People in Soul City would love to see it reach its legacy glory days again

Akilah Davis Image
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Residents feeling 'disappointed' in lack of development in Soul City
"They felt very connected to Soul City"

NORLINA, N.C. (WTVD) -- The legacy of Soul City lives on through people who remember those days.

While it has been 45 years since the federal government pulled the plug on funding for this town, the soul of that city remains.

Every few months you can find Floyd McKissick Jr at the burial grounds where his parents were laid to rest. They are buried in the heart of Soul City, on land he owns today. It is a reminder for McKissick of what could have been.

It is a dream of his fathers that never quite got off the ground.

"They felt very connected to Soul City. Symbolically, this is the place they wanted to have as their final resting place," said McKissick. "My dad was buried here first back in 1991 and my mother was buried here in 2004. It represented what he invested so much of his heart and soul in trying to bring Soul City to the place he dreamt it could be one day."

Soul City was established in 1969, but by 1979 the multi-racial community where everyone was supposed to have access to opportunity began to fade. More than 40 years later there are still signs it existed.

McKissick served as director of planning for Soul City at the time. He told ABC11 that the majority of the funding used to build Warren New Tech High School came from the town. The Kerr Lake Regional Water System is no different and now serves four counties. A plaque inside the building recognizes his parents' vision.

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The town is now listed as Norlina, North Carolina, but some living there like Geraldine Winston,72, remember the good ole days.

"It was so exciting," Winston exclaimed.

She and her husband William believed in the up-and-coming town so much they moved into their house 40 years ago.

"When all that got cut off, it was like a brick in your chest," said William Winston. "It was like wow, I wanted this to be a great place for my children."

Even his wife expressed dismay.

"Very, very hurt, but I had bought a house so I wasn't going to leave," she said.

The Winston's raised their children there and for years have lived with disappointment. The once-growing and bustling city dried up before their eyes.

"Some moved out and some died out," she said. "That breaks my heart a little."

As new people move into this community, many don't know the rich history of the place where they lay their heads at night. Norlina resident, Lee Green's grandparents have passed on stories about Soul City to him. He's hopeful of a transformation.

"The older folk know, but the younger folk don't know nothing about Soul City," he said. "They are growing out there. They might become popular."

Green shares the same sentiment with McKissick. It won't be the city his dad once dreamed of, but one that allows everyone to have a slice of the American Dream.

"I'd love to see it developed. Not talking about building a new town, but new homes and new people coming to the area," he said.