African Americans, particularly in North Carolina, sacrificed more to build schools than any other group. Despite this, many educators accept the myth that African American families are less interested in education than others. Historically, nothing could be further from the truth. I call this damaging stereotype “the inversion.”

Nida Hayes Murphy, early teacher in Pender County, NC. Undated image courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library, identification provided by local family members

If you teach in Title One (high poverty) schools as I do, then it is likely that you have endured many workshops focused on student deficits. Title One schools are likely to have a higher proportion of students of color than their wealthier counterparts. At one point, I taught in a school…


Mom,writer, filmmaker, teacher, recovering New Yorker

Editing my feature film Sharecrop

My writing, filmmaking and teaching are all knit together by my fascination with stories. Over the past 17 years I have created documentaries centered on oral history of historic African American schools, and on sharecropping. (You can learn more and link to film trailers, and stream four of my films on Amazon, see my website below for more information).

Regarding my writing and what I publish on Medium, many of my articles are related to the history that is addressed in my documentaries. I have also shared personal essays and short fiction. I grew…


Photo by Naqi Shahid on Unsplash

“Maggie, come upstairs! I need you to put the ribbons in my hair!” Sarah was in a state, with her father returning after two months in Europe. Mr. Brown’s ship had docked downtown, and Mack had been dispatched to fetch him in the yellow Pierce-Arrow town car. That morning, Maggie saw Mack polishing the car’s hood until it gleamed. She had stepped into the side yard to empty her mop pail, and Mack caught Maggie’s eye.

“Take you for a ride, young lady?” Mack joked. Maggie turned away shyly, without answering. She didn’t know how to take the handsome Irishman’s…


Great Smoky Mountain Railroad locomotive/picture by Claudia Stack

My family has traveled many times to western North Carolina, and we usually stay in Blowing Rock near Boone, NC. We wanted to do something a little different, however, for my husband’s birthday weekend. We decided to book a train ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, which runs out of Bryson City, NC.

Overall, our trip was enjoyable. There were a few things I wish I had known ahead of time. However, I would recommend this as a good family outing.

Ahead of our trip, my only contact with the railroad was through the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (GSMR) website. I did try calling to ask a question about the hotel and train ride package, but could never get through to a person. It was in May…


The collected stories of the “Black Homer of Jimtown” by Ed Mott / image by Claudia Stack

Author Edward Harold Mott (1845–1920) was born in Pennsylvania. In 1878, he became a newspaper correspondant for several NY newspapers. As his career unfolded he also wrote books on PA history, as well as biographies and short stores. Although he lived for much of his adult life in Goshen, NY, Mott spent time in Southern Pines, NC.

It was in the area of Southern Pines that Mott apparently met the man who he called the “Black Homer of Jimtown.” “Jimtown” was a common name for areas where African American lived, but in this case the Jimtown mentioned actually did became…


Gryphon on arrival in North Carolina, picture by author

My friend Linda, who is an excellent horse trainer, told me not to do it. My husband threatened to install parental controls on my phone. My son Jack, who helps take care of our animals, shook his head. Why had I pressed the “Buy Now” button on a painfully thin horse in a Texas feedlot? Why indeed? I do have a rationale, or at least a rationalization…

As most horsepeople know, horse prices have gone crazy in the past year. The most obvious explanation is the pandemic. People spend more time at home, and more time on hobbies. I suppose…


Jean Lloyd, alumna of the Baltimore school picture by Claudia Stack, all rights reserved

The Baltimore School in Bladen County, NC was built on a Rosenwald plan in the 1940s. Jean Lloyd (pictured in the yellow jacket on the steps of the building, which is now a community center) is a dedicated alumni association member. Lloyd recalls that when she attended school there decades ago, she had caring teachers. The teacher she remembers the best is her third-grade teacher, Ms. Evelena Bryant, who is now 97 years young.

Bryant recalls that when she taught, she encouraged students to create stories. She wanted them to have fun while learning, but her expectations were always high…


Picture of Spurgeon Neal Ellington courtesy of the American Air Museum in Britain, which states that: You are free to use Content on this Website under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Licences. This means that you can share — copy and redistribute the content in any medium or format

A decorated Tuskegee airman was a young teacher at Pender County Training School in Rocky Point, NC before he began his military training. Spurgeon Neal Ellington was born in 1919 in Winston-Salem, NC . He graduated from Winston-Salem Teachers College in 1939. In 1941, at the age of 21, he stated on his draft card that his employer was J.T. Daniel of Rocky Point. Daniel was the longtime principal of Pender County Training School. J.T. …


Photo by Ian Tuck on Unsplash

Mack gestured for Sonia to follow as he led Willow up the ramp. Silently, he took Willow into her stall and removed her halter in one smooth motion. Willow stood briefly while Mack gave her forehead a rub, and then the mare wandered to the corner of the stall to get a mouthful of hay. Mack slid the door closed, pushed a large metal bolt that secured the stall door to the door frame, and hung Willow’s halter on a hook. Only then did he look again at Sonia.

“Keep your voice down, girl. How do you know Miss Sarah?”


(1866) African American workers on Cape Fear River rice plantation, N.C. Weeding. 1866. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2007677023/. Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62–61965 (b&w film copy neg.) Call Number: Illus. in AP2.L52 1866 (Case Y) [P&P]. Although this engraving was made immediately after the Civil War, it depicts African Americans working rice fields by hand as they did during enslavement.

In 1855, Fanny C. Watters was born on Clarendon, a prosperous rice plantation on the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County, NC. Near the end of her life, in 1944, she penned a book of vignettes about her childhood. The family published it as Plantation Memories of the Cape Fear River Country, and her relative George M. Stephens republished it in 1961. In the second edition, Stephens writes in a brief forward that her “words made bright pictures of childhood before the Civil War.” …

Claudia Stack

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