[Jackson], N.C. -James H. Jones was a fanner who in 1971 became Northampton County's first black school board representative. He played a pivotal role in the integration of the County's local schools during the 1960s and 70s. Later, in 1980, his vision and leadership as North Carolina's First Black School Board Chairman introduced a new era in education and had a marked effect on racial progress in the State. Recognizing his extraordinary achievements, in 2014, he was posthumously inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame at East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. Subsequently, 2015 saw the release of the award-winning documentary film, Chairman Jones-An Improbable Leader, produced by his daughter Anna Jones. https://chairmanjones.com/
To date, twenty-five NC Civil Rights Trail markers have been awarded by the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission. Only three are for individuals and James H. Jones is one of them. This marker will be the first of ANY kind recognizing an African American in Northampton County. The historic marker for Mr. Jones will be installed at Northampton Public Schools Central Services, 701 N. Church Street, Jackson, NC 27845, where the Northampton Board of Education currently meets. A virtual marker is already accessible at https://aahc.nc.gov /programs.fnc-civil-rights-trail/
In the 1960s and 70s, when Northampton County, North Carolina, and the South in general were all consumed with racial tensions and turbulence, James Jones lead a movement of people from segregation to cooperation around education for the children of Northampton, ending nearly a century of inequality in facilities and resources. Jones was successful in building cross-racial coalitions that helped resolve the complex, emotionally fraught issues facing the County at that time. He placed his own children on the front lines, brought blacks and whites together for dialogue and, according to now deceased Woodland Mayor Margaret Burgwyn, "He helped integration 'tip toe' into Northampton County." As the lone Black voice on the County's Board of Education in 1971, the value he placed on children and his reputation for fairness gained him the trust and respect of his fellow citizens. His years on Northampton's Board of Education (1971-1984) were spent seeking equality, high quality education, improved facilities, and school accreditation for all children. He died in 1984, the year that the Northampton County School System received accreditation for the first time in its history, due primarily to his vision and leadership.
James Jones did not know that anyone would remember him. But leaders and citizens in Northampton County are enthusiastically planning and eagerly awaiting the unveiling and dedication ceremony for his marker. Collaborations and partnerships on many levels have coalesced around this event-Northampton County Board of Commissioners, Cultural Arts, Northampton Tourism, Northampton Memorial Library, Central Services Staff, Town Council of Jackson, Board of Education, and more.
The dedication ceremony scheduled for Saturday, June 3, 2023 at 11:15am will feature keynote speaker, Dr. Timothy B. Tyson, Civil Rights Historian, Writer, and Duke University Professor. Dr. Tyson will provide a historical perspective of James Jones' leadership during the 1960s and 70s in Northampton County and the significance of a historical marker in 2023. Additionally, Northampton's own, Mr. Deion Warren of Conway, Contestant on ABC TV's "The Voice," 2021, will bring his soul-stirring voice to the ceremony.
A series of educational screenings of Chairman jones-An Improbable Leader, the story of James H. Jones' life, leadership, and legacy, will take place the week leading up to the dedication ceremony at the Northampton Memorial Library: Tuesday, May 30, 2023 at 11:00am and 1:00pm, again on Thursday, June 1, 2023 at 11:00am, 1:00pm, and 6:00pm.
On Saturday, June 3, 2023, preceding the dedication ceremony, at 10:00am, a free nublic screening of the documentary film will be shown. The story unfolds through his daughter Anna's conversations with those who lived during that time and witnessed her father's extraordinary courage and leadership. Seating for the film screening is limited and admission will be based on first come, first served.
The public is invited to this historic event in Northampton County. It promises to be inspiring, enlightening, and memorable.
The N.C. African American Heritage Commission leads the NC Civil Rights Trail with funding from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation. and with support from Visit North Carolina and the North Carolina Office of Archives & History.