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

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Among the first rural high schools for African Americans in North Carolina, the Berry O’Kelly Training School on Method Road in Raleigh was established in 1910. Accreditation came in 1922-23, when black schools in Reidsville, Wilmington, and Durham also were enrolled. The boarding school provided students academic grounding along with training in the industrial and vocational arts. The benefit was to both blacks and whites. The school provided African Americans with a sound education and provided the entire community with skilled laborers, carpenters, seamstresses, and laundresses.
     
     Berry O’Kelly (ca. 1861-1931), the school’s founder, was a leader in the Raleigh business community, owning a general store, realty company, and shoe company. In 1890 O’Kelly became the first postmaster of the Method post office. He also chaired the board of a life insurance company and was vice-president of the Raleigh branch of the Mechanics and Farmers Bank. O’Kelly wielded considerable political influence, encouraging those eligible to vote to support candidates and bond issues.
     
     But his primary focus in his later years was education. An admirer of Booker T. Washington, O’Kelly also was a friend of Julius Rosenwald and hosted the Sears president whose philanthropic efforts established black schools across the South on a visit to Wake County. In 1917 the Manufacturer’s Record acclaimed the school at Method the “finest and most practical training school in the entire South.” In 1941 a total 250 students were enrolled and ten teachers were employed. The school closed in 1966. Although most of the buildings on the site were demolished in the late 1960s, the 1926
Agriculture Building survives. The site is now home to the Berry O’Kelly/Harveleigh White Community Center, which has a park, picnic area, playground and numerous recreational facilities that serve the Method community.



References:
Charles R. Frazier, “Mr. Berry,” The Pamphleteer (January 1965): 9-15
Reports of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Division of Negro Education, North Carolina State Archives
John H. Haley, Charles N. Hunter and Race Relations in North Carolina (1987)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 389-391—sketch by Elizabeth Reid Murray
Lenwood G Davis, A Travel Guide to Black Historical Sites and Landmarks in North Carolina (1991)
Manufacturer’s Record, April 12, 1917
(Raleigh) The Carolinian, October 28, 1961
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north carolina highway historical marker program


Berry O'Kelly, 1864-1931

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources