A shorter version of this article appeared in the 6/18/2020 Pender-Topsail Post & Voice. All rights are reserved by Claudia Stack.
While researching and doing interviews for my documentary “Under the Kudzu”, I heard many people speak movingly about the impact that the Andersons had on their lives and on Pender County, NC. Outside of Pender County Training School (PCTS) alumni, few people today realize the profound positive impact the Andersons had. Yet their dedication and commitment to excellence, which over time enriched the whole region, was characteristic of many educators at historic African American schools. You can hear recollections about PCTS, the Andersons, and also the Canetuck Rosenwald school by streaming Under the Kudzu (free on Amazon Prime Video).
Under The Kudzu
Under the Kudzu traces the history of two Rosenwald schools in Pender County, NC. built during the segregation era…
Concentrated in the Rocky Point area, but also along Route 210 and Highway 117, there are dozens of homes of a similar style. They are modest but pretty houses with gable roofs. Often, the porch pillars have bricks around their base. This simple but pleasing design, and the fact that there are so many of these homes in Pender County, are testaments to the work of Vocational Agriculture teacher Singleton Chichester Anderson. In 1951, he testified before a Department of Labor subcommittee that since his arrival in Rocky Point in 1920 he and his students had built 326 houses. “We not only build…We landscape; we make everything look ideal.” They also landscaped many area churches.
Better known as “Professor Anderson,” SC Anderson and his wife Venetta had a lasting impact on Pender County. For decades they led the Vocational Agriculture and the Home Economics programs, respectively, at Pender County Training School (PCTS) in Rocky Point. PCTS was a Rosenwald school, meaning it was built through fundraising by the African American community that was matched by grant support from the Rosenwald Fund. Although the school became known for vocational training, these courses were electives. In 1924, North Carolina implemented the same liberal arts curriculum for all schools. Alumnus William Jordan explained in the film “Under the Kudzu” that students who graduated from PCTS were well prepared for college.
The Inversion: African Americans and Education (Part One)
African Americans, particularly in North Carolina, sacrificed more to build schools than any other group. Despite this…
The Andersons’ guiding principle was to develop students as whole people. Alicia Ann Anderson, their daughter, says her mother “wanted the girls to be respectable and continue school…” She recalls that her mother gave students both encouragement and practical help, for example, giving a suitcase to a girl who didn’t have one. Venetta Anderson coached her students on manners, dress, and how to interview for jobs. She taught them domestic skills, and also helped many of them to go to college. For his part, SC Anderson was a mentor to countless young men. He drove students to visit college campuses in his own car.
In his congressional testimony, SC Anderson wryly called the home building he led his “hobby.” SC Andrson’s main role as Vocational Agriculture teacher was to teach farming, carpentry and masonry skills, which he did very effectively. He also acted as an unofficial farm extension agent, improving area farms, and even local poultry flocks. For some years he offered people the opportunity to improve their chicken flocks through an egg exchange. If you brought him eggs from your hens, he would trade them for fertilized eggs from his purebred flock. He put his knowledge and effort at the disposal of African American and European American farmers alike, raising productivity and value for all community members who asked.
SC Anderson was born in 1896 in rural Virginia. In 1917, he was a student at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) when he was drafted into WW I. After serving honorably, he was discharged in 1919. He came to Rocky Point to teach at PCTS in 1920. Apparently, he didn’t have a smooth start. According to his daughter, at first parents thought SC Anderson was too young to teach. Local historian Mattie Bloodworth also related a story about him in her 1947 book History of Pender County, North Carolina. She wrote that initially the parents didn’t see the need for vocational agriculture. They felt they could teach their sons to farm. However, SC Anderson won them over by guiding his students in building a shop.
Over the years, SC Anderson continued to put down roots in Pender County. In 1927 he married Venetta Waddell, who had come to teach at PCTS in the mid 1920s. Remembered as a beautiful, refined woman, Venetta Waddell Anderson was born in Winston-Salem in 1908. She attended Winston-Salem Teachers College (now Winston- Salem University), and later earned a Master’s degree from Columbia University. The Andersons had two children: Doris Venetta, who was born in 1928, and Alicia Ann, who was born in 1942.
The Andersons’ work converged to impact the community after SC Anderson received a bequest from Dr. Pender Porter in 1943. He used the funds to construct the Porter cannery, where Venetta Anderson taught students and local women how to can food. A 1949 article in The Rotarian magazine notes that “Produce grown on farms and in backyard gardens of white people and Negroes alike over a 20-mile radius is unloaded from wagons and trucks and picked up later in shiny tins.”
Tragically, Venetta Anderson died in 1959 in a house fire. SC Anderson continued to teach until 1965. He then retired to New Jersey to the home of his elder daughter, and passed away in 1967. Yet the Andersons’ work lives on, not just in the memories of alumni, but in the structures that raised the property values and the hopes of countless residents of Pender County.
To read about John T. Daniel, Sr., the longtime principal of PCTS, and his wife Leona B. Daniel, the Jeanes supervisor of Negro elementary schools, see:
The Daniels: Leaders in Excellence at a NC Rosenwald School
Although under-resourced, historic African American schools produced many professionals and civic leaders
To access more information about Rosenwald schools see: