Historic African-American Sites In NC
From teacher Charlotte Hawkins Brown and musician John Coltrane to the Greensboro Four, artist Romare Bearden and beyond, North Carolina displays its rich African-American history year-round.
Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown founded Palmer Memorial Institute in 1902, where she educated more than 1,000 African-American students. In its early days the school focused on agricultural and industrial education, the skills students would need for rural life. Dr. Brown became known nationally in her role as educator, civil rights activist, and cultural leader. The site – the only official state historic site to honor an African-American and a woman – features restored campus buildings and a museum that follows the story of African-American women, education, and social history.
One of America’s finest jazz musicians, John Coltrane, was born in Hamlet and grew up in High Point. Dr. Fred McQueen bought and renovated the old hotel where the sax man was born. Other North Carolina-born African-American musicians of note include: Thelonious Monk, Nina Simone, Max Roach and Dr. Billy Taylor.
Four young men – freshmen at NC A&T University – peacefully changed history February 1, 1960. David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. and Joseph McNeil went to a Greensboro lunch counter that refused to serve African-American patrons and held a sit-in against this injustice. A statue commemorating the four is on display at Greensboro’s North Carolina A&T campus in front of the Dudley Building. The Greensboro Historical Museum also features a display telling this story of civil disobedience, and an International Civil Rights Museum is under development at the Woolworth Building where this historic sit-in took place.
Cartoonist and artist Romare Bearden was born in Charlotte in 1911. He is one of the most unique and prolific artists of the 20th Century, exploring the visual arts through oils, watercolor and collage, as well as writing music and poetry. You can see Bearden’s work at the Jerald Melberg Gallery in Charlotte, as well as at the Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University. Bearden’s works at Winston-Salem State are part of a larger collection called “ASCENSION II: A Legacy of Self-taught African American Artists of North Carolina.”
Other Black History Month events include: Annual Black Diaspora Film Festival in Durham at the Hayti Center; an exhibit on the history of African-Americans in the US Military at the Museum of the Cape Fear in Fayetteville; and “Black Journey,” a musical exploration of the African-American experience in Asheville at the YMI Cultural Center.
added: December 12, 2008
updated: February 3, 2009