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The Legacy of St. Joseph's Church and School of New Bern

An interview with Rick Fisher by Historian Bernard George


On Wednesday, November 30th, AAHC President Carol Bonner Becton welcomed an intimate audience of friends and supporters to New Bern Civic Theatre’s Studio for a moving and thoughtful interview about New Bern’s St. Joseph’s Catholic School and Church. This event is part of the recently launched AAHC ORAL HISTORY LIBRARY


This event was made possible by donors and supports and AAHC’s partnership with the New Bern Civic Theatre.


For over an hour, Mr. Frederick (Rick) Fisher spoke of this Catholic school’s importance to the African American community and his personal experiences at St. Joseph’s School and Church with New Bern historian Bernard George. New Bern Civic Theatre’s Studio provided an intimate setting for an audience of family, sponsors and friends.

Rick shared stories of walking to St. Joseph’s with his siblings from their early grades through graduation. St. Joseph’s was the church where his family worshipped. He married his wife Shirley at St. Joseph’s, and, when his father passed, services were held at St. Joseph’s.

For Rick and his classmates, St. Joseph’s transformed their lives and provided inspiration for their future.


Of special note is the 1962 merger of St. Joseph’s and St. Paul’s school. The Diocese established St. Joseph’s Grammar and High School as its only high school for the area and the grammar grades were combined with those of St. Paul’s School in New Bern. This created the first integrated school in New Bern. Rick commented that his fellow classmates managed very well in an integrated environment, possibly better than the community, the Diocese and the country did!


This event at the New Bern Civic Theatre Studio was extraordinary. The setting was intimate. The topic was engaging – Rick and Bernard shared their personal stories with the guests through the Q&A that followed the interviewed.


Media Producer Ni Zhang guides AAHC in the production of the interviews; web designer Gayle Albertini expanded the capabilities of the AAHC website to include the Oral History Library; photographer Norman J. McCullough captures images for the website and program promotion including the image shown within this story; and New Bern artist Jill Eberle. Jill’s initial artwork depicted educator and New Bernian Ann Herndon who was interviewed to test the concept of the AAHC Oral History Library. She will be creating a piece presenting Rick Fisher who was interviewed on November 30th.


To see this and other interviews and stories, visit the AAHC ORAL HISTORY LIBRARY website: www.AfricanAmericanHeritageandCulture.org/OralHistoryLibrary.


To submit video/audio interviews contact AAHC at info@AfricanAmericanHeritageandCulture.org


About St. Joseph’s School and Church

Founded in 1926 on the cusp of the Great Depression, St. Joseph’s School of New Bern started as a single building, added three buildings and over the years expanded to seven through the efforts of the Founder Re. Father Charles Hannigan and Reverend Father Julian Endler. With only $12 in pocket money and “plenty of faith”, these leaders and donors from all over the country created a school “to educate scores of Negro children who probably otherwise would not have attended school”, this from Gertrude Carraway.


At times, only a third of the student body was Catholic. The students were guided by Father Julian and schooled by the Marywood Sisters of the Immaculate Heart from Scranton PA. What made the school work for families and students? No tuition or book fees. Donated blue and white uniforms. Free hot lunches. A quiet, hard-working priest and the dedicated educators, the “Sisters”.All this and more created the St. Joseph’s School tradition of excellence in education.


About the AAHC ORAL HISTORY LIBRARY

The African American Heritage and Culture Center established the AAHC ORAL HISTORY LIBRARY to curate stories of African American Heritage in our region.It was launched recently with dozens of stories and interviews and is growing.


There are remarkable and important stories to tell. Some people only hear the stories of African American families, business, churches and schools during family events or at their dining room tables. These valuable stories need to be moved out into the world.


AAHC believes it’s time to assure these stories live into the future. Under the leadership of AAHC President Carol Bonner Becton, with the support of contributions and a grant from The Harold Bate Foundation, AAHC conducted original interviews in 2022. The November 30th event was the first interview with a live audience.With the success of this event, AAHC will continue to produce original interviews for the AAHC ORAL HISTORY LIBRARY.

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