Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to assist St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church with its 75th Anniversary Project here in Winston-Salem. Working with Dr. Michele Gillespie, Presidential Endowed Professor of Southern History (and now Dean of the College) and her Honor 319 class, we worked with the St. Benedict History Committee to identify and organize their archives, record oral history interviews with the St. Benedict congregation, and collect additional information about the church itself. St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church was founded in East Winston in 1940 and began as a mission church under the Charlotte Diocese. Its membership has been historically African-American and its congregation remains predominantly black. There was also once a school next door to the church for grades first through eighth that educated many prominent residents of the Winston-Salem community (the school closed in 1979 due to declining enrollment).
Students participating in Gillespie’s Honors Seminar 319 on the History of Theory and Methods (Spring 2015) conducted thirty interviews, which were filmed by Wrought Iron Productions. DVDs and transcripts of the individual interviews have been shared with the church and participants, and will be available online and in Special Collections. The church also organized and rehoused its archives, and is currently working to identify hundreds of photographs. A St. Benedict the Moor web site has been created to share the various project components, including a bibliography, interview excerpts, and photographs. While the project will be ongoing for the foreseeable future, I am glad to say we have already accomplished the majority of our goals!