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History in Red, White and Black

Meet the NC State students, staff and faculty whose leadership created opportunities for African Americans.

All you need for a self-guided historical tour of campus is a smartphone and the Red, White and Black app from NCSU Libraries. You can also access the information on your computer.

Red, White and Black appThe app grew out of successful campus talks and walking tours featuring history professors Blair Kelley and Walter Jackson and program coordinator Toni Thorpe of the African American Cultural Center.

“We plan to offer live tours each year, but we wanted to develop an app to put this history at your fingertips,” says Marian Fragola, NCSU Libraries outreach director.

Tapping into History

Red, White and Black, which contains audio, photos and key events in NC State history, is easy to use as you walk across campus. Passing by Riddick Hall? Learn about the first African American students at NC State, who were engineering majors.

If you’re walking near the tennis courts, read about Irwin Holmes, the first African American student to earn an undergraduate degree from NC State in 1960. The electrical engineering student played collegiate tennis and served as co-captain of the university’s first integrated athletic team.

Irwin Holmes with tennis racquet
Irwin Holmes, the first African American student to earn an undergraduate degree at NC State, also played on the university's first integrated athletic team.

While traveling with the team, Holmes encountered Jim Crow laws. When a restaurant owner refused to serve a post-match meal to Holmes, he rose to walk outside.

“The whole team got up and left with him,” says Thorpe, who had the opportunity to meet with Holmes over lunch about a year ago.

“We talked about how much that meant to him, and about the pressure to perform. He was featured in the New York Times. He got a job with IBM. Everyone was counting on him to create momentum for the next round of students.”

Center for Connection

Wherever you choose to start exploring NC State’s history, be sure to include a stop at the African American Cultural Center in Witherspoon Student Center. As the app will tell you, the building is named for Dr. Augustus Witherspoon, longtime professor, researcher, mentor and community leader.

“The African American Cultural Center has Black History Month all year long,” Thorpe says.

Don’t miss the current exhibit about African American jockeys, Too Black, Too Fast.

An array of events are taking place in February to commemorate Black History Month.

As part of a living wax museum on Saturday (Feb. 11), student actors will portray some of the most influential Americans of the past and present, from tennis star Althea Gibson to President Barack Obama. The free, family event is from 10 a.m. to noon in the Witherspoon Student Center.

NC State will continue to celebrate its rich African American history in March at the African American Cultural Center.

  • The Clark Lecture on March 15 will feature a special tribute to namesake Dr. Lawrence Clark, an associate provost and education professor, who died Jan. 25.
  • On March 17, award-winning playwright Pearl Cleage will keynote The Global Village, a writer’s conference at NC State.