Historical marker remembers black pioneer

Published 9:17 am Thursday, April 19, 2012

AHOSKIE – One of Ahoskie’s famous sons will be remembered for his accomplishments next week.

On Friday, April 20, a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker will be dedicated in honor of Robert Lee Vann, a publisher, lawyer, businessman and civil rights leader of national reputation. The dedication ceremony begins at 11 a.m. at the intersection of Academy Street and First Street. The public is invited to attend.

The Robert L. Vann Alumni association is hosting a reception afterwards at the R.L. Vann School on Holloman Ave.

Vann was born just outside of Ahoskie in 1879. He first attended New Ahoskie Baptist Church and Ahoskie Colored School before moving with his mother to Harrellsville.  His work in the post office there allowed him to save money to attend Waters Training School in Winton (now C.S. Brown High School).

By 1910, Vann had earned undergraduate and law degrees from what is now the University of Pittsburgh. Using his experience as editor of his college newspaper, Vann took control of the young Pittsburgh Courier newspaper.  Twenty-five years later, the Courier was nationally distributed with a circulation of a quarter of a million copies. It was a leading voice calling for equal rights for all Americans.  The Pittsburgh Courier is now 112 years old.

Vann supported Waters Training School and published articles contributed by Dr. Calvin Scott Brown.

In the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vann was appointed to serve Assistant to the Attorney General in the Department of Justice.

Vann died in 1940.

The latest historical marker dedication is the third in six months as nominated by Chowan Discovery Group (CDG) and its founder, Marvin Jones of Cofield (now residing in Washington, DC).

The other two CDG-nominated markers are for the ancient town of Choanoac (Chowanoke) outside of Harrellsville; and for the solder, legislator and inventor, Parker David Robbins, located in Magnolia, NC.

For more information about Vann and the marker, visit the Chowan Discovery Group’s website at www.chowandiscovery.org or call Jones at 202-726-4066.