building a town. Come on, it’s the story of America and to be a part of it.

Katie Mingle:
That’s Jane Ball-Groom. She was working as a secretary for McKissick in Harlem when he first started developing the idea for Soul City, which would be a place built for and by black people. A land of black opportunity in rural North Carolina. Jane says, going to Soul City was like being a pilgrim.

Jane Ball-Groom:
You know, we had our own Mayflower ship. We came down in cars. It’s the same darn thing. But, you know, maybe not, the pilgrims had it really hard.

Roman Mars:
The pilgrims did have it really hard, but this wouldn’t be easy either. The government would eventually come to support this project, but there would be politics and compromises and very strange bedfellows. And that was all before breaking ground on Soul City.

Katie Mingle:
When Floyd McKissick first pitched the idea of an all-black town, there was one question he got asked a lot.

Reporter:
“Does the building of a city like this form part of the trend towards separatism?”

Roman Mars:
This is a reporter at an early press conference and a lot of people were curious about this. Was Soul City a departure from the idea that black people and white people should integrate together in society? Was this instead black people starting their own thing, separate from white people?

Katie Mingle:
And you can hear McKissick struggle to answer.

Floyd McKissick:
“No, I think it, it does the same thing as the Chinese have done in New York. They have built them a Chinese area, Chinatown. It’s a beautiful section of the city that I admire.”

Katie Mingle:
To understand all the ways that this question about separatism was relevant, you have to understand a bit about who Floyd McKissick was.

Floyd McKissick, Jr.:
This photograph here which shows my father on the left here hand in hand with Dr. King.

Katie Mingle:
This is Floyd McKissick II. He’s a lawyer and a State Senator and he’s showing me pictures of his dad that are hanging in his office in Durham, North Carolina.

Floyd McKissick, Jr.:
The three of them, famous march on Washington where Dr. King gave his, ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. My father and Dr. King led that march that day.

Katie Mingle:
A few years after that March. Floyd McKissick, Sr. would become the executive director of an organization called CORE, that’s the Congress On Racial Equality. And he was part of a handful of really important civil rights leaders in the 60s along with people like-

Floyd McKissick, Jr.:
Dr. King, Roy Wilkins, NAACP, Whitney Young of the Urban League and Stokely Carmichael of SNCC.

Katie Mingle:
SNCC being the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Roman Mars:
Because of these leaders and the members of their organizations, huge legal gains were made in civil rights and integration in the fifties and sixties.

Katie Mingle:
And then in 1966, there’s this kind of pivotal moment in the movement.

Roman Mars:
A civil rights activist named James Meredith is shot by a white gunman while leading a march in Mississippi. Stokely Carmichael and Floyd McKissick both go down to Mississippi to continue the march. Carmichael is arrested and when he gets out of jail, he makes a speech where he says-

Stokely Carmichael:
“Don’t be afraid Don’t be ashamed. We want black power. We want black power. We want black power. We want black power. We have stayed here and we begged the president. We begged the federal government. That’s all we’ve been doing, begging, begging. It’s time we stand up and take over.

Katie Mingle:
On that day in 1966, the black power movement was born and McKissick of CORE and Carmichael of SNCC become two of the most vocal advocates of this new movement.

Floyd McKissick, Jr.:
What do we need? Black power. When do we need it? Now. Stokely and my dad were probably the two leaders in articulating what that meant.

Katie Mingle:
For Carmichael and McKissick, black power was a step further than civil rights and integration. It was essentially the idea that black people should control their own communities, should have proportional representation in government. Again, Stokely Carmichael in 1966.

Stokely Carmichael:
“We have to do what every group in this country did. We got to take over the communities where we outnumber people so we can have decent jobs. So we can have decent houses. So we can have decent roads. So we can have decent schools. So we can have decent justice.”

Katie Mingle:
So McKissick and Carmichael both very much believed in the idea of black power. But in the late sixties, they began to diverge about how to achieve it.

Roman Mars:
Carmichael and many others in the black power movement thought that capitalism was an inherently exploitative system that would always leave someone at the bottom. On the other hand, McKissick began to believe that capitalism was the answer.

Sundiata Cha Ju:
McKissick actually associates himself with a very important tendency in black power.

Katie Mingle:
That’s Sundiata Cha Jua, professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the tendency he’s talking about is one toward black capitalism.

Sundiata Cha Ju:
What it means essentially is that black people should own and control their own capitalist enterprises and it comes to suggest that business ownership is the path to equality, freedom, justice, social transformation.

