Edgecombe County Rosenwald school teachers, from left, Mary Battle Odom, Elaine Barnes Tyson, Mary Joyner Barnes and Erma Bulluck Wilkins  were honored May 7 by the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners.

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Edgecombe County Rosenwald school teachers, from left, Mary Battle Odom, Elaine Barnes Tyson, Mary Joyner Barnes and Erma Bulluck Wilkins were honored May 7 by the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners.

Ceremony honors Rosenwald teachers in Edgecombe County

From Contributed Reports

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The Perry-Weston Institute and the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners had a ceremony and reception honoring the teachers of Edgecombe County Rosenwald Schools, commemorating the Roberson School History, and a book signing by the authors of “The Education of a Generation: The Rosenwald Schools and other African-American Schools in Edgecombe County, A Preliminary History.”

The ceremony, attended by more than 100 people, was held May 26 at the Roberson Center for Educational Achievement.

Honored were Ellsworth B. Barnes, Mary Joyner Barnes, Mary Belle Freeman Bullock, Julia Parham Foster, Dorothy B. Gilliam, Mary Battle Odom, Jessie Wimberly Parker, Lucille Allen Quinichett, Evelyn Joyner Reeves, V. Elaine Barnes Tyson, Dr. Frank B. Weaver, Queen Lewis Weaver and Erma Bulluck Wilkins.

Edgecombe County Commissioners Leonard Wiggins and Viola Harris presented certificates of appreciation to the honorees on behalf of the county, and Dr. Lawrence Auld and C. Rudolph Knight presented each honoree with a copy of their new book.

The County commissioners had previously proclaimed the month of May 2012 Edgecombe County Rosenwald School Month and, on May 7, issued a proclamation that reads, in part:

“Whereas, the Rosenwald School Building Program has been called the “most influential philanthropic force that came to the aid of Negroes” in the 1920s and 1930s; and

“Whereas, the Rosenwald School Building Program began in 1912 and eventually provided seed grants for the construction of more than 5,300 buildings in 15 states, including schools, shops, and teachers’ houses which were built by and for African Americans; and

“Whereas, the schools were named for Julius Rosenwald, who at the time of the program’s inception was the president of Sears, Roebuck and Company; and

“Whereas, the Rosenwald School buildings were architect-designed, incorporating the best in lighting, ventilation, heating, sanitation, instructional needs and aesthetics with standard plans developed for schools with variations in size reflecting the number of teachers and orientation and with additional plans for privies, teacher homes, and industrial buildings; and

“Whereas, North Carolina was home to 789 schools, built between 1917 and 1932, more Rosenwald schools than any other state in the country; and

“Whereas, these schools were mostly small, wooden structures located in the state’s rural counties; and

“Whereas, Edgecombe County had twenty-six Rosenwald schools, located at various sites across the county; and

“Whereas, these twenty-six schools were built at a total cost of $121,935 (Negro, $18,635; White, $3,000; Public, $79,900, and the Rosenwald Fund, $20,400); and

“Whereas, Carrie Battle Bratcher, an Edgecombe County Public School Teacher and a Jeanes Fund Supervisor from 1913-1960, was the “Mother Superior” of the Rosenwald School building in Edgecombe County, and

“Whereas, these schools served African American students from the time of their construction until they were replaced by consolidated schools in the late 1940s and early 1950s; and

“Whereas, many of the teachers and students who worked and studied in these schools continue to reside in the county.”

The speaker for the occasion was Dr. Benjamin F. Speller Jr., retired professor and former dean of the School of Library and Information Sciences at N.C. Central University.

The invocation for the occasion was given by Rev. Roosevelt Higgs, and ushers were Jetta Knight and Lamont Wiggins, Esq., with closing remarks by Evelyn Wilson, Vice-Chair of the Edgecombe County Public Schools. A musical selection was rendered by members of the Conetoe Alumni Choir under the direction of Linda Joyner. The members of this ensemble are Johnny Gray, James Vines, Robert Slade, Roosevelt Higgs, Beverly Vines, Rosa Joyner Steels and Fostina Cobb Lynch. Catering was by Four Seasons of Rocky Mount.

Authors C. Rudolph Knight and Lawrence W. S. Auld, Ph.D., signed copies of the recently published “The Education of a Generation: The Rosenwald Schools and other African-American Schools in Edgecombe County, A Preliminary History” during the reception. “The Education of a Generation” describes the black schools in Edgecombe County from 1869 to 1970.

Special emphasis is placed on the 26 Rosenwald Schools that were in the county. The book includes many pictures of buildings, teachers and students.

Sponsors were Baker Funeral Home, Conetoe Alumni Association, Dickens Funer Service, Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners, G. W. Carver Alumni Association, Hemby-Willoughby Mortuary, North Carolina Association of Black High Schools, Perry-Weston Institute, Thorne Drug Company and W. A. Pattillo Alumni Association.

The Perry-Weston Educational and Cultural Institute, Inc., a co-sponsor of this event, promotes African American history, genealogy, culture and arts, particularly in Edgecombe County and North Carolina.

The institute also promotes the conservation and preservation of selected African-American buildings, sites, and records.

The institute sponsors classes, lectures, exhibits, demonstrations, publications and special projects and programs.

For more information or to schedule a presentation, contact 252-823-0275.