Phoenix Historical Society: African American History of Edgecombe County Records

1915-1955, 2001-2023
Manuscript Collection #1260
Phoenix Historical Society: African American History of Edgecombe County
Physical description
1.80 Cubic Feet, 0.2 Gigabytes, (3 document cases, 1 half document case, and 3 oversize folders), consisting of brochures, publications, correspondence, grant application, resolutions, minutes, financial records, press releases, DVDs, cassette tapes, and photographs
Preferred Citation
Phoenix Historical Society: African American History of Edgecombe County Records (#1260), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA
ECU Manuscript Collection
Access to original audiovisual and digital media is restricted. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

The Phoenix Historical Society: African American History of Edgecombe County was founded in 2001 to recover, record, and promote the unique history of Edgecombe County (North Carolina) as experienced by members of its African American community. This collection contains the society's official records, brochures, event programs, and publications related to research, community events and sponsored projects.

Biographical/historical information

The Phoenix Historical Society: African American History of Edgecombe County was founded in 2001, and incorporated in 2004. Its purpose is to recover, record, and promote the history of African Americans in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. Helen Gordon Quigless, Jr., was the president until illness required her to step down at which point C. Rudolph Knight become president in 2003. The name of the group was changed in 2004 to The Phoenix Society for African American Research, Inc. Under the third president, Mavis Stith, the group returned to its original name The Phoenix Historical Society: African American History of Edgecombe County in 2010.

C. Rudolph Knight, born 1947, graduated from North Carolina Central University in 1969 with a business degree; he would go on to earn Master of Science degrees in Education Administration, Library Science, and Adult Education from East Carolina University. He was the Director of Continuing Education at Edgecombe Community College for twenty-one years. In addition to his work as president as of the Phoenix Society he was the Historic Preservation Planner for the City of Rocky Mount, and wrote a column for The Daily Southerner. He passed away November 29, 2013.

Scope and arrangement

This collection contains the Phoenix Historical Society: African American History of Edgecombe County foundational documents, meeting minutes, and membership records. The Society was very prolific from 2002 to 2008 in sponsoring, creating, and promoting events in the Tarboro, North Carolina area. Within the collection are records pertaining to the creation of George Henry White Day, of which the Phoenix Historical Society played a large role in establishing. George Henry White (1852-1918) was the last African American Congressman elected in a Southern state until the 1960's. Other projects undertaken by the Phoenix Historical Society were programs on: Rosenwald Schools, the Knights of Labor in Edgecombe County, and preservation status of the Quigless Clinic. They also researched and created a guided tour of Tarboro, North Carolina, landmarks that highlighted the contributions of the African American community throughout the town's history. The Phoenix Historical Society also celebrated contemporary achievements with its Nonagenarians of Edgecombe County program, which honored local African Americans and shared their stories with a broader audience. They also compiled two manuscripts on local history topics: African Americans in Edgecombe County From Slavery to Freedom to Jim Crow: A Chronology 1860-1901 and "It Wasn't Just Wages We Wanted, But Freedom": The 1946 Tobacco Leaf House Workers Organizing Campaign in Eastern North Carolina. A theater production of East Carolina University Professor Dr. Reginald Watson's work was sponsored by the Society and a copy of the play, Princeville: The Little Town that Rose like a Phoenix from the Swamp, is included within the collection.

In addition to the Phoenix Society Records, some of C. Rudolph Knight's personal papers are housed in the collection. Along with Mr. Knight's correspondence is limited research on unrealized topics for future Society programs. The Phoenix Historical Society is dedicated and diligent in promoting African American history in Edgecombe County and this collection houses the records of their prodigious efforts.

Administrative information
Custodial History

July 8, 2015, 1.35 cubic feet; The Phoenix Society for African American Research, Inc., was founded in 2001 to recover, record, and promote the unique history of Edgecombe County (North Carolina) as experienced by members of its African American community. This collection contains the society's official records and brochures and publications related to research and sponsored projects. Gift of Dr. Lawrence W. S. Auld

October 19, 2017, (unprocessed addition 1), 0.45 cubic feet; Included are broadsides and programs (2003, 2006-2007), correspondence (2003-2010), minutes (March 4, 2006), and artifacts (t-shirts, mug, mousepad) related to activities sponsored by the Phoenix Society for African American Research, and a CD containing images of 3 houses on Carr St. in Rocky Mount and the City of Rocky Mount Historic Preservation Commission 2009 annual report. Certificates related to Gladys C. Harrison's and Martha O. Parker's completion of schooling at Princeville Graded School (1915, 1918) and Harrison's graduation from State Normal School in Elizabeth City (1917), and for Gladys Matthewson's graduation from Sales Beauty College in Wilson (1955) and her involvement in the Eastern Star and the Woman's Baptist Home and Foreign Missionary Convention are included, plus panoramic photographs of the Annual Ministers Conference at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia (1921 or 1927) and one of people in front of a church. Gift of Dr. Lawrence W. S. Auld.