Floyd McKissick:
“Too long have we attempted to divide economics from politics. The question that becomes paramount in say, 1970, is a strategy not principle.”

Katie Mingle:
That’s Floyd McKissick in an archival interview with political writer Walter DeVries.

Walter DeVries:
“You see the seventies becoming intensely pragmatic in this-”

Floyd McKissick:
“Absolutely, you got to be. If you don’t become coldly pragmatic, you might lose everything that you’ve gained. All of those gains that you’ve made during the sixties.”

Katie Mingle:
McKissick believed that the time for idealism was over. It was time for black people to claim their piece of the American pie.

Stokely Carmichael:
“Now where the hell are you? And what are you going to do to become a full-fledged American? Oh good, he wants to go back to Africa. I, for one, believe I’m going to stay here.”

Roman Mars:
Actually, Stokely Carmichael did go to Africa leaving behind the black power movement in America. He moved to Guinea where he dedicated himself to the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party.

Katie Mingle:
And Floyd McKissick did indeed stay in the States. He resigned from CORE to start a for-profit company called McKissick Enterprises and set his sights on building Soul City. The town he hoped would create as much economic opportunity for Black Americans as possible.

Floyd McKissick:
“And we can bring together the private sector, you can bring together industry, government and educational resources to really build a town free of racism.”

Sundiata Cha Ju:
The building of black towns is an expression of a desire for autonomy.

Roman Mars:
McKissick’s Soul City wasn’t a first for black town building in the US. Quite a few towns were settled in the Great Plains between 1890 and 1910 by African-American sharecroppers fleeing the south, but these weren’t intentionally planned communities with government support.

Katie Mingle:
Amazingly, in the late 1960s just as McKissick becomes convinced that building a new town is the way to achieve black power, the government struggling to deal with the so-called urban crisis, announces their program to help finance several new cities as part of the Urban Growth and New Communities Act.

Roger Biles:
The legislation was passed, which provided a process for building these things.

Katie Mingle:
That’s historian Roger Biles again, and he says these new cities would be meticulously planned in order to avoid the problems of existing cities.

Roger Biles:
Yeah, we’re going to bring all of the knowledge and all of the insights of urban planning to doing it right this time.

Roman Mars:
The program would be managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD. Private developers could propose ideas to HUD for new towns. If they were approved, the new towns could sell government-backed bonds to investors on Wall Street.

Katie Mingle:
And as McKissick starts talking to people within HUD about this all-black town idea, they’re like, “Look, there’s no way we’re going to approve something that’s perceived as being separatist.” So McKissick dials back the language he was using to describe Soul City.

Sundiata Cha Ju:
If you look at the things that he wrote and said before he fills out the actual applications, it’s all about… He’s talking about building ideal black communities. After he’s gone through that process, then the literature is about building middle-class communities that are open.

Roman Mars:
McKissick never envisioned a place where white people would be specifically excluded. He did imagine a majority-black town with a majority black leadership, but he couldn’t really talk about it like that.

Katie Mingle:
In politics, concessions must be made. And the next big one would come in the form of an important ally.

Roman Mars:
McKissick understood that to be approved to build one of these new cities, he would need friends in high places.

Katie Mingle:
He first pitches the idea to the current president, Lyndon Johnson. And Johnson seems interested, but then he decides not to run for re-election.

Roman Mars:
And so in 1968, McKissick looks at the new field of presidential candidates and asks himself-

Devin Fergus:
Who is the most viable person to support the Soul City project?

Katie Mingle:
That’s Devin Fergus. He’s a professor of African-American studies at Ohio State University.

Devin Fergus:
He opts for Richard Nixon.

Richard Nixon:
“We’ve had enough of big promises and little action. The time has come for honest government in the United States of America.”

Devin Fergus:
And shockingly, Nixon actually supports this project.

Katie Mingle:
Nixon believed in black capitalism because Nixon believed in capitalism. He believed that when people own property and businesses, they had more of a stake in the country. Apart from that, the Republican Party wanted to bring in black voters.

Devin Fergus:
The Republican Party in the late sixties and seventies was a much more ‘big tent’ sort of party. The way to win and a way to create a door with the Republican Party is by casting as wide a net as possible.

Roman Mars:
It’s unclear how much Nixon’s support helped McKissick’s cause since the final decision was made by an agency within HUD. But in the early 1970s, Soul City did become one of the 13 new towns to receive government backing and Floyd McKissick, Black Power leader, became a Republican and one of Nixon’s most vocal black supporters.

