In the 1978 large amounts of PCB, a toxic substance, were dumped along North Carolina roads illegally. The state’s plan for cleaning up and disposing of the toxic waste included building a toxic waste landfill in poor, and largely African American, Warren County. When residents learned of this they attempted to stop the opening of the landfill through court battles with the state of North Carolina and the EPA. When those proved unsuccessful, and construction of the site moved forward in 1982, protests were held.
The organizers were primarily black civil rights leaders, but local groups collaborated and the protests consisted of black, white and Native American citizens. Hundreds were arrested over the course of a month of protests. Although the protests did not prevent the building of the landfill, Warren County became an example for other communities and is considered to be the beginning of the Environmental Justice movement.