Meet the Real
Ann Atwater was born in 1935 in Hallsboro, NC, and was one of nine children. Her parents were sharecroppers, and her father was also a deacon at the church. He made five cents per hour. Atwater and her siblings helped to work on the farm to support the family. She was married by the age of 13 to French Wilson, and they moved to Durham, NC, in search of better employment opportunities. Atwater had two children with Wilson. They struggled financially, and when he became alcoholic and abusive they divorced. Atwater raised her two children on her own.
In the 1960s, Atwater met Howard Fuller, who invited her to get involved in a program called Operation Breakthrough. The program was designed to help people escape poverty. Fuller helped Atwater see that the conditions of her home were unacceptable and encouraged her to confront her landlord.
Atwater would later become an advocate for better housing, studying and teaching Durham’s housing policies so others wouldn’t go through what she did. The activities she led and organized included sit-ins, pickets, and boycotts. Friends and colleagues from the time recalled Atwater as a “natural born leader” and “very wise.” In 1971, Atwater was invited by the Durham City Council to co-chair a 10-day event called “Save Our Schools.” This event was meant to find a solution to racial tension going on in schools. At this event, she met Klansman C.P. Ellis.
To find out what happened next, come see Best of Enemies February 17-26. Tickets to Best of Enemies are on sale now. Call the box office at 205.391.2277 or click the ticket button below.