Dr. Paul Ringel, High Point University history professor and leader of the William Penn Project, speaks at Penn-Griffin School for the Arts during the school’s annual celebration of the High Point sit-ins.
HIGH POINT, N.C., Feb. 12, 2018 – Fifty-eight years after the High Point sit-ins, High Point University students and faculty joined Penn-Griffin School for the Arts students to celebrate and remember the historic occasion.
Members of HPU’s William Penn Project, including Dr. Paul Ringel, HPU history professor and project leader, and former HPU students, took part in the celebratory event by presenting the William Penn Project website to the crowded auditorium.
The William Penn Project began in 2014 with a partnership between High Point University and Penn-Griffin School for the Arts in their exploration of the history of William Penn High School, which served African-American students in High Point from the 1890s through its closure in 1968.
Students from both schools have spent hundreds of hours interviewing William Penn alumni and performing archival research that has uncovered documents, photographs and even musical recordings from the school’s history. The HPU students have constructed a written, oral and visual history of the school on the website, which is accessible and responsive to the community’s input.
During the assembly, Ringel introduced the project and its purpose.
“To be standing here as a historian on this stage, in this school, it really gives me chills,” said Ringel. “When we started this project four years ago, we had three goals. First, we wanted this to serve a broad audience, the entire community. Second, that we give a voice to the alumni of William Penn. And third, we wanted to use this project as a means of building community bonds. I believe we’ve accomplished that.”
Jay Burgin, an alumnus of HPU who played a key role in building the website, attended the event and demonstrated how to utilize the website.
“I was so honored to do this,” he said. “It became my life’s work while I was at HPU, and I cannot thank the people in the community enough for working with me to make this possible.”