African Americans in Guilford County

KEY EVENTS IN GUILFORD COUNTY'S BLACK HISTORY 1700s
  • 1754 - The Colonial Records of North Carolina provide the first known mention of black people - 54 in all - in the area that is now Guilford County.
  • 1774 - Guilford County Quakers free their slaves and become vocal opponents of slavery.
  • 1781 - Black people join with Revolutionary forces during the Battle of Guilford Court House.
  • 1790 - First U.S. Census shows Guilford with 6,675 white people, 616 slaves and 27 free black people.
1800s
  • 1816 - Meeting in Jamestown, Quakers establish an anti-slavery organization called the General Association of the Manumission Society of North Carolina.
  • 1817 - Benjamin Benson, with Quakers at his side, goes before a Guilford County Superior Court judge to obtain his freedom. It is believed to be the first such case in U.S. history.
  • 1819 - In the woods at New Garden Friends Meeting House, Quaker Vestal Coffin begins helping slaves escape to freedom on what becomes known as the Underground Railroad. The first known ``passenger,'' John Dimery, escapes to Richmond, Ind.
  • 1821 - Quakers in Greensboro establish the first school in North Carolina for black students. The school was soon abandoned as opposition arose to teaching slaves to read and write.
  • 1829 - Greensboro commissioners pass an ordinance allowing authorities to arrest and whip slaves found in places ``where they do not belong.''
  • 1840 - Greensboro commissioners pay a black man named Gill $34 to plant elm trees along North and South streets, which are later renamed North Elm and South Elm.
  • 1852 - The Greensboro Mutual Life Insurance and Trust Co. writes an insurance policy for $800 on a slave named Felix.
  • 1859 - The Rev. Daniel Worth, a Wesleyan Methodist minister, is imprisoned in the Guilford County jail for anti-slavery activities.
  • 1861 - Possibly because of the county's Quaker influence, Guilford votes 25-1 against secession from the Union, six weeks before North Carolina joins the Confederacy. At the time, 4,000 of the 4,600 black people in the county are slaves.
  • 1865 - More than half the residents of High Point are black people, many associated with the construction or operation of the North Carolina Railroad.
  • 1865 - As the Confederacy crumbles, Jefferson Davis brings Confederate leadership to Greensboro for several days.
  • 1866 - Carpetbagger Albion W. Tourgee speaks out about the terrible condition of black people in North Carolina and Guilford County. He becomes a Superior Court judge and helps write the North Carolina Constitution.
  • 1866 - Ku Klux Klan leaders in Guilford boast a membership of 800.
  • 1866 - Greensboro's first black churches, Providence Baptist and St. Matthews Methodist, are organized. ·
  • 1867 - Solomon Blair opens High Point's first school for black people.
  • 1867 - High Point's first black churches grow out of Baptist and Methodist congregations that met in Blair's two-room schoolhouse.
  • 1867 - Former slave Harmon A. Unthank and Quaker Yardley Warner organize Warnersville, a 34-acre planned community for black people south of Greensboro.
  • 1867 - Shaw University, the first black institution of higher education in North Carolina, is established in Raleigh. It also has a campus in High Point.
  • Late 1860s - Greensboro’s first suburb, called Warnersville, is developed near Ashe Street. Ezell Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), a future sit-in participant, will grow up in this community.
  • 1873 - Bennett College opens its doors and operates as a co-ed institution until 1926, when it becomes a college for women.
  • 1875 - The state's first black graded school opens in Greensboro.
  • 1876 - Levi Coffin's accounts of slavery and the Underground Railroad are published.
  • 1883 - Willis Hinton opens the first black-owned business in High Point, a cafe on South Main Street.
  • 1886 - Harmon A. Unthank becomes director of the People's Five-Cent Savings Bank in Greensboro, thus becoming the first black bank director in the South.
  • 1889 - First Baptist Church, the oldest black church in High Point, is organized in an old schoolhouse that stood on Perry Street.
