Black builders and craftspeople honored in new exhibit

by Paul Garber

The city of Winston-Salem is honoring Black History Month with a traveling exhibit celebrating the history of Black builders and craftspeople.

The exhibit called “We Built This” celebrates those whose labor and skill contributed to the urban environment in the city and across the state.

Among those honored is George Black, whose work included providing the handmade bricks for the original North Carolina Baptist Hospital.

His granddaughter, former state Representative Evelyn Terry, told the story about how as a child George Black walked from Randolph to Forsyth County, looking for better opportunities.

She says if he were alive today her grandfather would be proud of the contributions that Black workers have had and continue to have on the city.

“He would look and say, ‘My, my, look what they’ve done. And look what I was even able to accomplish,'” she says. “There can be even more, perhaps in the future for those who come after all of us, because we have decided that we know how to work together.”

On Friday, visitors wandered through the restored Union Station to see poster boards detailing their work.

East Ward Councilwoman Annette Scippio says the exhibit adds a new layer of understanding of the rich cultural history that the African-American community has contributed locally and in North Carolina.

“It’s sort of like the movie Hidden Figures,” she says. “They’re at the same level, people who were doing excellent work and never got recognition for it.”

The exhibit is sponsored by Forsyth County’s Historic Resources Commission, The African-American Heritage Initiative, and Winston-Salem State University.

The Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Farmers Market will host the self-guided tour for the remaining Saturdays of February. After that, it moves to the C.G. O’Kelly Library at Winston-Salem State University.

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