Elizabeth City State University marks 125 years in March 2016, but a book celebrating its history is available for pre-order.
Glen Bowman, an ECSU history professor since 1999, said the idea to write an updated history of the university came to him in spring 2012, after he voluntarily stepped down as department chair “and was wondering what to do next.”
The late Evelyn Johnson, a long-time ECSU music professor, wrote a university history that covered through the mid-1970s, but Bowman acknowledged that much has changed in the past 40 years.
He’ll complete the book by December, at which time it is due to the Donning Publishing House, he said.
The university is currently seeking book sponsors. For $1,250, an individual, family or business name will be included in the book, and a copy of the book will be provided. The sponsorship deadline is Oct. 31.
Book pre-orders are also currently being accepted for $60, a price that includes shipping of the book, which will be delivered in July 2015.
“Those who think they know everything about ECSU history are going to be surprised (in a good way!),” Bowman said in an email.
He said he has uncovered much about the university that was never written about before.
“I don’t think anyone has ever gone to the outside archives just to find material related to Elizabeth City State,” Bowman said. “What I have found will in many ways rewrite the early history of this institution. I don’t want to spill the beans, and I won’t, but I will say this: thank God for P.W. Moore.”
Peter Wedderick Moore was the first principal of the State Normal School that would later become ECSU. Moore led the institution from its 1891 founding until 1928, and during that time, enrollment grew from 23 to 355, with the faculty increasing from two to 15, according to the university website.
Bowman said he will take two more trips to Raleigh before December to research even more at the State Archives of North Carolina.
The book chronicles the journey of ECSU “from its humble beginnings as a teacher-training (normal) school for African-Americans to a highly ranked public baccalaureate university with over 30 undergraduate and graduate programs,” he said.
He’d summarize his work in one word: “resilience.”
Geographically isolated in one of the poorest regions in the United States, ECSU has had to overcome challenges most universities and most historically black colleges and universities never have had to face, he said.
The university survived regional, statewide and national turbulence — such as the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement and integration — that forced other schools to close down, he said.
“From its very beginnings in a rented building on what is today Roanoke Avenue, Elizabeth City State University has changed lives,” Bowman said.
“Young people who grew up in poverty, lacking proper political representation and social status, have come to this campus, leaving as educated citizens interested in improving their communities,” he continued. “This success of this institution is due in large part to courageous leadership and faithful service not just of executives, but also of many others, on and off campus.”
Bowman allowed ECSU alumni to pick the book’s title through a contest.
He said it seemed fitting to do so.
“Alumni have helped save the institution from extinction during previous crises,” Bowman said, which he details in the book, “and to this day are active supporters of the ECSU Foundation.”
The winning title, “Elizabeth City State University 1891-2016: The Continuity of a Historical Legacy of Excellence and Resilience,” was announced last month at the National Alumni Association Convention that took place in Maryland.
“I remember watching the face of the alumna — Ms. Ella Ivory (’65) — whose suggestion received the most votes,” Bowman said. “I was up front sitting at a table, and she was sitting on my left about two rows back. She was overwhelmed with joy, as if she could not believe that her selection had won. It was almost as if she had won the lottery.”
Despite the title dating the history through 2016, Bowman said the book’s main focus will be on the past, with the introduction and conclusion briefly addressing current events. “In my view, past decisions help explain the challenges we are facing at this moment.”
The book will comprise 240 pages and 300 photos, according to information provided at the 125th anniversary kick-off that took place at the fall faculty/staff institute earlier this month.
Bowman said he has endeavored to write an accurate and real history of ECSU, having read some universities’ glorified histories that he said simplify reality and create myths, ultimately doing the universities a disservice.
“ECSU deserves better than that,” he said.
“The story of what we now call ECSU was not one of perpetual progress,” he said. “Periods of boom were followed by periods of bust.”
Bowman has concluded thus far that ECSU made its greatest progress when state government, alumni, the local community, the local and regional economy and federal government backed it.
“When those forces were weak, even working against it, the institution greatly suffered,” he said.
Local history buffs will enjoy the book, he opined.
“Those who are proud of this community will be happy to read about how the community has helped this institution throughout the decades,” he said. “The Albemarle area has always had friends of Elizabeth City State, black and white.”
Bowman hopes everyone in the region — not just those on campus — will take part in the celebration of ECSU’s 125 years, during which time he said the university and the region have been married together.
“As with any marriage, especially a long marriage, there are ups and downs,” he said. “But in the end, we all know deep down inside that we need each other.”
To sponsor or pre-order the book, visit https://www.applyweb.com/public/contribute?s=ecsucont and indicate “125th anniversary” in the area of giving’s drop-down menu.