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



Marker Text:

           In his history of black Baptists in North Carolina, the Rev. J. A. Whitted wrote that Thompson Institute in Lumberton “was of the greatest necessity in the section in which it was located,” further calling the school “another monument to the thrift and energy of the Negro Baptists of North Carolina.” Its sponsor organization, the Lumber River Baptist Association, had its own beginnings in 1877 in nearby Fair Bluff. Four years later the group had laid the groundwork for the school in Lumberton with the aim to teach reading, writing, and knowledge of the arts. At that time no public schools in the county served the black community.

           The leader, and the namesake for the school, was Alexander H. Thompson. The beginnings were modest indeed. Most funding was received from area churches with a small appropriation annually from the Home Mission Society in New York. Thompson Institute was a boarding school which offered training for teachers and the first black high school in Robeson County accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. A. H. Thompson was succeeded by the Rev. J. Avery and, in 1912, by the Rev. William Henry Knuckles, a graduate of Shaw University, who remained there for thirty years. High school courses were added.

           The end for Thompson Institute was akin to that of other preparatory schools across North Carolina, as it was converted into a public school. Local Baptists operated Thompson Institute until 1942. The following year, they first leased, then sold, the buildings to the school board. The black and white schools in Robeson County merged in 1969. Today W. H. Knuckles Elementary School operates on the site of Thompson Institute.

W. N. Hartshorn, ed., An Era of Progress and Promise, 1863-1910: The Religious, Moral,and Educational Development of the American Negro Since His Emancipation (1910)
J. A. Whitted, A History of the Negro Baptists of North Carolina (1908)
E. B. Turner, A Short History of the Lumber River Baptist Association, 1877-1995 (1995)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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