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Berry O’Kelly and His Namesake School in Raleigh

Buildings on the O'Kelly School campus, circa

Buildings on the O’Kelly School campus, circa 1928. Image from the University of Virginia.

On April 4, 1928, the completion of the 4,000th Rosenwald school project, two additions to the Berry O’Kelly School in the Method community of Wake County, was celebrated.

The school was able to add two buildings—one with a large classroom and administration space and a second featuring a shop for teaching the trades—thanks to the generosity of local businessman Berry O’Kelly and former Sears Roebuck & Co. CEO Julius Rosenwald. The additions transformed the school into a fully developed campus with more than eight buildings that included dormitories and dining halls.

Julius Rosenwald (right) with Berry O'Kelly at the dedication of the 4000th Rosenwald school. Image from the University of Virginia.

Julius Rosenwald (left) with Berry O’Kelly at the dedication of the 4000th Rosenwald school. Image from the University of Virginia.

Originating during Reconstruction as a Freedmen’s village west of Raleigh, Method experienced significant development in the 1890s and early 20th century due in large part to the efforts of Berry O’Kelly, a successful businessman who had a strong interest in the improvement of educational opportunities for rural black children.

O’Kelly devoted much of his philanthropy to the school that adopted his name. Through his association with Booker T. Washington, O’Kelly met Julius Rosenwald, who was inspired by Washington to provide financial assistance for the construction of more than 5,300 schools for African Americans across the South.

The Berry O’Kelly School, acclaimed as the best school for black children in North Carolina,  drew students from across the state. Today the shop building, a playing field, and a gymnasium survive as part of the Method Park and Community Center.

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Polymath and Centenarian Anna Julia Cooper of Raleigh

On February 27, 1964, black feminist activist, scholar and educator Anna Julia Haywood Cooper died at the age of 105.

Born into slavery in 1858 in Raleigh, Cooper graduated from St. Augustine’s Normal School and then earned a B.A. and an M.A. in mathematics from Oberlin College in Ohio. She taught for a few years in Raleigh before moving to Washington, D.C., to teach there.

In 1892, she published A Voice from the South, one of the first comprehensive statements of black feminism. Her analysis of racism, sexism and subjugation of black women would echo into the black feminist movements of the 20th century.

Cooper devoted her life to the advancement of gender and racial equality and higher education of black women, published essays, made speeches and was active in black women’s uplift organizations.

At the age of 66, Cooper became the fourth African American in the nation woman to receive a Ph.D., earning her doctorate from the Sorbonne in Paris. Working well into her nineties, she spent her final thirty years at D.C.’s Frelinghuysen University, a school for working-class black adults.

She died in 1964 and is buried in Raleigh.

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Raleigh Connection to JFK Assassination Still a Mystery

The Raleigh call

Memo slip from “The Raleigh Call”. Image from
the MetroMagazine.

On November 23, 1963, as the clock neared midnight in Raleigh, an attempt was allegedly made at the Dallas County jail on behalf of Lee Harvey Oswald to contact one or two phone numbers in the 919 area code. It was the day after Oswald was arrested for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

What has come to be dubbed the “Raleigh Call” went unrecorded in the Warren Commission investigation. Later in the 1960s, one of the Dallas County switchboard operators on duty that night shared a story about the call with authorities.

The story goes that the operator reported that she had been asked to call two numbers in Raleigh, although without success, and then threw away the memo slip from the fruitless calls. Apparently she later recreated a slip, as a souvenir, that included two phone numbers along with the name “John Hurt.”

Little has come of the story, and mysteries surrounding the call have contributed to assassination conspiracy theories. In July 1980, both the Raleigh Spectator and the News and Observer printed articles attempting to expose details about the call, its related personalities and chain of events. And still the “Raleigh Call” and an Oswald connection to Raleigh remain an unsolved mystery.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Truman Joins His Predecessors in Raleigh, 1948

Truman speaking at the statue dedication. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

Truman speaking at the statue dedication. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On October 19, 1948, President Harry S. Truman visited Raleigh and delivered the main address at the unveiling of the “Presidents North Carolina Gave the Nation” monument on Union Square, which surrounds the State Capitol.

