Current exhibition

People holding protest signs

PCB protest in Warren County, 1982
Photo by Harold Moore

We Birthed the Movement: The Warren County PCB Landfill Protests, 1978-1982

July 25-December 22, 2022
9:00-5:00, Monday-Friday, except holidays. Closed December 16, 2022.

In December 1978, North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt announced a plan to build a toxic landfill in the rural community of Afton (Warren County) to store 60,000 tons of soil laced with cancer-causing PCBs that had been dumped illegally on 240 miles of North Carolina roadways earlier that summer. Over the next four years, a group of concerned citizens responded, mounting legal and scientific challenges to what they deemed an act of “toxic aggression.” 

By 1982, after attempts to block the landfill through the courts had failed, a broader coalition attempted to physically stop the trucks from bringing in the PCBs. After seven weeks of protests and more than 500 arrests, the State still dumped more than 7,000 truckloads of contaminated soil into a community whose population was 60% Black. The intersection of environmentalism and civil rights in the Warren County fight was transformational. Forty years on, it has become recognized as the birthplace of the environmental justice movement. 

This exhibition was curated in collaboration with protest participants, eyewitnesses, and those who continue to organize for justice in Warren County. We center their voices and stories in the retelling. 



For hours, directions, and parking, see Wilson Library’s visit us page.

For information on previous exhibitions, see our past exhibitions page.