The four surviving members of the city’s first integrated fire station will be the guests of honor at the Fire Department’s Black History Month Celebration, to be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at the Diggs Gallery, 601 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. on the campus of Winston-Salem State University. The public is invited.
Raphael O. Black, Willie J. Carter, Robert L. Grier and John Roi Thomas, the surviving members of the group of eight black firefighters the city hired in 1951, are scheduled to be at the celebration.
2011 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the integrated fire company in 1951 at Station No. Four on Dunleith Avenue. The eight black firefighters joined seven white firefighters who volunteered to served with them. It was the first fire station in North Carolina to be integrated.
In keeping with the norms of the day, the city modified the fire station to create separate living quarters for the white and the black members of the fire company. However, within a matter of months the members of the company chose to ignore this arrangement and became a truly integrated company.
Speakers at the celebration include Mayor Allen Joines; Northeast Ward Council Member and Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian H. Burke, the chair of the Public Safety Committee; East Ward Council Member Derwin L. Montgomery and Fire Chief Antony Farmer.
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