Cary brings its intriguing African American history to life with opening of an exhibit highlighting the contributions of Rev. Dr. John William Meadows. As a principal in Cary’s first school for African American children and a preacher who served communities in five counties, he shaped the Cary of yesterday and today.
With a first of its kind display for the town, the Friends of Page-Walker and the Town of Cary invite the community to learn more about Cary’s rich African American heritage. How did the community endure hardships after Reconstruction and successfully contribute to the town’s growth? Why is this history relevant today? These are some of the questions answered in the J.W. Meadows exhibit that will be on display at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center in Cary from January 11 through February 17. A reception will be held January 27 from 6 to 8 pm.
John William Meadows (1874 – 1954) born a decade after Emancipation, was a leader in Cary’s African-American community during a time of insurmountable challenges. Teaching in Cary during the week and preaching in rural areas on the weekend, Meadows established a strong educational and religious foundation in Western Wake County.
Artifacts from his life that he used to preach, teach and lead a community that thrived in the face of challenge offer a wider glimpse of Cary’s history. The artifacts were lovingly preserved and donated by Rev. Jimmy Gibbs, Rev. Dr. Meadows’ great grandson.
“My family and I are just deeply honored that my late great grandfather is being remembered in such a historic manner,” says Rev. Gibbs. “I held on to these artifacts for so long because I knew my great grandfather would want Cary to be the final home after living in Cary for so many years. And we are thankful for the Town of Cary and the Friends of Page-Walker for making this all possible.”
Working with Page-Walker Arts & History Center Supervisor Kris Carmichael and North Carolina State University Public History graduate student Melody Hunter-Pillion, Rev. Gibbs and his mother, Marie Meadows Gibbs, provided an oral history and background on the churches. In addition, Carmichael and Hunter-Pillion used historical documents from the State Archives of North Carolina, U.S. Census reports, Delany Family Collection in the Prezell R. Robinson Library at St. Augustine’s University, Library of Congress, and local history books to form a narrative about Rev. Dr. Meadows and Cary.
The exhibit will include a mystery for visitors to consider. The display should prompt conversation about African American history and is in keeping with our 2017 Dreamfest theme, “Healing Race Relations through Conversation and Participation.”