2020 Black History Month Honorees

Black educators have made invaluable contributions to North Carolina's vibrant culture and brilliant future. Whether a classroom teacher, school administrator, researcher or a post-secondary educator, Black education professionals continue to blaze trails for generations of scholars yet unborn. The following is a small collection of instructional leaders who have embodied some of the highest ideals of academic curiosity and achievement. Their accomplishments are a testament to victories born from struggle. We celebrate them with great expectations for the future.

Honorees

Dr. Carolyn Anderson

Dr. Carolyn Anderson

Dr. Carolyn Anderson of Winston-Salem, North Carolina was the first full-time African American faculty member at Appalachian State University. She earned a degree in mathematics from Appalachian State in 1969 and taught in the school’s Department of Mathematics. She later held administrative positions at Livingstone College and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and earned a PhD in Mathematics from American University in 2004. Dr. Anderson retired as the associate director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Winston-Salem State University.
 

Dr. Robert "Bob" Bridges

Dr. Robert "Bob" Bridges began his teaching career with Raleigh City Schools in 1961, when he accepted a fourth-grade teaching position at Hunter Elementary School. He became the first African American superintendent in Wake County in 1984. Over the course of his career, he helped to integrate schools in Wake County and participated in the merger of the Raleigh City and Wake County School systems. (adapted from https://www.raleighhalloffame.org/inductees/2015-2)

 

Dr. Valerie Bridges

Dr. Valerie Bridges is the Associate Superintendent in Edgecombe County Public Schools. She has served as Assistant Superintendent in both Edgecombe and Washington County Schools. Before working in the Eastern region of North Carolina, Dr. Bridges worked in Guilford and Wake County Public Schools as a high school teacher, middle school assistant principal, and elementary principal. Dr. Bridges serves as the Secretary of the NC Service Learning Coalition Board

 

Wanda Kay Brown

Wanda Kay Brown directs the C. G. O'Kelley Library at Winston-Salem University and is the current President of the American Library Association. Brown is past President of the North Carolina Library Association and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. She is the 2015 recipient of the DEMCO/Black Caucus Award for Excellence in Librarianship and the 2013 recipient of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Education Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award.  

 

Melody Chalmers

Melody Chalmers was named the 2016 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year for her work as Principal of E. E. Smith High School in Cumberland County. Chalmers began her career as an English teacher at E.E. Smith and currently serves as assistant superintendent for District Transformation and Strategic Initiatives for Cumberland County Schools. 

 

Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole

Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole is an educator, anthropologist, and historian. She served as President of Bennett College from 2002-2007, where she oversaw a $50 million capital campaign, created programs in African Women’s Studies and Global Studies, established an art gallery, and founded and chaired the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute. In addition to her role at Bennett, Dr. Cole served as the first female African American President of Spelman College and as Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Art. She currently serves as National Chair and President of the National Council for Negro Women, Inc. Dr. Cole's grandmother owned Betsch Tourist Home (a Green Book site) in Henderson, NC, where Dr. Cole spent time as a child.

 

Hon. Frances Cummings

The Hon. Frances M. Cummings is a former teacher, public school administrator, North Carolina legislator, NCAE Associate Executive Director, and President and, most recently, the President of North Carolina Retired School Personnel. As a teacher, she worked to integrate public schools in Lumberton.

 

Everlene Davis

Everlene Davis is a National Board Certified Teacher with over 60 years of teaching experience in Columbus County, NC. She is known for her dedication to mentoring teachers and commitment to lifelong learning. She was named the NC Sandhills/South Central Regional Teacher of the Year in 2014.

 

Dr. Dudley Flood

Dr. Dudley Flood is a statewide education leader and K-12 educator, coach, and principal. He worked with the Department of Public Instruction for twenty-one years, specializing in school desegregation and race relations and serving as Associate State Superintendent. He has served as a visiting professor at Meredith College, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and the Principals Executive Program at the University of North Carolina. He has served on the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina and as Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators. Dr. Flood is a three-time recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. 

 

James E. Ford

James E. Ford is the executive director of CREED (the Center for Racial Equity in Education) and represents the Southwest Education Region on the N.C. State Board of Education. He is an award-winning educator and consultant on issues of equity in education. Ford is a Carnegie Fellow and was named the 2014 - 2015 North Carolina Teacher of the Year and the 2014 National Alliance of Black Educator's Teacher of the Year.
 

Bernard Fuller

Bernard Fuller is the 2016-2017 recipient of the National Association of Special Education Teachers Outstanding Special Education Teacher Award, a national honor. He is a special education teacher at Graham Middle School in Graham, NC, where he serves as chair of the special education department and athletic director.

