The Anderson Rosenwald Project Planning Committee met on September 13, 2013, in the basement fellowship hall of Mt. Olive Baptist Church.
Attending were: David and Willa Wyatt, Sandra Tolley, Fatimah Shabazz, Omar McClain, Ryan Phillips, Theresa Phillips, Richard Dillingham, Dan Slagle, Caroline Twiggs, and Simone Bouyer.
Willa opened the meeting at approximately 10:08 a.m. The minutes for August 23 were corrected as follows: Henry Ford visited in 1918; corrected spelling for Alaysia. With a motion from Sandra and a second from Carolina all present approved the corrected minutes.
History Committee: Dan reports that they are waiting to hear form Yancey County. Willa will contact them. Richard’s book, the Oz Deaver Diary should be in stores in two weeks. Richard has updated the Mars Hill Rosenwald School history overview and included end notes and sources. He continues to update the history with input and additional details from the Cheeks and Dan. Richard also sent David Briscoe a copy of the history. He suggested adding photos to the history for fundraising purposes. He will email a copy of the history to the committee. More details have been extracted from the Superintendent’s records. A reference to the Peabody School was discovered. Additional records from 1884 to 1960 can be found at Mars Hill University. Records show the difference in salaries for whites, blacks, men and women.
At the homecoming event held September 1 several oral interviews were recorded by Teresa and Ryan. Alumni had good information on the history of the school.
Oralene Simmons’ mother, Gertrude Bruton, was one of those interviewed. She is 93 years old and was born in 1920. She attended the old school and was one of the first students to attend the new Rosenwald school. Omar’s mother, Dora Wilson McCain, attended the school. She is 97 years old. She remembers many details about the school, but not the teachers names. He offered to search for old photos to add to the history.
Caroline would like access to the videos for transcribing. Both Richard and Pauline Cheek have donated materials to the Mars Hill University archives including some interviews with the black community. A partnership with the university should be formed to preserve this local history. Otherwise it could be lost. Encourage Pauline to follow through with studying the archives. Fisk University has compiled a list of the Rosenwald Schools. Dan asks if we can provide them with both old and new photos of the Mars Hill school. The original Long Ridge school was built in 1905. The Rosenwald school was built in 1929.
Frances Owens taught at the school. She is in a nursing home in Shiloh. Can someone visit and interview her? Fatimah has old photos of her at the school. Herbert Barnett, the father of Kevin Barnett is willing to be interviewed. Taylor Barnhill has details from his interview with Emanual Briscoe. He requested that we add him to our list of contacts.
Media: Scott did a great job printing brochures and handbills for the event. Value Print made laminated signs that were placed along the road headed to the school. Old election signs were covered with the new signs leading to the school.
Richard reports that the state could approve a historical sign on Main Street and on I-26 since the school is of national significance. Also a marker for Joe Anderson. Down the road it would be great to produce an outdoor drama. Playwright C. Robert Jones could script a drama based on the story of Joe Anderson. A 3-act script, the Stones, was written by Elizabeth Watson and is held in Mars Hill University’s archives. The production could be the first black historical outdoor drama!
The homecoming event on September 1 was very moving. Great sermons at Mount Olive church in the morning and afternoon. A big storm came through the area around 2:30 forcing everyone indoors or into their cars. The potluck was full of alumni. The ramp installed at the school by the board of education maintenance department was very useful. Thanks to Joe, Sandra’s son-in-law for overseeing the installation. Photos of the ramp have been added to the website. Scott has plans showing the final placement of the ramp. Andrew Reed, who contributed funds to the project, attended the event. The camera may have intimidated some, so that they did not give an interview. Will Hoffman could be contacted to interview youth who played basketball at the school.
The committee plans to invite dignitaries for a community awareness day. Updates have been made to the website so that it includes the history, photos, articles, and events.
Fundraising: There is no Wells Fargo grant. David spoke with Robbie Russell at Wells Fargo. David can promote the project if he has more materials. About 10 folders are needed. The folders could include the history of the school with photos, the brochure, and details on the restoration. David plans to present the project and invite people to visit the school. The folders could be burgundy with a sticker on the front. Charity has photos. Could this be completed in time for the In As Much community day to take place on September 21? Photos can also be pulled from the videos. David has a list of names he would like to present the project to. His list includes Gene Elllison who has contacts to folks with money. He will first ask for the full amount needed to fund the project. The portfolio could also be spiral bound, which is something the school can produce.