  • 1891 - Greensboro officials come up with enough money and land to bring the Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Negro Race (now N.C. A&T) to Greensboro.
  • 1891 - High Point Normal and Industrial School, later renamed William Penn High School, is established.
  • 1893 - Agricultural and Mechanical College (now N.C. A&T) opens. · 1898 - Black educator Booker T. Washington speaks at A&T.
1900s
  • 1902 - Charlotte Hawkins Brown opens Palmer Memorial Institute, the nation's first college preparatory school for black students, in Sedalia.
  • 1905 - Immanuel Lutheran College moves to Greensboro from Concord and locates on East Market Street. The school closes in 1961.
  • 1911 - Greenhill Cemetery, the only black cemetery in High Point, is established.
  • 1913 - Black residents complain because they can't attend events at Greensboro's opera house. They ask for seating in the balcony and get it.
  • 1914 - Greensboro passes a Jim Crow ordinance prohibiting black people from purchasing homes and establishing businesses in white-dominated blocks.
  • 1914 - Dr. John Walter Vincent Cordice opens a sanitarium in Greensboro for black people.
  • 1921 - Three hundred Klansmen parade in High Point. A local newspaper boasts that the city has the ``largest Klan in the entire country.''
  • 1924 - Carnegie Negro Library opens on East Washington Street in Greensboro. It boasts 150 books.
  • 1925 - A middle-class black neighborhood is developed in eastern Greensboro and is named for J.R. Nocho, an early teacher and civic leader.
  • 1927 - Greensboro Negro Hospital, the first major health facility for black people in Greensboro, opens on East Washington Street. It later becomes L. Richardson Hospital.
  • 1928 - Future musician John Coltrane, born in Hamlet, moves to High Point with his mother.
  • 1930 - Summerfield Negro School is built.
  • 1933 - Black leaders establish the Greensboro branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
  • 1937 - Bennett College students lead a boycott of Greensboro movie theaters after owners refuse to show black people in anything but stereotypical roles.
  • 1937 - Nocho Park, a nine-hole golf course for black people, opens in Greensboro. The park is also the site of the new Windsor Community Center.
  • 1939 - Hayes-Taylor YMCA, the first such facility for black people in Guilford County, opens in Greensboro.
  • 1942 - High Point opens its first housing project for black people: the Daniel Brooks Homes, named for a local black minister.
  • 1943 - Randolph Blackwell helps start a youth chapter of the NAACP in Greensboro.
  • 1943 - High Point gets its first black police officers, O.H. Leak and B.A. Steele.
  • 1944 - A USO opens to serve black soldiers at Greensboro's Overseas Replacement Depot.
  • 1947 - During a massive polio epidemic, a hospital is set up in Greensboro to serve black and white patients side by side with an integrated staff.
  • 1947 - Grace Donnell Lewis founds Metropolitan Day Care, the first such service for black children in Greensboro.
  • 1948 - Clarence McAden, a dry cleaner, joins the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, becoming the first black chamber member in the South. When chamber officials discover he is black, they ask him to surrender his membership. McAden refuses. Some 15 years pass before another black member is admitted.
  • 1949 - John Cirt ``Jam-A-Ditty'' Gill Jr. joins Greensboro radio station WGBG, becoming the first black disc jockey in North Carolina.
1950s
    • Bennett College sociology professor Edward Edmonds leads delegations of parents to the school board to protest inferior educational facilities. He also demands the whites-only swimming pool at Lindley Park be opened to blacks.
    • 1950 - Rufus Bostic becomes the first black disc jockey in High Point.
    • 1951 - Dr. William Hampton becomes the first black person elected to the Greensboro City Council
    • 1952 - Morningside Homes becomes Greensboro's first public housing project for black people.
        • .

