She was the subject of a 2002 film entitled An Unlikely Friendship, the story of a relationship between Atwater and C. P. Ellis, a former Ku Klux Klan leader. In 1971 there was a great deal of turmoil in the Durham NC City Schools because of a court-ordered desegregation. Bill Riddick, motivated by fears of violence among the students organized a ten-day community meeting called a charrette where the whole community came to try to solve this problem. The first step was to create a steering committee that was representative of the whole community. Riddick identified Ann Atwater, a poor African American welfare mom and civil rights activist and Ellis to co-chair that meeting.