James H. Jones (1916-1984)
In 1957, Northampton opens Squire Elementary, a new school for Black children,
already inadequate when it was built—they consolidated four, two-room schools into one eight-room building—with no library, no cafeteria, not enough classrooms, and other glaring deficiencies. At the first PTA meeting they elect James H. Jones as president. He begins to mobilize the large constituency of black people at Squire who are using their own money to provide resources that the white schools receive free. The PTA becomes the major force for getting things done. Jones pushes parents cowered by the Jim Crow culture to register to vote, take a stand on split school sessions, and to lobby the school board members for improvements and resources to make Squire an exemplary school.
He appoints independent farmers, Prince Hall Masons, and businessmen to committees to speak for Squire PTA and make appeals at school board meetings. He knows that political power is linked to the ballot box and education linked to politics. The Squire consolidation provides him with a seedbed for activism and his independence allows him to launch a
decades- long campaign to grow Black voting strength, open access to quality education, and eliminate the unfair Jim Crow practice of split school sessions. Even though his children work in the family farming operation, which will expand in 1958 when he buys his own farm, he objects to split sessions that require Black students to attend school six weeks during the summer so they can harvest cotton and peanut crops in the fall. White students do not. He becomes a
Now it is 1969 and states all over the South are in turmoil over school desegregation. Northampton County defiantly takes its case to the Federal Court refusing to follow the Supreme Court’s decision. Racial tensions are high. Federal Judge John D. Larkins, Jr. orders Northampton County to submit a plan to integrate. The inert all-white school board makes no plan and simply ignores Black leaders. Racial tensions reach a boiling point. As the crisis intensifies, three NAACP leaders, James H. Jones, Clifton Manley, and Jack Faison walk into the school board meeting on a cold January evening. They address the school board with veiled threats of disturbance and future retaliation at the polls if they are not allowed to participate in the planning for carrying out the Judge’s orders. They become an Advisory Committee of three.
Mayor Melvin Broadnax, (d.2012) Educator, Mayor of Seaboard, NC, Trusted Envoy for Secret Black Group, The Ten.
Mr. Grover Edwards, Northampton School Board Member, 1976-2000s.
Dr. Dudley Flood, Former Integration Specialist, NC Department of Public Instruction.
Dr. William Friday, (d. 2012) President Emeritus, University of NC System.
Dr. Willie Gilchrist, Former School Administrator, Northampton Public Schools, 1970s.
Mr. Marshall Grant, (d. 2019) Farmer, Community Leader, School Board Member 1972-74.
Mrs. Lucille Hardy, (d. 2020) Family Friend, Organist, at Roanoke Chapel Baptist Church for 70 years.
Anna Jones, daughter, director of film, Chairman Jones: An Improbable Leader, 2015.