          • 1953 - A group of black nuns, the Franciscan Handmaids, operates a school in High Point. · 1954 - On a vote of 6-1, Greensboro becomes the first city in the South to announce that it will comply with the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision, which said segregation in schools must end. · 1954 - Greensboro's Notre Dame High School, a Catholic facility, admits 17 black students. · 1955 - In wake of Brown v. Board of Education decision, A&T students boo Gov. Luther Hodges, who had called for voluntary school desegregation.
          • 1955 - George Simkins, a dentist, and five other men are charged with trespassing for attempting to play golf at Greensboro's Gillespie Park municipal course. After a federal court rules that the course should be open to all, the clubhouse mysteriously burns.
          • 1955 - PTA members from Dudley and Lincoln begin attending Greensboro school board meetings, demanding improvements to black schools and greater desegregation.
          • 1955 - Edward Edmonds, who taught sociology at Bennett College, moves to revitalize the NAACP.
          • 1956 - In response to a court ruling, Duke Power orders Jim Crow signs removed from its fleet of Greensboro buses.
          • 1956 - Blair Park golf course in High Point becomes one of the first desegregated courses in the state.
          • 1957 – Greensboro becomes the first city in the Southeast to desegregate its all-white public schools when five children enroll at Gillespie Park School. The next day, Greensboro Senior High (now Grimsley) is integrated when former Dudley student Josephine Boyd transfers.
          • 1958 - The NAACP initiates a suit calling for assignment of children to the schools nearest their homes and an end to segregated schools. · 1958 - On his first visit to Greensboro, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at Bennett College after several churches refuse to let him use their pulpits.
          • 1959 - Greensboro sells its two municipal swimming pools to settle an integration dispute. · 1959 - Lynn Fountain integrates High Point's Central High School, and her sister, Brenda, enrolls at Ferndale Junior High.
          • 1959 - J. Kenneth Lee organizes American Federal Savings & Loan Association of Greensboro (later Mutual Community Savings Bank) as the first federally chartered black financial institution in the state.
          • 1959 - The first basketball game at the Greensboro Coliseum pits A&T against Elizabeth City State University.
          • 1960s · 1960 - On Feb. 1, four A&T freshmen - Ezell Blair Jr., David L. Richmond, Joseph McNeil and Franklin McCain - stage a sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Greensboro and usher in the national sit-in movement.
          • 1960 - Sit-ins spread to S.H. Kress store down the street.
          • 1960 - Sit-ins spread to the Woolworth store in High Point.
          • 1960 - High Point Mayor Jesse Washburn appoints an ``Inter-racial Committee'' following a period of racial disturbances.
          • 1960 - The High Point Enterprise publishes a section called ``News of Interest to Colored People'' on Sundays.
          • 1960 - Samuel Proctor, president of A&T, becomes head of the Peace Corps.
          • July 25, 1960 - F.W. Woolworth agrees to integrate its Greensboro store; four black Woolworth employees — Geneva Tisdale, Susie Morrison, Anetha Jones and Charles Best — are the first to be served.
          • 1961 - The Rev. Benjamin Elton Cox of High Point becomes one of the original Freedom Riders.
          • 1962 - James Farmer, national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, speaks at a mass meeting after two days of civil rights marches in Greensboro. He also visits High Point.
          • 1963 - U.S. Court of Appeals decides that Greensboro's two white hospitals must admit black patients and allow black doctors to practice there. · 1963 - High Point restaurants begin serving black people after a black youth is initially refused service at Everett's Restaurant.
          • 1963 - CORE uses sit-ins, picketing and marches to integrate hotels, restaurants and public accommodations in Greensboro, High Point and other cities. Marches continue for 18 straight nights in Greensboro. Hundreds of arrests follow. *** members appear at each march.
          • 1963 - In June, A&T student leader Jesse Jackson threatens to ``take over the city of Greensboro,'' and police arrest him for inciting a riot. Mayor David Schenck calls for businesses to desegregate. · 1963 - Officials in Greensboro and High Point set up Human Relations commissions. · 1963 - High Point is named an ``All-America City,'' in part because of its progress on race relations.