July 6, 2021, (unprocessed addition 2), 0.25 cubic feet; The Phoenix Historical Society: African American History of Edgecombe County was founded in 2001. The first president was Helen G. Quigless, Jr. After she passed in 2004, under the second president C. Rudolph Knight, the name was changed to Phoenix Society for African American Research, Inc. After the third president Mavis Stith was elected in 2010, the name was changed back to the original name. This addition (2005-2020) includes materials related to the dedication of North Carolina Historical markers commemorating "African Americans Defend Washington," "State v. Will" (Battleboro), and "1978 Sanitation Workers' Strike" (Rocky Mount). DVDs, programs clippings, press releases, and articles also document George Henry White Day, the resolution of apology from Rocky Mount City Council on the 40th anniversary of the 1978 Sanitation Workers Strike, and the life and death of Clarence Garland Powell, a Montford Point Marine. Gift of James W. Wrenn

Source of acquisition

Gift of Dr. Lawrence W. S. Auld

Gift of James W. Wrenn

Processing information

Processing completed by Samantha Sheffield November 3, 2015

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Related material

For more information concerning the Phoenix Historical Society and Vice President James W. Wrenn, see:

Jim Wrenn Papers (#05625)Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Key terms
Personal Names
Dancy, John C. (John Campbell), 1888-1968
Knight, C. Rudolph
White, George H. (George Henry), 1852-1918
Corporate Names
Knights of Labor
Phoenix Society for African American Research
African American schools--North Carolina--Edgecombe County
African Americans--North Carolina--Edgecombe County--History
Tobacco workers--Labor unions--North Carolina--Edgecombe County
Edgecombe County (N.C.)--History
Princeville (N.C.)--Drama

Container list
Box 1 Folder a Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, 2001-2009
Box 1 Folder c Board of Directors Meeting Minutes & Phoenix Society Publicity, 2001-2009
Box 1 Folder d Member Records and Correspondence, 2001-2009
Box 1 Folder e Financial Records, 2001-2009
Box 1 Folder f Event Calendars, Programs, and photographs, 2003-2008
Box 1 Folder g Tour of Tarboro, North Carolina planning and schedule, 2003-2005
Box 2 Folder a George Henry White Celebration audio cassette recordings , January 1, 2005
Box 2 Folder b Research and records on George Henry White Day, 2001-2005
Box 2 Folder c Research and records for program on John Campbell Dancy, including photographs, 1828-2006
Box 2 Folder d Research and records on events: Knights of Labor, Rosenwald Schools, Quigless Clinic, and Nonagenarians of Edgecombe County, 2004-2008
Box 2 Folder e Phoenix Society Manuscripts: two compiled histories and a play by Dr. Reginald Watson, 2003-2006
Box 2 Folder f Personal correspondence and papers of C. Rudolph Knight, 2002-2013
Folder os1 Assorted posters of Phoenix Events and portrait of George Henry White, 2001-2005
Box 3 Publicity artifacts: 2 printed t-shirts, George Henry White mouse pad and mug.
Box 4 Folder a Event programs and handouts (2003-2008) and a 2003 document prepared by The Phoenix Historical Society: "African Americans in Edgecombe County from Slavery to Freedom to Jim Crow: A Chronology 1860-1901."
Box 4 Folder b Correspondence (2003-2010) and Minutes (2006) and a CD containing images of 3 houses on Carr Street in Rocky Mount and a City of Rocky Mount Historical Preservation Commission 2009 Annual Report.
Box 4 Folder c Event Programs and Press Releases 2010-2019.
Box 4 Folder d Event Program and related handouts concerning "African Americans Defend Washington" North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Unveiling, 2017.
Box 4 Folder e Event Program and related press releases concerning "State v. Will" N.C. Highway Historical marker unveiling at Battleboro, N.C., 2017.
Box 4 Folder f Article by Katherine Mellen Charron re a class trip of N.C. State Public History graduate students to tour Edgecombe Co. with Phoenix Historical Society members to explore Civil Rights there, 2017.
Box 4 Folder g Event Programs and press releases related to Rocky Mount City Council Resolution recognizing the 40th Anniversary of the Sanitation Workers strike and the city apologizing for the actions it took at the time, 2018.
Box 4 Folder h Event Program and handouts and press release re "Sanitation Workers Strike" N.C. Highway Historical Marker unveiling, 2019.
Box 4 Folder i Emails and article by Matthew M. Peek, Military Collections Archivist at State Archives of North Carolina re the life and death of WWII veteran Montford Point Marine Clarence G. Powell, 2020.
Box 4 Folder j Program for unveiling of Dr. Peter Weddick Moore N.C. Highway Historical Marker in Elizabeth City, Pasquotank Co., N.C., 2018.
Box 4 Folder k Two DVD recording of the all-day celebration on January 29, 2005, relating to George Henry White including the unveiling of his portrait in the Edgecombe Co. Courthouse.
Box 4 Folder l Educational Handouts, undated.
Oversize Folder os3 Photocopies of articles from the Tarboro Daily Southerner for January 29 and 30, 2002, and January 30 and February 8, 2012, re George Henry White Day, Montford Point Marines, and the 117th birthday of Princeville, the oldest city chartered by freed formerly enslaved persons. Also photocopy of article in Rocky Mount Telegram (February 6, 2012) re N.C. Highway Historical Markers for Martin Luther King's Speech given in Rocky Mount in 1962, and Operation Dixie honoring black tobacco leaf workers (especially 1946 first pro-union vote at China American Tobacco Plant).

These materials are digital files.

363656b6d54adbfe90916713da68125a Test for possible glitch
1260-s1-i3 Citizens for Responsible Zoning Photographs, 2021