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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.

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  1. This is such an awesome idea that includes history and innovation!! I cant wait to take a look at the app and visit the AACC for many of the Black History Month programs.

    1. Here’s another way to get involved with NC State’s history, submitted by Samantha Rich:

      I thought your readers might also be interested in a digital history site launched in December by the Department of History. This particular exhibit describes the history of integration at NC State. We’re really trying to get students and alumni to contribute their personal stories to the site.

  2. Love this Red, White & Black. That’s me, 2nd from left. My nephew is an RA in Carroll Dorm. He called to ask if that were me in this photo. And, I made inquiries of my classmates to see who the others are since I do not remember their names. Here’s the response so far: Wearing NC State shirt is David Yelverton, beside David is Wayde Morton, I think the guy beside you is Michael Arrington.
    It would be great is someone could verify the names (I am confident about David Yelverton) and find out what they are doing and where they live. I love hearing about fellow classmates!
    Moreover, I appreciate the legacy of Dr. Clark, Dr. Witherspoon and others. I pray that we (NCSU & NCSU Alumni) are grooming others to fill their shoes.

    1. Sherry, many thanks for letting us know who’s in the photo! I looked up the original image on the Historical State site (a terrific resource and the source of the photos for this article) and it contained no name information. I’m sure they would be thrilled to hear from you. You can submit the information you know about this photo in the online comments for the image at All the best.

  3. I used to work at NCSU in Dept. of Plant Pathology before I was RIFed. I think this is amaziang. My cell phone does not have the app features, but what a concise way of showcasing Black History at NCSU. I live in Rocky Mount, NC, but would love to take the “walk”. This is just amazing.

  4. Thanks, for the article on “Red, White and Black”. The Upcoming events are posted and I will try to make some of them if not all. Thanks to all who work to show how much it means to be who you are and proud of it.

  5. “Red, White, and Black” is a fantastic way (great use of technology) to recognize African American History Month, and to acknowledge and commemorate those African American students, staff, faculty, and administrators who paved the way for those of us who are members of the NC State University family today. Want to extend my appreciation and thanks to Toni Thorpe, Walter Jackson, Blair Kelley, and everyone else who worked to assemble this amazing collection of facts and photos to celebrate NC State University’s African American history!

    P. L. Marshall
    Curriculum, Instruction, & Counselor Education

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