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Eleanor Roosevelt’s Granddaughter Visits Livingstone


On Thursday, February 9, 2017 six Livingstone College students, along with faculty Dr. Da’Tarvia Parrish, visited Catawba College to fellowship with the institution’s faculty and students, and Mrs. Nina Roosevelt Gibson – the granddaughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and most notably, former First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

Mrs. Gibson was invited to Salisbury to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of her grandmother’s visit to Salisbury, North Carolina. Although the 75th Anniversary event was held at Catawba College, when Mrs. Roosevelt visited Salisbury, on August 14, 1942 - she lavished beneath thy maples and thy oaks on the campus of Livingstone College.

First Lady Roosevelt began her day attending the General Convention on Christian Education whereas Zionites were in great numbers representing 48 different states. Mrs. Roosevelt afternoon sessions with women’s organizations were held at Price High School, and in the evening - prior to Mrs. Roosevelt’s departure, she met with over 400 youth on the campus of Livingstone.

Featured is the Resolution of Recognition and Celebration presented to Mrs. Gibson by President Jenkins and a photo of two students, Aamia Watkins and Makayla Cooper with Mrs. Nina Roosevelt Gibson.

Aamia Watkins is a junior majoring in Biology at Livingstone College. She is a member of St. Mary’s in Laurel Hill, NC.

The more I learn about Former First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the more she continues to simply impress me. As a student, I have learned of this champion’s plight to ensure human rights in America; and recently, I have learned she and I have so much more in common.

In preparation for the community luncheon with Nina Roosevelt (granddaughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt) held at Catawba College to commemorate First Lady Roosevelt’s trip to Salisbury 75 years ago, I decided to read a little more about Mrs. Roosevelt and her visit.

As a recent initiate of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, I have learned First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was an honorary member of my sisterhood. Her membership in the organization grew out of an incident involving another honorary member, Marian Anderson who is the first African-American woman to sing with the Metropolitan Opera and perform at the White House. According to fraternity and sorority historian, Fran Becque, in the 1930s, Miss Anderson was the third highest box office concert draw in the United States. In January 1939, Sol Hurok, her manager, and Howard University tried to schedule a performance to benefit Howard University’s School of Music at Constitution Hall. They were told the hall was unavailable due to a prior engagement. As a result, they requested optional dates whereas the request was denied again. It became clear the hall’s owners, the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), did not want Anderson to perform. In fact, the D.A.R. had a policy against African-American entertainers on stage. As a member of the D.A.R. since 1932, First Lady Roosevelt resigned her membership on February 26, 1939. She wrote about her resignation in “My Day.” She says, “But, in this case, I belong to an organization in which I can do no active work. They have taken an action which has been widely talked of in the press. To remain as a member implies approval of that action, and therefore I am resigning.” What a genuine woman with high moral and ethical standards!

Additionally, First Lady Roosevelt described her two-day visit to Salisbury in the August 15, 1942 installment of her “My Day” newspaper column. Much of her time in Salisbury, she spent at Livingstone College and with members of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. This too is information of which I was much pleased. On her journey to spread the word of “equal opportunity,” the First Lady along with notable American Mary McCloud Bethune visited my college of choice and fellowshipped with my denomination of choice. “Oh how great and how pleasant it is to dwell amongst brethren in unity! Once I learned of her time at Livingstone College and Price High School, I had much discussion with my advisor and questioned the rationale of the luncheon being held at Catawba, a place she never visited while in Salisbury. Most perplexing, the event was taking during Livingstone College’s Founder’s Day; and even more relating, at Founder’s Day Convocation, Livingstone honored the Secretary for the Department of Christian Education of the AME Zion Church with a Doctorate of Humane Letters. Ironically, while at Livingstone, First Lady Roosevelt attended the General School Convention of the AME Zion Church. My advisor, Dr. Parrish inquired of this at the luncheon while highlighting all of the “linking moments” and affirming how Mrs. Nina’s visit would have truly been historic at Founder’s Day at Livingstone College. Her words were well received with a promise of future collaborations. I felt good about her expressions and the audience responses.

I had a great time with Mrs. Nina Roosevelt. She is a genuine and down-to-earth person who has truly cherish her times ad memories with her family. I enjoyed the time I spent with her and the members of the Catawba College community. P


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