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Helen Edmonds

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DCABP Inc. “Trailblazer” Honoring Our Legacy

              Tribute to Helen Edmonds  

Helen Edmonds was a historian, university professor and civic leader in Durham, NC. Born in Lawrenceville, Virginia on December 3, 1911. Her parents were John Edmonds and Ann Williams Edmonds. John Edmonds was a successful businessman, and her parents stressed the importance of education. She attended Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD where she studied history and graduated in 1933 with a B.A.

After graduation, Edmonds taught for a year at the Virginia Theological Seminary and then assumed the position of Dean of Women at Saint Paul’s College in her hometown of Lawrenceville. She then moved to Columbus, Ohio to pursue graduate studies at Ohio State University, earning her Master's in 1938. In 1946 she became the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from Ohio State University.

In 1941, Edmonds joined the history faculty at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham. She had a long and successful career at the university. She taught history, served as Dean of the History Department and as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She guided and advised student groups and clubs, along with contributed widely to other campus activities and initiatives. During her career, she lectured at more than 100 colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. Following her retirement in 1977, she joined the Board of Trustees at NCCU.

Edmonds is noted for her ground-breaking contribution to recovering the history of the 1898 white supremacist coup in Wilmington, North Carolina. The coup was followed by the massacre of hundreds of African American residents in the city. Her work on this history was first exposed in her 1947 Ph.D. dissertation The Negro and Fusion Politics in North Carolina, 1894-1901. A few years later in 1951, it was published in book form by the University of North Carolina Press. She was the first scholar to challenge ideas about the events of November 1898 in Wilmington. Her book described the state-wide white supremacist effort to undermine the fusion government where blacks and whites had shared power. She researched and described the systematic efforts to limit African American political power.

Dr. Edmonds also contributed at the local, national, and international level to many social and civic causes. She was active in national Republican Party efforts. At the 1956 Republican National Convention, she seconded the nomination of Dwight D. Eisenhower (who became the nation's 34th President), becoming the first black woman to second the nomination of a U.S. presidential candidate. She was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces Defense Advisory Council on Women, and in 1970, she chaired the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations. Edmonds also served on the Peace Corps’ National Advisory Council appointed by President Richard Nixon who cited her for her service. She also served in a number of appointments by the U.S. Department of State and on the Board of Directors for the first United Nations conference on women, held in Mexico City, in 1975.

Edmonds was an active member of several African American women’s organizations. From 1970 to 1974, Edmonds served as president of The Links, Inc., an organization primarily for African American women, and served on the board of directors of numerous other organizations, including the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

In 1986, she was named a North Carolina Distinguished Woman by the North Carolina Council for Women. As a gifted researcher and teacher, Dr. Helen Edmonds stamped a memorable legacy by mentoring a generation of students and developing historians, along with sharing her struggles, perseverance and success for the benefit of others.



Recognizing Our Future

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Kayla Timmons is an early childhood educator and entrepreneur. She graduated from North Carolina Central University in 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Juvenile Justice. Kayla has dedicated her life to ensuring justice and a positive future for juveniles. In 2021, along with her family, they opened “Kingdom Reins Ranch & Stables” in Efland, NC. The unique ranch offers a safe and healthy environment focused on providing life skills, educational, personal and social development through hands-on experiences for children and youth in Alamance, Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties.  Kayla encourages youth and young adults to never give up and continue pressing forward to overcome challenges.

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Our Legacy Prepared Us

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