Watts Grill (1964)

The Watts Grill and Motel, a former restaurant located a few short miles from the town of Chapel Hill, was the site of several acts of bravery during the Civil Rights Movement. It opened in the early 1950s and was managed and owned by Austin and Jeppie Watts. In 1957, Watts Grill and Motel was renamed Watts Restaurant but still maintained the motel. It was still often referred to as the "Watts Grill." This popular gathering place for students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the KKK was also the site of protests and demonstrations as the Civil Rights Movement gained traction in the southern states. According to The Daily Tar Heel, UNC-Chapel Hill's student-run newspaper, Watts had "complete segregation." Therefore, not all UNC students could step foot onto the premises, and not all regular working parents could enter. Even after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in July of 1964, Watts remained segregated– one of the last holdouts to do so in Chapel Hill, violating the law and opposing freedom. 

Despite Watts continuing to practice segregation in its restaurant, brave men and women defied Austin and Jeppie Watts and protested the racial boundaries that the couple had set up, 

risking it all for " ... life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Carol Brooks, a high school 

student in Chapel Hill at the time, said this about the protests and demonstrations at Watts: "We may have had a few incidents, and I remember at the Watts Motel, they would throw acid and 

pee out the window, embarrassing. But they just didn't want us to integrate, that was the biggest problem." 

Black and white image of African American protestors marching down the street in a commercial district. Protestors are carrying signs and placards. Banner in foreground reads "FREEDOM NOW! - EAT AT JOE'S - BLACK &WHiTE!" (Words on other signs are visible.)
Civil Rights Demonstrators, courtesy of OpenOrangeNC.org



Bulkley, Joel. "New Year Brings Violence To Chapel Hill," The Daily Tar Heel, 7 Jan. 1964.
Chansky, Art. Game Changers: Dean Smith, Charlie Scott, and The Era That Transformed a Southern College Town. University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
Ehle, John. The Free Men. 1st ed., Press 53 Classics, 2007.
Parker, Karen L. "Karen L. Parker Collection, 1963-1966." UNC Wilson Special Collections Library, https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/05275/
Sterling, Suzy. "DTH Survey Shows Unequal Service At 25% Of I 16 Places,”The Daily Tar Heel, 12 Jan. 1964.
Thompson, Charles L. "Standing Up By Sitting Down." 27 Views a/Chapel Hill: A Southern University Town in Prose & Poetry, Eno Publishers, Hillsborough, NC, 201 I, pp. 170- 178.