University Archivist presents undiscovered research at “I am a Crosby Kid Symposium”

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University Archivist presents undiscovered research at “I am a Crosby Kid Symposium”

Jennifer Rice, Contributor

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James R. Stewart Jr., N.C. A&T’s Archives and Special Collections librarian at F. D. Bluford Library presented his findings on N.C. A&T’s first president and journalism pioneer John O. Crosby.

Stewart’s symposium focused on how Dr. Crosby’s background influenced journalism in the state of North Carolina, the blueprint for The A&T Register, which is the campus newspaper and what it truly means to be a “Crosby Kid.” 

Documentation of the university’s early development and the Crosby years were very limited until Stewart started his research two years and a half years ago. 

“The establishment, therefore, of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of the Colored Race ought, and I believe will, chronicle a new era in the progress of the colored man, as well as in the industrial development of the State,” Rev. Dr. John Oliver Crosby said.

Crosby manifested a vision before his time for this institution to be technologically savvy and exceptional in arts and academics. Today, his mantra is still evident as its characteristics and practices breathe relevancy into the campus environment of N.C. A&T.

Although elected as N.C. A&T’s first president in 1892, Crosby’s path to his prestigious title was birthed out of bondage.  He was born around 1850 on a plantation in Fairfield County, SC.

He and his brother, Henry Clay Crosby, challenged the status quo by traveling to North Carolina to pursue higher education. In 1870, he converted to Baptism and enrolled at Shaw University. 

Crosby possessed several talents that defied the gravity of his social class and skin color. He was known to the NC community as an educator, minister, principal, delegate, skilled carpenter, journalist and newspaper publisher to various newspapers. 

Crosby was published in the Gold Dustin 1886 and initiated the school newspaper in 1894 “which would keep the college and its inducements continually before the public” said Crosby. 

However, no copies of The A&T Register before 1915 are known to exist. He mentored individuals who created their newspapers in NC, such as Rev. Clanton Clay who established the Headlight with Rev. A. L. Sumner.  

“It is very evident in his writing pieces and samples that Crosby was intelligent and outspoken,” said Stewart to the room of current Crosby Kids and JOMC faculty.

“Dr. Crosby brought over a dozen years’ worth of knowledge of newspaper writing and publishing with him to the new Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race. The A&T Register, Crosby Hall and the Crosby Kids are terrific monuments of his legacy.” 

Crosby’s dedication to his community and philanthropy were qualities students in attendance admired. “Perhaps these are all positive qualities we should try to model as Crosby Kids” said Interim Chair Professor Gail Wiggins.