Alumna Barbara Reeves Hart ’65 of Gastonia is one of four recipients of Appalachian State University’s Faces of Courage Award. She came to Appalachian to earn a master’s degree in special education and became the first African-American to receive a master’s degree from the university.
The Faces of Courage Award recognizes those who were instrumental in Appalachian State University’s early diversity efforts.
This video tribute played at the Commemoration of Integration, held Oct. 2 in the Holmes Convocation Center as part of 2015 homecoming weekend activities. Also receiving Faces of Courage Awards at this event were Dr. Willie Fleming ’80 ’84 of Charlotte, Dr. Carolyn Anderson ’69 of Winston-Salem and Dr. Zaphon R. Wilson ’76 ’77 of Raleigh.
Hart’s career spanned 30 years working with the deaf and hard of hearing in North Carolina and California, including serving as a speech-language pathologist in several school districts. Since retirement, she helped established the African American Quilt Guild of Gaston County in 2005. The guild has presented several community programs about the story of the Underground Railroad and the secret codes of the slave quilts correlating this story with the secret codes found in the Negro spirituals.
In the video, Hart speaks of the challenges of living during segregation in the South. She attended a segregated school, was denied access to the county library, and learned from used and tattered textbooks discarded by the white schools. “Yet in spite of all such adverse conditions, the students became successful leaders in the community, state and nation,” Hart said.
Mrs. Barbara Reeves Hart: As the youngest child and only daughter of Larkin and Bernice Reeves, I was born and raised in Belmont, North Carolina. My parents were always willing to make sacrifices so that we could have an education. They were determined that all of their children would attend college. We attended a segregated public school, Reid School, in Belmont. For many years the black children of Belmont were not allowed to visit any public library in the vicinity. In all of my schooling at Reid school I can never recall having new textbooks. Instead, we only received the discarded, tattered and worn textbooks passed down to us from the white schools. And of course we were always relegated to the back of the bus in all public transportation.
Yet, in spite of all such adverse conditions, the students of Reid school and many of my classmates became successful leaders in the community, state and nation. I graduated from Reid High School in 1960, ranking 3rd place in academic achievement. Following my high school graduation I attended Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, majoring in elementary education with an interest in special education. Other than teaching and nursing very few opportunities were open to black women at that time. It was during my student teaching at Bennett that I really felt a strong desire to pursue a career in the field of special education. In May of 1964 a Bennett College advisor informed me of an internship program at Appalachian State Teachers College. I was elated to learn that I had been accepted in the program as a candidate for a master’s degree in special education for the deaf. I did not realize at that time that I might become the first African-American to receive a master’s degree from Appalachian State. For more than 30 years I served in various educational capacities including teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing in the states of California and North Carolina. After my retirement I became interested in quilting.
Under my inspiration and guidance, the African American Quilt Guild of Gaston County was established in 2005. We have presented several community programs about the story of the Underground Railroad and the secret codes of the slave quilts correlating this story with the secret codes found in the Negro spirituals. My joy and passion will be to share the legacy and importance of remembering from whence my people have come as we emerged from the Middle Passage and sorrows of slavery to the present time of hope and goodwill. I’m truly thankful first to my heavenly Father, then to my parents, to the dedicated teachers of Reid School, and to all other who helped pave the way in this achievement. Respectively submitted, Barbra Reeves Hart.
The Chancellor’s Commission on Diversity works to ensure Appalachian is a welcoming community of scholars which values, respects and embraces diversity across all units.
In 2014, Chancellor Sheri N. Everts charged the commission to provide recommendations focused on the recruitment and retention of students, staff and faculty from underrepresented groups.