News & Events

Rural Heritage Museum Opens New Exhibition

The History of African American Education
in Madison County, North Carolina:
The Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School

Exhibition dates: September 14, 2014 – February, 28, 2015
Reception: September 14, 2015, 1-3 p.m.

Rosenwald School Archive PhotoThe Rural Heritage Museum (formerly known as the Rural Life Museum) at Mars Hill University will open a new exhibition: “Our Story–This Place, The History of African American Education in Madison County, North Carolina: The Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School” on September 14. This exhibition traces the history of African American education in Western North Carolina, with a particular emphasis on Madison County, from Reconstruction through the period of Civil Rights legislation and the integration in the 1960s. The Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School played a large role in African American heritage and history in Madison County and Western North Carolina for a good part of the 20th century. The exhibition will focus on the day to day learning experience of the students who attended this school, along with the struggles, hopes, and dreams of their teachers and parents, in the context of the time. The legacy of the Rosenwald education and is impact on their adult lives will also be explored.

Exhibition Highlights

The Rural Heritage Museum features a permanent tableau of a restored authentic Appalachian log cabin. This area has been converted into a 20-seat theatre where visitors will view an introductory video with welcoming greetings from several Rosenwald alumni.

Other exhibition highlights include:

  • Historic artifacts, including a chalkboard, school desks, teaching aids, a reconstructed privy, and other ephemera found at the site of the historic school
  • A “living history” video, featuring interviews with many former Rosenwald school students, that will provide personal recollections and insight
  • Didactic panels describing Madison County and Madison County School Board history and decision making over the years
  • Dozens of historic photographs never before exhibited

Exhibition Programs

To provide additional insight, the Rural Heritage Museum will host several programs, to include:

  • September 14, 1-3 p.m. : Opening Reception
    For the general public, with special efforts to reach the Mars Hill, Madison County and regional African American communities
  • October 16, 2014: Lecture by Oralene Simmons, former Rosenwald School student, great-great-granddaughter of the slave named Joseph Anderson, and the first African American admitted to Mars Hill College, and Susi Anderson, resident of Hawaii and great-great-granddaughter of the slave-master of Joseph Anderson
  • November, 13, 2014 Panel Presentation: Personal Recollections of the Rosenwald School
    Moderated by Kevin Barnette (Assist. football coach at MHU) to include Anderson
    Rosenwald school alumni: Oralene Simmons, Charity Ray, Dorothy Ray, Omar Lewis
    McClain, Fatimah Rashida Shabazz, Gene Jones
  • Changing exhibition: “Madison County Colors From Long Ridge”
    by Charity Ray, Rosenwald School Alumni ( in the museum)
  • Thursday, February 19, 6:30 p.m. in Broyhill Chapel
    This is the final event in a series of programs sponsored by the Rural Heritage Museum in conjunction with the exhibition OUR STORY/THIS PLACE: AFRICAN AMERICAN EDUCATION IN MADISON COUNTY, NC

The Rural Heritage Museum is open daily (except Mondays) from 1-5 p.m. and by appointment. It is located on Rt. 213, in Montague Hall, on the campus of Mars Hill University. Mailing address: Box 6705, Mars Hill University, Mars Hill, North Carolina, 28754. Admission is free. For more information or for group tours, please call (828) 689-1400, or visit the museum website.

(posted 20140901)