As we continue our celebration of Warren C. Coleman, it is important to understand that Mr. Coleman did not act alone. There were 20 people on the original incorporation papers for the mill. One of these important people was Edward A. Johnson.
Looking at my published book, “Warren C. Coleman; The Leader of the First Black Textile in America …” on the extreme left (second row), Johnson is standing. Johnson also was born into slavery, a year before the Civil War, as one of 12 children. Like Coleman, one of Johnson’s early ventures was a barber shop. In 1885, while Coleman was building a real estate empire, Johnson was becoming a school principal in Raleigh. Johnson later decided to study law at Shaw University. He was awarded a degree in 1891, when Coleman was acquiring wealth to build a church (Price Memorial AME) and many other properties like Old Camp Ground Cemetery (OCGC) and other forms of real estate that anyone would be proud to have. This family feeling of pride would also include his biological father — General Rufus Barringer. OCGC has recently been cleaned up and could be used for historical tours, etc. All proceeds will be given to Zion Hill AME Zion church.
In 1890, Johnson also became an author and wrote “A School History of the Negro Race in America from 1619-1890.” The record indicates that some school districts in North Carolina purchased the book and used it in their schools. However, due to the racism he found in North Carolina, Johnson decided to leave and move to New York City, Harlem. Harlem is where I was born. Due to his education and profession, Johnson began to practice law and make a name for himself.
Given Johnson’s pedigree, why was he willing to follow Coleman? Who was Warren C. Coleman? If nothing else, one can say, Coleman had a lot of money as he developed as a real estate mogul. Robert Moses was a similar mogul in New York City. Coleman’s legacy continues as his efforts and those of many from Concord will make a difference for 152 families who will occupy the Coleman Mill Apartments. Coleman’s mill is being converted into apartments to help with affordable housing efforts in Concord.The transfer of wealth will be enormous.
It should be understood that Coleman was born, raised and died in Concord. Any accolades he receives from the town are well-deserved. The legacy of Mr. Coleman is awesome, especially for a former chattel slave — that is beyond the belief of some people. Many people want to know their history and many do not. If Coleman’s and Johnson’s stories are not taught in the schools of Concord/Cabarrus, it would mean that systemic racism still exists and we are not willing to face the truth. Why this history is not taught in our schools is a question that our country is grappling with today as a nation. I am certain we will overcome!
Norman McCullough, Sr. is an author and a retired educator. He lives in Concord. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Teacher’s College, Columbia University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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