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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Debbie Holt

Preservation. It’s on the menu at Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue in downtown Raleigh. Preservation, along with chopped, sliced, and coarse ‘cue; ribs, fried chicken, and Brunswick stew; and more varieties of fried pork skins than there are toes on a pig’s foot.

Clyde Cooper opened his place on New Years’ Day 1938 and ran it for a half-century. The building that houses the joint dates back to 1884. But developers aim to erect a multistory apartment building on its Davie Street foundation. Downtown Raleigh is being reimagined, rebuilt, and repopulated. Gentrification comes at a price, and Clyde Cooper’s might any day utter its last squeal.

Present owners Debbie and Randy Holt have taken up the fight to preserve culinary and architectural history. They’d rather buy the crumbling brick structure than relocate. Preservation, Debbie says, “Ain’t all about the money. It’s about saving it for people and generations to come.” Defend Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue. Eat it to save it.

Date of interview:
2011-11-22 00:00

Rien T. Fertel

Denny Culbert

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