Katie Mingle:
Of the 13 new cities, Soul City was the only so-called ‘free-standing’ new city, meaning it wasn’t being built right next to an already existing city that it could lean on for employment opportunities and infrastructure. It was being built on an old tobacco plantation, about an hour away from Durham in rural Warren County, North Carolina.

Jane Ball-Groom:
“We were pioneers. ”

Jane Ball-Groom:
“We really were pioneers because you have to know what this place looked like. It was a farm. It was the Green Duke plantation and-”

Jane Ball-Groom:
“Which it had formerly 59 slaves there.”

Katie Mingle:
That’s Jane Ball-Groom. You heard her at the beginning of the story. And Doris Terry Williams. I interviewed them together in Jane’s house in Warren County.

Katie Mingle:
In 1970, Jane packed up her family and left her crowded housing project in New York for the wide-open farmlands of North Carolina.

Jane Ball-Groom:
“For me, coming out of New York it was, land. It was land. It was safe.”

Katie Mingle:
When Jane got to Warren County, there were just a handful of other new settlers living in trailers. These early planners had developed a 30-year strategy for Soul City that laid out everything including their plan for three residential villages with mixed-income housing.

Roman Mars:
Floyd McKissick II actually got a degree in urban planning to help his dad design Soul City. The design was inspired by the planned community of Columbia, Maryland, which was meant to have racial diversity and a small-town feel.

Katie Mingle:
Soul City had acquired 3,600 acres of land. They hoped to have a population of about 2,000 people by 1978 and by the end of 30 years, they wanted to be up to around 40,000 people. Jane says, these early days at Soul City just felt full of potential.

Jane Ball-Groom:
Growing up in America, even New York, you knew you had limitations because you were Negro. You have to understand that. You got to understand that. You get my point? And then you here, you get all of this. Oh my God, it’s a miracle. To me, it was just an amazing time to be young, gifted and black.

Katie Mingle:
Floyd McKissick continued to support the Republican Party and he spent some time traveling and campaigning for Nixon when he ran for his second term as president. But most of McKissick’s time was spent at Soul City.

Jane Ball-Groom:
When he was here, he was in the middle of the community. He was never a part above, you know, I didn’t have his education, I didn’t have his stature, but he was my brother.

Roman Mars:
McKissick had decided on Warren County because he had grown up in North Carolina, so he knew the state, but also because black residents had left the south in droves during the great migration to cities of the North. He wanted to give urban blacks a place in the south to return to if they wanted and give people who are already there a reason to stay.

Katie Mingle:
In order to create jobs, McKissick’s hope was to attract industry. He wanted a big company like General Motors to come down and build a factory. But before that could happen, Soul City needed basic infrastructure like water and electric.

Roman Mars:
Soul City built an electrical grid and partnered with a few other counties to build a huge regional water system from a nearby lake.

Jane Ball-Groom:
Between 74 and 76 there was this growth. I’d wake up in the morning, I’d hear bulldozers outside, I’d see the trucks coming in, digging up the red mud, putting down concrete. You saw this every day. You smelled it. It was just so fantastic. So many things-

Katie Mingle:
They built a health clinic called HealthCo and a public swimming pool, both of which brought people from all over the county.

Jane Ball-Groom:
“The roads, all the roads, all the roads. They have the infrastructure…”

Katie Mingle:
And they built a huge 60,000 square foot industrial building divided into separate sections with loading docks called Soul Tech One.

Jane Ball-Groom:
“Yeah. Soul Tech…”

Katie Mingle:
Soul Tech One, completed in 1975 was designed by architect Harvey Gantt, and it was meant to be an incubator where new industry could get started and then move to bigger facilities if need be.

Roman Mars:
But despite there being moments where it felt like real growth was happening, Soul City was not hitting its targets. By the mid-1970s, the population was fewer than 200 people. A few small manufacturers set up in the Soul Tech building, but no one that could offer a substantial number of jobs. Without enough residents, it was hard to attract industry and without the industry, it was hard to attract new residents.

Katie Mingle:
And then there was the problem of the name.

Jane Ball-Groom:
“And then the name Soul City. I mean, there were people who said you should change the name of the project. And no, Floyd just refused to do that.”

Jane Ball-Groom:
“That was militaristic.”

“It’s biblical. You have a soul…”

Jane Ball-Groom:
“But people perceived the name as being too black. Black, too black.”

