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Join us in recognizing the month of February as African-American History Month. Below are just a few of the many, many people who have made an impact on the world we know.
A well-known African-American author, poet, and civil rights activist, probably best known for her famous work “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was well liked and loved among people of all races and nationalities.
At the age of eight, Maya was sexually abused. When she told someone his name, he was brought to trial and found guilty. He only served one day and was released; however, four days after his release, he was murdered. Maya became mute at that point, thinking that speaking his name had caused his death, and from that point on, never spoke a word for almost five years, frightened that her voice could kill. It was during this time that she developed a love of books and literature and the ability to listen and observe the world around her.
Throughout her life experiences, she was able to capture the world through poetry, stories, and essays in a way that few of us would ever imagine. Her writings center on themes such as racism, identity, family and travel.
Perhaps the reason for her everlasting legacy comes from one of her quotes, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Harriet Tubman was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union Spy during the American Civil War. Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1820. As a child masters to whom she was hired out beat her. Early in her life, Harriet suffered a severe head wound when she was hit by a heavy metal weight because when she was asked to help restrain a runaway slave, she refused. The injury caused disabling seizures, narcoleptic attacks, and headaches, which occurred throughout her life (Tubman, 2014).
In 1849, Harriet Tubman initially escaped to Philadelphia with two of her brothers, Henry and Ben. A notice of their escape was published offering large reward for their return. Harriet’s brothers started to have second thoughts and decided to return to the plantation. However, Harriet had no plans to remain in bondage as she called it. Therefore, after seeing her brothers home safely, Harriet continued her journey alone traveling nearly 90 miles using the Underground Railroad to Philadelphia. Feeling relieved as she crossed into the Free State of Pennsylvania Harriet Tubman stated, “When I found I had crossed the line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.” “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger."
Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary, was the first African-American woman employed as a mail carrier in the United States, driving her mail route by stagecoach from Cascade, Montana to St. Peter’s Mission, Montana. She was only the second American woman in all to work for the United States Postal Service. Born a slave circa 1832 in Hickman County, Tennessee (the exact year of her birth is uncertain) she was freed when American slavery was outlawed in 1865. For some time she worked repairing the buildings of a school for Native American girls in Montana called Saint Peter’s Mission a Catholic convent, eventually advancing to forewoman. While there, she formed a strong bond with Mother Amadeus. When the nuns moved to Montana and Mary learned of Mother Amadeus’ failing health, she went west to help out. Having nursed Mother Amadeus back to health, she decided to stay and help build the St. Peter’s mission school. She protected the nuns. Mary was a pistol-packing, hard-drinking woman, who needed nobody to fight her battles for her.
When turned away from the mission because of her behavior, the nuns financed her in her own business. She opened a cafe. Mary’s big heart drove her business into the ground several times because she would feed the hungry. In 1895, although approximately 60 years old, Fields was hired as a mail carrier since she was the fastest job applicant to hitch a team of six horses. She drove the route with horses and a mule named Moses and never missed a day, earning the nickname “Stagecoach” for her reliability. This was despite heavy snowfalls that sometimes made it necessary for her to deliver the mail on foot, once walking 10 miles back to the depot. When she retired she became friends with the actor Gary Cooper. She was a respected public figure in Cascade, and on her birthday each year the town closed its schools to celebrate. She died of liver failure in 1914 when she was a little bit over the age of 80.******
Oprah Gail Winfrey
American television host, actress, producer, philanthropist and entrepreneur Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi. After a troubled adolescence in a small farming community, where she was sexually abused by a number of male relatives and friends of her mother, Vernita, she moved to Nashville to live with her father, Vernon, a barber and businessman. She entered Tennessee State University in 1971 and began working in radio and television broadcasting in Nashville.
In 1976, Oprah Winfrey moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she hosted the TV chat show People Are Talking. The show became a hit and Winfrey stayed with it for eight years, after which she was recruited by a Chicago TV station to host her own morning show, A.M. Chicago. Her major competitor in the time slot was Phil Donahue. Within several months, Winfrey's open, warm-hearted personal style had won her 100,000 more viewers than Donahue and had taken her show from last place to first in the ratings. Her success led to nationwide fame and a role in Steven Spielberg's 1985 film The Color Purple, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Winfrey launched the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 as a nationally syndicated program. With its placement on 120 channels and an audience of 10 million people, the show grossed $125 million by the end of its first year, of which Winfrey received $30 million. She soon gained ownership of the program from ABC, drawing it under the control of her new production company, Harpo Productions ('Oprah' spelled backwards) and making more and more money from syndication.
