Marker Dedicated to Dr. Simon Green Atkins Saturday, June 11, 2005
Historic marker dedicated to
Simon Green Atkins on June 11, 2005. Text of marker is at right.
SIMON GREEN ATKINS
African-American Educator 1863-1934
Simon Green Atkins was founder
and president (1892-1904 and 1913-1934) of Slater Industrial
Academy, now Winston-Salem State University, and a founder of
the North Carolina Negro Teachers Association.
Born to former slaves in Haywood, Atkins received his early
education and taught school near this site. A graduate of St.
Augustine’s, Raleigh, and on the faculty of Livingstone College,
Atkins became principal of Depot Street School in Winston in
1890, where he led in the development of Columbian Heights, a
model community surrounding the Slater School.
Atkins represented the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church both
nationally and at world ecumenical conferences.
Chatham County Historical
A marker honoring the achievements of Simon
Green Atkins was dedicated in Haywood, Chatham County, on June 11,
2005, the 142nd anniversary of his birth. The marker, a large
cast-aluminum sign with gold letters on a dark brown background, is
placed near the historical location of the school where Atkins
received his early education and began his teaching career in 1884.
Pollard, recently retired from the Chatham County Board of
Commissioners who presided at the ceremony, called on the Rev. Norma
Bryant, pastor of Liberty Chapel Church, which provided space for
the erection of the marker, to give an invocation to start the
Ms. Pollard then recognized invited guests
Mike Cross and Bunkey Morgan from the Board of Commissioners; Joe
Hackney, N.C. House of Representatives; Bob Atwater, U.S. House of
Representatives; Mary Hayes Holmes, retired Chatham County
Commissioner and former president of the Chatham County Historical
Association. The program continued with welcome greetings from the
Rev. John W. Simons, president of the Chatham County Historical
Association and sponsor of the memorial marker, and Bunkey Morgan,
chairman of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, generous
donors of financial assistance to complete the project.
Mrs. Simona Atkins Allen, granddaughter of
Simon Green Atkins, recognized the many family members who attended
the ceremony, among them Mrs. Mary Atkins Bruce and her daughter
Barbara Davis of Washington, D.C., Mrs. Caroline Hamblin Tucker of
Mechanicsville, Virginia, and Craig Hamblin, student at Hampton
College and family genealogist; Harvey Allen, Sr., Harvey Allen, Jr.
and Harvey Allen III (grandson-in-law, great-grandson, and
great-great-grandson of the honoree) of Winston-Salem.
Also recognized were Mrs. Bernice
Atkins Martin, Miss Mabel Atkins, Thurlia Martin, Eydie Martin and
her daughter Destinee and Herbert Flack.
Speakers at the brief dedication and unveiling
ceremony remarked on the remarkable career of a man from rural North
Carolina. Dr. Jeffrey Crowe, Deputy Secretary of the North Carolina
Department of Cultural Resources in the Office of Archives and
History, pointed out that Atkins’s career began as African-Americans
in North Carolina were deprived of the right to vote and then
subjected to segregation and Jim Crow.
A number of attendees honored their alma mater by wearing red, and
several were part of the program. Jonathan Martin, executive
assistant to the Chancellor of Winston-Salem State University,
pointed out that the university had been selected as the best of
schools in its category for the past four years. Ashley Nicole
Knight of Pittsboro, an entering freshman, and Kasseem Smith of
Sanford, beginning his final undergraduate year, jointly unveiled
Emphasizing Atkins’s devotion to the African Methodist Episcopal
Zion Church, his work as church secretary for twenty years, and his
role as Secretary of Education of the church during a seven-year
leave from Slater, the Rev. Jace Cox of Union Grove A.M.E. Zion
Church, brought greetings from the Presiding Bishop of the Eastern
North Carolina Episcopal District. Also honoring Atkins as well as
contributing to the morning’s event were members of Rose Hill and
Mt. View A.M.E. Zion Churches, who provided a luncheon for the
nearly seventy-five people who attended the ceremony.
Photos from the June 11, 2005
Dr. Jeffrey Crow, Deputy Secretary
of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division
of Archives and History, spoke of Simon Green Atkins’s
achievements during his career from the 1890s to 1930s.
descendants attending, left to right, Herbert Flack, Durham; Eydie
Martin and daughter Destinee, Cary; Thurlia Martin, Mrs. Bernice
Atkins Martin, Sanford, and Mabel Atkins.
grandniece of Simon Green Atkins, spoke at the dedication
ceremony on 11 June 2005 in Haywood, Chatham County.
Simon Green Atkins, left to right: Caroline Hamblin Tucker,
Mechanicsville, VA; Harvey Allen, Jr.,; Harvey Allen III;
Barbara Bruce Davis and Mary Atkins Bruce, Washington, D.C.;
Simona Atkins Allen and Harvey Allen, Sr., Winston-Salem; and
Craig Hamblin, West Virginia.
Jane Pyle, Chatham County
Historical Association, talks with Jonathan Martin,
executive assistant to the chancellor, Winston-Salem State
University, following the dedication ceremony on 11 June 2005.
Simon Green Atkins, 1863-1934
Dr. Simon Green Atkins, founder and first
president of Winston-Salem State University, was born 11 June 1863
in Haywood, North Carolina, to Allen and Eliza Atkins, farmers and
former slaves, two years prior to the ending of legalized slavery.
Haywood, at the confluence of the Haw and Deep Rivers, flourished
from soon after the Revolutionary War until the railroad and
Moncure began to overshadow it in the late 1800s. It had been
considered as a location of both the state capital and the state
university and was the locus of the Cape Fear and Deep River
Navigation Company in the 1850s.
An astute student, the young Atkins exhibited a zeal for
education, which was brought to the community by teachers from St.
Augustine’s Normal Collegiate Institute in Raleigh. After a short
time as a teacher in the community school, Atkins enrolled at St.
Augustine’s in 1880 and following graduation returned to Haywood
to teach. His aptitude and competence as a teacher was recognized
by Dr. Joseph Charles Price, President of Livingstone College in
Salisbury, N.C., who invited him to head up Livingstone’s grammar
school department in 1884.
In 1890 the city of Winston offered Atkins the job of principal
at the Depot Street School. In addition to his work as teacher and
administrator, Atkins worked to start a college for
African-Americans and to develop the community of Columbian
Heights. Slater Industrial Academy later became Slater Industrial
and Normal School (1895), Winston-Salem Teachers College (1925),
Winston-Salem State College (1963), and after 1972, Winston-Salem
From 1904 to 1911, Atkins gave up his duties as president of
Slater Industrial and Normal School to work as Secretary of
Education for the African American Episcopal Zion Church; he was
also church secretary for twenty years. Atkins traveled
extensively throughout the United States and represented the AME
Zion Church at international ecumenical conferences in London
(1901 and 1921) and Toronto (1911).
Atkins was married in 1889 to Oleona Pegram of New Bern, North
Carolina, and they had nine children, one of whom, Francis L.
Atkins, succeeded his father as President of Winston-Salem
Teachers College in 1934.
http://www.wssu.edu/archives ; Chatham County 1771-1971 by
Wade Hadley, Doris Horton, and Nell Strowd, 1971; Dictionary of
North Carolina Biography, edited by William S. Powell, 1979;
and The Heritage of Blacks in North Carolina, Vol. I, edited by Philip Henry and Carol Speas, 1990