Juneteenth Speakers Bureau

The NC AAHC is leading NC DNCR in the effort to create a Speakers Bureau centered on sharing NorthCarolina’s liberation history. The esteemed experts below are willing to present lectures surroundingJuneteenth, African American history, and topics related to freedom-seeking. Additional information will be available on the NC AAHC website as we continue to share rich stories from our state’s Juneteenth history in celebration of this national holiday.

Leesa Jones 

Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum

Leesa Jones is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum in Washington North Carolina which was established in 2016. It is the only Underground Railroad Museum dedicated to telling the story of the underground railroad history in North Carolina.

As a native of Washington NC, and after retirement as Preschool teacher of 32 years, teaching in schools in Philadelphia PA and Burlington NJ, she started the African American History Tours of Washington NC in 2009 to help locals and tourists discover 300 years of local African American history that had not been previously shared in local historical documents and books. In 2014, with the help of the Phoenix Historical Society of Tarboro NC, Leesa Jones was able to get a 3-mile portion of the Pamlico-Tar River designated as a National Park Service- Underground Railroad Network To Freedom Site. In 2016, she co-founded the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum, which was awarded a designation as a National Park Service-Underground Railroad-Network To Freedom Facility. In 2017, with the assistance from the Phoenix Historical Society, Leesa Jones helped secure Beaufort County's first North Carolina Highway Commission Historical Marker to honor an African American subject. In 2021, she helped Washington get its first Pomeroy History Marker that celebrates an African American man named Hull Anderson born enslaved in 1784 and becoming very wealthy in Washington by 1826.

Beverly Fields Burnette

NC Association of Black Storytellers

Beverly Fields Burnette is a Storyteller (current President of the N.C. Association of Black Storytellers, Inc), a published poet, a retired School Social Worker/Elementary Guidance Counselor, and the mother of two adult daughters, who are both educators. Burnette is a great admirer/lover of poetry, short stories, history, genealogy and anthropology. Born in Rocky Mount, NC, Burnette, the older of two children, she relished hearing family stories and loved eaves dropping in on the talk of the grown folks around her. These family and community stories sealed Burnette's early storytelling interest, as well as her desire to pursue the genealogy of her family. She has been a consistent hunter of her ancestors...from the NC mountains to the NC Coast for over three decades.

Burnette has written and published historical memoirs and poems, and has employed poetry and storytelling as vehicles for teaching family connections, African American history, creating positive feelings, healing wounds, and bridging gaps.

Burnette is a founding member of both the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective,  and the N.C. Association of Black Storytellers, Inc. ; a member (30+ years) of the Washington Street Writers, as well as The National Assoc. of Black Storytellers,  Inc. She enjoys performing stories in the guise of Harlem Renaissance folklorist/anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston,  and has been published in several national publications. Burnette has called Raleigh "home" since the early 1970s.

Carolyn Evans

Whether you prefer to have the life of Harriet Tubman, Harriet Jacobs, Sojourner Truth, or Mamie Till interpreted, her specialty is, "BRINGING", their "HISTORY ALIVE!" Ms.Evans first set foot on the stage some 57 years ago performing with her mothers' Interpretive Dance troupe. That little 'Project" group drew the attention of the Negro Ensemble Company based out of the Henry Street Settlement, in New York City. Their dedicated  Artists, the forgiving members of her church family and the Brooklyn Academy Of Music groomed Carolyn for what she would be later in life-Confident. Though she had a harsh stutter, her Godly faith directed her to challenge herself and earn a Bachelor Of Fine Arts at the Syracuse University School of Drama and an Associates as a New York Registered Nurse, (Helene Fulde, Harlem.) She honed both crafts through the New York State Psychiatric System and The New York Department of Corrections. Prison clients would urge her to, "teach outside to prevent our children from coming in here."She listened. Carolyn is married with two grown children; one a former Peace Officer, now an Actor and the other an IT Director and School Board volunteer President. She herself tours as an independent educator. She also tours with Joe McGill 's (Slave Dwelling Project), "Inalienable Rights Players", out of Charleston, South Carolina. Teaching Artist, Carolyn Evans, "BRINGS HISTORY ALIVE!" 

Chris Meekins 

NC DNCR Civil War Roster Project

Alex Christopher Meekins, Chris to those who know him, is a native North Carolinian. His interest in history began when his mom took the family to local historical sites in northeastern NC. The old Albemarle region was rich with the history of European settlement, Native American displacement, the religious freedoms of Quakers, and a deep history of the African American struggle for freedom and rights. His first outings into local history were the cemeteries through out the old Albemarle – his grandfather was a caretaker and would tell Chris about the people buried in them.

Chris earned an Associate of Arts degree from College of the Albemarle and then completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from North Carolina State University. It was there that he discovered an interest in history could be a vocation as well as an advocation. He then studied Public History and earned his Master of Arts degree from North Carolina State University in History with a minor in Archival studies. Chris followed his interest in Civil War history and African American history in North Carolina while working at the State Archives of North Carolina.

Chris has thirty years of service with the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources as a Public Historian. He has enjoyed sharing North Carolina history by assisting researchers and giving presentations to many different groups of people who share a common interest in the history of North Carolina.

Chris has researched enslaved people in North Carolina. He can speak on emancipation, manumission, freedom seekers (who find their own freedom) as it relates to North Carolina overtime. He has studied those who found their freedom in the American Civil War and can talk about the ways they found that path. The men who joined the United States armed forces are also a topic of interest for him.


Adrienne Nirde

North Carolina African American Heritage Commission 

Adrienne Nirdé (pronounced "Near-day") has served as the Associate Director of the NC African American Heritage Commission since 2020 where her role focuses on grant project management and communications. Prior to her time with the Commission, she spent almost ten years working in museums and cultural institutions including the President James K. Polk State Historic Site in Pineville, NC, and the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, NC. She holds a Master's degree in Museum Studies from Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis as well as Bachelor's degrees in History and Anthropology from Indiana University. She is a proud member of the Smithsonian's Interpreting African American History and Culture Workshop 2020 cohort. She has always had a primary interest in sharing diverse stories, particularly those have not yet been told and centering the communities that hold them. Adrienne lives and gardens in Wendell, NC with her husband, a high school social studies teacher, and their two dogs.


Rodney Dawson

North Carolina African American Heritage Commission 

Rodney Dawson is a native of High Point, North Carolina where he attended Guilford County Schools. Upon graduation, Rodney entered the United States Army where he served stateside and overseas including South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq. While serving, Dawson was recognized for meritorious service in combat during the Persian Gulf War. After the military, Rodney Dawson returned home to Greensboro, North Carolina working in radio and in education as a behavioral support liaison, CPI Instructor, media specialist, and technology teacher for K-12 schools. Rodney obtained a bachelor’s degree in music production, plus a master's in Instructional Technology and an Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership. Rodney is currently a Doctoral Candidate in Education Leadership. Rodney now serves as the Education Interpreter Specialist for the NC AAHC, and continues fostering education by serving with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Curriculum writing and review team for The History of Black Education in North Carolina: A Teaching Guide for High School Educators, the North Carolina Humanities Council, Guilford County Schools Enrichment Fund, Greensboro Historical Teacher’s Alliance, and as the Polemarch/President of the Burlington Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated. Education has always been the tool that Dawson has used to promote and help others achieve “Educere” the Latin derivative of the word education which means to lead someone to their fullest potential.  

Vincentt Sutton

North Carolina African American Heritage Commission 

Vincentt Craft Sutton is a native implant of Danville Virginia. He is a graduate of William Peace University and a current student at North Carolina Central University pursuing a Master’s in History.