According to Forbes magazine, Oprah was the richest African American of the 20th century and the world's only Black billionaire for three years running. Life magazine hailed her as the most influential woman of her generation. In 2005, Business Week named her the greatest Black philanthropist in American history. Oprah's Angel Network has raised more than $51,000,000 for charitable programs, including girls' education in South Africa and relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Thelonius Sphere Monk
Thelonius Sphere Monk was a native North Carolinian who was born in Rocky Mount on October 10, 1917. He was best known as a pianist, composer, and one of the first creators of modern jazz. At the age of five, his family moved to Manhattan, New York City. He started playing the piano at age six and was mostly self-taught. He began his musical career in his teens playing organ for an evangelist and piano in jazz clubs around the area. He went on to record many albums with several groups over the years. He was also known for his compositions, some which were incredibly complex. Monk died in 1982 at the age of 64. After his death, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Pulitzer Prize for the Arts, was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, and had the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz established in his honor.
The First Lady of the Struggle
“The whole world opened to me when I learned to read.” -Mary McLeod Bethune
Bethune, an African American educator and civil rights leader strongly believed that education was the key to equal rights. In 1904, at the age of 29 she founded Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute. Teaching both children and adults, Mary’s goal was to create a top rated school where children would acquire requisite skills that prepared them for life. Before her death at the age of 79 Mary solicited aid to build a brick schoolhouse “Faith Hall”, she built her own 20 bed hospital (Patsy McLeod Hospital), and acquired accreditation as a junior-college in 1913. Against all odds, Mary McLeod Bethune greatly improved the lives of African Americans through education, political involvement, and economic enablement.
Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court's 96th justice and its first African-American justice.
Before becoming a judge, Marshall was a lawyer who was best known for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education, a decision that desegregated public schools. He served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit after being appointed by President John F. Kennedy and then served as the Solicitor General after being appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. President Johnson nominated him to the United States Supreme Court in 1967.
At the age of 32, Marshall won U.S. Supreme Court case Chambers v. Florida, 309 U.S. 227 (1940). That same year, he founded and became the executive director of theNAACPLegal Defense and Educational Fund. As the head of the Legal Defense Fund, he argued many other civil rights cases before the Supreme Court, most of them successfully, including Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944); Shelley v. Kraemer , 334 U.S. 1 (1948); Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950); and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 (1950). His most famous case as a lawyer was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" public education, as established by Plessy v. Ferguson, was not applicable to public education because it could never be truly equal. In total, Marshall won 29 out of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.
Pearl Mae Bailey (March 29, 1918 – August 17, 1990) was an American actress and singer. After appearing in vaudeville, she made her Broadway her debut in St. Louis Woman in 1946. She won a Tony Award for the title role in the all-black production of Hello, Dolly in 1968. In 1986, she won a Daytime Emmy award a for her performance as a fairy godmother in the ABC Afterschool Special, Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale.
Her rendition of "Takes Two to Tango" hit the top ten in 1952. She received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 1976 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom on October 17, 1988. Bailey was born in Southampton County in southeastern Virginia, to the Reverend Joseph James and Ella Mae Bailey. She was reared in the Bloodfields neighborhood of Newport News, Virginia.
She made her stage-singing debut when she was 15 years old. Her brother Bill Bradley was beginning his own career as a tap dancer, and suggested she enter an amateur contest at the Pearl Theatre in Philadelphia. She entered the amateur song and dance contest and won and was offered $35 a week to perform there for two weeks but the theatre closed during her engagement and she wasn't paid. She later won a similar contest at Harlem's famous Apollo Theater, and decided to pursue a career in entertainment.
Grafton Boone graduated Gates County Schools, Class of ‘73. He started his career working with School Maintenance with the CEDA youth employment program.
Grafton always had a passion for life and enjoying friends.
He also took his job and quality of work seriously. His quest for doing things right extended to his family. His wife and partner Sylvia Parker Boone set a similar role model in working hard, treating others with respect and getting a good education. These attributes were passed to their three children: Grafton Jr., Keli, and Graylen.
