The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC


September 2, 2013

KOL marker erected downtown

TARBORO — The Knights of Labor's (KOL) contribution to Tarboro can now be recognized by downtown pedestrians due to the relentless pursuit of the Phoenix Historical Society, Inc. (PHS).

PHS unveiled a Highway Historical Marker, during a dedication service on Saturday, that credited the KOL for meeting in Tarboro in 1890 to hold a state convention. The meeting was held on Main Street in the old Tarboro Opera House on the second floor.

 The marker is erected in front of The Courthouse Square, on the grounds of the Opera House.

"It was a wonderful event," said Jim Wrenn, vice president of the PHS. "The marker should give prominent attention to the Knights of Labor and the role it played in Edgecombe County and North Carolina History that has long gone unrecognized."

The (KOL) in the 1880's involved white and black farm workers joining together for a common cause of equality. African-American farmers from northeastern North Carolina joined in such numbers that the state assembly became a majority black group.

Over the years, the organization became very active in the political arena. In 1888, the blacks members of the Knights of Labor in Edgecombe secured nominations for Henry P. Cheatham, who was elected as the third African-American Congressman from the "Black Second." Two years later, KOL held its 5th state assembly in Tarboro on Jan. 29, 1890.

"The uphold of the history of those that fought for democracy, Libertarian is a pattern of the struggle for human rights," said Saladin Muhammad, one of the speakers during Saturday's event. "It is through their history that we are able to really see and learn about the human aspiration of the people and what side the government and those with wealth and power stood on despite their claim.

"The PHS is essential part of this struggle.."

Edgecombe County Commissioner Leonard Wiggins, who attended the event, applaud PHS for their efforts in getting the marker erected.

"Edgecombe County has many things that we can be proud of," he said. "I believe one of our greatest assets is our rich history. We have this great heritage to remember and enjoy. First, because of those great people who came before us, like the Knights of Labor. But also because of those who work so hard today to preserve our history and to share it with others."

The event began with a formal program in the Edgecombe County Administration Building Auditorium. Dr. Deborah Beckel, the author of Radical Reform; Interracial Politics in Post-Emancipation North Carolina spoke profoundly on the Knights of Labor movement.

Members of the St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church, of Tarboro were the guest choir. The choir sung two hymns that were sung during the KOL's gathering in Tarboro.  


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