Construction: Scott plans to attend the meeting in October. Asbestos tile disposal was handled by the town and was not a problem. Two doors have been installed on the school with locks. The old rock school building in Mars Hill uses the same windows that the Rosenwald school needs. There may be other old windows around. The rock school is owned by the Madison County Board of Education. It is leased to a community organization which is not currently active. Can the windows be posted on Craig’s list? 10 windows are needed. Can we ask the superintendent about the old rock school’s windows? Simone offered to add the windows to Craig’s list. Scott can supervise a carpenter to install the windows. Dan wants to remove more of the asbestos tiles. Can power be installed? A local electrician volunteered his services; materials are needed. Light would be needed to work inside the building.
Community Relations: Fatimah spoke with Omar’s brother who attended the school. He offered to write down his memories. She also spoke with Loretta Ray and Essie Ray who visited the school. She will encourage others to participate. Business cards could be printed for promoting the project. Ida Lee Finger requested information about the school. Peggy Wilson’s daughter wants to do a report on the school.
Chair Report: Willa has the needed documents and is working with Dean Shatley, the schools attorney on the 501c3 status of the committee. He will be in touch. Names for the board are needed. A list of dignitaries is needed for the September 21 community awareness day event. All local groups, the Chamber, Rotary Club, and county commissioners, should be invited. A set time is needed for a presentation. For the work portion, markers could be placed showing where the outhouses were located. Work on the trail could be done. Shovels, hand tools, and rakes are needed. College students could work on the site from 8 am until 10 am. Trees could also be identified and labeled. The college may provide rakes and shovels. If not, the committee can provide. Willa will contact Caroline. The Department of Parks and Recreations can provide games for children. They can set-up in the field above the cemetery.
Proposed program for September 21: Open house tours from 10 to 11. From 11 to noon, recognize donors. Oralene Simmons could speak. A 30-minute history on the school will be given. Games and other events to follow. Chairs are needed. Advertise the event throughout the community via flyers and email. Announce it at churches and add it to the website.
The Heritage Festival takes place Saturday, October 5. Mars Hill University can provide tables and chairs. Water and a tent are needed. The event is from 10am to 4pm. Brochures could be distributed. Books and other materials displayed. Simone and Sandra offered to man the booth, which will be on the campus quad. Can a video be shown? Yes, power will be provided. Set-up at 9am. Willa and David will be out of town. Dan can provide a tent. He will be at the genealogy booth during the festival. Richard will be at the Heritage cabin for the event.
The Rosenwald School conference takes place October 5 in Edenton, NC. Fatimah and Omar will go and represent our school. They will look at hotel rates. The conference is a great opportunity to learn about other schools and share information about our school. They will need brochures. During the conference in Wilmington, groups toured the schools in that area. The diversity coordinator, Margaret Newbold, could be attending. Also Melanie Allen. Dr. Anna Fariello would like to visit and meet with our group. She did a study of the Rosenwald Schools. Can the group meet with her, perhaps near the end of October? She is interested in creating an exhibit at the I-26 Welcome Center.
Kay Meyers, of the Rural Economic committee, has been in touch. Their program has been shut down and all positions terminated. The Blue Ridge Heritage group is interested in arts and crafts. The Friends of Mountain History’s theme for 2014 is African Americans. A meeting could be set-up with the Department of Cultural Resources. Plays were held at the Mars Hill Rosenwald School. Students made pottery from clay at the site. Photos should be taken of the messages written on the interior walls of the school between the 2x4s.
The committee needs to hold a meeting in Asheville. Giveaways are also needed. Handfans were made last year by a company in Burnsville. $40 was received from Gilbert and Donna Briscoe for the project. Addresses are needed for all donors. Nancy and Art Wood contributed $100. Thank you notes should be sent to these donors. Simone offered to handle this. Willa will provide contact details.
The meeting adjourned at 12:04pm. The next meeting of the Rosenwald Project Planning Committee was planned for Friday, October 13, at 10am at Mt. Olive Church.