MARCH Into Women's History Month

Celebrating African American Women Around Gaston County


“The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand
That Rules The World.”
—William Ross Wallace

In 1981, the idea of National Women’s History Week was passed by Congress; however, since 1995, United States Presidents have issued a Proclamation designating the month of March as National Women’s History Month to celebrate the contributions of women in America in many fields.

Prior to those dates, Sojourner Truth, an African American abolitionist and women’s rights activist, “in her famous 1851 speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, four times asked her famous question—‘Ain’t I a woman?” - emphasizing the need to fight for equal rights for African American women and women during and after the Civil War.

Sojourner Truth’s question and determination to fight for justice and equality for women are the perfect seque to my journey to womanhood. As reminded by Maya Angelou, “I, too, am a woman, phenomenally!

I was born in Bessemer City, NC in the segregated community “Stump Town”—later renamed “Vantine.” The uniqueness of the town was that it was strategically separated from the town and the white community. I was born at home, even though the Negro Hospital had been in existence since 1937. Black Mothers birthed their babies at home with the help of God and black Midwives.

My parents and maternal grandparents were sharecroppers( tenants) who lived in a house on the property, farmed and raised crops to produce revenue from which the owner received his share, and my parents and grandparents were given their share to provide for our family. To add to his income, my Dad also worked in a mill at night in order to make his dream of building a home for our family become a reality. Mission accomplished! Weekly and later monthly, my Dad paid cash for lumber and all the necessary materials needed to build a house and stored everything in the barn shed on the property of a Black Christian family. In 1950, we occupied our house that was laboriously built in Vantine by my Dad, Granddad Will, and Uncle Charlie.

During the entire time, my role models, Mother and Grandmother, taught my brother and me everything: reading Bible verses that we learned and recited daily, cooking and canning vegetables and fruit, cleaning the house, washing and ironing clothes, milking the cows, and churning the milk to make butter, and yes, picking cotton. ( Lesson 1- Developing character and sense of responsibility).

My brother( five years older) and I challenged each other in every way possible.(Lesson 2-Developing independence and respect; valuing others). After our sisters were born, he and I had to teach them and get them acclimated to our environment( Lesson 3- Teaching patience and selflessness). The four of us entered the world singing, I think, as we sang with our parents, attended and served in church, and participated in structured community activities( Lesson 4-Duplication-Children learn what they live).

We were taught “common sense” principles and truths which contributed to my character and positive mindset: (1) You are no better than anybody else, but you are just as good as anybody else. (2) Remember who you are and whose you are. (3) God gave you a brain! Use it to better yourself, help others and Glorify God! Those principles were somewhat hard for us to understand, but eventually, we understood. From that time to the present, I remember and live by that advice! Without a high school diploma or a college degree, our parents were filled with wisdom and knowledge that only God can give.

I attended Stewart Elementary School and graduated from the eighth grade with honors in 1955. During those eight years, I was taught to excel academically and participate in activities that developed my talents and expanded my interests. I participated in the Rhythm Band, Square Dance Team, The Plays, and Chorus. It was through those activities and other exposures that I was taught about the history and culture of Black Americans. My teachers brilliantly ignited my curiosity for learning more about our culture! Their love and nurturing, coupled with the support and guidance of my parents, encouraged me to always do my best and succeed in all endeavors. They lived by and perpetuated the African Proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

I attended Lincoln High School, located “at the foot of Whetstone Mountain” in Bessemer City, NC. The school was built and opened in 1955 after the closing of Lincoln Academy, “which was originally opened as a boarding school for girls, and later became a co-educational boarding and day school, grades 1-12, for children of African descent.” Our home was on Pinchback Avenue across from Lincoln High School.

My involvement in “Desegregation” activities began during my four years at Lincoln High.

Our Principal, Mr. Edgar D. Wilson and his wife, Mrs. Margaret Welch Wilson who taught English and Music, developed a relationship with Reverend W. C. Laney, Pastor of Brookford

Baptist Church, a white congregation near Hickory, NC. Pastor Laney was committed to integrating his congregation and community, and he chose to begin with students and families from Lincoln High School. His proposal was shared and accepted by parents and students.

