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Aug 03

Remembering and Commemorating the Alpha Art Club - Contributed by Ashley Gilbert

Posted on August 3, 2022 at 3:36 PM by Tamara Vaughan

In preparing for the 2024 Centennial Anniversary of the founding of the Alpha Art Club, the High Point Museum developed a summer internship to interview present members of the club. Intern Ashley Gilbert has given her expertise and enthusiasm to this project. Here, she reflects on learning about the Alpha Art Club and interviewing current members. The Hayden-Harman Foundation and the High Point Historical Society sponsored the internship. 

The Alpha Art Club is a “group of women who have a purpose and a design to carry this group beyond… its first hundred years, and [who] have a community outreach and an impact.” [We want Alpha Art to] “leave a footprint so that people will know what Alpha Art is truly all about,” remarked a member. 

Founded in 1924, the Alpha Art Club is the oldest-known African American women’s club in the Triad. As 2024 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Alpha Art Club, the High Point Museum is planning an exhibition to commemorate and celebrate its legacy, sisterhood, and service within the High Point community—what Alpha Art is truly all about. In preparation for the upcoming exhibition, I have had the pleasure of serving as the Alpha Art Club Intern at the High Point Museum. In this position, I have been researching the club and collecting oral histories of its current members.    

sepia-tone image of 11 women in a fieldMembers of the Alpha Art Club, 1930. The Alpha Art Club joined other state women’s organizations in the North Carolina Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, originally formed in 1909, now the North Carolina Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. Alpha Art was one of the charter members of the High Point City Federation of Clubs formed in 1936

My research into the club’s history documents its legacy of service to the community. Prohibited from joining white women’s clubs, many of High Point’s black women united together to form the Alpha Art Club. Despite being established as a “social outlet,” this group quickly realized that the needs of the community demanded attention. In fact, the object of the club, as revealed by its constitution, swiftly became to promote civic betterment in the town and to aid African American girls in North Carolina.  

From the 1920s to the present, the Alpha Art Club has left its footprint on High Point through various enrichment programs and services within the community. Early club activities included sponsoring entertainers and donating money to different causes, including the Red Cross, Community Chest, Efland Home, and the Girls Training School at Kinston. In addition, the Alpha Art Club has supported the local community through donations to the youth center, public library, hospital, and schools.  

More recently, the club’s good works have continued. The group has created scholarships, helped to alleviate High Point’s hunger crisis, and adopted a portion of Washington Street, to name a few of their activities.  Further, the club has begun to partner with other High Point organizations to further their involvement within the community. 

 

white paper with black text

 
blue Program presenting Pianist Raymond Jackson.The Alpha Art Club hosted many events to benefit the High Point community and, more specifically, young girls in the state. An early event included a Barn Dance to help the Efland Home, also known as the North Carolina Industrial Home for Colored Girls (NCIHCG), a project of the North Carolina Federation of Negro Women’s Clubs. Later, the Alpha Art Club hosted many entertainments, including Raymond Jackson.  

Collecting oral histories—the main focus of my internship—has bridged gaps left in the historical record. Talking with the Alpha Art Club members has allowed me to thread personal stories, recollections, and emotions throughout the club's history and current activities. I have gained insight into the varying motivations for joining, the most memorable activities hosted by or attended by the club, and, looking forward, the goals and hopes for where the next 100 years will take the club. These interviews have contributed various viewpoints and perspectives on the Alpha Art Club and what it genuinely means to its members: legacy, community, and above all, sisterhood.  

  

12 women posing on a staircaseMembers of the Alpha Art Club, 2017.

It has been truly an honor and pleasure to have spoken to and heard the many stories of the Alpha Art Club members. While the larger exhibition on the Alpha Art Club to celebrate the club’s 100th anniversary isn’t until 2024, beat the heat and come out to the museum and explore the other wonderful exhibitions it has to offer! 

The images included here are courtesy of the Alpha Art Club. 

 

To see more about the Alpha Art Club and the North Carolina Federation of Negro Women’s Clubs, check out these online resources:

The April 1954 issue of The Federation Journal highlighting all the African American women’s organizations in High Point can be found in the Museum’s online catalog: https://hpmuseum.catalogaccess.com/archives/37558  

Many Federation publications, including the High Point issue, can be read here: https://newspapers.digitalnc.org/search/pages/results/?lccn=2016236536&sequence=1&sort=date  

Convention programs and annual reports for the North Carolina Federation of Negro Women’s Clubs are here: https://lib.digitalnc.org/search?ln=en&p=collectioninformation%3A%22North+Carolina+Federation+of+Negro+Women%27s+Clubs%22&c=DigitalNC&jrec=1

 

Read more through these links, and learn about the current organization through these links: 

https://www.digitalnc.org/exhibits/north-carolina-federation-of-negro-womens-clubs/#:~:text=Warren%2C%20the%20North%20Carolina%20Federation,of%20color%20in%20North%20Carolina

https://www.digitalnc.org/blog/nccu-womens-federation/ 

https://www.ncfcwc.org/

 

Ashley Gilbert is finishing a paid summer internship at the High Point Museum, where she conducted oral histories of the current members of the Alpha Art Club. Ashley is a Ph.D. student in History at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. While her primary research examines the politicization of taverns during the Revolutionary Era, she is also working to complete a minor in Public History. Ashley received her B.A. from Longwood University and her M.A. in History from Virginia Commonwealth University, with concentrations in U.S. and Public History. 

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