February is Black History Month! Each week, we will celebrate the rich local history and culture of long-time residents in our Place Matters footprint, including 13 historically black neighborhoods in northeast Winston-Salem. By sharing their stories, we hope to shed light on the importance of the fight for equity and strive to create communities where everyone has the resources, opportunities, and support they need to thrive.
The Sudlers have lived in their home in Castle Heights, one of Place Matter’s 13 neighborhoods, for over 50 years. Alfred (Jake) and Gladys (Jimmy) moved from Delaware to North Carolina. After graduating from Hampton University receiving her degree in Physical Education and Recreation, Jimmy started her career as the first African American Director of Health Physical Education and Recreation at the YWCA. Jake, also a Hampton graduate, served in the Army’s Chemical Core.
Before purchasing their home, Jake and Jimmy lived in an apartment complex called Columbia Terrace (now Skyline apartments). At the time, they had one daughter and didn’t like how close the roads were around the complex. They eventually worked with Scott Realty to find their home in Castle Heights. The Sudlers knew it was the neighborhood for them. Everything they needed (grocery stores, mall, schools) was within 10 miles of their home. Other black families in the community worked for prominent companies like Reynolds, Piedmont Airlines, and the school system. Their family grew to four girls. Kimberlee, their daughter who serves on the Place Matters Resident Impact Council, remembers how awesome it was growing up around so many children. She shared, “Three houses around our house also had four children. Christmas day would be full of children and their bikes on our street.” The neighborhood children felt like they owned the street. Homeowners knew all of the children would play on their road and wouldn’t drive down up and down their particular street. The Sudlers loved that they could look out of the window to make sure their children were safe.
As the children became adults and their parents aged, the neighborhood changed. Jake mentioned, “when economic conditions improve, some people want to step forward and move to another community.” Children moved away and weren’t interested or couldn’t keep their family homes, resulting in more rental properties and section 8 housing. A neighborhood association is more challenging to establish in existing neighborhoods than newer ones, so it’s hard to make renters keep up with the property. Landlords may not check on their properties as much as they should. Thankfully, there have not been many problems in their neighborhood.
The Sudlers have noticed new homes built in the neighborhood and people investing in home improvement projects. There is excitement about a new aviation program in the area, and they hope it brings more awareness around how amazing their community is. They hope the children of the original homeowners come back to the community and make it great for the future.