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Atkins, Simon Green(1863–1934) - Educator, college president, Chronology

school carolina winston north

Simon Green Atkins distinguished himself in his home state of North Carolina as a teacher and advocate of teacher-training programs for African Americans. Doubtless his success was known beyond the state’s boundaries, for he founded a small school that he developed into Winston-Salem Teachers College, a four-year institution, and oversaw its transition from private to state control. His abiding interest in teacher-training also led him to become a founder of the North Carolina Negro Teachers Association—an organization that served his race well, especially during racial imparity.

The oldest child of farmers and former slaves Allen and Eliza Atkins, Simon Green Atkins was born on June 11, 1863, in the village of Haywood, in Chatham County, North Carolina, between Sanford and Raleigh. His town flourished during the period just after the Revolutionary War, but by the late 1800s the railroad and the neighboring town of Moncure had overshadowed it. At one time the area was considered as a location for the state capital as well as the state university. As a child, Atkins worked on a farm with his parents.

Atkins studied in the town school under pioneer black educators who came from St. Augustine’s Normal and Collegiate Institute (later St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh). One of these was Anna Julia Cooper, later prominent for her work as an activist, scholar, feminist, and school administrator in Washington, D.C. This cadre of educators went out into remote communities to teach rural blacks. Atkins also taught at the town school for a while before his college years, and in 1880 he enrolled in St. Augustine’s. He spent summers teaching in the rural schools of Chatham and Moore counties. After he graduated with distinction in 1884, renowned educator and orator Joseph Charles Price, president of Livingstone College, an African Methodist Episcopal Zion church-supported institution in Salisbury, North Carolina, invited Atkins to join his faculty. Atkins agreed and became grammar school department head. He spent six years at Livingstone (1884–90) and spent the last two years of his tenure there in the dual role as educator and treasurer of the college. During summer months he conducted institutes for black teachers in various counties.


1863 Born in Haywood, in Chatham County, North Carolina, on June 11

1881? Co-founds the North Carolina Negro Teachers Association

1884 Receives B.A. from St. Augustine’s Normal and Collegiate Institute

1884–90 Heads the Grammar School Department at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina

1888–90 Serves dual role as business manager and head of Livingstone’s grammar school

1889 Marries Oleona Pegram

1890 Edits the journal The Southland; becomes principal of Depot Street School

1891 Helps to settle Columbian Heights

1892 Moves to Columbian Heights; establishes Slater Industrial Academy

1904–13 Serves as full-time secretary of education for the African American Episcopal Zion Church; remains nominal head of Slater

1913 Returns to presidency of Slater (later Winston-Salem Teachers College)

1934 Resigns the presidency of Winston-Salem Teachers College and is named president emeritus; dies on June 28

The town educators of Winston (before its merger in 1913 with Salem to become Winston-Salem) lured Atkins to the post as principal of the Depot Street School, where he remained from 1890 to 1895. This was the state’s largest public school for African Americans. His work with the North Carolina Negro Teachers’ Association (NCNTA), which he helped to organize about 1881, had stimulated his interest in teacher-training schools for blacks. He directed this group as it established the foundation for a standard black teachers’ college in the state. Soon after he began his duties at Depot Street, he intensified his efforts to build such a school for African Americans and sought assistance from the Winston Board of Trade, Chamber of Commerce, and local white residents. By then, the state had begun plans to fund an agricultural college for its African American residents; hearing this, Atkins sought funds to locate the new college in Winston. Local support for this move was good, as the black community donated $2,000, R. J. Reynolds of tobacco fame contributed $500, and Atkins obtained fifty acres of land along with the backing of the Chamber of Commerce. Although Atkins lobbied the state legislature in Raleigh on behalf of this plan, Winston and its residents lost out to nearby Greensboro, where citizens offered fourteen acres of land and $11,000.

Atkinson, Dorothy Gillis (1929–) - Russian History [next] [back] Atkins, Chet (originally Chester Burton)

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