 

Angela Pringle Hairston

Dr. Angela Pringle Hairston is the first African American Superintendent of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. In addition to previously serving as Superintendent of Schools for Richmond County (Georgia) Schools and region superintendent in Dekalb County, Georgia, Dr. Hairston has experience as a classroom math teacher, principal, and track coach. She has worked in the field of public education for over 30 years.

 

Guy Hill

Guy Hill is an award-winning Harnett County educator and former President of the NC English Teachers Association. Hill's work has shaped standards for statewide writing tests. He also served on Governor Beverly Perdue's Teacher Advisory Committee. Hill has taught for 22 years and is in his 19th year of teaching at Triton High School.

 

Naomi Geraldine "Gerry" House

Dr. N. Gerry House is a national education leader known for innovative and successful reform work. Dr. House served as a school superintendent for fifteen years, in Chapel Hill, NC, and Memphis, TN. She was the first African American woman to serve as Superintendent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools. Dr. House went on to serve as the president of the Institute for Student Achievement (ISA), a division of Education Testing Services (ETS), and senior vice president at ETS. She was named a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and currently sits on the board of trustees for the Woodrow Wilson Graduate School of Teaching and Learning. Dr. House was named the AASA National Superintendent of the Year in 1999, was the recipient of the Harold J. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education, and was the recipient of the first Alumni Leadership Award from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education.

 

September Krueger

September Krueger is an award-winning artist based in Wilmington, North Carolina. Known for her quilts, woodcuts, and silk paintings, Krueger heads the art department at Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, North Carolina. She is a Teaching Fellow with the A+ Program and is a teaching artist at the Cameron Museum of Art in Wilmington. Krueger has also worked with youth in eastern North Carolina, including a collaboration with an after-school program that resulted in a mural at the Kinston Community Council for the Arts

 

Hortense McClinton

Mrs. Hortense McClinton was the first African American faculty member hired by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1966, serving as a professor in the School of Social Work. Mrs. McClinton was educated at Howard University and received an M.A. in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania, where she worked with the American Friends Service Committee and Children Services, Inc. Early in her career, Mrs. McClinton worked as an early childhood educator and social worker in Durham, serving as the first African American social worker at the Durham County Department of Social Services. Mrs. McClinton was named a “Social Work Pioneer” by the National Association of Social Workers for her work as a professor and practitioner. She taught at UNC Chapel Hill until her retirement in 1984. In addition to her many professional achievements, Mrs. McClinton is the oldest living member of the Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

 

Dr. Steve M. Lassiter, Jr.

Dr. Steve M. Lassiter was recognized as the 2015 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year and as a 2015 National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals. He was awarded for his work as the Principal of Pactolus School in Pitt County. Dr. Lassiter currently serves as Assistant Superintendent of Educational Programs & Services for Pitt County Schools. 

 

Dr. Constance A. Lindsay

Dr. Constance A. Lindsay is a Research Associate at the Urban Institute and an Assistant Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill. Dr. Lindsay's work with education policy centers on teacher quality and diversity, the racial achievement gap, and adolescent development. Her work has been used to shape education policies and activate teacher advocacy across North Carolina. Prior to completing her doctoral work, Dr. Lindsay was a Presidential Management Fellow at the US Department of Education.

 

Alfred M. Mays

Alfred M. Mays is a program officer for science education and diversity at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Mays has worked with the University of North Carolina General Administration and founded EdSync Strategie, Inc., an education contract service. Mays also served as the assistant director of the Collaborative Project, which focused on school systems serving low-income students in rural North Carolina. Mays served in the United States Air Force from 1984-1994. 

 

Willis McLeod

Dr. Willis McLeod, Chancellor Emeritus of Fayetteville State University, was the first FSU alumnus to serve as the university's chancellor. As chancellor, he instituted the Freshman Year Initiative, took steps to strengthen the preschool to post-graduate pipeline through local school partnerships, and made improvements to campus facilities. Prior to his time at FSU, Dr. McLeod spent 30 years in public education. He participated in civil rights demonstrations as a student at FSU.

http://www.mydailyrecord.com/stories/dunn-native-dr-willis-mcleod-to-ret...

 

Dr. Freddie Parker

Dr. Freddie Parker is the Julius S. Chambers Endowed Professor of History at North Carolina Central University, where he has taught for over 40 years. His research focuses on slavery and civil rights. Dr. Parker founded the NCCU Public History program in 2007. He is a recipient of the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award.

 

Turquoise Parker

Turquoise LeJeune Parker is a third-generation, third-grade teacher in Durham, North Carolina and a strong advocate for student and teacher rights. In addition to her classroom and advocacy work, Parker is involved in the Durham Associate of Educators, is a member of the Epic! Master Teacher Cohort, and serves as a Lead Investigator for the Duke Talent Identification Program.