Both Graylen and Keli are passing on their father’s legacy being currently employed by Gates County Schools.
Their mom, Sylvia has spent her career in nursing and is currently teaching nursing at P.D. Camp Community College.
Grafton has always had the reputation of “Do it Right” and “Pass it On”. These attributes live through his children and are in the greatest need in our nation today.
Our relationship grew as we worked together in Maintenance. Grafton and I worked toward the same goals: “Doing it Right” and “Passing it On.”
His years of service included keeping the school boilers well maintained, while working with limited funds. He always set goals of getting a good education for his children and completing their chores to his standards.
When he was diagnosed with lung cancer, he never complained. His wife and caregiver gave him the best personalized healthcare possible.
While visiting him one day, Grafton I found him sitting in a chair at home in the shade teaching his son how to change the brakes on his car. Even in poor health...Teaching others.
Lung cancer took him away from us the same week he officially retired...Way too soon!
He reinforced in me the following:
Perseverance has no color.
Workmanship has no assigned race.
Respect goes to the soul.
Family is for all persons.
High standards lift “All persons to achieve great things”
Love your children and hold them accountable in a constructive way.
Seek a good life...for we are all here for a purpose.
He was my friend and co-worker.
I will always miss his presence.
I will pass on to those who did not know him stories and principles of his legacy. (by Joe Harrell)
First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and the wife of the 44th and current President, Barack Obama. She is the first African-American First Lady of the United States. She has become a role model for women and an advocate for poverty awareness, higher education, and healthy living.
When people ask First Lady Michelle Obama to describe herself, she doesn't hesitate to say that first and foremost, she is Malia and Sasha's mom.
But before she was a mother — or a wife, lawyer, or public servant — she was Fraser and Marian Robinson's daughter.
The Robinsons lived in a brick bungalow on the South Side of Chicago. Fraser was a pump operator for the Chicago Water Department, and despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at a young age, he hardly ever missed a day of work. Marian stayed home to raise Michelle and her older brother Craig, skillfully managing a busy household filled with love, laughter, and important life lessons.
A product of Chicago public schools, Michelle Robinson studied sociology and African-American studies at Princeton University. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1988, she joined the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin, where she later met Barack Obama, the man who would become the love of her life.
After a few years, Mrs. Obama decided her true calling was working with people to serve their communities and their neighbors. She served as assistant commissioner of planning and development in Chicago's City Hall before becoming the founding executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program that prepares youth for public service.
In 1996, Mrs. Obama joined the University of Chicago with a vision of bringing campus and community together. As Associate Dean of Student Services, she developed the university's first community service program, and under her leadership as Vice President of Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center, volunteerism skyrocketed.
Mrs. Obama has continued her efforts to support and inspire young people during her time as First Lady.
Roy Wilkins was born on August 30, 1901, in St. Louis, Missouri. After his mother died when he was just 4 years old, he and his siblings went to live with his maternal aunt and her spouse in the region of St. Paul, Minnesota. He majored in sociology and journalism at the University of Minnesota, working various jobs to support his way. He wed social worker Aminda "Minnie" Badeau in 1929.
In 1923, Roy Wilkins moved to Kansas City to take an editorial position with the Kansas City Call. At that time, Wilkins was confronted with the viciousness of Jim Crow laws. As a result, he engaged in staunch activist work, eyeing politicians who were known for their overt racism, and eventually moved to New York in 1931 to serve as assistant to Walter White, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. While working with the group's strong anti-lynching efforts, Wilkins also went undercover to observe and take part in the horrible job conditions African Americans toiled under as part of a federally funded river initiative in Mississippi.
By the mid-1930s, Wilkins had succeeded intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois as editor of the NAACP's Crisis magazine, which Wilkins ran for a decade and a half. Later on, he was one of the key players in getting the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case to the Supreme Court, whose ruling declared that public school segregation was illegal. With White's passing in 1955, Wilkins was voted in as the NAACP's executive secretary, later known as executive director.
