Burgaw, NC

Historic CF Pope school film screening on Aug. 4 will raise funds for scholarships

Claudia Stack

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Flyer with details about 9/4/22 benefit film screening and dinnerCourtesy of the Pender Education Partnership

On Thursday, August 4th a documentary film about the historic CF Pope school in Burgaw, NC will premiere at the Burgaw Train Depot. This event starts at 5:30 pm and will include a delicious dinner catered by MeMa’s Chick’n & Ribs. Tickets are $38 per person, and the event benefits scholarships for Pender County students. See the Pender Education Partnership webpage to purchase tickets.

The film CF Pope: Where Champions Were Grown (2022) is a documentary film directed by Richard T. Newkirk, Ed.D. and Claudia Stack, Ed. M. The Pender Education Partnership, the CF Pope Alumni Association, and NC Humanities were the Executive Producers. Michael Raab was the Producer, and Patrick Ogelvie did the videography and editing.

Founded in 1891 by the Middle District Missionary Baptist Association, the CF Pope School in Burgaw, NC began as a school for ministers. It became one of only two high schools for African Americans in Pender County, and was accredited in 1924. In the documentary, alumni share stories about their time at the school, the ways in which their families sacrificed to support their education, and the teachers who grew champions there.

Dr. Richard T. Newkirk, an alumnus of the school and the Vice President of the CF Pope Alumni Association, says that the school’s first principal, Junius A. Fennell, brought the influence of Shaw University (the oldest HBCU in North Carolina) when building the foundation of the school. He notes that:

Professor Junius A. Fennell, a native of Harrells, NC, was the first principal. Having received his BS from Shaw University and graduate work at Columbia University, NY, Professor J. A. Fennell, was among the pioneers of Black American Principals of High Schools.

In 1914, Professor Cicero Franklin Pope was appointed principal, and the school became the Burgaw Normal & Industrial School. In the early 1900s most of Pender County’s African American teachers were alumni of the school. Under Pope’s leadership the school became an accredited high school in 1924 and was renamed Burgaw Colored High School. In 1952 the school was renamed again to honor Pope.

Pender County Schools (PCS) took over operation of the school in 1939, making it one of two public high schools available to African American students here. By comparison, at that time, Pender County operated five public high schools for an approximately equal number of European American students .

When Pender County Schools were desegregated in 1969, the building was repurposed as an elementary school. However, generations of proud and accomplished CF Pope High School alumni have impacted North Carolina and our nation in positive ways. Distinguished playwright and actor Samm-Art Williams and nursing pioneer Mary Mills are just a few of the school’s accomplished alumni. Reserve your ticket now to learn more about the CF Pope school, enjoy dinner, and raise funds for scholarships that PEP awards to local students.

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I am an educator and filmmaker. My documentary films on historic African American schools have screened at film festivals, colleges, libraries, and other venues. In Fall, 2017 I completed SHARECROP and SHARECROP: DELTA COTTON, documentaries that showcase oral history of the South’s “forgotten farmers.” These films have screened at festivals in major cities including London, Atlanta, Detroit.

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