Community Histories Workshop
Rocky Mount Mills

Rocky Mount Mills

For 200 years, the site of the Rocky Mount Mills in Rocky Mount, N.C., has been a defining feature of the community’s natural and built environment.  There the long history of the state’s coastal plain has been enacted: as a riverine resource for American Indians and early European settlers, as a site of industrial slave labor, as a nexus of plantation cotton production, as one of the largest textile operations in the state, as a racially segregated mill community, as the center of a way of life for thousands of white families over many generations, as the site of an important civil rights victory, and since 1996 as a shuttered reminder of the collapse of the state’s most important industry for more than a century.  The mill was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980; the mill village in 1999.

On the occasion of its bicentennial in 2018, the mill site will officially reopen as apartments; rehabilitated mill houses; commercial, retail, and leisure space.  The sixty-acre river-front campus is already home to a craft-brewing incubator and several dining spots.

With support from site developer Capital Broadcasting and with the cooperation of the UNC Southern Historical Collection and Rocky Mount’s Braswell Memorial Library, the CHW has been working since July 2016 to make the adaptive reuse of this iconic site a catalyst for open-ended community history and archiving.  An online archive draws upon UNC Library’s extensive collection of mill-related materials.  “History harvests” and oral history interviews preserve community memories and stories.  CHW research fellows and students in Robert Allen’s American Studies classes have developed ideas for digital exhibits and tools.  They shared their work with the local UNC alumni community at a special event in April 2017.

During 2018-2019, we extend our work in the Rocky Mount community through new collaborative initiatives with partners within the university and in the community: the development of K-12 learning activities around the experience of African American workers in the last decades of the mill’s operation, and the connection of the slave-era history of the mill to the present-day community through family history and genealogy.

RMM Projects

To learn more about each project in this initiative, click on the project icon or title.

Digital Archive

The RMM Digital Archive is a collection of digitized images related to the history of the Rocky Mount Mills in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Pinboard Visualization

The Pinboard Visualization is a digital exhibit of historical sources designed to engage the user with the history of Rocky Mount Mills and the surrounding mill village.

Stories of the Mills

Our interviews with former mill workers provide stories from the last years of the mill's operation in the 1990s and insight into the day-to-day life of a worker at RMM.

Rocky Mount Home Movie

Mill superintendent M.G. Frye made a home movie, shot in 8mm, of various people and places at the mill and mill village. The film is from 1939.


RMM's collaborative partners helped expand the sources, resources, skills, knowledge, imagination, and connections that shaped the course of this initiative.

Origins of the Initiative

Learn more about the history of Rocky Mount Mills and the CHW's involvement in uncovering, engaging with, and communicating the mill's history.