R-CCC’s founding members honored during Black History Month program

Published 4:37 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

AHOSKIE – Roanoke-Chowan Community College honored Black History Month by celebrating the college’s founders and the powerful impact that they had on higher education in Hertford County.

Dr. Murray Williams, President of Roanoke-Chowan Community College, is joined by Dr. John L. Scott after the unveiling of a Black History commemorative marker dedicated to the founders of R-CCC. Contributed Photo

The program, held Feb. 23, featured keynote speaker Dr. John L. Scott, a native of Halifax County who is a renowned civil rights activist, author, and pastor.

The program was opened by R-CCC Board Chair and County Commissioner Ronald Gatling, and included R-CCC student presentations, along with a musical selection by RayNita Morrison, R-CCC Small Business Center Director.

The program continued with Dr. Scott’s speech, which wove together numerous threads of the civil rights movement, including remembrances of the Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery, the march on Washington, and the four black schoolgirls killed in the Birmingham church bombing.

Dr. Scott recounted his memory of children being spit on and taunted with racial slurs for trying to attend desegregated schools. He challenged young listeners in the audience: “Don’t let me hear you talking about how you don’t want to go to school. You need to remember the sacrifices and the struggles many went through so that you can be in school today, pursuing your education and your dreams.”

As Dr. Scott traced the history of the movement and drew from his own experiences in the fight for racial equality, he connected those struggles to those of the local Hertford County leaders who championed higher education for county residents.

Dr. Scott related how he, Collis Brown, George Hall, Augusts (Gus) Chavis, and Reverend James A. Felton met secretly with Robert H. Jernigan, then a leader in the NC House of Representatives, to push for legislation that would bring a community college to Hertford County. After assurances that the NAACP would stand in solidarity with Representative Jernigan in this fight, he agreed to sponsor a bill for the community college. Through this effort, Roanoke-Chowan Community College was born.

Following Dr. Scott’s impassioned account of the college’s history, R-CCC President Dr. Murray Williams took the stage for remarks and a special presentation to the family members of the founders.

“For over 50 years, Roanoke-Chowan Community College has assisted the citizens of Hertford County in improving their lives through education,” Dr. Williams noted. “Doctors, lawyers, business owners, educators, and other professional have launched their careers by receiving training through this college. This college’s legacy of education would not be possible had it not been for the courageous efforts of Mr. Collis Brown, Mr. George Hall, Mr. Augustus (Gus) Chavis, Reverend James A. Felton, and Reverend John Scott.”

She continued by citing a passage from Reverend Scott’s book, Civil Rights VOICE for the Oppressed, that called for the names of the founders to be “engraved on the cornerstone” of the college. At that point, she called the family members of Brown, Hall, Chavis, Felton, and Rev. Scott to the stage, as she unveiled a Black History commemorative marker dedicated to the founders.

Her closing remarks included a reading from the marker and an announcement that the marker would be permanently displayed on the historic wall in Jernigan Building.

R-CCC Trustee and County Commissioner Chair Andre Lassiter concluded the program by thanking the founders’ families and by calling on attendees to use their voices and to keep working for positive change in their communities.

Roanoke-Chowan Community College honors Black History month each year. For more information about this program or future programming coming to the college, contact Dr. Tanya Oliver, AVP of Student Services, at 252-862-1267.