Learn About the African American Heritage in Rocky Mount, NC
A large part of the history of African American communities has not been penned down but passed down from one generation to another as oral history. Though many African Americans lived outside the main cities, they could always visit Douglas Block, a downtown hub for African American movie theatres, businesses, and others. This center fought unemployment and helped them get suitable job opportunities. These buildings have now been renovated and create a tremendous sense of pride and inspiration for the future African American generations.
Unknown Facts About the African American History of Rocky Mount
- The individual who invited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr– Martin Luther King Jr. was invited by the Voter and the Improvement League. Though many people played a role bringing him to Rocky Mount, Rev. George Dudley was head of the Improvement League, who invited Martin Luther King to speak.
- About the Leaf House workers– Tobacco leaf workers in eastern NC joined the unions in a large organizing campaign which was much more than a fight for labor rights. The purpose of the campaign was also to increase registration of African American voters. This way, the workers made their voices heard for civil rights through ‘unionism’, which was roughly a decade before the Montgomery bus boycott.
- Ruth Braswell Jones as a leader and educator– Born in Rocky Mount, Ruth Braswell Jones made huge strides as an educational leader. She got her education degree from the Elizabeth City State Teacher’s College and her master’s from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. More than her educational accomplishments, she went on to be the first and the only woman to be made President from 2 state educational associations. She was also the first Black woman from North Carolina who was elected to be part of the National Education Association’s Board of Directors. Additionally, she also became the first Afro American president of the Southeast Regional Association of Classroom Teachers.
- Music trails of the African Americans– Those shopping around the Douglas Black region is likely to come across the statue of a piano. The instrument was placed to honor the beautiful jazzy tunes the Thelonius Monk, who was born in the Rocky Mount region. Many his beautiful tunes are available online. However, he wasn’t recognized much for his contribution to music when he was alive. Similarly, another person who made a mark in the world of music was gospel singer Luther Barnes, along with his family.
- Visit the Booker T Washington Community Center– Several education and cultural opportunities to known about African American culture are available here throughout the year. A historic marker places outside mentions him delivering a speech in Rocky Mount that is believed to be the precursor to his speech called “I Have a Dream” In a park next to the Community Center, there are several informational paths, one of which is an informational trail about Dr Luther King.
Other than Rocky Mount, there are several other places to know about African American history in North Carolina. These are inclusive of the following:
- Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum, Historic Palmer Memorial Institute
- African American Heritage Walking Tour, New Bern
- St. Philips Moravian Church
- Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum, Wilson.