north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     Mary Potter Academy was launched in 1889 with George Clayton Shaw as principal, a post he held until 1936. Shaw was born to slaves in Louisburg in 1863. His mother, Mary Penn Shaw, had been provided what he described as “a fairly good education” and she instilled the importance of education in her six children, all of whom became educators. George Shaw graduated from Lincoln University (in Pennsylvania) in 1886. He studied at Princeton Theological Seminary before completing studies at Auburn Theological Seminary (New York) in 1890. While in New York, Shaw met Mary Potter, secretary to the Presbyterian Freedmen’s Board and benefactor of the educational improvement of freedmen. Potter provided funding to establish the first school for blacks in Granville County (Oxford), where in 1888 he founded Timothy Darling Presbyterian Church.

     Called Timothy Darling (for Shaw’s teacher) until 1892, the school was funded by the Board of Missions for Freedmen, New York Synodical Society, and Albany Presbytery. It would later serve as a private boarding school, until the 1950s, then as a public high school until 1969. In 1970 Mary Potter became an integrated middle school.

     In 1932 Shaw wrote: “How about the thousands of young people who have spent one to ten years with us . . . who came to us in the crude and went out refined, cultured, and polished—and have gone on to serve even as they were served. If Mary Potter is proud of anything it is proud of its success in developing character in sending our men and women into the walks of life who are transforming the thoughts and ideas of the community in which they live.” Local residents and alumni recently have established the Mary Potter School Museum in the Shaw house. Over the school’s history fifty percent of its graduates were natives of Granville County.

“General Reunion, Mary Potter High School, 1890-1970” (1979)
G. F. Richings, An Album of Negro Educators (1890)
G. C. Shaw, “A Glance Backwards—A Present Meditation” (1932)
A. B. Caldwell, History of the American Negro, North Carolina (1921)Clement Richardson, National Cyclopedia of Colored Race (1919)
George Clayton Shaw Papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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