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Yard sale reveals forgotten treasures
Livingstone College founder's artifacts found
Published Wednesday, June 26, 2013 12:07 pm
by Herbert L. White

Rex Butler’s nose for history has turned up long-forgotten archives from the founder of Livingstone College.

Livingstone College founder J.C. Price

Butler, who lives in Cornelius, found a treasure trove of black history memorabilia at a yard sale in Cornelius in April. He bought a couple of quarterly publications from the AME Zion Publishing House dated 1893 and 1906 and photos, then talked to the owner about adding more to his collection. Among the 500 pieces he acquired were letters and photos of J.C. Price, the founder of Livingstone College as well as copies of The Star of Zion, the AMEZ Church’s official publication, from the late 19th and early 20th century.

“One of the biggest questions I get when I’m doing a display is ‘why are you doing this?’” Butler said. “My favorite answer is ‘why aren’t you?’ This is one white guy. Can you imagine in the black attics and basements and cupboards the history that is in there? It would stagger you.”

Price, who was born in Elizabeth City in 1854, was a noted public speaker who was called “The World’s Orator” by the London Times in 1881 after making a speech there. His oratory skills on behalf of the AME Zion Church in London were so powerful the money he raised there was used to help build what was to become Livingstone. He died in 1893 from Bright’s Disease, a kidney disorder.

“Had Price (been)  published like some of the African American leaders of that time, he would have been way more famous,” Butler said. “He was apparently offered…positions of importance but he declined them so he could concentrate on the school. He felt that you had to engage the whole man – head, heart and hands – and that’s what he did at his college.”

Much of the memorabilia Butler acquired came from the estate of Marvin Krieger, a longtime Central Piedmont Community College professor who wrote “Joseph Charles Price: Quest for a Negro Spokesman,” a research paper on Price’s role in Livingstone’s founding and the African American community. Krieger’s text included a 1963 bibliography from Livingstone.

Butler also acquired hand-written notes from Price, including some on the letterhead of Zion Wesley Institute – Livingstone’s original name. There are also letters and envelopes addressed to Price from prominent black professionals, including correspondence from attorney William A. Hewlett to W.E.B. DuBois, an educator and major civil rights leader in the late 19th and early 20th century.

“You’re not just who you are, you’re who’s around you,” Butler said.

The collection also includes 1893 correspondence – presumably envelopes that bore letters of condolence – to Price’s widow, Jennie from AMEZ Bishop Edward Jones, John Fitts, the first black lawyer in Winston-Salem, and Ferdinand Barnett, husband of anti-lynching crusader and newspaper journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett.

Butler started collecting historic artifacts to help his son learn American history. As a result, he dove headfirst into chronicling African American history and presenting the archives to others.

“To me, if you capture the imagination of an elementary school kid, then you can wow them,” Butler said. “If you wait until the 12th grade, you’ve lost them.”

Butler said he’d like to display the collection – alone or through a partnership – or contribute it to a permanent display. For now, it’s at his home.

“I plan to hold on to it as long as I can and maybe next year we can find a sponsor where can put this on display or have kids look at it,” Butler said. “Barring that, circumstances can change overnight, so I am thinking about putting the entire collection on eBay or something like that.”


Rex, please contact me at 875-9741 or email at butchbar@verizon.net. Concerning Roxanna Coleman. Thanks. Butch Barringer
Posted on October 23, 2014
Thank you for caring and sharing! Livingstone College is a fantastic HBC thanks to the vision of Dr. Price. What a great and powerful donation this would be to Livingstone College.
Posted on July 9, 2013
Posted on July 9, 2013
this is great information...the Price house or landmark still exist across the street from Livingstone College, Salisbury, NC. Dr. William McKenith, Editor, AME Zion Church Quarterly Review and Secretary, Dept of Historic Preservation maybe Presevation...office @ 3225 Sugar Creek Rd, Charlotte, maybe interested in talking to you about the information you have located. Contact him at 704.599.4630 ext 312/313 or email him at WiMckenith@amezhqtr.org..
Posted on July 7, 2013
Awesome!!! Well Stated- AMERICAN HISTORY!!!
Posted on June 28, 2013
What a story! Inspiration flows from stuff like this and can be contagious
Posted on June 27, 2013
Great story!
Posted on June 27, 2013

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