          • 1963 - Cumberland Court apartments, the first nonprofit apartment complex for low-income families in the United States, is built in Greensboro.
          • 1964 - Robert Weaver, a former A&T faculty member, is named the first Secretary of Housing.
          • 1965 - As part of Greensboro's urban redevelopment plan, portions of the old Warnersville community are razed and replaced by Hampton Homes, a public housing community.
          • 1966 - Under the direction of Hal Sieber, the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce takes a more pro-active stance on desegregation through the use of human-relations workshops and cell groups.
          • 1966 - A&T Chancellor Lewis Dowdy becomes the first black member of the Greensboro Chamber's board of directors.
          • 1967 - When a black minister moves into a white neighborhood in Greensboro, Klansmen picket outside the home, signaling an increase in Klan activity in the state. · 1967 - John Marshall Kilimanjaro, an A&T professor, founds the Carolina Peacemaker newspaper in Greensboro.
          • 1968 - The Office of Civil Rights informs Greensboro school officials that their progress toward desegregation is ``below the degree normally expected.'' The Department of Health, Education and Welfare later begins enforcement proceedings.
          • 1968 - Elreta Alexander-Ralston of Greensboro becomes the state's first black District Court judge.
          • 1968 - Henry Frye of Greensboro becomes the first black person elected to the General Assembly in the 20th century.
          • 1968 - Under the leadership of Nelson Johnson, black activists form the Greensboro Association of Poor People, a group that becomes a community ombudsman.
          • 1968 - Martin Luther King Jr. is slated to speak at Greensboro's Trinity AME Zion Church on April 4, the day he is assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. King canceled his appearance two days earlier.
          • 1968 - In the wake of King's assassination, A&T students throw rocks and bottles at passing cars on Market Street, then march downtown chanting, ``Black power!'' Riot police respond.
          • 1968 - Activist Stokely Carmichael tells 4,000 A&T students they should be willing to die for freedom and to kill for it as well.
          • 1968 - Greensboro police clash with 2,500 A&T students who support a campus cafeteria workers' strike. Shooting erupts. Students throw stones; police respond with tear gas.
          • 1968 - White students refuse to attend historically black William Penn High School in High Point, causing it to close after 101 years.
          • 1969 - A&T students occupy the school's administration building, demanding reforms such as an end to pop quizzes and the dismissal of six faculty members.
          • 1969 - Greensboro police confront 400 black people at a memorial service for Malcolm X.
          • 1969 - A federal examiner rules that Greensboro schools are not in compliance with the 1964 Civil Rights Act and criticizes the system's freedom-of-choice plan.
          • 1969 - A controversy over a student election at Dudley High School leads to violence involving A&T students, police and National Guardsmen. One student is shot to death. No one is charged. Six policemen are hurt.
          • 1969 - The Senate Investigating Committee holds hearings on the confrontation at A&T and hears a report that disturbance was Black Panther-inspired.
          • 1969 - The N.C. Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission criticizes city and National Guard officials for their handling of the A&T disturbance.
          • 1969 - A federal court orders High Point to desegregate its schools.
          • 1969 - Samuel Eugene Burford becomes principal of Andrews Senior High, making him the first black person to lead a predominantly white high school in the state.
          • 1970s ·
          • 1970 - Activist Howard Fuller moves his Malcolm X Liberation University, an alternative college committed to Black Power and culture, from Durham to Greensboro.
          • 1970 - George Simkins and other black parents file a suit demanding the desegregation of Greensboro's schools.
          • 1970 - Federal Judge Edwin M. Stanley orders High Point schools to integrate.
          • 1971 - A Chamber of Commerce group called Concerned Citizens for Schools works to smooth the way for desegregation.
          • 1971 - A federal judge rejects Greensboro's ``freedom-of-choice'' school plan.
