Southeastern North Carolina Black History Month facts: Week 4
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - All month long we are highlighting places, people, and moments that shaped Black history in southeastern North Carolina.
Robert Robinson Taylor
Wilmington native Robert Robinson Taylor became the first African American to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
After graduation, he taught and designed several buildings at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
Taylor died in 1942. His home is still standing on McRae Street.
In 2015, the United States postal service honored Taylor with a forever stamp in the USPS Black Heritage series.
Jones State Park
Jones Lake in Bladen County opened in the summer of 1939 as the first state park for African Americans.
Between 1961 and 1964, North Carolina’s state parks were desegregated.
According to the state Division of Parks and recreation, the park is named after Isaac Jones, a landowner who donated part of the land to Elizabethtown.
Lela Thompson was the first black woman to graduate from Wilmington College, which is now the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1967.
After graduating, Thompson went on to teach in New Hanover County schools for more than 30 years.
For nearly two decades she served as the president of the Willis Richardson Players, a theater group that worked to put local black actors in the spotlight.
Thompson died on Dec. 30, 2022.
Meadowlark Lemon was born in Wilmington in 1932.
The Williston High School graduate became the most famous of the Harlem Globetrotters.
He performed in more than 100 countries around the world.
In 1997, Meadowlark was honored with the Sports Legend Award.
He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Third Street bridge between Hanover and Campbell streets was named the Meadowlark Lemon Memorial Bridge.
Williston Middle School was originally a high school for freed slaves when it opened in 1866.
In 1923, it became the first accredited high school for black students in North Carolina.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was originally scheduled to deliver an address at Williston on April 4, 1968, the night he was assassinated.
The school was closed in the summer of 1968, when the New Hanover County Board of Education desegregated the school.
Williston now serves as a middle school.
Copyright 2023 WECT. All rights reserved.