On the Trail of African-American History

January 10, 2017
African American history

Sandhills Heritage Center

The communities of Cumberland County are preparing to celebrate Black History Month with an array of special events throughout the month of February. The lives and legacies of African Americans in these communities can be traced through our African-American Heritage Trail (AAHT). This tourist tool was created by the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (FACVB) to aid visitors in exploring 18 sites that reflect that rich history, and in anticipation of Black History Month, we are sharing three highlights from this half-day driving trail.

Sandhills Heritage Center, Town of Spring Lake
The history of this special place dates back to 1951, when the Spring Lake Civic Center was founded by African Americans as a community activity facility for local black youth. The purpose of the center evolved into a civil rights meeting place in the 1960’s and a social gathering site for families and churches. Today, the Sandhills Family Heritage Association’s mission is to keep this history alive, and they do so by hosting Heritage Tours and a range of educational, community-oriented events, to include the Sandhills Farmers Market every summer.

African American history

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, City of Fayetteville
Commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this park is in the beginning stages of development, but is well worth a visit. Travelers along the AAHT make a special stop here to take in the impressive sight of the Dr. King sculpture—a lasting reminder of his life and legacy. The park’s pavilion provides the perfect spot along the trail to enjoy a picnic, as well.

Fayetteville State University (FSU), City of Fayetteville
Originally named the Howard School and attended by African Americans, this is the second-oldest public university in North Carolina that is a part of the University of North Carolina system. Trail trekkers may visit the Chesnutt Library to discover some fascinating historical artifacts or stop by the E.E. Smith Monument to pay respects to Dr. Smith. This African-American educator and community leader headed FSU for 50 years, served as the Baptist Minister for the black First Baptist Church, and founded North Carolina’s first black newspaper.

African American history

E.E. Smith Monument, Fayetteville State University

The Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum has plans to unveil their History of Fayetteville State University exhibition on February 1, 2017, and to host an African-American Heritage Bus Tour on February 6, 2017. Another significant exhibit coming to Fayetteville is Reflections: African-American Life from the Myrna-Colley Collection, on display at the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County from February 3 to March 4, 2017.

Many other special events are taking place throughout Black History Month and may be found on the FACVB’s Calendar of Events. For a full listing of all our Cultural Heritage Trails, be sure to check out the FACVB’s Trails Website.

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