LAURINBURG — Young public school students from Durham made the trip to see their city’s most well known leader’s hometown.
On Tuesday, the John Hope Franklin Young Scholars, a collaboration between Duke University and Durham Public Schools, had a group of nearly 30 students and educators visit the Scotland County Literacy Council, formerly the family home of Terry Sanford, former U.S. senator and presidential candidate.
The visit also fell on the 100th anniversary of Sanford’s birth “and we thought we would choose Terry Sanford as what to study,” said David Stein, John Hope Franklin Program director for Duke University. “It seemed like a lot of things made sense to study Sanford — the 1960’s and because he crossed over so many things.”
“It was really amazing to think about this being where he might have been standing one day and just walking around is unbelievable,” said Genesis Sanchez, a young scholar.
Sanford, a Laurinburg native, also served as North Carolina’s governor from 1961 to 1965 and was Duke University’s president for 16 years. The university’s Sanford School of Public Policy was named in his honor in 1994.
“The Durham public schools selected kids that have great potential, but maybe not as great of opportunity, and this is the eighth year of the program,” said Steve Harper, one the the programs instructors.
The students, from both elementary and middle schools, were given a tour of the house Sanford and his family lived in while he was a college student by Betty Barrett, the literacy council’s board chairwoman.
Tagging along with the students was Noran Sanford, a second cousin of Terry Sanford and founder of GrowingChange, an organization that is refurbishing the old Wagram prison into a multi-purpose youth facility.
“I believe Sen. Sanford’s narrative is instructive in an age that was not that long ago,” Noran Sanford said. “Sen. Sanford ran a diverse coalition so North Carolina could choose a different than a lot of the other deep southern states and he prospered because of that.”
Noran Sanford took the students on a tour of the prison site before they visited the Sanford house in Laurinburg. Currently the group of scholars are studying North Carolina prison labor, and the GrowingChange facility gave the program a first-hand look at the conditions at the Wagram prison.
“It was really cool to see what his old house looked like,” said Leilani Parker, a young scholar.
Over the years the students have studied The Civil War, John Hope Franklin and his life, Southern American medicine, and now are working on a project about North Carolina prison labor and its road system.
“I never knew the roads were being maintained by slave labor in the 1970’s,” Harper said. “This is really hard for me.”
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-506-3171