This Black History Month we are highlighting the African American heritage that has made Rowan County what it is today. From individual historical sites to a self-guided, heritage trail, we've got everything you need to dive into our county's rich African American history. When you're in town this February (or anytime throughout the year), be sure to celebrate with us and learn more reasons why we are proud to be an original.
Must-See African American Heritage Sites in Rowan County
Soldiers Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church
306 N. Church St., Salisbury, N.C.
Founded in 1865, and known as Salisbury Station and Mount Zion Society, the name was changed to honor the Union soldiers who fought for the freedom of slaves. In 1873 the church purchased this property. The first church building housed the office of Joseph C. Price while he was president of Livingstone College.
Oak Grove-Freedman's Cemetery
Southwest Corner of Church St. & Liberty St.
As an early burial site of African Americans, the memorial, dedicated in 2006, was designed by Seattle artist, Maggie Smith, as a compassionate symbol to acknowledge the past, challenge visitors to think about the present, and offer hope for the future. The sidewalk and intersection are paved with bricks laid as African textile patterns which symbolize ancestry and protection.
202 N. Main St., Salisbury, N.C.
The Rowan Museum is housed in the old courthouse built in 1855. On permanent display are many items related to the African-American history of this area, and personal belongings of J.C. Price. Each year, in celebration of Black History Month, a special African-American exhibit is featured.
William Valentine House
224 East Bank St., Salisbury, N.C.
This locally famous house was purchased in 1858 at the estate sale of Horace Beard. Bill Valentine lived here until he moved in 1886 to Sableton near Union Hill on the west side of town. When he died on January 22, 1893, the local newspaper said chat "he was the only barber here before the war - was free then; but conducted himself so as to secure the confidence and patronage of whites." The entrance gate to the Confederate States Military Prison was located across the tracks from this dwelling which is now an antiques shop.
Site of Friends School & Dixonville Baptist Church
Southeast Corner of Horah & Railroad, Salisbury, N.C.
In 1866, the Friends of Philadelphia and Vicinity for the Relief of Colored Freedmen purchased this property from Joseph Horah and opened a school. The Baptist Freedmen's Church, which became Dixonville Baptist and renamed First Calvary in 1926, was established the same year by the Reverend Harry Cowan and shared facilities with the Quaker school. In 1881, the State Colored Normal School of Salisbury was located here. The 1910 church building (right), was razed during urban renewal.
210 Old Concord Rd., Salisbury, N.C.
The Dixonville Cemetery was officially established in 1874 by the city fathers as a cemetery "to be used by the colored people perpetually." The earliest extant tombstone is dated 1851. There are no recorded death certificates for those who died before 1912; since that time, 449 burials were documented. Bishop John Jamison Moore, the founder of the Western North Carolina Conference, A.M.E. Zion Church, was buried here next to his wife in 1893. In 2009, with funds from an HUD grant, major restoration work was done in the cemetery and an historical marker installed.
642 South Shaver St., Salisbury, N.C.
The school was established by 1885 and was the only public school in Salisbury for African Americans until 1922. Replacing an earlier two-story wooden structure, this building was erected in 1920 and spared during urban redevelopment in the 1960's and '70s. When the school closed in 1970, the students transferred to integrated, A. T. Allen Elementary.
701 W. Monroe St., Salisbury, N.C.
The .Livingstone College and Union Hill district includes the college campus and surrounding residential area, all of which were a part of the Frohock plantation established in 1761. In April 1865, when General Stoneman's Union troops invaded Salisbury, a detachment entered the town through what is now the college campus. It is said that the soldiers encamped nearby, and that is why the area is named Union Hill. The remnants of the old Salisbury-Taylorsville Plank Road are also on the campus.
Events to Put on Your Calendar
Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration - 3rd weekend in January in Salisbury, N.C.
Historic Neely School Open House - February 24, 2024
The Pedal Factory's Black History Bike Ride - February 25, 2024
Juneteenth Festival - June 15, 2024 in Salisbury, N.C.
Southern Soul Music Festival - 2nd Saturday in October in East Spencer, N.C.
For the full list and self-guided tour, check out the African American Heritage Tour brochure and discover all the African-American history you can find during your visit to Rowan County.