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Waynesboro branch of NAACP to celebrate Black History Month Sunday with MBU professor

Rebecca Barnabi

 

The history of the Waynesboro branch of the NAACP is on display in the atrium of Waynesboro Public Library. Photo by Rebecca J. Barnabi.

Black History Month in the United States originated from Negro History Week, the second week in February, created in 1926 to honor Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 and Frederick Douglass’ on February 14.

The Waynesboro branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will celebrate Sunday, February 11, 2024 at Union Baptist Church, 820 E. Main Street, Waynesboro, at 3 p.m.

Mary Baldwin University history professor Dr. Amy Tillerson-Brown will speak and music will be provided by St. James Choir.

Plaques and awards will be presented to local churches and Waynesboro’s Blair Family will receive recognition.

“For everyone to come out and hear what (Tillerson-Brown) has to say about history and enjoy the gospel singing and enjoy the fellowship,” Joyce Colemon, president of the Waynesboro branch, said of Sunday’s event.

A display at Waynesboro Public Library highlights the history of the Waynesboro branch, including photos and information on individuals who have visited the branch and who local members have met at the national level. Civil rights activist Joe Madison, who died on January 31, visited the branch. His son attended Fishburne Military School.

“It’s the oldest civil rights organization in this country,” Colemon said.

She joined the organization in 1979 when Lillian Clarke was president. Clarke and another president, Rev. Mildred Middlebrooks, are featured in the library display. Middlebrooks died in October 2023. Colemon was vice president when she was president.

Colemon said that for the Waynesboro branch to receive a charter, 100 members were necessary. She was member chair in 1979, obtained the names of 100 potential members for the branch and was invited to a meeting of the national organization. Waynesboro received its charter at the meeting and Colemon received a gold medal.

Colemon has had the “privilege and honor” to meet many well-known individuals at the national level. In 2008 or 2009, she was in the same room at the national organization’s meeting with then-President Barack Obama. She also was present when he visited JMU.

At 76, Colemon said she continues her work with the NAACP, because many Americans are still unaware of inequality, and the organization also has a mission to encourage everyone to vote in elections.

“Keeping our eyes open and hoping for the best until we won’t need this,” Colemon said.

The oldest civil rights organization carries on its mission with a Waynesboro branch.

“Because it’s needed until we can really see significant change in all aspects of society,” Colemon said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.