The work honors the three presidents born in North Carolina: Andrew Jackson of Union County, seventh president of the United States (1829-1837); James Knox Polk of Mecklenberg County, eleventh president of the United States (1845-1849); and Andrew Johnson of Wake County, seventeenth president of the United States (1865-1869). Interestingly, while North Carolina claims all three presidents as native sons, all were elected while residents of Tennessee.

Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

The idea for the statue was conceived by Commissioner of Revenue A. J. Maxwell. He took the idea to several legislators and a resolution calling for the monument’s creation passed the General Assembly in March 1943, though work didn’t get underway until a commission was created to complete the project in 1945.

Several sculptors submitted designs for the monument, but the commission ultimately chose New York sculptor Charles Keck for the project. It was one of Keck’s last major works as an artist.

Governor R. Gregg Cherry, Secretary of the Army Kenneth Royall, U.S. senator and former governor Clyde Hoey and descendants of each of the three presidents joined Truman in dedicating the monument.

Visit: See the statue for yourself on the east side the State Capitol in Raleigh, and learn more about presidential history at the President James K. Polk Memorial in Pineville.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Freedmen’s Convention, Assembled in Raleigh, 1865

On September 29, 1865, five months after the close of the Civil War, the “Convention of the Freedmen of North Carolina,” a statewide assembly of African Americans began at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Raleigh.

The convention lasted four days, and 106 men attended.

Under President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction plan, the state was required to hold a convention in order to nullify the Ordinance of Secession, abolish slavery and void the Confederate war debt. Only when this was done would Congress consider North Carolina’s bid to rejoin the Union.

That mandatory convention was scheduled to take place at the State Capitol on October 2. Since only whites could vote to elect delegates to this convention, the voice of the former slaves would not be heard. The Convention of the Freedmen of North Carolina was timed to draw attention away from the white convention by starting three days earlier. Its purpose was to discuss and make known issues important to the former slaves.

James Walker Hood of New Bern was elected as the convention’s president. Hood stressed that “equal rights before the law” should be the convention’s watchwords. The delegates pressed for rights to testify in court, to serve as jurors, to act as counsel and to vote.

The convention closed on October 3.

Join the N.C. African American Heritage Commission and the N.C. Civil War History Center for a symposium on the convention Oct. 1 in Raleigh.

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Homegrown Jihadists Arrested in Raleigh, 2009

Mugshots from members of the “Raleigh jihad ” group.
Image from FindLaw.

On July 27, 2009, seven men were arrested in Raleigh and accused of plotting to wage “violent jihad” outside the United States.

The alleged ringleader was Daniel Patrick Boyd, who recruited men, including two of his sons, to commit terrorist activities abroad. In the 1980s and 90s Boyd had traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan where he “received military-style training in terrorist training camps for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad.”

The men arrested were attempting to make their way to the Middle East to join a terrorist organization. They failed, and in doing so were arrested by the federal government. The men were all American citizens who had radicalized at some point in their lives. Several of the members had been talking about waging some form of Jihad for years, and many people who knew them were not surprised by the arrests.

In 2011, Boyd plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder, maiming and kidnapping overseas. He later testified in court against some of his co-conspirators.

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Worth Bagley of Raleigh, Casualty of the Spanish-American War

Bagley-Funeral

Worth Bagley’s 1898 funeral at the State Capitol.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On May 11, 1898, in battle at Cárdenas, Cuba, Ensign Worth Bagley became the first naval officer and first North Carolinian killed in the Spanish-American War.

The sinking of the USS Maine in February 1898 led the United States to declare war against Spain. North Carolina met President William McKinley’s call for troops by establishing three regiments.

An 1898 portrait of Bagley. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

An 1898 portrait of Bagley. Image from
the N.C. Museum of History.

Born in Raleigh in April 1874, Worth Bagley graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1895. He achieved the rank of ensign in July 1897, and, in November, was appointed inspector of the new torpedo boat Winslow. When she was commissioned the following month, Bagley became her executive officer. In April 1898, the Winslow was mobilized, with the fleet it was a part of, for operations in Cuban waters.