Wilkins continued his work as a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He believed in achieving social equality through legislation and Constitutional backing, and during speeches, urged African Americans to embrace U.S. citizenship. He went on to become an advocate of black-owned bank lending power and met with various U.S. presidents, including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, to advocate on his constituency's behalf. Wilkins was also an instrumental figure in Congress' passing of the Civil Rights Acts of the 1950s and '60s, and was one of the key leaders in organizing the historic March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his "I Have a Dream" speech. Additionally, Wilkins helped to oversee a rise in NAACP membership from 25,000 members in the 1930s to more than 400,000 by the 1970s.
During the late '60s, Wilkins was wary of the more militant Black Power Movement, and was accused by some of having too conciliatory a tone. After being asked to step down by some within the organization and initially refusing, he retired from the NAACP in 1977, with Benjamin Hooks taking over leadership.
Wilkins died on September 8, 1981, in New York City, due to kidney failure and heart issues. He received many awards and honors during his lifetime. Wilkins's alma mater, the University of Minnesota, created the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Human Justice.
Langston Hughes was an American poet born in the early 1900s. He did not have an easy childhood. His father left when he was just a child. He was raised by his grandmother because his mother left to find work.
Langston Hughes attended high school in Cleveland Ohio. While he was in high school, he wrote for the school newspaper, and that’s how he began to write his poetry and short stories. After he graduated he went to live with his father in Mexico. After awhile, Langston Hughes came back to the United States and attended Columbia University. After a year, he dropped out of college and started working odd jobs. He eventually found work on a freighter and traveled to other countries.
Langston Hughes finally came back to the United States and started working at a hotel restaurant. While he worked there, he met another poet named Vachel Lindsay. Vachel Lindsay helped him to win first prize in a magazine contest. Because of this, he won a scholarship to attend Lincoln University. While at Lincoln University, he ran into a novelist who helped him publish his second book of poetry.
After he graduated from Lincoln University he traveled around the United States and other countries giving lectures. When he got back, he wrote lyrics for a Broadway musical and finally earned enough money to get a house.
Langston Hughes died on May 22, 1967.
From the Desk of the Superintendent,
Dr. Barry Williams
Over the summer our wonderful support staff has been working to make sure that everything is ready for you as we launch a new school year. It’s certain to be a good one because our school system is the best!
*July 30-31 we experienced a fantastic administrative retreat with the Navy (Chief Petty Officer Christopher Bramlett, International speaker (Dr. Bill Daggett), Mr. John Leidy (Attorney at Law) and Dr. Jim Watson (Retired successful Superintendent).
*Convocation on August 17th motivated and inspired our employees for an exciting start with special surprise guest State Superintendent - Dr. June St. Claire Atkinson;
*Professional Development throughout the district prepared our teachers with new ideas and instructional designs;
*Open House and orientations were so exciting;
*We are connected to Facebook to communicate with all stakeholders;
*The County Commissioners and Board of Education have the same vision for Gates County and have committed to embrace change for our students;
*And now, after two weeks of school, the students are engrossed in learning and preparing for their future for the next day, next week, next month and next year!
As we all know, times are tough with indecisiveness from the House and Senate, as they have been for some time. In Gates County we have clearly demonstrated that we have the ingenuity to make the most of what we have. I am proud that we are committed to functioning as a team, committed to each other’s success. All students belong to all of us, and this year I know we will continue to work together to ensure that every student learns. We will again have high expectations, continuously assess our progress toward achieving them, and stay focused on results. This district is committed to continuous improvement.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” The children are the future - we must never lose sight of this. That’s not to say we don’t have some important educational traditions. We do, and we are anchored by them.”
Together we will again this year strive to seek and implement the right initiatives to keep us moving forward. I’d like to quote King Whitney, Jr. who said, “Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.” We must not let ourselves feel threatened by change, but rather encouraged and inspired by hope and confidence.
Please never forget that we have the utmost respect for what our teachers do and the difference they make. In the spirit of collaboration, please remember the importance of honest and open communication. We must work together to share our views and opinions with others as well as endeavor to hear and consider input from others. Let us recognize and appreciate each other’s efforts and dedication.
We want our students to always remember that we created for them an atmosphere of caring, compassion and humor.
Welcome back for another GREAT year!!
Personality Trait for the Month of February
Gates County Public Schools
P. O. Box 125
205 Main Street
Gatesville, NC 27938
Phone: (252) 357-1113
Fax: (252) 357-0207
District Office Hours - 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.