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Wed, 11.03.1875

James Shepard, Educator born

James Shepard

*James Shepard was born on this date in 1875. He was a Black pharmacist, community activist, and educator.

James Edward Shepard was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was the son of Rev. Augustus and Harriet Whitted Shepard. Shepard received undergraduate and professional training at Shaw University, graduating in 1894. The following year, he married Annie Day Robinson. They had three daughters. The family settled in the Hayti District, becoming one of the development founders. He worked as a pharmacist, civil servant, and religious educator.

He became president of the private National Religious Training School and Chautauqua in the Hayti District in 1910. Initially, this institution was conceived as a center for religious training. Later, he renamed it the National Training School. Shepard's numerous black and white friends in the North and the South were supporters. These included Olivia Slocum Sage of New York. The school provided professional development for black teachers; education was considered a high calling in the black community in the drive for everyone to become literate—teachers from the school taught in rural Durham County.

Shepard needed help securing sufficient funding to keep the private school operating. He dealt with some of the issues of the Jim Crow era in his way. He continued to lobby the North Carolina General Assembly to support the "North Carolina College for Negroes." When the North Carolina legislature approved state funding in 1923, the institution's name was changed to Durham State Normal School. In 1925, it became a four-year curriculum.

The institution became North Carolina College for Negroes, the first state-supported liberal arts college for black people in North Carolina and the United States. Its first four-year college class graduated in 1929. In 1947, the name became North Carolina College at Durham. James Shepard died on October 6, 1947. 

The 1969 General Assembly established the institution as one of the State's regional universities, and the name was changed to North Carolina Central University. Since 1972, NCCU has been a constituent institution of The University of North Carolina.  A middle school in Durham is named for him. The Sesquicentennial Honors Commission recognized Shepard as a Main Honoree at the Durham 150 Closing Ceremony in Durham, NC, on November 2, 2019. The posthumous recognition was bestowed upon 29 individuals "whose dedication, accomplishments, and passion have helped shape Durham in important ways."

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