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Image, left to right: Earl Ijames, curator of African-American history at the NC Museum of History; Ken Howard, director of NC Museum of History; Susi Hamilton, Secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; image of George Henry White; businessman and educator Stedman Graham; and Vincent Spaulding, director of the George H. White Memorial and Education Center in Bladen County
May 24, 2019 (RALEIGH, N.C.) — On Friday, May 24, businessman and educator Stedman Graham presented the NC Museum of History with a ceremonial sword as part of the current North Carolina Museum of History’s exhibit on Reconstruction, Freedom: A Promise Disrupted, North Carolina 1862- 1901.
The sword is the only known existing material artifact related to the last African American to serve in the United States Congress from the Reconstruction Era; and the last elected Congressperson of Color from North Carolina until the election of Congressman Eva Clayton in 1992. Previously, the George Henry White Ceremonial Sword had been on loan to the museum from the Concerned Citizens of Whitesboro, NJ, a community development group founded by Graham, for use in the exhibit.
Graham presented the artifact to Susi Hamilton, Secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and gave remarks in a brief ceremony on Friday morning at the museum. He also toured the Reconstruction exhibit.
“We are grateful to the Concerned Citizens of Whitesboro, NJ; The George H. White Center in Bladen County, NC and the Phoenix Historical Society of Edgecombe County, NC for the diligence and work to research and promote the legacy of Congressman George Henry White,” said Hamilton.
During the Reconstruction Era, slavery was outlawed; formerly enslaved men, women and children could be legal citizens and all men could vote in North Carolina. The rise from slavery included electing four African American Congressman from North Carolina. The last of these Congressmen was George Henry White who was born in Bladen County; educated in Robeson County; received a license to practice law in Craven County and was elected to Congress while living in Edgecombe County, NC.
During the ceremony, Dr. Benjamin Justesen, biographer and author of George Henry White: An Even Chance in the Race, delivered a brief history of Congressman George Henry White. Graham delivered remarks on behalf of the Concerned Citizens of Whitesboro, NJ and presented the George Henry White Ceremonial Sword to Secretary Hamilton.
The George Henry White Ceremonial Sword will be on display in the North Carolina Museum of History’s Reconstruction exhibit, Freedom: A Promise Disrupted, North Carolina 1862- 1901, until the exhibit closes on Oct. 27, 2019.
About the NC Museum of History
The N.C. Museum of History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is located at 5 E. Edenton Street in downtown Raleigh. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The museum collects and preserves artifacts of North Carolina history and educates the public on the history of the state and the nation through exhibits and educational programs. Each year more than 400,000 people visit the museum to see some of the 150,000 artifacts in the museum collection. The Museum of History, within the Division of State History Museums, is part of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
About Smithsonian Affiliations
In association with the Smithsonian since 2006, the North Carolina Museum of History is part of a select group of museums, cultural, educational, and arts organizations that share the Smithsonian's resources with the nation. Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums, educational, and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. More information is available at www.affiliations.si.edu.
About the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.
NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the NC Zoo, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the NC Arts Council, State Preservation Office, and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call 919-814-6800 or visit www.ncdcr.gov.
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Remarks Used by Stedman Graham:
It is with great pleasure that I present the GHW Sword and Scabbard on behalf of Mr. Bernie Blank, President of the Concerned, Citizens of Whitesboro (CCW), NJ Non-Profit Foundation, Mr. Vincent Spaulding, President Emeritus and Chief Operating Officer, of the Benjamin & Edith Spaulding Descendants (BESDF) Non-Profit Foundation, and me, to the NC Museum of History as a permanent artifact of GHW for your future use.
We obtained ownership of the GHW Sword and Scabbard as a result of a referral from Dr Benjamin Justesen, a freelance writer, and author of several books on the life and legacy of US Congressman George Henry White. Dr. Justesen was contacted by Mr. Bradford Henderlong of Woodbridge, VA, a retired FBI agent who, through family connections, acquired the sword for sale on behalf of his widowed step-sister, who had inherited the sword from her late father.
The sword and scabbard dates back to form the mid-1890s, when Congressman George Henry White was serving as the Grand Master of the North Carolina’s black Masons (1890-1896). He was living in Tarboro, NC at the time, having joined the Odd Fellows in New Bern, NC, where he practiced law before entering Congress. He eventually moved to Philadelphia, after leaving Congress. (Thank the museum staff members for their preparation for your visit)