Video from the Appalachian Studies Conference

The Appalachian Studies Conference presentation took place on March 28, 2015 at ETSU. Thank you Les, Oralene, Fatimah, and Omar for your great stories and history. Thanks to Ryan Philips and Legacy Films for videotaping the presentation.

Mars Hill University Rural Heritage Museum Director Les Reker moderates a panel discussion on the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School and the history of African American education in Madison County, North Carolina since the Civil War.

On the Panel: Oralene Graves Simmons, Fatimah Shabazz, Omar McClain, and Ryan E. Phillips.


Ms. Simmons will recount her life and her studies at the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School from 1949-1953; she will speak about her grandmother, Effie Anderson Coone, who taught at the Mars Hill Long Ridge “Colored” School in 1901. She will relay her experience studying at the segregated Stephens-Lee High School in Asheville, North Carolina, She will then share her story as the first African American admitted to Mars Hill College in 1961. Ms. Simmons will also relate the impact of being 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.

Mr. Phillips will relate some of the challenges faced by the Friends of the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School in its efforts to rehabilitate the historic building and the process of placing it on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ms. Shabazz and Mr. McClain were two of over 2,000 students who attended the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School. Ms. Shabazz’s mother, Mary Wilson, taught at the school from 1939 to 1953. She was Ms. Shabaz’s first school teacher. She and Mr. McClain will discuss the challenges of living in an urban county and being educated in a rural county in a two room school house. They will share their recollections of the learning environment they experienced in the small classes of the Rosenwald School. They will  discuss the generational influence they and others had as a result of the vision of Dr. Booker T. Washington and financial support of Julius Rosenwald. They will also discuss the wider influence the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School had on the predominately African American communities in Asheville, North Carolina.

The only Rosenwald School building still standing in Western North Carolina, the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School brought elementary education to African American children between 1928 and 1965. After Integration, the building was converted into a burly tobacco curing barn. Some of the obstacles confronting the Friends group in its efforts to turn the building into a community center and Museum will be presented. The challenges being met to bring back an historic building from a state of profound disrepair by properly conforming to the strict standards of rehabilitation required by the National Register of Historic Places will also be discussed.