Along the Lumbee River begins with a set of oral histories compiled by public historian Kimber Heinz that discuss the interconnected histories of North Carolina’s roadway development and carceral system. Both of these state infrastructures have origins in the legacy of slavery, as forced chain gangs were used to build roadways such as Interstate 74. This history still lingers today, not only in the highways that serve as a primary mode of connectivity, but also in the built structures that once incarcerated these chain gangs.
Heinz’s investigation weaves together firsthand accounts of life during the chain gang era with contemporary discussions of the necessity of uncovering and centering shadowed histories in justice work. The methodologies that Heinz presents for developing projects based in public cultural histories provide the foundational theory of this report and are highlighted in the other contributions. Her ideas have played a central role in the development of GrowingChange, a youth-led, North Carolina-based nonprofit social organization whose work informs and connects much of this report. To learn more about GrowingChange, read From Prison to Farm: Lifting Up a New Generation. —Morgan Augillard and Joey Swerdlin, Along the Lumbee River report editors