LUMBERTON — The Robeson Remembers project of the Robeson County History Museum was recently recognized for its writing and historical preservation at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Society of Historians.
Helen Sharpe, the primary organizer of the county project, was awarded with the Paul Green Multimedia Award and the Barringer Award of Excellence.
The Green award, named for playwright Paul Green, is awarded to people promoting North Carolina history or genealogy through poetry, historical plays, videos, oral histories, music, quilts, etc. The Barringer award is for those doing unusual work on behalf of state history, genealogy or preservation.
“It is great to see Mrs. Sharpe’s early work recognized on a state level,” said Blake Tyner, executive director/curator of the county museum. “This is such an important project that has saved a great deal of history that could have been lost.”
Five writers were presented the D.T. Smithwick Newspaper and Magazine Article Award. The Smithwick is given to encourage the writing and publication of historical or biographical newspaper or magazine articles. Articles must regard some phase of local, regional or state history, or the biography of a native North Carolinian.
Winning Smithwick awards were:
— Alice G. Briley and Helen R. Williams for their article titled “William Calvin Pope, preacher, educator and poet.” Pope, who was born in 1871, went on to become a preacher, educator and poet. He was educated at Whitin Normal School, the first school for blacks in Lumberton. In 1919, the Rev. Pope published a book of poems titled “Leisure Moments.”
— John Floyd for “The Carolina Theater — the Dream Palace,” a detailed history of the theater, which is now the Carolina Civic Center on Chestnut Street in downtown Lumberton. He wrote about the founding and construction of this beautiful theater and went step by step through its history, restoration and ultimate closing.
— K. Blake Tyner for “Stephens Funeral Home served Robeson for 67 years,” which presented the history of James Linley Stephens’ career, from working in a general store to becoming a funeral director. Stephens went on to open a funeral home and furniture store with a partner but eventually pulled out of the partnership and turned the funeral home into a family business that his three sons carried on after his death.
— Herlyn O’Neal Mack-Gavin for “East Pines of the 1950s, ‘60s affectionately recalled.” She wrote about growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s in a close-knit black community located near the main area of downtown Lumberton. She described the community’s families, education, church life and recreation.
The Robeson Remembers project came about as the result of a discussion following a museum event in the summer of 1999. A group of local people were talking about how beneficial it would be to have an oral history project. But it was thought that a grant would be needed and perhaps an outside writer-historian employed.
Helen Sharpe suggested that if six to eight dedicated people volunteered to research, interview and write the stories, the project could be accomplished without extra training, money or an employed expert. The idea caught on, and several people stepped forward to volunteer.
Donnie Douglas, editor of The Robesonian, was receptive to the project, so guidelines were established and meetings were conducted to produce story ideas and schedule articles. The first article appeared in The Robesonian in September 1999. Sharpe said that it’s like the community is writing its own history and, in its own way “remembering to remember.”
For information about the museum visit our website at www.robesoncountyhistory.org.