On Nov. 9, Fayetteville State University held a Deed Signing Ceremony to celebrate the University’s founding in the Seabrook Auditorium. Broncos family and friends filled in to watch seven Fayetteville State representatives sign the deed commemorating the founding of our university 150 years ago, formerly known as Howard School as part of our Sesquicentennial Celebration.
Seven representatives recreated the signing of the deed including the great, great, great niece of David A. Bryant (accompanied by her grandmother), Ms. Nicole Young, Dr. Willis B. McLeod (first alumnus to serve as chancellor, 1995-2003, Mr. Elliot Jackson (president of the Student Government Association), Mr. Jodie Ervin (chair of the FSU Board of Trustees), Dr. James A. Anderson (chancellor of FSU), Reverend Dr. Charles N. Darden, Jr. (pastor of Evans Metropolitan AME Zion Church) and Dr. Donna Benson (first interim, female chancellor).
Dr. Bertha H. Miller, Fayetteville State’s historian, noted the black citizens of Fayetteville were eager to receive an education, especially during slavery and after emancipation. The university was able to withstand both post and pre-effects of the Civil War with only 11% of literate Blacks who understood they needed to be adamant for the longevity of Fayetteville State University, and the legacy they planned to plant for Black students forthcoming.
On Nov. 28, 1867 a meeting was held where several citizens pooled together their resources in order purchased land and establish a school. The deed of purchase for two lots on the west side of Gillespie Street (it was moved to its current location on Murchison Road in 1908) was officially signed on Nov. 29, and the school was established under the name of The Howard School of Fayetteville (it won’t officially be named Fayetteville State University until 1969). The school was established in order to provide an education for the colored children of Fayetteville. The schools seven founders, Matthew N. Leary, Andrew J. Chestnutt, Robert Simmons, George Grainger, Thomas Lomax, Nelson Carter, and David A. Bryant were appointed as trustees and paid $136 for the lots to build the school on (this was considered a lot of money at the time as the nation was recovering from the Civil War).
The school was officially built in 1868, with construction paid for by the Freedman’s Bureau. The school itself was named after General O. O. Howard, a member of the Freedman’s Bureau who erected the building on site.
Our university stands today as the second oldest after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and continues to breed diversity with 6,200 students enrolled in academic studies from all over the world.
The deed signing ceremony took place at the J.W. Seabrook Auditorium. Several professors and staff members, adorned in their robes, along with other faculty members and student waited in the lobby in anticipation of the event. Sarah Baker, university registrar, comments on how the ceremony commemorates FSU’s 150th anniversary by stating that “it recreating what happen 150 years ago when the founders signed the deed.” She adds that she was “excited to see that event reenacted.” As the starts, Dr. James A. Anderson, FSU’s chancellor, welcomed all the guests. This was proceeded by a narration of the historical facts of the university’s founding and deed signing by Sonny Kelly. Kelly also announced those who participated in the ceremonial deed signing including Nicole Young (who is the great great great niece of one of the founding fathers, David A. Bryant), Elliot Jackson (current president of the Student Government Association), and of course Dr. James Anderson (the university’s current chancellor).
Dr. Miller stated that: “The ceremony was conducted beautifully, and that it was a demonstration of how the school was here for 150 years.” When asked how the university’s 150th anniversary is was special this year, Dr. Miller explained that: “A number of HBCU that were started around the same time as Fayetteville State was founded, or even afterwards, no longer exists, but Fayetteville State University is standing strong, offering not only Bachelor’s degrees and Master’s degrees, but even a Doctorate in Education Leadership.”
The deed signing ceremony also held a significant amount of value and importance not only to the staff and faculty of Fayetteville State University, but the community as well.
Dr. Stacye Blount, assistant chair of the Sociology department, commented: “It was an important event that celebrates the sesquicentennial year, and that reenacting the moment the deed was signed was (also) important. Doing so was paramount to the celebration.” She also added: “Fayetteville State University was founded two year after the Emancipation Proclamation, and it was founded so that anyone could be educated.” This is a value that holds true to this day.
Correction: In the print version of this article, Dr. Stayce Blount was misidentified as the chair of the Sociology department. She is the assistant chair. The chair of the Sociology department is Dr. Nicole Lucas. The Voice apologies for the error.