Golden Asro Frinks was born on April 26th, 1920 in Wampee, SC. When Golden was nine years old, his family moved to Tabor City, NC. Inspired by his upbringing for strength and change, Golden headed for Norfolk, VA with the intention of enlisting in the US Navy. However, on the way there, he stopped in Edenton to visit a family friend and found work  as caretaker for the young son of a wealthy white family. Golden spent three years in Edenton, during which time he “became actively involved in African American community uplift initiatives” including as president of the Youth Improvement Society and membership in the Junior Civic League. He also became familiar with Ruth Holley, whom he would marry on April 17th, 1942.

Golden Frinks’ local civil rights activism began in earnest in the late 1950s upon his return from serving in the U.S. Army and witnessing the civil disobedience demonstrated against discrimination. Golden attended many Edenton Town Council and Chowan County Commissioner meetings and persistently spoke out against discriminatory practices, called for the desegregation of local businesses and public spaces, and denounced anti-picketing laws passed by the town council that resulted in many arrests of Edenton’s African American citizens, including Golden himself. Twice, Golden unsuccessfully tried to stop Ku Klux Klan Klavern meetings in the local area. Civil rights activities in Edenton, mostly led by Golden, came to be known as the Edenton Movement: “a coalition of several civil rights groups which...supported...demonstrations in Edenton,” and served as a model for civil rights activism in the region”. In early 1963, Golden was recognized for his activism and was hired as a field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Some of his notable accomplishments include: helping to organize the August 28, 1963 March on Washington, the Williamston Movement and Hyde County school boycott, and a 250-mile march from Asheville to Raleigh on the one-year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination.

The Frinks’ home resided at 122 W Peterson Street when Ruth purchased the home from the previous residents in 1958. The Frinks’ home was referred to locally as ““Freedom House” due to its function as a meeting place, protest origination point, and lodging place for visiting equal rights advocates”. For instance on December 20, 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr spoke at the North Carolina National Guard Armory, then toured local historic sites and dined at the Frinks' home. Throughout the 1960s, the couple hosted at their home a “myriad national civil rights leaders” including notable guests such as: “William M. Kunstler, Diane J. Nash, James E. Orange, Wyatt Tee Walker, and Hosea L. Williams”. Golden facilitated MLK Jr.’s second visit to Edenton on May 8, 1966, where he once again hosted the civil rights leader for dinner at “Freedom House”.

The couple made several renovations to the home in the 1970s which are currently intact, most notably including a 10 ft deep rear addition, full-width front porch replacing the original single-bay portico, and exterior running-bond pressed-brick veneer covering the original asbestos siding. Golden’s unrelenting activism unfortunately brought harassment to his family’s home, including threatening phone calls, a burning cross on their front lawn, and a dead rabbit left with a violent note on their doorstep. Despite this, Golden and Ruth both continued their support of the local civil rights community.

Golden and Ruth were active until their deaths on July 19, 2004 and January 30, 2009 respectively. Golden worked tirelessly to advance the civil rights of all people of color and especially those in Edenton, perpetuating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s legacy. Many still living in Edenton have fond memories associated with “Freedom House” and the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 8, 2023. Golden life truly shows that “The world is a better place because of his work”.

Adapted from essay submitted with historical marker application by Amanda Irvin

Image: Golden and Ruth Frinks Home. Courtesy of NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.


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