Katie Mingle:
Soul City was not an all-black town. In fact, Gordon Carey, who played an important role in the leadership was white and some of the residents were white, but it could never really escape the perception of being an all-black town. And in some ways, it never really wanted to.

Jane Ball-Groom:
“So many people over the years have said, “Oh, why was it all black?” I’ve gotten old enough to say now, “Why not?” It was a multiracial community, always was, but doggone it, after all the years that we’ve been through what we’ve been through, when I look at my history, why not?”

Katie Mingle:
Apart from Soul City’s identity issues, McKissick’s ally in the White House, President Nixon, had resigned in disgrace and the economy was in a slump.

Roman Mars:
On top of that, the Raleigh News and Observer launched an expose on Soul City. 17 negative articles over eight days accusing the Soul City of all kinds of wrongdoing, political payoffs, cronyism, nepotism and financial misappropriation.

Katie Mingle:
And then with this expose as rationale, came North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms ready to battle it out with Soul City. Here’s Floyd McKissick II again.

Floyd McKissick, Jr.:
Helms launched attacks against Soul City that literally brought development to a halt.

Roman Mars:
During his long tenure as a Republican Senator in North Carolina, Jesse Helms gained the reputation of being a not so secret racist, and he disliked the Soul City project from the beginning. Remember, McKissick and Helms were in the same political party. Still, Helms was determined to destroy McKissick’s city.

Katie Mingle:
Senator Helms ordered a fiscal audit on Soul City and HUD froze funding until the audit was over.

Floyd McKissick, Jr.:
They never found any wrongdoing. The audit gave us a clean bill of health, but it damaged us significantly in terms of public perceptions.

Roman Mars:
It’s true, most of the charges leveled against Soul City by Helms or the Raleigh News and Observer were not substantiated during the audit, but the bad press had further scared away industry and investors. Growth in Soul City was at a standstill.

Roger Biles:
And after a certain point-

Katie Mingle:
Again, historian Roger Biles.

Roger Biles:
Bankers and HUD simply withdrew to the position that, “Well, we’re not going to advance you any more loans. We’re not going to invest in this anymore until we see some growth.” And McKissick’s come back was, “Well, you know, we’ve reached a point where the growth isn’t going to come unless we have more investment.”

Jane Ball-Groom:
“This business didn’t come, that business didn’t come. Things were not looking great, but in my mind, being the optimist that I am, I said, but it’s going to happen. It’s going to go be okay.”

News Report:
“10 years ago, Floyd McKissick, a civil rights activist set out to build a city for blacks. McKissick said that in 30 years it would be home to 46,000 people. But today, Soul City is a broken dream and the government has begun foreclosure action to seize the property.”

Roman Mars:
In 1979, HUD announced that they would no longer support Soul City. Without the government support, McKissick was forced into foreclosure and most of the land at Soul City was sold off.

Katie Mingle:
But of the 13 towns developed as part of the Urban Growth and New Communities Act, Soul City wasn’t the only one to fail.

Roger Biles:
Only one of them actually thrived and that was a place called the Woodlands, which is just North of Houston.

Roman Mars:
The Woodlands was more generously subsidized from the beginning and had the benefit of being on the outskirts of Houston, Texas during an oil boom. The other 12 towns all failed. Meaning people might still live there, but they did not continue on autonomously. Some became suburbs or neighborhoods of bigger towns. Some remained unincorporated. Most of the failed towns cited a lack of investment as the primary reason for failure.

Katie Mingle:
But Soul City faced additional hurdles. For one, they were the only standalone town, so they were truly starting from nothing.

Floyd McKissick, Jr.:
And added to that, a strong dose of racism. (laughs)

Katie Mingle:
I think that might be the way you laugh when you actually want to scream. In any case, it’s not hard to imagine that racism played a role in Soul City’s demise. There was the investigation by Jessie Helms, the negative press and the government, Floyd, Jr. says, was always looking over their shoulder.

Floyd McKissick, Jr.:
We were always under a special level of scrutiny and a special level of review.

Doris Terry Williams::
“You’ve got to make the right turn at that yellow sign down there. That was the main entrance to Soul City.”

Katie Mingle:
I’m driving around with Doris Terry Williams in what was once Soul City. It’s now an unincorporated part of Warren County.

Doris Terry Williams::
“This little strip right here was built as the beginning of kind of a commercial place. There were several little businesses.”

Katie Mingle:
It still feels like a really rural area. There’s a pond and some woods, a few clusters of houses. Some of the buildings are abandoned, like the health clinic.

