The life of a prominent religious and educational leader during the late 1800s will be recognized with a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker.
The marker commemorating Dr. Nicholas Franklin Roberts will be unveiled during a ceremony on Saturday in his hometown of Seaboard.
"I am very grateful to the state of North Carolina and the town of Seaboard for this historical marker honoring my great-grandfather, Dr. Nicholas Franklin Roberts,” said Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott. “He spent his life serving his community in a variety of capacities including as an educator, a pastor, a journalist and elected official. His life story is integral to African American history in the region and I am looking forward to attending the ceremony and honoring his legacy in person."
Born in Seaboard in 1849, Roberts exhibited mathematical talent and a precocious scholastic aptitude.
In 1868 he opened a school for African Americans in Seaboard in Northampton County.
He later enrolled at Shaw University in 1871 and pursued further studies at the University of Chicago. He returned to North Carolina to be headmaster of the Peabody School in Warrenton.
Roberts has been described as “one of the pioneers in the early history” of African American Baptists in North Carolina.
He helped organize the Baptist Sunday School Convention and served as president of the Colored Baptist Sunday School Convention for many years.
He was elected president of the General State Baptist Convention in 1885 and is said to have led the organization for several years although definitive years of service are not documented.
He also contributed to Baptist messaging and periodicals as the co-editor of the African Expositor, a quarterly publication with a statewide outreach.
In the late 1890s, he also managed the Baptist Sentinel.
His ministry also included pastoring the Second Baptist Church and Blount Baptist Church, both in Raleigh.
Roberts was known throughout Raleigh, serving as an alderman and a member of the city’s street committee. He also was a member of the Wake County School Board — the only African American member during the 19th century.
Furthermore, he served as acting president of Shaw University. Although his tenure lasted only five months, he was the first African American president of the institution.
The marker dedication ceremony will take place at 11 a.m., at the Seaboard Town Hall at 102 West Central Street.
Speakers will include:
Rodney D. Pierce — Historian, educator and marker applicant
Geraldine Langford — Mayor of Seaboard
Dr. Paulette Dillard — President, Shaw University
George M. Jerman Sr. — Seaboard town Commissioner
Alfred W. Kwasikpui — Vice President of the Weldon-Seaboard Alumni Chapter of Shaw University; Seaboard town commissioner and retired chief district court judge
Michael H. Wray — State representative
Melvetta Broadnax Taylor — Northampton county commissioner
Marcia S. Price — Great-great granddaughter and member of the Virginia House of Delegates and vice-chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus
Leslie Leonard — Administrator of the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
Robert C. Scott — Great grandson and congressman from Virginia
Donald G. Davis — United States congressman
Several special guests have been invited.