His words shook the entire nation, prophetically declaring that blacks would rise again from the oppression of segregation and disfranchisement, yet George Henry White’s story has remained lost to generations of North Carolinians for a century after he left Congress.
More than 60 people braved icy weather conditions Jan. 26 in Tarboro as the Phoenix Historical Society and the Benjamin & Edith Spaulding Descendents Foundation sponsored an exhibit and screening of a new documentary “George Henry White: American Phoenix,” followed by a panel of noted historians who discussed the legacy of White and why his story has been omitted from our history books. On the same day, more than 40 people attended a screening of the same documentary at the N.C. Museum of History as part of the African-American Cultural Day.
The documentary was produced by filmmaker Kate Tsubata and Lightsmith Productions of Washington, D.C., area and sponsored by the Spaulding Descendents Foundation out of concern that George Henry White’s courageous stand for racial justice in the face of public apathy not be overlooked in national black history.
The Spaulding Descendents Foundation and Phoenix Historical Society are working together to promote public knowledge of George H. White.
The Jan. 26 event was part of the historical society’s annual George Henry White Day that commemorates White’s famous farewell to Congress speech of Jan. 29, 1901, where he said, “This Mr. Chairman may be the Negro’s temporary farewell to the American Congress, but let me say Phoenix -like he will rise up some day and come again.”
In Tarboro, attendees listened to a very provocative and enlightening historians’ panel consisting of Betty White Washington, great-great niece of George Henry White and retired history teacher at Kinston High School; Dr. David Dennard, director of African-American studies at East Carolina University and member of the N.C. Historical Commission; Dr. John Haley, professor emeritus of history at University of North Carolina-Wilmington; Dr. Al-Tony Gilmore, visiting scholar of history at George Washington University; and Dr. Benjamin Justesen, author of two books on George Henry White.
For more information on “George Henry White: American Phoenix,” check out the website www.georgehenrywhite.com