Presentation made March 28, 2015 at the 2015 Appalachian Studies Conference, which took place at Eastern Tennessee University.
Panelists recounted aspects of an exhibition, organized and presented by the Rural Heritage Museum of Mars Hill University, that examined the history of African American Education in Madison County, North Carolina, after the Civil War and until the period of Civil Rights in 1964. The profound impact the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School had on the lives of its students was discussed.
Les Reker, Moderator, is the Director of the Rural Heritage Museum at Mars Hill University, Mars Hill, North Carolina. He is the curator of the exhibition OUR STORY, THIS PLACE: The History of African American Education in Madison County, North Carolina: The Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School.
Oralene Simmons is the great great-granddaughter of Joseph Anderson, a slave who was taken as collateral and imprisoned in the Asheville jail in 1859 for the debt incurred in first building of Mars Hill College. She is also the first African American admitted to Mars Hill College in 1961. She has been a community leader during the years of integration and protest. Later on she became the Director of the YMI Cultural Center in Asheville, North Carolina. She organized the “Martin Luther King, Jr., Prayer Breakfast” in Asheville, the largest in the Southeast, and continues in a leadership role for this event.
Ryan Phillips is a native of Mars Hill, North Carolina. He is a cultural historian of southern Appalachia. He is also a photographer/videographer and owner of Legacy Films Ltd. He serves on the Planning Committee of the Friends of the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School.
Fatimah Shabazz is a Broadcaster, a Vocalist /Percussionist, an Independent Transformational Facilitator, and a member of Womansong Chorus. She is a native of Asheville, North Carolina and attended the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School. In Asheville, she attended the Livingston Street School, the Hill Street Elementary School, Stephens-Lee High School, Asheville High School, and Blanton’s Business College. She also attended the College of Alameda, (California), and the School of Fashion Design, San Francisco.
Omar McClain attended the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School, then the Hill Street Elementary School and Stephens Lee High School in Asheville.
He served in the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army, the U.S. Army Band, and the USO Band. He was honorably discharged after tours of duty in Santo Domingo and Vietnam. He attended Queens College of the City University of New York then worked in finance on Wall Street and elsewhere.