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Three local women, including two graduates of the Sanford Citizens’ Academy, have set out to preserve Sanford’s strong history of Black entrepreneurship, education, activism, and art.
Historians and Sanford natives Carol Deese and Joan Quick along with veteran community activist Cora McIver noticed there was no single place where the community could find the history of Sanford’s Black community. To meet this need, they are creating a website to showcase and educate the public.
Deese and McIver are graduates of the Sanford Citizens’ Academy. Along with featuring Sanford’s many Black businesses, educators, activists, and artists, they want to highlight Black elected officials. Walter McNeil, Jr., Sanford’s first Black member of the Sanford City Council will be the first spotlight, Deese noted at a meeting of the Sanford City Council.
The site will be “a place for everyone in Sanford to share and record their experiences and memories, no matter their race or ethnicity,” Deese says. “Everyone in our community has something to contribute to this effort.”
Deese, Quick, and McIver enlisted students at Lee County High School to help with the site’s first focus, which will be an oral history of Petty’s Grocery Store, owned by Eli Harris Petty, Sr. Students have already interviewed and recorded Sam Petty, Sr and Sam Petty, Jr to learn more about the business and its role in Sanford.
The historians have also partnered with the Enrichment Center and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Carolina. Club members are interviewing their parents, grandparents, and other elders to collect memories of Sanford’s Black history, including during the Jim Crow and segregation era. Senior citizens at the Enrichment Center are participating in ongoing interviews around the same topics.
The website project is still in the early stages of development. Deese hopes interested members of the community will join with her, Quick, and McIver to add information and photos, as well as to broaden the scope and face of the project.
“We have gotten this started but we really need everyone to get involved, and there is a role for everyone,” Deese says. Tech experts can help with the website, local historians can help collect and write up the stories, photographers can submit and feature photographs, and so on, she notes.
The website is expected to go live for the public this spring.
For more information about the Black history website project and to get involved, contact Deese here.