 

Willie Peele

Willie Clifton Peele is a retired education professional. Peele began his career as a teacher at East End School in Martin County, working his way up to principal of East End School and E.J. Hayes School, then to assistant superintendent, and, finally, to the superintendent of Martin County Schools. After his retirement in 1999, Peele established a summer program to bridge the summer learning gap. This initiative developed into an award-winning, year-long program.

 

Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin

Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin is the 2019 recipient of the NC Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's Dr. Frances Jones Trailblazer award. A former teacher and principal, Dr. Pitre-Martin served as the Executive Director of the NCASCD for 21 years. She has also served as Deputy State Superintendent for the state of North Carolina and as Superintendent of Thomasville City Schools, where she achieved record-high graduation rates and improved test scores. She recently accepted a position as the Superintendent for Petersburg (Virginia) City Schools.

 

Dr. Randolph Sessoms

First black Superintendent for Wilson County Schools.

Antoine Sharpe

Antoine Sharpe is the first African American man to be recognized as the Department of Defense Education Activity Teacher of the Year. He was awarded in 2020 for his work as a 7th-grade math teacher at Humphreys Middle School in South Korea. Sharpe, a graduate of DoDEA schools, holds degrees from Gardner-Webb University and East Carolina University, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at East Carolina University. He previously worked as an elementary school teacher in North Carolina and continues to serve as a mentor through NCAE.

 

Julius Walker

Julius Walker, Jr. is the retired Superintendent of Washington County Schools. He served his entire career in the Washington County School system and has served as a teacher, coach, principal and Assistant Superintendent. He also served as an interim superintendent for Hertford County Schools. In addition to his contributions to K-12 education, Walker has chaired several professional organizations and served as an adjunct lecturer, student-teacher supervisor, and member of the Board of Trustees at Elizabeth City State University. He currently sits on the Washington County Board of Commissioners and continues to serve as an education consultant.

 

Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker

Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker, born in Caswell County, NC, is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of African American and Educational Studies at Emory University. Dr. Walker is an education historian and scholar of segregation and social equity. She is the recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Education and the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Early Career Award. She currently serves as AERA's president. 

 

Tabari Wallace

Tabari Wallace, principal of West Craven High School in Vanceboro, North Carolina, was named North Carolina’s Principal of the Year in 2018 and serves as an advisor to the State Board of Education. Wallace is known for his success in improving outcomes for students through social interaction and targeted programs. His use of the Second Chance Breakfast program, which ensures that students are able to eat breakfast before starting the school day, is used as a model for other schools. He also implemented “Power Hour” at West Craven High School, which allows students time to meet with teachers, socialize, and catch up with work. These programs have improved student achievement and behavior. Wallace is currently a doctoral candidate in education at East Carolina University.

 

Lisa Williams

Lisa Williams was recognized as the 2016 Fort Bragg District Department of Defense Education Activity Teacher of the Year for her work as a special education teacher at Fort Bragg’s Hampton Primary School. Williams is currently assigned to Marine Corps Air Station-Beaufort in South Carolina, where she serves as a music teacher. 

Oliver Holley

Oliver A. Holley is the Superintendent of Tyrrell County Schools. Holley began his career as a teacher with Bertie County Schools in 2001 and was named Bertie County New Teacher of the Year that same year. He has served as Director of Afterschool Programs for Weldon City Schools and in several middle and elementary school administrative positions. Prior to serving as Superintendent for Tyrrell County, Holley served as the Chief Human Resources Officer for Perquimans County Schools, where he also served on the Curriculum and Instruction Team, the Superintendent Leadership Cabinet, and the District Safety Team. He was appointed to serve on the North Carolina Teacher and State Employee Retirement Commission Board of Trustees by Governor Roy Cooper in 2018.

Shanita Wooten

Dr. Shanita Wooten is the first woman, first African American, and the youngest person to be named superintendent for the Public Schools of Robeson County. A Lumberton native, she became interested in working with children while working in daycares as a student at NC A&T University. Dr. Wooten began teaching biology at Lumberton High School in 2008. She has also served as the district's Assistant Superintendent of Administration, Technology, and Plant Operations and as interim Superintendent. Dr. Wooten established the first Superintendent's Advisory Committee for the Public Schools of Robeson County. 