Jane Ball-Groom:
“And this building here on your left. This was HealthCo-”

Katie Mingle:
And then we get to a new building. A big one. One that was built after the Soul City project failed.

Jane Ball-Groom:
“And this is the prison.”

Roman Mars:
In 1993, the Warren County Correctional Facility was built. It’s a high security prison designed to house about 800 inmates and next door to the prison, in the building that used to be Soul Tech One is now Correction Enterprises. Soul Tech One, remember, was the building designed to incubate new industry in Soul City. At Correction Enterprises, prison laborers make janitorial products like soap and earn about $3 a day.

Katie Mingle:
All of this on the former slave plantation that Floyd McKissick tried to transform into a place for black people to succeed. It’s not hard to see the tragic irony in this. Back at Jane’s house, I ask her and Doris how they felt when the prison came.

Jane Ball-Groom:
“I lost my freaking mind. I’m being honest with you.”

Doris Terry Williams::
“And they could have brought industry here, real industry instead of that prison.”

Jane Ball-Groom:
“Bring the prison because most of them are mainly black prisoners, anyway.”

Doris Terry Williams::
“It happens all over rural America, particularly low income and communities of color with the promise that it’s going to bring jobs. It is an insult. It’s an insult to Floyd’s memory. It’s an insult to all the things that he was trying to do here.

Katie Mingle:
Floyd McKissick passed away in 1991. So he didn’t live to see this final insult to his city. Before he died, he served as a judge in North Carolina and as a pastor at the First Baptist Church of Soul City.

Doris Terry Williams::
“He found a way to continue the struggle.”

Katie Mingle:
But Soul City was a hard defeat to get over.

Jane Ball-Groom:
This was his architecture. This was his fountainhead. This was his… And it is his legacy. I mean, can you imagine… And I tell you, I saw a difference in him. He was just a different man. Something had been shaken away. He wouldn’t tell you, but something had been shaking away.

Roman Mars:
It’s funny, somehow I’d never heard of McKissick. I had heard of a lot of his contemporaries in civil rights, Martin Luther King, Jr. of course, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young. I’d also heard of a lot of his peers in the Black Power movement. People like Stokely Carmichael, Assata Shakur, Huey Newton and Angela Davis, but not Floyd McKissick.

Sundiata Cha Ju:
These younger scholars who do what’s called Black Power studies, they’ve tended to study and write about the organizations and the individuals whom they see as heroic.

Katie Mingle:
That’s Professor Sundiata Cha Jua again.

Sundiata Cha Ju:
McKissick supports Richard M. Nixon and joins the Republican Party. McKissick isn’t seen as heroic, but that doesn’t mean he’s not important.

Roman Mars:
Sundiata thinks that even though McKissick was not a conservative Republican, he’s still a less appealing character to scholars who are interested in the more radical ideals generally associated with Black Power.

Sundiata Cha Ju:
So he gets written out of the history.

Katie Mingle:
McKissick is fairly well-known and loved in North Carolina and Doris says Soul City has had far reaching impacts on the state.

Doris Terry Williams::
“Because when you think about the people who came through Soul City, who’ve gone on to do just amazing things. I was talking to Abdul Rashid the other day-”

Katie Mingle:
Doris and Jane go on to list several people who are influenced by McKissick and Soul City and went on to start social programs in the area or even be elected to public office.

Doris Terry Williams::
“You know, Eva Clayton, all of the folk who came through Soul City-”

Roman Mars:
And people still live on the land that was Soul City, making use of the water and electrical systems that were built as part of the project, driving on those roads, living in those houses. Jane Ball-Groom still owns her home in Soul City.

Jane Ball-Groom:
“I mean, to me, McKissick’s dream was ownership of one’s self and pride in one’s self. To me, I realized the dream in my little capacity.”

Katie Mingle:
And if scholars are writing McKissick out of history because they don’t see him as a hero, well, they’re certainly not going to convince Doris Terry Williams or Jane Ball-Groom.

Jane Ball-Groom:
“I remember him walking around with that hat on. He had this cowboy hat or whatever you want to call it. It was a beautiful hat. He would just knock on the door, ‘Jane Groom, you okay in there?’ He cared about people. He really, really cared about people. He wasn’t perfect, but he was magnificent.”

Roman Mars:
99% Invisible was produced this week by Katie Mingle with Delaney Hall, Avery Trufelman, Kurt Kohlstedt, Sharif Youssef, Sam Greenspan and me, Roman Mars. Special thanks to Megan Reed.

