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Feb. 7, 2003 -- No. 76

Exhibit gives glimpse of early 1900s middle class African-American life

By LANITA WITHERS
UNC News Services

CHAPEL HILL -- Dr. Manassa T. Pope – doctor, entrepreneur and mayoral candidate – was a member of the African-American elite in Raleigh at the beginning of the 20th century. However, his greatest contribution may have been the wealth of information he and his family left in their Wilmington Street home, documents that now give historians a rare glimpse into the life of the black middle class after the Civil War.

Some of those artifacts will be included in an exhibit Feb. 19 through March 31 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "The Popes of North Carolina: An African-American family from Reconstruction to Civil Rights," will be free and open to the public in the Manuscripts Reading Room on the fourth floor of Wilson Library.

Kenneth Zogry, executive director of the Pope House Museum Foundation and a leader of the effort to turn the Pope House into a museum, will attend an opening reception beginning at 5 p.m. Feb. 19.

The exhibit will illustrate the lives of Pope and his family in the 19th and 20th centuries. It will feature Pope’s father’s 1851 certificate of freedom and Pope’s 1902 voter registration card and physician’s certificate. Photos, letters and household items of the Pope family also will be included.

"This is very rare documentation of a very successful African-American family in North Carolina between Reconstruction and the civil rights movement," said Linda Sellars, a manuscripts librarian.

Pope, one of the first medical school graduates at Shaw University, was born in 1858 to free parents in Northampton County. He started several businesses in Charlotte and Raleigh, served in the Spanish-American War and unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Raleigh in 1919. Because he was born to free parents,

Pope was one of only seven black men eligible to vote in Wake County in the early 20th century. His Wilmington Street home, built in 1900, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

Artifacts planned for the exhibit at UNC are from the Southern Historical Collection and the North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library and from the Pope House Museum Foundation in Raleigh.

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(Withers is a senior in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication from Reidsville.)

Contact: Linda Sellars, Manuscripts Processing Librarian, (919) 962-1345