Pioneering black lawmaker from NC finally getting his due in his native Bladen County

Saturday, February 22, 2020
Black History Month: George Henry White a pioneering lawmaker
George Henry White, a pioneering lawmaker, banker and civic leader, is getting recognition in Bladen County.

BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- In the late 1800s, North Carolina native George Henry White served two terms as the nation's only elected black representation in Congress until 1901.

White, a Republican, also introduced the country's first anti-lynching bill.

His legacy stretches pass Congress; he started a law practice and a commercial bank for black people up North, and he founded the town of Whitesboro, New Jersey.

But for decades, in White's birthplace of Rosindale, an unincorporated community in Bladen County, just one hour south of Fayetteville, he seemed forgotten.

"Even though he left, you still honor a person's home," said Dorothy Brian, a researcher of White's history.

She said in 2010 that the county's disregard of any physical recognition of White was embarrassing.

"I can't understand why those people have not awakened to a native son's achievements," Brian said.

Fast forward to 2020, and behold the George Henry White Community Memorial Center in Bladen County.

It's a place where the community can gather for educational workshops and health and wellness events while honoring White's legacy.

"There needs to be something to do to uplift his name," said Vincent Spaulding, a descendant of White. "We believe he's sort of overlooked in the mainstream of American history."

Spaulding, who is from Durham, saw the story and Brian's comments nearly a decade ago.

"That touched my heart," Spaulding said.

In 2014, his family launched a $120,000 fundraising campaign to renovate the donated home.

So far they've raised half of that, with the goal of officially opening the center at the end of the year.

"We feel really good about that," Spaulding said.

He said the GHW center will also be a place where the community can get access to food.

Bladen County's poverty rate is double the national average.

White's legacy lives on in his birth county - a landmark that will aim to help others - as he did.

The family's nonprofit foundation, BESDF Inc., is responsible for the GHW Center project. You can find more information here.

NCCU and NC A&T have a scholarship in George Henry White's name.