Each year on a Saturday evening, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson took students to Brookford Church to spend the night, and the chorus was brought on Sunday to sing during worship service. The trio (first and second sopranos and alto—Moi) slept in the attic—the upper level of the church, a spacious and comfortable furnished room. Members of the church prepared meals, fellowshipped, and stayed with us through the night to comfort and protect us. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, the chorus, and parents joined us on Sunday morning to participate in the worship Fellowship. That experience was significant because as high school students, we were instrumental in bringing whites and blacks together in a small town when no other movement had been started locally.

My last fellowship with the Brookford Church was in 1959, the year I graduated with honors as salutatorian and received a scholarship to Talladega College.

I matriculated at Talladega College, “the oldest private historically black liberal arts college in Alabama, started in 1867 by former slaves, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant of Alabama, who were determined to educate black children of former slaves.”

Each year I traveled by train from Gastonia, NC to Anniston, Alabama. From the train station in Anniston, I and other students rode vans, provided by donors and other supporters of the college, to protect us from any encounter with the Ku Klux Klan who operated the Bus Station.

Crosses were burned on the campus lawn, and Molotov Cocktails were thrown from windows of vehicles as angry, irate white people drove through the campus.

At that point, I committed to participate in training sessions to learn and practice how to

stand and march nonviolently. The training was rigorous, harsh and severe but necessary

to prepare us physically and mentally to accomplish our goal! Silently, I whispered “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”

Hand-in-hand, we marched, enduring the harsh, degrading words and physical abuse from the overwhelming crowd! Some students were taken to jail; some remained in jail during the summer until lawyers arranged their release. By the Grace of God, I was not incarcerated!

Over a period of time, the ugliness and abuse dissipated but continued in a more subdued manner. We won the battle, and I could focus on successfully reaching my goal-


June 1963, I excitedly and emotionally graduated On Time! My parents, my brother and sister-in-law, smiling through tears of joy, watched and applauded as I received my Bachelor of Arts Degree in English with a Minor in Sociology-Study of Human Behavior.

My advice to young people and all of us is simple but effective and rewarding. As we are

“Celebrating National Women’s History Month” and sharing a glimpse of my Journey

to Womanhood, I encourage all to live, love, laugh, and learn by expanding our knowledge,

passionately pursuing and achieving our goals and purpose! We must do each of those things while contributing to our history and culture, individually and


That love, tenacity, hard work, hope, courage, dignity, determination, and perseverance echo through my journey and call out to us from“Mother To Son”

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on
And reachin’ landin’s
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So, boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps,
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’ honey,
I’se still climbin’
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

——-Langston Hughes, (1902-1967)
African American Poet
Poet Laureate of Harlem 1920’s

Kathleen S. Blake, Retired Educator
Gaston County Schools
Board Member
African American Museum of History and Culture
At Loray Mill

Mrs. Hazel Brandon, Cherryville, NC. In the background is a photo of John Chavis High School, Cherryville, NC.

Mrs Hazel Brandon

Women’s History Month: Women of Color Whose Names We Should Know

Some of the women who broke racial and/or gender barriers are included in this report to showcase women for March, which is Women’s History Month. Other Women of Color have been noted for their extraordinary courage to down injustice and even terrorism. It might be said that the woman in U.S. History who deserves the most admiration for such courage is Harriet Tubman. It is expected that she will be honored soon by her country by having her face printed on the front of twenty-dollar bills.

Volumes could be written about exceptional Women of Color in our history. More could be written about girls and women of color living today----making extraordinary contributions to governing, education, the law, medicine, literature, science, the arts, childcare, eldercare, organizing for social justice, etc., etc. In the new documentary, (In)visible Portraits, to be viewed this month on OWN TV, it is noted that Black Women have been the least respected and least protected people in America. At the same time, it is noted in the film that “Black women are divine!

The following are just some examples of Black women in our history who could be said to be profiles in courage, character, commitment, talent, and intelligence .

Milla Granson was born into slavery in Kentucky. Though it was illegal to teach enslaved persons to read or write, her master allowed his children to teach Milla. She learned rapidly. Later in her life she taught, under careful conditions, children and other enslaved adults to read and write. She shared her knowledge with all who wanted to learn.

Caroline Still Anderson, daughter of William Still, legendary conductor on the Underground Railroad, was one of the women pioneers in the field of medicine. She graduated from Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia and served as resident and consulting physician at several Philadelphia hospitals, while conducting a much respected private practice.

