Orange County is celebrating Black History Month by remembering the history of segregated schoolhouses, and the determination of African-American students who attended them.
“Rural Schools for Colored Children: Path to Freedom” is co-presented by Orange County and the organization Free Spirit Freedom.
The two-day program takes place Saturday and Sunday from 3-5 p.m. at the Central Orange Senior Center.
“The program this weekend is going to be, pretty much, on the one-room schools for colored kids here in Orange County,” said Thomas Watson, who co-founded Free Spirit Freedom with Orange County Commissioner Renee Price.
“My mother attended one, and she’ll be on the program. And we’re going to review their history, their past, and what it was like to have gone to those schools.”
Watson’s mother attended Morris Grove. According to Thomas Watson, she would walk through woods, across a farm and over a big branch every day to get to school.
Saturday’s program includes a reception and a photography exhibit.
“It’s going to have new photography by Jacquelin Liggins,” said Price. “She is a local photographer and artist. She’s taken some pictures of some of these schoolhouses.
“According to the 1935-36 state archives study, there were like, 28, 29 of these little schoolhouses dotted throughout Orange County.”
The photography exhibit will remain in the center throughout February.
An afternoon of storytelling is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 1.
“We’ll have some people that attended those schools, talking about their experiences, trying to go to school during segregated times in North Carolina,” said Price.
Price said it’s important to remember the history of segregation in North Carolina, and not just because failure to do so would mean failure to reflect on our mistakes.
“What struck me is that, despite what the schools were like, and some of the challenges, it was a way that they were going to get out of poverty, to make a better world. And that’s what most people have done.
“And I think it’s important for young people today to realize the sacrifices that were made, and the strength that it took to go to school, get an education, despite what the challenges were.”
The Saturday and Sunday events are both free to the public, and organizers encourage young people to attend.
The Central Orange Senior Center is located at 103 Meadowland Drive in Hillsborough.