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Professor teaches University history through community engagement

Students from Dr. Jasmine Corbett-Warren’s Public Speaking and Communications presenting information CHARLOTTE, N.C., October 5, 2019 – Residents of McCrorey Heights, one Johnson C. Smith University’s surrounding neighborhoods created by Dr. Henry L. McCrorey (class of 1893), former JCSU president 1907-1947, welcomed JCSU students and alumni to its community for a homecoming celebration. Smithites old and new enjoyed music, food and games October 5, 2019 after the Golden Bulls win against Lincoln University.

Students from Dr. Jasmine Corbett-Warren’s public speaking and communications class attended the event. This semester they’re working on a homecoming project titled: Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself, a nod to Jay-Z’s The Black album. 

“We want to reintroduce our wonderful alumni, accomplishments, trends and programs because as the premiere University that sits at the heart of the city, it’s time people remember why JCSU is so special,” Corbett-Warren said.

JCSU has always been the anchor of these historic communities on the West End, and black middle class families were drawn to the college to provide an atmosphere of sophistication and education in the age of segregated schools and facilities in Charlotte. Corbett-Warren feels it’s imperative for students, especially freshman and first-generation, to learn the university’s history.

“My parents went here, so my brother and I remember the pride they had in JCSU. My father passed away six years ago, but every time I’m on this campus I feel how proud he is,” she explained.

Corbett-Warren has teamed up with university archivist and digital manager, Brandon Lunsford, to provide information to students for the project. Our revamped Digital Smith website provides access to course catalogs going back to 1878, yearbooks going back to 1928, publications going back to 1911, and hundreds of original photographs, documents and artifacts telling the Smith story.

“There was a time when young people went to school at Biddleville Elementary (since torn down), then to West Charlotte High, and then on to JCSU. Now JCSU students are often not from Charlotte or even from North Carolina, and their connection to these communities is not as strong. We hope to change that and raise awareness,” Lunsford explained.

Corbett, like Lunsford, recognizes the rapid gentrification taking place around JCSU, but hopes projects like hers help the story and history live on forever. 

“This entire year we’ll be working with companies that want to reintroduce themselves to our community, reintroducing past musical artists that performed at The Excelsior Club, and reintroducing the vision for this school,” she said.

Students will present their projects homecoming week October 22 - 23 in the library on campus, and October 25 in Grimes Lounge at the student union.

“Our goal is that other faculty want to see the framework and teach the university history in their own classes,” she explained.

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