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Northampton Commissioners support Civil Rights marker

JACKSON – An effort is underway to secure a North Carolina Civil Rights Trail marker for Northampton County. If approved by the state, that marker would honor the legacy of the late James H. Jones.

Anna Jones, daughter of the first African American to serve on Northampton County’s school board, presented the request to the Northampton Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting here on July 19.

She asked for their support as she continues the application process for the marker, which requires a partnership with either a government entity or a 501c3 nonprofit. She noted that there would be no cost to the county since the program is funded by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.

“He was a champion of integration, education, equality, voting rights, and race relations in Northampton County,” Jones said of her father’s work while he was alive.

“The Civil Rights movement did not bypass Northampton County,” she continued. “It came here too. We didn’t have protest marches and things like that. Our battle, for the most part, was waged in boardrooms and in courtrooms.”

James H. Jones was a farmer, but he later got involved in leading the school integration movement in Northampton County. In 1971, he was the first Black school board representative to serve in Northampton County. He broke another barrier in 1980 when he became the first Black school board chair in the state of North Carolina. He served in that role until his untimely death in an accident in 1984.

In 2014, he was posthumously inducted into East Carolina University Educator’s Hall of Fame.

Anna Jones previously documented her father’s life and his impact on local education through her film “Chairman Jones – An Improbable Leader.”

A total of 20 NC Civil Rights Trail marker applications will be chosen during this funding cycle, and if Jones’ request is approved, she said she already has property where the marker can be erected. The county would be in charge of the installation.

“We’re going to be successful,” Board Chair Charles Tyner said optimistically about the request. “He worked hard for the school system here in Northampton. The man had more wisdom than anyone else.”

Commissioner Geneva Faulkner thanked Jones for her presentation, and then motioned to support the application. Commissioner Nicole Boone seconded, and the vote passed unanimously.

Three markers for the new NC Civil Rights Trail have already been approved. Those will be located in Shelby, where sit-ins led by high school students were held in Feb. 1960; in Kinston, where students of Adkin High School walked out in protest of inferior facilities; and in Ahoskie, where leaders gathered at New Ahoskie Baptist Church to push for change against racial oppression.

The initiative is being led by the NC African American Heritage Commission with support from Visit North Carolina and the North Carolina Office of Archives & History.