The study of African American heritage and culture, social justice challenges, and civil rights advocacy brought a remarkable group of students to historic New Bern on May 17th.
The African American Heritage and Culture Center was excited to hear from Ayesha Coleman Swinton, PhD, and Ms. Iraida Fung of Greensboro Day School in early May. The school provided transportation from their school to New Bern and AAHC with its community partners created a very successful day for the students.
Students arrived mid-morning on May 17 at the Crocker-Miller Slave Quarters in James City. Their host was William Hollowell, President of the James City Historical Society. The group toured the Crocket Miller Slave Quarters and the adjacent cemetery. Their discussion included stories of the everyday lives of North Carolina’s African American slaves and those who fled to New Bern’s “Trent River settlement” for freedom.
At noontime, AAHC Board Member and President of Auto Haven Hand Car Wash Rick Fisher hosted the students at Broad Street Takeout in New Bern’s historic Five Points neighborhood. Everyone enjoyed the lunch choices and appreciated the kindness of the staff and their host.
Their final stop was a tour of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church and a thoughtful discussion with the church’s Advisory Committee Member and docent Harry Gormley. They learned about the earliest days of this church, the oldest African American Episcopal Church in the state, and its role in the social justice movement. From serving as a triage center for African Americans unable to receive treatment at segregated St. Luke’s during “The Great Fire of 1922” to founding Good Shepherd Hospital, this church’s leadership and parishioners have been change agents in the New Bern and the region.
AAHC reached out to its partners for this student visit to historic New Bern. From AAHC the school leadership learned about the recent installation of African American Heritage Signs, local African American artists and muralists, the “Life on the Lesser Stairs” tour at Tryon Palace and many more options for their day. With time constraints setting their schedule, they left New Bern with a greater knowledge of our region’s heritage and a desire to return.
This student tour was the beginning of a program being developed by The African American Heritage and Culture Center. AAHC is planning a program of tours for visitors, community residents, families, and students to begin later in 2022. Along with its partners in the region, these tours will include visits to the historic black churches, seeing and discussing the African American Heritage Signs in New Bern, a day at New Bern Historical Society’s Battlefield Park, and visiting locations throughout the community which still stand to tell the stories of African American heritage.
Founded in 2019, AAHC is a 501C3 North Carolina Nonprofit Organization. AAHC is supported by private contributions and donations and grants from The Harold Bate Foundation, the NC Arts Council and Craven Arts Council. Since its founding, AAHC has presented Community Forums, local artist exhibits, music and heritage seminars, and is currently producing original interviews for its ORAL HISTORY LIBRARY. These interviews and archives from partners around New Bern will be promoted by AAHC in its social media and on its website, AfricanAmericanHeritageandCulture.org.
AAHC is based in New Bern and serves communities throughout the region. All correspondence may be emailed or mailed to Post Office Box 1354, New Bern, NC 28563-1354.
By Carrie Gallagher