Roman Mars:
The archival tape you heard of Floyd McKissick came from the Southern Oral History Program collection at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Credits

Production

Producer Katie Mingle spoke with Roger Biles, professor of history at Illinois State University; Jane Ball-Groom, assistant to McKissick; Floyd McKissick, Jr., state senator and lawyer in Durham, North Carolina; Sundiata Cha Jua, Professor of History and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-ChampaignDevin Fergus, Professor of African-American Studies at Ohio State University; and Doris Terry Williams, former resident of Soul City.

The archival tape you heard (in the podcast) of Floyd McKissick came from the Southern Oral History Program Collection at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Maps and diagrams via Soul City, North Carolina (by Soul City Company; McKissick, Floyd B. (Floyd Bixler), 1922-1991; Floyd B. McKissick Enterprises; Published 1974) and Wikipedia (public domain) unless otherwise noted.

Music

“this is the last day of your life”- Melodium
“Blue Veil” – Evan Caminiti
“Composure” – B. Fleishmann
“Onefnt” – Jóhann Jóhannsson
“The Man Who Took My Sunglasses” – Khruangbin
“Broken Monitors” – B. Fleishmann
“Seeking” – Plaid
“First Attempts” –  Jóhann Jóhannsson
“Deers” – Masayoshi Fujita
“Tumbleweed” – 9 Lazy 9
“The flying nun” – 9 Lazy 9
“Night Montage” – Jóhann Jóhannsson
“Gain” – B. Fleishmann
“Sororities” – Mapstation
“Greif” – Poddington Bear
“Young Gifted and Black” – Nina Simone
“Floating Away”- Lullatone

  1. Laurie C

    Did you even research this story? I grew up in Warren County and had friends living in Soul City during this era. Your “facts” are a little skewed. Here is a copy of the official GAO Report on their audit at Soul City, which certainly does not reflect a “clean bill of financial health.” http://www.gao.gov/assets/120/113011.pdf

    1. 99pi

      That is a direct quote from an interviewee. If you listen to the context added around it, the reality is more nuanced, which is made clear in the story. Most of the accusations, as pointed out subsequently, were indeed found to be baseless. The GAO document was researched in making this story.

    2. L Cortright

      99pi you’re still mistaken. I spend a great deal of my childhood in Soul City because my best friend’s Dad was Gordon Carey of CARE who was on the Board of Directors. I was young, but I was entrenched in all the news and happenings of the time. This story leaves out a number of very important details that, to be fair, are probably hard to ascertain from the public record.

  2. Jerry Walrath

    While The Woodlands has been a success by almost any measure, it has always been, and remains today, an unincorporated area of Montgomery County.

  3. Keith

    I think its unfair to characterize Helms as just a Republican. As a Democrat myself I’m embarrassed to admit it, but Helms was a Democrat until 1970.

  4. Laurie C

    Once you’ve had the opportunity to review the GAO report, I would love to hear your comments and observations, as I have always enjoyed your podcast and found your group to strive for clarity and honesty. (By the way, I also went to school and was great friends with Amy, who’s mom was interviewed for this article… no harm at all is intended… I just want the facts to be represented.)

  5. Amanda

    Is this more a story about not letting capitalism actually happen? If the government was heavy handed in planning this community is it any wonder that it did fail? There are plenty examples of black communities that thrive in the south that happened organically, maybe do a show on one of these communities.

  6. Michele

    Loved the podcast; however, the unbalanced sound hurt my ears. The recording of some of those interviewed was very loud and grating. I had to turn down the volume, but then the narrators’ could not be heard.

  7. I took a job in Warren County in 1972 as a young social worker. Having moved there from Raleigh I found the area highly rural with only a couple small communities, Norlina where I lived and Warrenton where I worked. Early on I visited Soul City to see McKissick’s vision begin. It was sparse then, as the official groundbreaking was over a year away. Still, there were people there beginning the project. I was greeted warmly. I never met any white local residents with enthusiasm for the project. I do believe that the name implied Black separatism, which impacted negatively. Shifting political winds predictably ended the effort. A few years back I drove through the Norlina area and found it even more depressed and barren than in the early seventies. The county surely and desperately could have used the economic development. The prison is a cruel, cruel irony. One county resident I met in 1972 sincerely questioned whether the plantation had ever had any slaves. I wonder if in the future they will question whether this latest embodiment of incarceration ever existed?

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