The film FREEDOM HILL spotlights the oldest town incorporated by freed, formerly enslaved people in the United States.
Not long after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism, Resita Cox worked as a TV News reporter. The Kinston native’s first assignments drew her closer to home in Eastern North Carolina. One story especially resonated with Cox; it called for closer examination and telling than in a single news segment or two.
“Just one month into my career as a TV news reporter, I would witness something devastating – my hometown and the entire Eastern part of the state was once again underwater after Hurricane Matthew ravaged the coast.”
Unlike many of her colleagues at the news station at the time, many of whom were from out-of-state, Cox had a unique vantage point on the events unfolding. “I was the only reporter forced to grapple with reporting on the flooding while also housing some of my family in my one-bedroom apartment as they had to evacuate their home due to the storm.”
Cox’s on-the-ground reporting experiences and her close personal connection to the community and their stories informed and inspired the endeavors of her first documentary film project called FREEDOM HILL (2022). “I grew up in the same area as Princeville and didn’t learn about the town’s historical significance until I was sent there to cover the flood damage. This film is of severe personal significance to me as my roots are in North Carolina, and thus in Princeville.”
Founded in 1865, Princeville, NC, is the oldest town incorporated by freed, formerly enslaved people in the United States. According to UNC-Chapel Hill’s Coastal Resilience Center (CRC), there were 2,200 residents in Princeville prior to the 2016 Hurricane Mathew storm. “About 450 homes were destroyed during the hurricane and subsequent flooding, and an estimated 80 percent of the town was underwater,” according to the CRC. Nearly two decades earlier – in 1999 – the town had suffered similar losses in the wake of Hurricane Floyd.
For Cox, Princeville’s story of struggle, resilience, and survival in the face of these devastating challenges cannot be viewed in isolation.