Franklin County School Desegregation is Topic of October 19 Forum


LOUISBURG, NC Oct. 1, 2015 —  Rev. Luther Coppedge remembers smelling the gunpowder, but he never heard the shot that fired the bullet because he was sleeping. “We still have one of the dressers where they shot over my head while I was in the bed,” Coppedge says of the incident on Christmas Eve, 1967.

Louisburg College

Coppedge, an African-American minister, and his family were targeted for their efforts to send their son to an all-white high school in Franklin County in the mid-1960s. Their story, and those of 15 other people who had various roles in the court-ordered desegregation of Franklin County schools, will be featured during a free public forum at 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 19 in Benson Chapel on the Louisburg College campus. Members of the general public are invited to attend and offer their own recollections and experiences of the desegregation effort in Franklin County.

The forum, sponsored by the college’s Tar River Center for History and Culture, is the culmination of a nearly-yearlong project, “An Oral History of School Desegregation in Franklin County, North Carolina.” The project coincides with the 50th anniversary of a 1965 lawsuit to integrate the county’s public schools. The Tar River Center for History and Culture Foundation received a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council to conduct interviews with people who were involved with the desegregation effort–parents, teachers, students and a school principal–and document those for the historical record.

“We believe it is important to record and learn from the life experiences of older members of the community,” says Maury York, director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture. “The struggles faced, accommodations made, and accomplishments celebrated by people during this time can help guide our citizens in the future, as they improve our school system and build a stronger community that respects the dignity of all people.”

Dr. Seth Kotch, a professional oral historian from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, worked with a local committee of interested citizens to plan the project. Kotch then trained a team of four interviewers–York, Louisburg College faculty members Will Hinton and Kelvin Spragley, and Charles M. Davis–who spent between 60 and 90 minutes with each interview subject, asking questions about their experience in the desegregation process.

“We wanted to make sure that this project documented aspects of school desegregation that might not be in the public record,” York says. “Because of the lawsuit filed in 1965, what happened in Franklin County had a far-reaching impact. These oral history interviews add to our knowledge of a process that had a dramatic effect on the citizens of Franklin County and beyond.”

For more information, contact York at (919) 497-3252 or at myork@louisburg.edu.

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Louisburg College, America’s premier private two-year college, is related by faith to The United Methodist Church. We are committed to offering a supportive community which nurtures young men and women intellectually, culturally, socially, physically and spiritually. As a two-year residential institution, Louisburg provides a bridge for students to make a successful transition from high school to senior colleges and universities.