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The Nine O'clock Whistle

For years on Saturday night, white authorities in Enfield, N.C. blew a siren, warning Blacks to clear the downtown streets. This curfew was one of many demeaning practices used to keep the Black population separate and unequal. One fateful night, three days after the March on Washington, hundreds of Blacks on the streets of downtown Enfield refused to heed the blowing of the nine o’clock whistle.
The Nine O'clock Whistle tells the story of a dramatic cultural shift that rocked the segregated town of Enfield from 1963 to 1965 through the narratives of Willa Cofield, her former students, and current residents of the town. The video documents the racial indignities, segregation practices, and labor exploitation of the time.
The story offers a supreme example of how the civil rights grapevine grew from one small act of resistance in Enfield to envelope an entire region. The documentary brings hope, spirit and encouragement to those struggling to overcome entrenched, powerful, and oppressive forces.

  • Willa Cofield
    The Brick School Legacy
  • Karen Riley
  • Willa Cofield
    The Brick School Legacy
  • Karen Riley
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 1 minute 17 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 1, 2021
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Willa Cofield, Karen Riley

Willa Cofield is a retired educator with deep roots in Enfield, North Carolina.

Cofield researched and documented the history of the Joseph Keasbey Brick School and Junior College, a Black school that operated in North Carolina from 1895-1933.

She organized a photographic exhibit, “Answering the Cry for Life and Liberty,” and produced an award-winning documentary The Brick School Legacy (2003) with Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia.

Recipient of numerous awards, Cofield is currently collaborating with a few of her former Enfield High School students writing a companion text to The Nine O'clock Whistle film about the impact of the 1960s on their identities as youth cultural workers.

Cofield is 93 years young. She has a daughter, Tanya Watson; two granddaughters, Erika and Korey, and two great-granddaughters, Maliyah and Skye.


Karen Riley is a writer, editor, and digital designer. For over 13 years, she worked as an obituary and celebrations writer for several daily newspapers.

She is the webmaster for the Black Women’s History Conference (BWHC) and the N.J. Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical (NJ AAHGS) websites. Under her brand “Karmyda”, Riley is a gospel house music DJ, and is also a marketer for several musicians, and bands.

Riley is a first time co-producer and co-director. She has worked with her nonagenarian cousin, Dr. Willa Cofield, on the documentary, “The Nine O’clock Whistle”, which details the Enfield N.C. struggle for Civil Rights from 1963 to 1965. The award winning film was just completed in July 2021.

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Director Statement

"If we don't tell our story, people will never know what happened in Enfield, NC." - Willa Cofield