A more well known Black woman of distinction was Bessie Coleman. She was the first woman of African American and Native American descent to hold a pilot’s license. One of her goals was to inspire children of color to get involved in the aviation industry. A notable quote of “Queen Bessie” was “The air is the only place free from prejudices”.

Claudette Colvin, at only 15 years of age, refused to move from her seat on a Montgomery bound segregated bus. She was dragged off the bus, handcuffed and taken to an adult jail. This occurred nine months before Rosa Parks. Claudette later served as the star witness in the landmark federal case that ended the history of segregation on public transportation in Alabama and other states in America.

We also have many notable Women of Color from Gaston County, past and present. Another volume could be written about them. For now, let us recognize Mae Thomas, the First Black City Official of Gastonia. She was hired as a Housing Inspector. Her working conditions were far from ideal. For the first three years she had to walk her territory, which was half the city. As the only Black person working in City Hall, she was regarded, she said, “as a no-tail bear” and mostly kept to herself. After 18 years on the job, though, her devotion to her work was honored as she retired. She was awarded the Key to the City by Mayor T. Jeffers. A story about Mae Thomas’s career was published in the Gaston Gazette. She was quoted as saying: “After I started helping these people and they depended on me, black and white, I began enjoying it. I’ve always wanted to help people and whatever I had I was willing to share it.”

Virtual Thought Discussions: Empathy Training for the Workplace presented by Dr. Renee' Evans March 22, 12 Noon - 1pm

This session is for the community members of all ages, cultural ways of being, work settings, and positions. We will examine empathy in order to determine whether it exists in our communities and workplaces.

Further, we will examine the impact of current events and how we support one another as they move beyond that impact.

Dr. Evans is a National Certified Counselor, Licensed Clinical MH Counselor, Counselor Educator, Professional Development Consultant & Strategist, and Diversity and Inclusion Specialist.

This will be a two-part series. Dr. Alan Mueller of Salem College will speak on Wednesday, April 21, 12 to lpm.

Join Zoom Meeting

Celebrating a Birthday, History, Culture and Family

On Sunday, February 21, The African American Museum of History and Culture presented a virtual program in honor of Black History Month. The program was well attended. Ms. Kathleen Blake did an excellent job as moderator. Tears came to my eyes as Pastor Ricky Collins sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Rev. Kenneth Falls prayed an encouraging prayer, thanking God for guidance and encouraging us to persevere in our efforts to inform us as a people and community concerning our culture and heritage. Smiles followed as Dr. Benjamin Hinton read aloud the book about John Lewis’s childhood called “Preaching to the Chickens.” Not only did he read the touching story with just the right expressiveness, but he showed all of us each page of beautiful illustrations in the book. Later, my eyes leaked again upon hearing “It’s a Wonderful World,” played on his trombone by Mr. K’mari Spikes.

The keynote speaker was Ms. Tonya Bolden, an award-winning researcher, writer, editor, and publisher of non-fiction for children and young adults. She is a dynamic speaker, as well, coming to us from her residence in NYC. She spoke of her passion for learning about Black history and Black HistoryMakers and sharing her knowledge with young people, through her books.

“I hope my readers leave my books with a greater love for reading and knowledge-seeking, and also as stronger thinkers, with a more vigorous curiosity.”

Ms. Bolden succeeded in inspiring and challenging this audience also. I came away wanting to read and share her books and hear her speak again in the future.

Another informative part of the program was presented by Dr. Melissa Balknight, Associate Superintendent for Academic Services, Gaston County Schools. She gave a PowerPoint presentation conveying much information about extra resources that will be available to Gaston Co. School children in the months ahead.

All who attended this Black History Month program presented by our African American Museum of History and Culture seemed to be pleased with what they saw and heard. Minds and heart were touched as we all shared this experience of honoring Black history.

A Street Named Davie

The David Family shared how Davie Street came to be and how they have continued community involvement in the neighborhood known as the "Victory" in Gastonia, North Carolina.
A Street Named Davie

It's Time to RUN. No, It's a Virtual Run, But, The Gaston Community Foundation Would Love For You to Participate.

If you would like to donate to the museum, please click on the link listed below and follow instructions.

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