Dr. Melissa N. Stuckey, an associate professor at Elizabeth City State University, has let her curiosity lead her down a new road of history and research. Learn more about her story from Lauren Howard at the Spectrum Local News article below.

From the 1930s to the 1960s The Negro Motorist Green Book became the go-to guide for African-American travelers across the country.

In a new exhibit called “Navigating Jim Crow: The Green Book and Oasis Spaces in North Carolina” at the Museum of the Albemarle explores what life was like for black travelers. 

A group at Elizabeth Cty State University is revisiting those safe havens that were vital to the Black community.

Assistant professor Dr. Melissa N. Stuckey drove by countless abandoned buildings and vacant lots on her way to work and became curious about the history behind them. 

“I drive a particular route down this road to my job every day at Elizabeth City State University, and I saw so many empty lots and so many older homes, and I just wanted to know the story,” Stuckey said.  

She and her students began their research by looking up old city directories and the Green Book, which included two locations, The Blue Duck Inn and Mr. Overtone’s filling station. 

The filling station no longer exists and The Blue Duck was torn down and replaced by a grocery store. 

This is indicative of the way so much of Black history and Elizabeth City history have been forgotten.   

“African-American men and women and men owned plenty of essential businesses in Elizabeth City. People had their churches, restaurants, their rooming houses, their businesses, everything was within walking distance, even their places of entertainment. So they were able to have a full life even in a segregated city,” Stuckey said.

The Gaiety Theatre is one of the only structures still standing. It was a Black-operated, white-owned cinema. 

“The very idea that there’s an African American-operated cinema in your neighborhood walking distance, means it’s a place young people are going to gather, families are gonna come to. Whether it’s after church or on the weekends, it was a very popular place to be,” Stuckey said. 

She said there’s so much rich history in the city, but it’s covered by new development and scattered. But with the help of her research she hopes to see the history commemorated for future generations. 

“There’s a community that has substance that’s been in Elizabeth City for that long, and their stories are begging to be told. I want people to see the longer story of each building, of each dweller, of each resident. Even each empty lot, right? They all have a story,” Stuckey said.