Charles B. Aycock Birthplace
Charles Aycock served as governor of North Carolina from 1900-1904. Aycock is best known as a proponent of public education, and during his administration, communities around the state created over a thousand schoolhouses with local and state revenue. Aycock's memory as a progressive reformer is marred, however, by his explicit and frequent endorsement white supremacy. As a politician and as governor, Aycock called for taking the vote away from African Americans despite the 14th and 15th Amendments that guaranteed equal suffrage for white and black men. And while he supported the construction of schools for African Americans, Aycock did not believe that these schools should teach liberal arts and other advanced subjects. These small and under-funded schools, Aycock declared, should provide the kind of curriculum that "fit.. the black race... into a subordinate role." The birthplace includes a historic rural schoolhouse that was constructed in 1893 and moved to this site. The historic park also interprets the experience of frontier settlers like the Aycock family with a 19th-century farmhouse. Visitors can tour the farmstead and see a replica of a smokehouse, farm implements, outbuildings, and a corn crib. The historic park was created shortly after World War II and reflect's the era's faith in education as the path to success. As of November 2016, the official webpage for this historic site fails to mention Aycock's views on race or his support of laws aimed at disfranchising black voters. However, many other websites maintained by the state and North Carolina and its public universities include detailed explorations of Aycock's views and actions regarding race, public education, and other matters that offer windows into understanding the state at the turn-of-the century.
Backstory and Context
While governor, Aycock moderated some of his rhetoric regarding African Americans, adopting more of a paternalistic tone that mirrored some of the views of planters who believed that slavery was a benign institution that allowed superior whites to "care" for inferior black "servants." While he refused to accommodate the calls from some to eliminate schools for African Americans, he refused to consider support for equal education. He and other North Carolina Democrats adopted a platform that included popular measures such as funding for education while maintaining the political and racial status quo. As Aycock reminded his supporters and those who believed he did not do enough to limit opportunities for racial equality, "“Everywhere and all the time we have fought for white supremacy."
The Life and Speeches of Charles Brantley Aycock New York: Doubleday, Page, 1912. 161–163.
Charles B. Aycock (1859-1912). Accessed November 09, 2016. http://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/charles-b-aycock-1859-1912/