(Editor’s note: On Aug. 13, the Sampson High School Alumni Association will hold its 45th reunion Along with that reunion will be a workshop, from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., to discuss the history of Sampson High School and the renovation project that members are undertaking. Proceeds from the workshop will go toward the renovation project. See additional stories on the project, the reunion and the school over the next month in The Sampson Independent.)
Before the inception of the Sampson High School Alumni Association, Inc. (SHSAA), there were noble souls who came before it. They were our ancestors – African-Americans – who struggled to survive, to achieve, to accomplish their dreams – simple dreams. Dreams that you and I still dream today. Those dreams include the dream of a better life for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children. We still dream of the opportunity to receive an education, to instill moral values in our children, and to live in a society that is safe and secure.
Well, my sisters and brothers, I say to you that the dream lives on. Not only does the dream live, but the legacy is continuing beyond the vision. Our ancestors sought freedom, and freedom is what they received. Through their desire and determination, they achieved their dream and thereby helped to emerge an African-American legacy that not only includes struggle, but triumph in spite of struggle. I say to you that we, African-Americans – continue to triumph in spire of, or maybe even because of, the struggle. Our ancestors left us a legacy which is filled with hope, possibility, probability, anticipation, and love. Al of these things have sustained us and have given up the strength to endure the tests of time.
Our ancestors had a vision, and they knew that in order to make that dream come true, education was the key. So that this goal could be achieved, even in a segregated community setting, Sampson County Training School was born. The first class graduated in 1927, and the school continued to produce future doctors, lawyers, business men and women, nurses, teachers, and other professionals until its doors closed in 1969. Teachers like Dr. Roland Allison, Coach Rupert Johnson, Mrs. Neutrice Merritt, Mrs. Muriel Allison, and Principle O. A. Depree, Sr. (just to name a few) knew that we were jewels in the rough, and they nurtured us, and believed in us, thus helping us to believe in ourselves. They continued the legacy of triumph over struggle. They knew they we were poor. They realized that some of us came from single-parent homes. They also knew that racism was abounding. They never let that become an excuse for us to fail. We may not have had the best supplies or enough books from which to learn, and we may not have had state-of-the-art facilities, but what we did have was the potential to learn and to achieve. We had the capacity to show the world that we were not “just as good,” as those who had more than we, but we were equal and, in many instances, better than others because we were able to achieve with less. We were able to overcome without having all of the advantages.
Now, my brothers and sisters, we too, the SHSAA, INC, have continued the legacy beyond the vision. We are widening the vision beyond freedom, beyond education, and beyond equality. We are including all of these legacies in our vision, but we are broadening the vision even wider. We are extending the vision to include whatever our hearts desire because we now realize that there is no limit to what we are capable of, and to what we can do. There is no limit to what we can do individually, as an organization, or as a people.
When Dr. Jesse Williams and his classmates conceived of this organization in 1972, I doubt that they imagined that we would grow over 200 high school graduates; that we would own a majority of the old Sampson Training School; or that we would have rebuilt and begun to operate an apartment complex for seniors and other citizens. Each subsequent president of the SHSAA, INC. has continued the legacy and broadened the vision a little more with each passing year. The members of the SHSAA, INC. have also aided each president in his/her efforts because each and everyone of us believed. We have believed in our selves and in our abilities. We have also believed that the sky is the limit for us. We believed that we have no boundaries, no limitations, and no restrictions. God has been our inspiration and our guide and we know, just as our ancestors knew, that with His help all things are possible
I, Maggie Wood Williams, am one of those members who believe in the SHSAA, INC. I believe in you and in our ability to continue the legacy beyond the vision. Now is our time to soar!
Maggie Williams is a member of the Sampson High School Alumni Association.