Retired Teacher Explores the History of School Segregation in Western North Carolina

Betty Jamerson Reed was recently recognized by the American Association for State and Local History for her book, School Segregation in Western North Carolina: A History, 1860s-1970s. Photo by Rimas Zailskas.

Betty Jamerson Reed was recently recognized by the American Association for State and Local History for her book, School Segregation in Western North Carolina: A History, 1860s-1970s. Photo by Rimas Zailskas.

When retired school teacher Betty Jamerson Reed began doing research on Brevard’s historic African-American school, little did she realize the project would evolve into an award-winning book.

Reed was recently recognized by the American Association for State and Local History for her book, School Segregation in Western North Carolina: A History, 1860s-1970s. The book, which was published last year following a decade of research by Reed, provides a detailed history of black education in WNC. Its pages shed modern light on more than 40 of the region’s Rosenwald Schools and other places of education that served the African-American community in the days when “separate but equal” was the law of the land.

The association named just two Awards of Merit in North Carolina and a total of 59 nationwide.

Reed says the honor, which will be presented in October in Salt Lake City, is a surprise. She expressed her gratitude to the Henderson County Genealogical and Historical Society for submitting the nomination and to the people who wrote book reviews in support of her work.

“I am so thrilled. It’s wonderful to have somebody recognize your work and to think that it was a worthwhile project,” she says.

Reed has been an educator throughout her adult life. She taught English, Spanish and history at East Henderson, Brevard, and Rosman high schools. She has also taught at Blue Ridge Community College, Mars Hill College, Brevard College and Western Carolina University.

Reed says the book sprung out of research she started doing on Brevard’s Rosenwald School, which was one of thousands of black schools across the South that were named after businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. As her research expanded, she traveled across the region and to the state archives in Raleigh.

“I just sort of got hooked on that research when I worked on the Brevard Rosenwald School. I learned about these other places,” Reed says. “I think the book has really interesting information in it.”

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