The NC Civil Rights Trail Marker Dedication and Unveiling for James H. Jones took place on June 6th, 2023 at Northampton County Central Services located on 701 N. Church Street, Jackson, NC 27845.
James H. Jones (1916-1984) was a farmer and a legendary leader in Northampton County, NC. Born into a family of sharecroppers on a former slave plantation in rural Northampton, now Longview Farm, the landowner's work demands took priority over Jones' education as the family struggled within a system that kept them dependent on the landowner for their livelihood. James Jones rejected this plight. Instead, he would emerge as a trailblazing farmer who would lead the fight to end nearly 100 years of education inequality in his County, improve conditions for his people, and gain the trust and respect of those fiercely resistant to change and those who thought change would never come.
After freeing himself from sharecropping in 1958, by purchasing his own farm on what is now James Jones Road, Pleasant Hill, NC, as an independent farmer, he became the leading voice in his community. He was the first president of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at the newly-built Squire Elementary School for black children in Gaston, NC, 1957 - 1968. Along with Principal Jasper W. Jones, they launched a campaign over many years, to secure basic facilities for Squire-cafeteria, library, gymnasium, enough classrooms, and water fountains. Their vision and efforts culminated in Squire becoming an exemplary and accredited school-the pride of the community.
A quiet humble man of great faith and service, at Roanoke Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, in addition to other leadership positions, he was the Chairman of the Board of Deacons and Superintendent of Sunday School for nearly 40 years. He and his life partner, former Viola Brown of Northampton County, married in 1941, and together raised and educated their nine children in the local schools.
In the 1960s and 70s, when the South was consumed with racial tensions and turbulence over school desegregation, James Jones led 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. He built cross-racial coalitions that helped resolve the complex, emotionally fraught issues facing the County at that time.
Despite heightened racial tensions, threats, and intimidation, in 1968 he bravely ran for school board representative. Two lost elections later, in 1971, forward-thinking leaders in Northampton took an unprecedented bold step and appointed James H. Jones the first black member of the Board of Education. That historic appointment was a highlight in the struggle for representation at the County level.
As the lone Black voice on the school board, the value he placed on children and his reputation for fairness gained him the trust and respect of his fellow citizens. In 1980 his fellow board members selected him to be their chairman, making James H. Jones the first black chairman of a County School System in the State. His leadership in that role and his recruitment of Dr. Willis Mcleod, Northampton's first black school superintendent, transformed the educational landscape in North Carolina, introduced a new era in education, and had a marked effect on racial progress in the State.
Jones' years serving on Northampton's Board of Education (1971-1984) were productively spent achieving equality, high quality education, improved facilities, and system accreditation. In so doing, educational opportunities for all of Northampton County's children were advanced. He died in 1984, the year that the Northampton County School System received state accreditation for the first time in its history, due primarily to his vision and leadership.
Welcome & Recognitions
Dr. Rosa Atkins, Superintendent,
Northampton County Public Schools
Rev. Charles R. Tyner, Sr., Chairman,
Northampton Board of Commissioners
"Lift Every Voice & Sing"
Mr. Deion Warren, Contestant,
ABC TV," The Voice," Season 2021
About James H. Jones
Dr. Willie Gilchrist, Former Chancellor,
Elizabeth City State University
Introduction of Speaker
Ms. Anna Jones, Daughter of James H. Jones
Dr. Timothy B. Tyson, Civil Rights Historian,
Writer, Duke University Professor
Rev. Dr. Edward P. Harding, Jr., Senior Pastor,
Prince George's Community Church
V's Restaurant Catering sponsored by NHC Tourism
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Timothy B. Tyson, Civil Rights Historian
Dr. Timothy Tyson teaches African American and Southern history, culture, and politics at Duke, UNC, Durham Technical Community College, and the public.
He is an award-winning writer and historian. His books Blood Done Sign My Name (2004) and The Blood of Emmett Till (2017) capture a point in history when the fight for civil rights fomented a South ripe with fear, violence and anger. Tyson witnessed much of this first hand as the son of Reverend Vernon Tyson, a respected leader in the fight for social justice. His father was run out of Oxford, NC for supporting the Civil Rights movement from his pulpit. His family subsequently relocated to Wilmington, NC, another city embroiled in violence as residents fought school desegregation.
Dr. Tyson works with Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and serves on the executive board of the North Carolina NAACP, Repairers of the Breach, and the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
The Negro National Anthem: Lift Every Voice and Sing
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught
us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has
brought us, Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears have been
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the
slaughtered, Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, Our God, where we met
Thee; Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we
forget Thee; Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our GOD,
True to our native land
Thank you to the following Northampton County Partners for supporting this project:
- Mr. Charles Tyner, Board of County Commissioners
- Mrs. Judy Collier, County Chamber of Commerce
- Mrs. Lucy Edwards, Board of Education
- Dr. Rosa Atkins & Central Services Staff
- Mrs. Lillie Pernell, Northampton Memorial Library
- Mr. Dick Collier, Northampton County Tourism
- Mr. Tony Burnette (Fmr. Pres.), Northampton NAACP
- Mr. Jim Gossip, Jackson Town Commissioners
- Mr. Anthony Wheeler, NHC Public Works
- NC Representative Michael Wray
- NHC Sheriffs Department
- Jackson Police Department