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

 
 
 

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Essay:
     In 1904 black merchant Walter P. Evans reached out to William J. Edwards of Snow Hill Institute and Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute regarding the lack of education opportunities for black children in Laurinburg. Edwards and Washington believed in uplift, upward economic mobility through industrial education and labor, and sought to establish training institutes.

     Edwards recruited his former student Emmanuel McDuffie who moved to Scotland County with his wife Tinny and established Laurinburg Normal and Industrial Institute in 1904. Initially it boasted only seven students, one teacher, and assets totaling fifteen cents. By 1906 the community had rallied around the school and constructed a proper school building.

     Adhering to Washington’s industrial philosophy, course offerings ranged from housekeeping and laundering to blacksmithing and wheelwrighting. Washington himself visited the campus in 1909, and his speaking events were well attended by Laurinburg’s white and black citizens alike. By 1914, the school employed thirteen teachers and had a student body numbering 110. An on-site hospital provided medical care for students and boarding allowed children from rural farms to attend.

     Public subsidies, though small at first, began pouring in. In the 1920s support for McDuffie and the institute began to wane as the desire for a public school grew. In response, white community leaders, who did not want to establish a public school for the black community, increased subsidies to fund teacher salaries and bus transportation.

     Despite annual subsidies that had grown to $67,000 by the 1940s and an award from the Duke Endowment Fund, the institute suffered a serious blow in 1952 when Laurinburg opened four new public schools. Enrollment took a hit, falling from 1100 students to just eighty-seven.

     The institute, like many black private schools of that time, was on a course for collapse. However, the generous financial and vocal support from alumus and jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie coupled with the institute’s renowned athletic programs carried the school through its dark times. Today the Laurinburg Institute is one of only four historically black boarding schools remaining in the United States.


References:
Adam Fairclough, A Class of Their Own: Black Teachers in the Segregated South (2009)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)—sketch by Marilyn Wright
Laurinburg Institute website: http://laurinburg.mindofjonas.com/
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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