Friday, February 5, 2010

Ella Baker, James Shepard, W.C. Smith

Sorry about the delay of the posts - been doing a lot of drudgery work and laying the ground work for future painting. Also went back and did some retouching and color changing. That will happen until this thing is completed. The more you do, the more you see what wasn't done. 
Ella Baker, James Edward Shepard, William C. Smith
Ella Baker
Through her decades of work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and later with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Ella Baker emerged as one of the most important women in the civil rights movement.  Baker was born on December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia.  After grammar school, her mother enrolled her in Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.  She graduated as the valedictorian of both her high school and college graduating classes.  The college valedictorian honor was all the more remarkable because she worked her way through school as a waitress and chemistry lab assistant.  Baker graduated from Shaw University with a B.A. in June 1927.

After graduation Baker moved to New York City, where she became a waitress, and community organizer involved in radical politics.  Later that year (1927) she became a journalist for the American West Indian News.  By 1930 she was named office manager of the Negro National News.

In 1930 Ella Baker and George Schuyler cofounded the Young Negroes Cooperative League (YNCL).  She was the organization’s first secretary- treasurer, and chairman of the New York Council.  In 1931, Baker became the YNCL’s national director.  Schuyler, the organization’s President, then recommended her to the NAACP. 

In 1941, Ella Baker became an assistant field secretary of the NAACP.  She also took the post of Advisor for the New York Youth Council of the NAACP.  By the late 1940s Baker, now a Field Secretary, was the NAACP’s most effective organizer as she traveled the South chartering new branches.  In 1956 she organized In Friendship, a group that raised money for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Years of work among young people both inside and outside the NAACP led to her assignment in the spring of 1960 to coordinate a conference to provide direction to the spontaneous, rapidly emerging sit-in movement that began on February 1 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  In April of 1960 Baker organized a conference at her alma mater, Shaw University, which led to the establishment of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Although she never joined SNCC, Baker arranged and coordinated sit-ins for the new civil rights organization.  Baker continued to organize students involved in political activism through the 1970s.  In recognition of her work she was awarded a doctorate of letters in May 1985 from the City College of New York.   Ella Baker died on her birthday, December 13, 1986 at the age of 83.

James Edward Shepard (1875-1947)
In 1910 James Edward Shepard founded North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham, North Carolina.  Shepard was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina along with eleven other siblings.  His father was Reverend Augustus Shepard and his mother was Harriet E. Shepard.  Shepard received his education through the North Carolina public school system.  He worked as a pharmacist for a short time after graduating from Shaw University in 1894 after receiving his Ph.G. (Graduate Pharmacist) degree. James Shepard married Annie Robison in 1895 and  the couple had two children.

In 1898 Shepard along with John Merrick established North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company in Durham.  Eventually Shepard founded Farmers and Mechanics Bank in Durham as well.

A lifelong Republican, Shepard worked briefly from 1899 to 1900 as a federal appointee of President William McKinley in the Recorder of Deeds office in Washington, D.C.  He was later an advisor to President Theodore Roosevelt and supported President Herbert Hoover controversial nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge John J. Parker of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Shepard continued advising prominent Republicans until his death.  As late as 1946 he corresponded with former New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey.

By 1910 Shepard was one of the wealthiest and most successful African American businessmen in the United States.  He believed deeply in education and lamented the relatively small number of colleges for African Americans in his state.  When he received a section of land on the edge of Durham, Shepard created the National Religious Training School.  The school served as an institution “for the colored race” and initially held classes for ministers and teachers.  Five years after it opened Shepard sold the institution to Mrs. Russell Sage, a New York philanthropist.  She in turn provided support to keep it functioning for the next decade.

In 1923 the State of North Carolina assumed control of the institution and two years later renamed it the North Carolina College for Negroes (NCCN).  Unlike North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, NCCN focused on teacher education.  Over time the college developed into a liberal arts institution.  In fact, NCCN was the first predominately African American college in the United States to receive state support for liberal arts education.  By 1940 the college had a law school and offered graduate degrees in the arts and sciences.

North Carolina College for Negroes eventually evolved into North Carolina College and in 1969 it became North Carolina Central University at Durham.

Shepard, the founder of NCCU, remained President of the institution until his death in 1947.  He was also involved in other organizations including the North Carolina Teachers Association and he served as a trustee of the all-black Lincoln Hospital in Durham.  On October 6, 1947 James Edward Shepard died in Durham from complications after suffering a stroke. 

William C. Smith

Born into slavery near Fayetteville in 1856, Smith earned a teaching certificate and learned the printing trade from northern, middle-class white missionaries in the 1870's. In 1882, he became the publisher of the Charlotte Messenger, the city's first black secular newspaper. For the next decade, Smith's Charlotte Messenger was the principal spokesman for what historian Janette Greenwood calls Charlotte's "black better class."
People like Smith believed that African Americans would only be accepted by the white community if they demonstrated their commitment to such values as good manners, self-discipline, hard work, and financial responsibility.  African Americans, he declared, must “stop smoking cigars, drinking whiskey, pleasure riding” and joining in other ungentlemanly activities. 

W. C. Smith was a member of Clinton Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church, the city's oldest of that denomination. In 1886, after Smith and his fellow prohibitionists had been criticized by the pastor, 28 members, including Smith, decided to organize their own church. The new congregation adopted the name Grace Chapel and took as their motto "God, Religion and Temperance," which appears in Latin on the cornerstone of the present Gothic Revival style church building that was completed in 1902. This imposing brick edifice, which replaced an earlier frame structure, was dedicated on July 13, 1902.

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