Dr. Betty Howell Gray

Dr. Betty Howell Gray, born in Wayne County, NC, is a K-12 educator and principal who served as a director in the Seattle school system for thirty-eight years. Dr. Gray founded the North Carolina affiliate of the National Association of Black School Educators (NABSE) and continues to serve as Acting President and consultant for the organization. Her advocacy work includes seminars and forums related to voter education, parent advocacy, and educational opportunities for males of color on behalf of Charlotte’s My Brother’s Keeper Program. She is a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Bill McNeal

Dr. William “Bill” McNeal joined the Wake County Public School System in 1974, serving as a teacher, school and district administrator, and ultimately becoming Superintendent from 2000 – 2006. Under Dr. McNeal’s leadership, the Wake County Public School System was named third in the 2004 Forbes’ “Top Ten List for the Best Education in the Biggest Cities.” Dr. McNeal was named National School Superintendent of the Year in 2004. Following his WCPSS service, he served as the executive director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators. Additionally, Dr. McNeal contributed to North Carolina’s Race to the Top proposal, which brought a $400 million grant to North Carolina Schools. Dr. McNeal was awarded the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation's Friday Medal in 2011 and was inducted into the Wake County Public School System Hall of Fame in 2014 as part of its inaugural class.

Posthumous

Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou was a renowned educator, activist, poet, author, film director, singer, and dancer. She taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC for 32 years, teaching humanities courses in African American culture, literature, and poetry. Regarding her work as an educator, Dr. Angelou stated: “I'm not a writer who teaches. I’m a teacher who writes.” Dr. Angelou wrote more than 30 books and is best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. 

 

Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown

Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a prominent educator, advocate for social justice, speaker, author, and suffragist. Dr. Brown founded Palmer Memorial Institute, an elite boarding school for African Americans in Sedalia, North Carolina, and served as its first President from 1902-1952. The school was known for its college preparatory curriculum, arts programs, and inclusion of African American history, arts, and literature in its curriculum. Palmer graduates went on to become leaders in their fields and to desegregate several historically white colleges and institutions. Dr. Brown died in Greensboro, North Carolina. 

James "Jimmy" Clark

First black Superintendent of Halifax County.

Dr. Anna Julia Haywood Cooper

Dr. Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was an educator, author, activist, speaker, sociologist, scholar, and Black feminist. Dr. Cooper, enslaved from the time of her birth until the end of the Civil War, was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate degree in the District of Columbia and the fourth to do so nationally. She went on to become a college professor (holding positions at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh and at Wilberforce University) and a K-12 teacher and principal. Later in life, Dr. Cooper taught at a school in Washington, DC for adults who did not have access to higher education. She is buried in Raleigh, NC. 

Blyden Jackson

Blyden Jackson (1910-2000) and Roberta Jackson (1920-1999) were professors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They were two of the first African American faculty members to receive tenure at UNC Chapel Hill, and Blyden Jackson is thought to have been the first African American professor to receive tenure at a historically white university in the Southeastern United States. The Jacksons taught at Southern University in Louisiana before Blyden Jackson was invited to teach at UNC Chapel Hill in 1969. A pioneer in the field of African American literature, Blyden Jackson taught English and served as Associate Dean of the Graduate School. Roberta Jackson taught in the School of Education and was the first African American woman appointed as a tenure-track faculty member in the Academic Affairs Division. 

 

Roberta Jackson

Blyden Jackson (1910-2000) and Roberta Jackson (1920-1999) were professors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They were two of the first African American faculty members to receive tenure at UNC Chapel Hill, and Blyden Jackson is thought to have been the first African American professor to receive tenure at a historically white university in the Southeastern United States. The Jacksons taught at Southern University in Louisiana before Blyden Jackson was invited to teach at UNC Chapel Hill in 1969. A pioneer in the field of African American literature, Blyden Jackson taught English and served as Associate Dean of the Graduate School. Roberta Jackson taught in the School of Education and was the first African American woman appointed as a tenure-track faculty member in the Academic Affairs Division. 

Ruth Braswell Jones

Ruth Braswell Jones was the first African American woman to serve as president of the North Carolina Teachers Association and the North Carolina Association of Educators. She was the first African American woman to serve on the board of the National Education Association. Jones was an elementary school teacher in Halifax and Edgecombe counties for forty-seven years. She was awarded the Terry Sanford Award for Creativity in Teaching (awarded by NCAE) in 1972.

Elizabeth Duncan Koontz

Elizabeth Duncan Koontz was the first African American president of the National Education Association, establishing the organization's Human and Civil Rights Division. She taught in Dunn (where she was fired after organizing teachers to protest unfair boarding fees) and Salisbury, NC,  specializing in special education. She was the first African American Director of the US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau and served as Assistant State School Superintendent for the State of North Carolina from 1975-1982. 

Dr. Willa Player

Dr. Willa Beatrice Player was the first African American woman to serve as the president of an accredited four-year college in the United States (at Bennett College). Dr. Player began teaching at Bennett College in 1930 and served as the college’s president from 1956-1966. As Bennett's President, she encouraged civil rights activism in Greensboro and ensured that Bennett students could continue their studies as they engaged in civil disobedience during the Civil Rights Movement. Bennett became one of the first Black colleges to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools under her leadership. 

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