WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - As part of Black History Month, and just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Wilmington Historic Preservation Commission, the city has published A Guide to Wilmington's African American Heritage.
In the publication are pictures and descriptions of sites related to African-Americans that have played a role in the Port City's history.
The guide has information about places people may already been familiar with, but the journey actually begins at the 1898 Monument and Memorial Park in downtown Wilmington.
Historic Wilmington Foundation Executive Director George Edwards says there are several places outlined in the guide that were significant to Wilmington's development.
"During the 19th Century, I have read and heard that there is not a significant building in this city, and we are talking all the way up to the Civil War, that African-American craftsmen did not have a hand in," said Edwards. "Wilmington is rich with its history and heritage."
Many African-American churches are included in the guide, including Saint Stephens African Methodist, Central Baptist Church, Gregory Congregational, Saint Mark's Episcopal and Chestnut Street Presbyterian, which still holds regular services.
Edwards says a prominent Wilmington resident was Robert Robinson Taylor, who was the first African-American to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and went on to become a friend with Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee. His home is still standing on McRae Street.
Also featured is the building on Red Cross Street where the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company was headquartered, the brick building nearby where Shaw Funeral Home got its start in 1895, and on South Seventh Street, the building where the Wilmington Journal newspaper began.
Two other prominent locations are in the guide are the Orange Street Landing at the foot of Orange and South Water Streets, where slaves escaped to freedom by way of the Cape Fear River. The area is now a part of the National Underground Railroad Network.
"And then you have one of the earliest landscaped cemeteries for blacks in North Carolina, Pine Forest Cemetery, which was established in 1860, for colored residents," said Edwards.
In all, there are over 30 sites listed that includes educational, religious, social and cultural sites, which may help increase even more interest by visitors from people who come every year to enjoy not only our natural attractions, but our rich historical heritage as well.
If you would like a copy of the new self-guided tour, with map and addresses, they are available in the local history room of the New Hanover County Library in downtown Wilmington.
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