North Carolina Teachers Association

Formed by African American educators in 1881, the North Carolina Teachers Association (NCTA) promoted education as an avenue toward racial progress.  Their membership included educators such as James E. Shepard, founder of North Carolina Central University, and Joseph C. Price, founder of Livingstone College.  NCTA boasted an African American membership that included not only educators but also politicians, lawyers and doctors.


Moore, Aaron McDuffie

Born on September 6, 1863 to free yeoman farmer parents, Aaron McDuffie Moore used educational opportunities to improve his social condition and to better his community.


African American Innovation During Difficult Economic and Discriminatory Times

On November 10, 1898, a disgraceful event in North Carolina occurred: as part of the White Supremacy campaign of the 1890s, Democratic leaders in Wilmington overthrew leading black and white Republicans and Populists to regain control of Wilmington’s government.  What happened in Wilmington, many assert, “suppressed the political, social, educational and economic development and aspirations of African-Americans in this state for over ninety years.”  Although innovative blacks worked in unfair circumstances during the late 1800s and early 1900s, such assumptions reveal a 1960s Revisionist focus on failure instead of an emphasis on black agency and fortitude that reveals how African Americans remarkably achieved success during difficult times.


Walker, David (1785 - 1830)

Born in Wilmington, North Carolina to a free mother and a slaver father, David Walker later moved to Boston, Massachusetts and emerged as one of the United States’s most radical black pamphleteers.  In his Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, Walker urged slaves to revolt against their masters and criticized the state of Christianity in the young North American nation.  He died mysteriously in 1830.


Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

The “best-known, nineteenth-century African-American woman’s autobiography” is how historian Nell Irvin Painter describes Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written By Herself (1861).   The Tar Heel’s work is also noteworthy because Jacobs penned the words, unlike other slave autobiographies, including Sojourner Truth’s, which were dictated.


Jacobs, Harriet (1813-1897)

A former North Carolina slave turned abolitionist and author, Harriet Jacobs was born in bondage in Edenton.  In her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), Jacobs describes the abuse that she endured while a slave and is the best-known autobiography written by an African American woman during the 19th century.  


Coffin, Levi (1798-1877)

A business owner, Quaker, abolitionist, and an organizer of the Underground Railroad, Levi Coffin was born in New Garden, North Carolina.  According to Coffin, “The Underground Railroad business increased as time advanced, and it was attended with heavy expenses, which I could not have borne had not my affairs been prosperous.” 


Baker, Ella (1903 - 1986)

A North Carolina native, Ella Baker played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement and in forming the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at Shaw University.  


Frye, Henry E. (1932-)

Governor James B. Hunt appointed Justice Henry Frye, in 1983, to the North Carolina Supreme Court. He thus became he became the first African American to sit on the North Carolina Supreme Court.


Pearsall Plan

The United States Supreme Court’s ruling in the Brown v Board of Education (1954) declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Following the Brown ruling, North Carolina enacted legislation that undermined the Supreme Court ruling. In August 1954 and in response to the Brown decision, Governor William B. Umstead created a “Governor’s Special Advisory Committee on Education,” with Thomas Pearsall, a prominent Rocky Mount farmer and businessman and former North Carolina Speaker of the House, as chairman.  Along with Pearsall, the advisory committee included twelve whites and three blacks.