A photo, thought to have been taken in the 1940s, of children who attended the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School. Photo courtesy of Mars Hill University

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Press release from Mars Hill University:

A photo, thought to have been taken in the 1940s, of children who attended the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School. Photo courtesy of Mars Hill University

MARS HILL — The Rural Heritage Museum at Mars Hill University has announced plans to open a new exhibition: “Our Story–This Place, The History of African American Education in Madison County, North Carolina: The Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School” on Sept. 14. This exhibition traces the history of African American education in Western North Carolina, with a particular emphasis on Madison County, from Reconstruction through the period of Civil Rights legislation and the integration in the 1960s.

The Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School played a large role in African American heritage and history in Madison County and Western North Carolina for a good part of the 20th century. The exhibition will focus on the day to day learning experience of the students who attended this school, along with the struggles, hopes, and dreams of their teachers and parents, in the context of the time. The legacy of the Rosenwald education and is impact on their adult lives will also be explored.

Exhibition highlights

The Rural Life Museum features a permanent tableau of a restored authentic Appalachian log cabin. This area has been converted into a 20-seat theater where visitors will view an introductory video with welcoming greetings from several Rosenwald alumni.

Other exhibition highlights include:

  • Historic artifacts, including a chalkboard, school desks, teaching aids, a reconstructed privy, and other ephemera found at the site of the historic school
  • A “living history” video, featuring interviews with many former Rosenwald school students, that will provide personal recollections and insight
  • Didactic panels describing Madison County and Madison County School Board history and decision making over the years
  • Dozens of historic photographs never before exhibited

Exhibition programs

To provide additional insight, the Rural Life Museum will host several programs, to include:

Sept. 14, 1-3 p.m. : Opening Reception
For the general public, with special efforts to reach the Mars Hill, Madison County and regional African-American communities.

Oct. 16, 2014: Lecture by Oralene Simmons, former Rosenwald School student, great-great-granddaughter of the slave named Joseph Anderson, and the first African American admitted to Mars Hill College, and Susi Anderson, resident of Hawaii and great-great-granddaughter of the slave-master of Joseph Anderson.

Nov., 13, 2014:  Panel Presentation: Personal Recollections of the Rosenwald School moderated by Kevin Barnette (assistant football coach at MHU) to include Anderson Rosenwald school alumni: Oralene Simmons, Charity Ray, Dorothy Ray, Omar Lewis McClain, Fatimah Rashida Shabazz, Gene Jones.

Changing exhibition: “Madison County Colors From Long Ridge” by Charity Ray, Rosenwald School Alumni (in the Museum).

The Rural Heritage Museum is open daily (except Mondays) from 1-5 p.m. and by appointment. It is located on Rt. 213, in Montague Hall, on the campus of Mars Hill University. Admission is free. For more information or for group tours, please call 828-689-1400, or visit the museum website: www.mhu.edu/museum.

Angie Newsome

Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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