On the morning of May 11, the ship went with two others to force open the entrance to the harbor of Cárdenas. The Winslow was fired upon by a Spanish gunboat and a battle ensued. The ship was disabled and was hauled out of range of the Spanish guns. Just as the engagement ended, Bagley and four sailors were killed by a shell.

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African Diplomat Denied Service in Raleigh, 1963

technician-cover

A story in The Technician covering the Brooks-Lowenstein incident.
Image from NCSU Libraries.

On April 30, 1963, Angie Brooks and Allard Lowenstein attempted to have lunch together at two restaurants in downtown Raleigh but were denied service because Brooks was African.

Brooks, Liberia’s United Nations ambassador and a Shaw University graduate, was in Raleigh to deliver a speech at N.C. State University. After the speech, Allard Lowenstein, then a professor at the university, invited the ambassador to lunch.

Angie Brooks when she was president of the United Nations General Assembly.

Angie Brooks when she was president of the United Nations General Assembly.The pair, with a few students in tow, visited the S & W Cafeteria and Sir Walter Coffee Shop in downtown Raleigh. Despite her diplomatic credentials, Brooks was refused service at both establishments. In fact, the manager at the coffee shop went so far as to say that he would not serve Brooks, but could offer her a job as a cook or a waitress.

The press was on hand to report the story. The incident brought national attention to North Carolina, and Gov. Terry Sanford issued an apology to Brooks on behalf of the state. Since Lowenstein chose restaurants that were frequented by state officials, many believed he was an agitator who wanted to stir up controversy. Although he was aware that the establishments were segregated, he denied staging the event.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

The Fall of Raleigh to Sherman’s Army

N-55-10-16

The State Capitol, circa 1861. Image from
the State Archives.

On April 13, 1865, the city of Raleigh surrendered to the army of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman. The city’s loss was the latest in a growing accumulation of Confederate setbacks.

Three days earlier, Sherman began his advance towards the state capital. As the outnumbered Confederate army of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston prepared to withdraw, Governor Zebulon B. Vance decided to negotiate with Sherman for the surrender of Raleigh and a separate peace. On April 12, he dispatched former governors William A. Graham and David L. Swain to discuss terms with Sherman. The Federal commander responded favorably to the proposal regarding Raleigh, but refused to cease military operations.

By the time Swain and Graham returned to Raleigh on April 13, Vance had fled after hearing rumors they had been taken prisoner. Later in the day, Mayor William H. Harrison formally surrendered the Oak City to Brevet Maj. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick outside of the city.

Apart from a futile violent incident involving a reckless Confederate cavalryman, the Federal occupation was accomplished peacefully. Although active campaigning continued, the inability of the Confederate military to defend Raleigh was a sign that the Civil War would soon be over in North Carolina.

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Raleigh and Gaston Railroad Completed, 1840

Raleigh & Gaston Railroad president W.R. Vass stands on
the locomotive, 1850. Image from the State Archives.

On March 21, 1840, work was completed on the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad. A week later, the Raleigh depot received 20 bales of cotton from Petersburg, Virginia, the line’s first commercial shipment on record. In June 1840, a “Grand Celebration” was held in Raleigh to commemorate two milestones, the new railroad and the new State Capitol.

Experiments in the 1830s with horse-drawn rail cars preceded the state’s first self-propelled railroad, the Raleigh and Gaston line. Gaston in Halifax County was its northern terminus and Raleigh its southern end point. Slaves were leased to lay the rails on heavy wooden planks. Setbacks with financing and materials delayed the railroad’s completion.

An ad for the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad.
Image from the State Archives.

Throughout North Carolina in the1840’s, the sound of the locomotive horn was heard, signifying a new era of unprecedented prosperity. The benefits of the Raleigh and Gaston line were apparent immediately.  The train allowed for quick transportation of goods and provided new jobs. The Confederacy used the Raleigh and Gaston heavily during the Civil War.

In 1900, the railroad was incorporated into the larger Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. The Seaboard building stands today on Salisbury Street in Raleigh as a reminder of the beginnings of rail transportation in the state.

Check out the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer for more awesome pieces of history from our transportation past.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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