C.S. Brown’s legacy lives on

Published 8:51 am Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WINTON — The voice of the past is still speaking, can you hear it?

On Saturday, the 124th C.S. Brown Founder’s Day brought out dozens of alumni to the C.S. Brown Regional Cultural Arts Center and Museum in support of their alma mater and its history.

The C.S. Brown School was named for Dr. Calvin Scott Brown, a pioneer for African-American education in the Roanoke-Chowan region and in the state of North Carolina.

Born in Salisbury in 1859, Brown, who was of Scots-Irish and African descent, worked his way through college while studying theology and graduated from Shaw University in 1886.

The same year, Brown began his pastoral work in Hertford County, first with Pleasant Plains Baptist Church (his religious work eventually led to him pastoring six churches in the county) and he also established a school for African-American students known as Chowan Academy.

With funding secured by Brown from the Home Mission Society of New York and other sources, the school flourished. The campus grew along with the school’s reputation, attracting students from well beyond the immediate area. With expansion of its campus over the years, by 1909 the school had a new name: the Waters Normal and Industrial Institute (named in honor of a New York philanthropist).

By the early 1920s, funding had become a problem; Brown found himself in a constant struggle to keep the school afloat, often pouring his own salary into the effort. Brown’s wife, Amaza Drummond Brown, taught for many years without pay.

In 1924, the school was taken over by the state and the name was changed again to Waters Training School. In 1937, the school was renamed in honor of its founder.

Currently, the C. S. Brown Student Development Center High School is part of the Hertford County public school system.

The school’s rich heritage and its future are celebrated each year at Founder’s Day. Following a memorial service at the burial site of Dr. and Mrs. Brown, the participants made their way back the school building for a night of remembrance, musical and dance performances and listening to that all important “voice of the past” in order to preserve the future.

The Rev. Dr. James W. Sheran, the guest speaker for the event, noted this during his speech to the crowd.

“Our future is being challenged by our past,” said the C.S. Brown alumnus. “As I speak to you this afternoon, I believe there is a voice, and if you listen quietly you can probably hear this voice, saying to us: ‘Do all you can, be all you can and help all you can’.”

Sheran related the history of the school, including how C.S. Brown School was the first high school for African-Americans in the state of North Carolina.

“Dr. Brown knew the importance of providing a quality education for the students and so he secured some of the best teachers for this school money could buy,” he said.

Sheran noted the excellent education provided by the school and how the Browns spent their own money to make sure the school still provided education to its students.

The Reverend also spoke about how Dr. Brown was led by his faith.

“I am told that he believed that with God all things were possible,” said Sheran.

He said though those in attendance were there to celebrate Dr. Brown’s work as well as that “voice from the past,” Sheran stressed there was a future to also think about.

“We’ve got to observe the past, we’ve got to utilize the present and we’ve got to envision the future,” he said.

The Reverend mused how we are living in a global society and how everyone are now neighbors. He added that a global society contributes to a highly competitive economy and challenges academic excellence and to do the “very best we can do.”

Sheran said it is vital to challenge young people today as the past has challenge other generations.

“(God) is calling us tonight to do all we can, be all we and help all we can,” he said.

The audience also heard from two students who attend C.S. Brown Student Development Center High School.

Emmanuel Brooks and Shanice Manley, introduced by their Principal Nora Artis, spoke about the impact the school has had in their lives.

Brooks, who lost both of his parents by age 11, said all of his life he was quick to be judged by others.

“I choose to take every negative opinion and use them as my motivation,” he said. “C.S. Brown has offered me an opportunity to get a much needed high school diploma, which I will use to enter ECPI this fall.”

Brooks said his teachers at the school encourage him each day to be all he can be. He continued that he had been told that Calvin Scott Brown was a great motivator.

“I am so glad I can be a proud graduate of a school that will not leave any child behind,” he said.

Manley said the school doesn’t let students fall through the cracks and the faculty and students were like family. She noted that many of the students in the alternative school setting are not bad students, but simply made poor or bad decisions

“I personally thank those who paved the way and continued the goal of Calvin Scott Brown, who educated children; children who would somehow fall through the cracks,” she said.

Manley, who once considered dropping out of school, spoke of how C.S. Brown gave her a second chance.

“I decided to make good grades and get my act together,” she said. “I’ve learned nothing in life is handed to you on a silver platter; you must work for it.”

A rising senior at the school, Manley said she will be the first of her mother’s children to earn a high school diploma.

“I am thankful that in the 21st Century C.S. Brown is still making a difference in the lives of students,” an emotional Manley said.

Former Hertford County Superintendent and a current school board member Dennis M. Deloatch presented C.S. Brown officials with a flag that was waved during the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Deloatch noted the community’s role in keeping the C.S. Brown facility going after its student population was consolidated into another area school.

“Dr. Brown’s legacy is still alive and I wanted to do something to give back,” he said about the flag.

This is the fifth flag of its kind bestowed in Hertford County, one was given to Hertford County Schools, one given in honor of R.L. Vann, another for C.S. Brown, and the fourth to former C.S. Brown teacher Alice Nickens.