Juneteenth events planned in Smithfield, Surry

Published 4:25 pm Monday, June 12, 2023

By Akilah Frye

Staff writer

In celebration of Juneteenth, The Schoolhouse Museum, in partnership with Main Street Baptist Church, the Isle of Wight County NAACP and Isle of Wight County Historical Society will host two free community events this weekend preceding the holiday on June 19.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Surry County also has a Juneteenth celebration planned.

Both Smithfield events will be held at the Williams Mission Center of Main Street Baptist. 

At 1 p.m. June 17, the organizers will host “Freedom: Celebrating Black Business, Past and Present,” highlighting Black entrepreneurs of the past and present Black-owned businesses. Black entrepreneurs of the past will include presentations on Annie Malone hair care products, presented by Ariane Williams; Q.W. Gurley, founder of Greenwood District, presented by Beverly Walkup; Lucille B. Smith, chef and inventor, presented by Lansing Davis; and Black publishers, presented by Richard Linyear. 

Some Black-owned businesses that will be highlighted are Seaborne Barber Sharp, Shivers Funeral Chapel, Beyond the Décor by LaToya LLC, Strayseed Landscaping, BP Lawn Care and K.P. Heating Cooling. 

At 3 p.m. June 18, the groups will host “Freedom: Celebrating the Struggle for Black Education in the Rosenwald School Era” with keynote speaker Stephanie Deutsch, author of “You Need a Schoolhouse,” a book about her husband’s great-grandfather Julius Rosenwald. There will also be remarks by Dr. Tommy Bogger, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Professor of History at Norfolk State University and author of “Work and Play, African-American Youths in Isle of Wight County 1920-1962.”

“I hope that people will come out to both programs on Saturday, June 17th and Sunday, June 18th to learn about the struggles and triumphs of African-Americans after slavery, as they began to establish businesses in a segregated world, and to learn about the role of Rosenwald schools in African-American history,” said Beverly Walkup, a member of the Isle of Wight County Historical Society and The Schoolhouse Museum boards

Rosenwald schools were curated by Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald. Washington was the founder and first president of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, now formally known as Tuskegee University. Rosenwald was a philanthropist and president of Sears Roebuck. The two men came together to build schools for African American children across the South, advancing Black education in the early 20th century. 

“In this county, there were about six or eight Rosenwald schools,” said Jim Henderson, member of the Isle of Wight County Historical Society. 

According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, by 1928, one-third of the South’s rural black schoolchildren and teachers were served by Rosenwald schools, but few Americans are familiar with the structures and their impact on the nation’s history. 


“There are many leaders of today and those that have gone on or are retired that were educated in a Rosenwald school that may not have otherwise received an education, including Maya Angelou and John Lewis. I’m proud of that history,” said Walkup. 

On June 17, Surry County Parks and Recreation Center, 205 Enos Road, will be the site of the county’s 2023 Juneteenth Festival with the theme “Celebrating Our Freedom and Future.” The free event will run from noon to 7 p.m. featuring musical entertainment, food and business vendors, resource booths, face painting and other fun activities. Voter registration will also be available.