SEABOARD, N.C. – Shaw University graduate and former Shaw University Divinity School Dean, Dr. Nicholas F. Roberts, will be honored by the dedication and placement of a historical marker at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16 on the lawn of the Town Hall at 102 West Central Street in Seaboard, North Carolina. An application for the Roberts marker was approved by the North Carolina Highway Historical Markers Program at the beginning of 2023. The inscription will read: NICHOLAS ROBERTS 1849-1934 | African American editor & pastor. Professor and administrator, Shaw Univ. Leader in state Baptist organizations. He lived in Seaboard until 1871.
Roberts was born in Seaboard on Oct. 13, 1849, and worked on a farm during the day while studying at night to prepare for his academic pursuits. He enrolled in Shaw University — then Shaw Collegiate Institute — in 1871 and was a member of the institution’s first graduating class in 1878. Upon graduation from Shaw, Roberts was principal of the Peabody School in Warrenton for one session before accepting a position as a mathematics professor and head of the department of mathematics at his alma mater. During his tenure of over 50 years, he worked as Shaw’s Dean of Faculty, Dean of the School of Theology (where he earned his Doctor of Divinity), Vice President, and Acting President — November 1893 to March 1894 — following the death of Shaw founder Henry Martin Tupper, making Roberts the HBCU’s first African American president.
Roberts’ great-grandson, the Honorable Bobby Scott, a U.S. Congressman who represents Virginia’s Third Congressional District, is slated to attend and offer remarks as well. He said: “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. 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.”
Local historian Rodney D. Pierce, who submitted the application for the marker, said: “This marker for Dr. Roberts has been 3 ½ to 4 years in the making. This figures to be one of the biggest days in the history of the town of Seaboard and Northampton County, and I am elated that so many of his descendants as well as dignitaries throughout our state from political, religious and educational entities he was associated with are coming to share in this ceremony.”
Other ceremony participants will include: The Honorable Geraldine Langford, Mayor of Seaboard, NC; Dr. Paulette Dillard, President, Shaw University, Raleigh, NC; The Honorable Alfred W. Kwasikpui, Vice President, Weldon-Seaboard Alumni Chapter of Shaw University (Retired Chief District Court Judge – NC Judicial District 6); The Honorable Michael H. Wray, State Representative (NC House District 27 – Halifax, Northampton, Warren); The Honorable Melvetta Broadnax Taylor, Northampton County Commissioner (District 4 – Seaboard & Wiccacanee Townships; Seaboard, Galatia, Creeksville); The Honorable Marcia S. Price, M.Div., Great-Great-Granddaughter of Dr. Nicholas F. Roberts (Member, Virginia House of Delegates, 95th District – Parts of Hampton and Newport News; Vice Chair, Virginia Legislative Black Caucus);
Leslie Leonard, Administrator, NC Highway Historical Marker Program (NC Department of Natural & Cultural Resources); and Kimberly Mack, District Director for The Honorable Donald G. Davis (U.S. Representative, North Carolina’s First Congressional District)
Dr. Paulette Dillard, President of Shaw University, said: “Shaw University is proud to be a part of this august occasion to honor the contributions of Dr. Nicholas Roberts, an alum from our first graduating class, Dean of the Divinity School, and our university’s first African American president. We’re thankful to all the individuals who worked to make this distinct recognition a reality.”
About Shaw University:
Shaw University, located in Raleigh, North Carolina, is the first historically Black institution of higher education founded in North Carolina and is among the oldest in the nation. The University was founded in 1865 by Henry Martin Tupper. Dr. Paulette Dillard currently serves as the University’s 18th President. For more information, visit: www.shawu.edu
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