          • 1971 - Seventeen years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Greensboro integrates its public schools, becoming one of the last cities in the South to comply with desegregation orders.
          • 1971 - An integrated Nat Greene Sertoma Club is organized in Greensboro.
          • 1971 - Sammie Chess of High Point becomes the state's first black Superior Court judge.
          • 1971 - Samuel Burford becomes the first black person elected to the High Point City Council.
          • 1972 - Alfreda Webb, an A&T biology professor, is appointed to the General Assembly, becoming the first black woman to hold that position.
          • 1974 - Walter T. Johnson Jr. becomes the first black chairman of the Greensboro school board.
          • 1974 - Zoe Barbee becomes the first black person elected to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. She dies in an auto accident soon afterward and is replaced by Bert Hall, a black agricultural extension agent.
          • 1979 - An anti-Klan rally in Greensboro, planned by the biracial Communist Workers Party, erupts in violence when a group of Klan members and Nazis show up. Five CWP members are killed.
          • 1980s
          • 1980 - Thousands march against the Ku Klux Klan in Greensboro.
          • 1980 - Klan members and Nazis charged in the Nov. 5, 1979, shootings are acquitted by an all-white jury.
          • 1981 - The February One Society is organized to establish an annual commemorative observance of the Woolworth sit-ins.
          • 1982 - For the first time this century, Greensboro adopts a district system for electing city council members.
          • 1983 - Henry Frye becomes the first black person named to the N.C. Supreme Court.
          • 1983 - Katie Dorsett becomes the first black woman to serve on the Greensboro City Council.
          • 1987 - Charlotte Hawkins Brown State Historic Site in Sedalia opens. Home of the former Palmer Memorial Institute, it is the first state historic site dedicated solely to the role of black people.
          • 1987 - Sylvester Daughtry becomes Greensboro's first black police chief. He goes on to become president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
          • 1990s
          • 1991 - With the establishment of a branch of United National Bank in High Point, Guilford County becomes one of only three counties in the United States to have three or more black financial institutions.
          • 1991 - Time magazine calls Greensboro a national ``bellwether of race relations.''
          • 1993: Melvin “Skip” Alston and Rep. Earl Jones found Sit-in Movement Inc. to renovate and reopen the downtown Woolworth department store as a civil rights museum.
          • 1994 - The city of Greensboro dedicates the Walkway of History along February One Place, marking local civil rights-related events and people.
          • 1994 - Black leaders announce a fund-raising campaign to turn the Woolworth building in downtown Greensboro, site of the 1960 lunch-counter sit-ins, into a civil-rights museum.
          • 1995: An 8-foot section of the Woolworth counter and four stools go on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.
          • 1995 - ``Holy Ground,'' Guilford County's black history text by Hal Sieber, is published.
          • 1995 - Black ministers are arrested at a Greensboro Super Kmart store, kicking off a campaign of protests that allege racial discrimination by Kmart. The company is negotiating with workers over a union contract that is approved the following year.
          • 1998 - N.C. A&T administrators prepare to award the school's first doctoral degrees.
          • 1999 - David Taylor becomes the first black fire chief in High Point.
          • 1999 - Kwame Cannon, a black Greensboro man imprisoned on burglary charges, is freed after a public outcry for his release. He was serving two life sentences.
          • 1999 - Greensboro community activist Ervin Brisbon dies.
          • 2000s
          • 2000 - Otis Hairston of Shiloh Baptist Church in Greensboro, a long-time civil rights activist, dies.
          • 2001 - Dr. George Simkins, a Greensboro civil-rights leader, dies.
          • 2002 - James Barnhill's sculpture called ``February One,'' which shows the four original Woolworth sit-in participants, is unveiled on the A&T campus.
          • Nov 2007- Yvonne Johnson is the first African American elected mayor of Greensboro.
          • Feb 1, 2010 - The opening of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum marks the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro Sit-Ins.
          Source: News & Record research.


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