SNOW HILL, N.C. (WNCT) – Throughout the year’s African-American families have fought and strived to preserve their history.
Inheritance means a lot for the Sauls Family, whose 400-acre farm has been in the family for 200 years.
During the Jim Crow era, African-American children did not have equal education opportunities. Therefore, Rosenwald Schools were built and designed by Booker T. Washington for African-American and Native American children across the South.
Right there on Nooherooka Road in Snow Hill is the Best Chapel School, a white structure with a red door that could certainly pass as someone’s house. It created a space of education, worship, and community. It’s known as The Rosenwald School, and there aren’t too many of them that still stands.
Sauls Family Farm is a piece of history designated by the state of North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. The Best Chapel School is believed to be the oldest known Rosenwald School in Greene County.
Men of the surrounding churches served on the Greene County Board of Education as Committeemen. In the 1908 minutes, it stated that none of the schools in 1901 had been painted. There was also no modern furniture in 1901.
Best Chapel pupils sat on benches, had homemade desks, boxes, and whatever was convenient. Unfortunately, this was the condition for all schools in Greene County.
It was also stated in the minutes of the Board of Education that 31 white schools later established libraries containing 2,632 volumes. Two “Colored” schools had libraries with 167 volumes, those being No.1 Snow Hill Township and No. 1 Bullhead Township.
Their strong foundation began with Isaac Sauls, and today the descendants of Saul like Joann Artis Stevens and others continue it by preserving their beloved Rosenwald School.
Joann Artis Stevens garnered her love and passion for history from her Aunt Ella Suggs Anderson, the first to graduate in the Class of 1929 from Snow Hill Colored School. Stevens has done extensive research on local, African/Native American, and world history.
She was instrumental in bringing Rosenwald School preservation to the forefront in 1999 after Hurricane Floyd. Now, she’s in the process of renovating the Best Chapel and has many plans for it to right history.
“We hope to utilize it as a launchpad to Right our history through pictures, artifacts, cultural activities, community events, storytelling, forums, and having meaningful and candid conversations around our history,” said Stevens.
Cain Sauls, uncle to Isaac Sauls Jr. was an incorporator in making connections with Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee. He established a “Pig Club” for African-American families for a wealth-building strategy, under a plan by Booker T. Washington.
Isaac Sauls was also an incorporator for the Great Southern Railroads and the Concord Cotton Mill. Sauls was a prominent businessman, landowner, and bail bondsman. He owned and operated a Mill and was part owner of a funeral home in Snow Hill to name a few.
The African-American men of Snow Hill, Greene County established a Business League and were very instrumental in forging civil rights, educational opportunities, and a better life for their race.
Cain Sauls wrote in his article “The Colored News” The “Great Sunny South” in the year 1898 that the Colored People will run a 10-month school.”
Sauls men were called the mighty men of valor as they wrote their history and paved the way for equal educational opportunities for many in the African-American community.