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*On this date in 1863, Simon Atkins was born. He was a Black educator and administrator.
Born to two former slaves, Simon Green Atkins was born on a farm in North Carolina rented by his former master, Capt. E. Bryan. In 1880, Atkins first began his education from his earliest years of attending schooling in Haywood, NC, where he progressed to top of his class.
After teaching at a local school, he then enrolled at St. Augustine's Normal and Collegiate Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina. Here, he was introduced to Anna Julia Cooper, an accomplished student at St. Augustine's college, who mentored Atkins and inspired him to continue pursuing education. With Cooper's help, at the young age of 17, Atkins began his teaching career at a rural public school in North Carolina. Atkins was offered a teaching position in his hometown of Chatham County. There, his dedication to his work was recognized by Dr. J. C. Price, and in 1884, Price brought him to Livingstone College in Salisbury and offered him the job of head of the grammar school.
Atkins served as the head of the grammar department for six years and during the last two years of his time there, worked as the treasurer of the college. While serving as principal at Depot Street Public School in Winston-Salem, NC, he began his work to improve living conditions for Blacks. In 1892, him and his wife, Oleona, were the first settlers in the Colombian Heights neighborhood, where Atkins would establish a community that would serve as a "center of mutual understanding, respect, and regard of one race for the other." The new area proved to be a suitable environment for a new school.
In 1892, in Colombian Heights, Atkins founded the Slater Industrial Academy, now Winston-Salem State University, where he served as president for over 30 years and founded the North Carolina Negro Teachers' Association. He dedicated his life to improving education for Blacks and his prowess in teaching allowed him to make great strides in providing better and equal education. In addition to teaching, Atkins worked to better his community by improving the health, housing, and economic status of the African American community. Simon Atkins died on June 28, 1934.