Angie Brown has a deep knowledge of Person County’s history having grown-up in the 1940’s and 50’s during the era of segregation. She graduated from the all-Black Person County High School in 1962 and then moved on to North Carolina A&T State University where she earned a Degree in History and Political Science. After college she became an educator in Person County and pent her first three years teaching under the constrictions of segregation. She would ultimately teach in Person County for 25 years before moving to Saudi Arabia and teaching there. She can currently be found at the Person County Museum of History where she has, among her other roles and obligations, preserved a comprehensive history of African Americans in Person County. Her story teaches us to prepare for the future by learning from the past.
Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?
A) My parents were farmers and co-owned a business, Cunningham-Nelson Funeral Home. I attended elementary and high school from 1950-62 during the historical period of “separate but equal.” But there was nothing about our education that was close to equal. Before my time Black parents had to beg, plead, and even raise money for their children to be able to go to schools in what we would call shacks today; small wooden buildings that were barely standing is all Black children were allowed to have. And often those buildings would mysteriously burn down. During my childhood, Black children received the educational “hand me downs” of white children—books, schools, busses, etc. Rarely if ever would a schoolbook have both covers and usually they would be marked up with pages torn out. In order to have a Black public high school it had to be classified as a training school, as in training for a manual-labor job, because it was inconceivable that Black children would be receiving college preparation.
Q) What was your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
A) After college, I was hired here in Person County to teach Language Arts and Social Studies to 7th graders at Morgan Street School (now Huck Sansbury Recreational Complex). Five years later, I was transferred to Southern Junior High School and taught there for twenty years. While there, I was named Teacher of the Year and ultimately was a finalist for State Teacher of the Year. I truly loved teaching young people.
In 1990, my husband and I moved to the Middle East where he served as CEO of his company for ten years. I taught there for eight years. It was truly a dream to teach there. It was an English emersion school with children from all over the world. The culture was difficult at times. But every culture has its difficulties, especially for women. Saudi Arabia was and is the most difficult I have ever visited or lived.
Q) What organizations or community endeavors do you participate in?
A) In retirement, I was fortunate enough to become a volunteer at the Person County Museum of History. It was at that time I was asked to set up a display of African American history at the museum. Twenty years later, I have served as curator of historical items, displayer, board member, and president of the organization. That one display has become a whole building dedicated to Black history in Person County. It’s an extension of my classroom and it allows me to display my passion for bringing Black history to life. I often say that I feel the ancestor’s calling out to me. That’s where this passion comes from.
Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?
A) Women have never received the credit they deserved proportionate to the work they have done. I have always championed equal rights for women. I don’t believe one can champion rights for any group without championing the rights of all groups. We all want and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who look to you as motivation?
A) My advice to young ladies is and has always been to work hard and know that there is absolutely nothing you can’t do. Where there is a will, there is a way.