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Celebrating Black History Month

Left: Models in the African American Textile Society's first Fashion Exposé (Photo Courtesy: The Technician, 1998).

Dear Wilson College Community,

Welcome to Black History Month! 

Black History Month has roots that stretch back to 1915, but was not officially recognized by the federal government until President Gerald Ford designated February Black History Month in 1976 (Source). It’s a time to learn about the challenges Black Americans have faced and how they have fought for equity, as well as to celebrate their historical achievements and legacy. 

Here at the Wilson College of Textiles, our Black students have made university history with the Fashion Exposé. The event, which is run by the African American Textile Society, is the longest-running fashion show on NC State’s campus.  

We invite you to learn about a few of the important moments in the Black History of the Wilson College, as well as ways you can seek community and support on NC State’s campus.

Wilson College Alumnus Builds Community in Tech Industry

In 2017, Johnny Chapman (B.S. Textile Management) ’85 established Blacks United in Leadership and Diversity (B.U.I.L.D.) at Red Hat.
This DEI community has grown from 12 members to over 800!

A group of people on a staircase at Red Hat

Black History “Firsts” at the Wilson College

1971: James “Jim” Rucker becomes the first Black student to graduate from the college.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in textile chemistry, Rucker went on to earn his doctorate in fiber and polymer science from the college in 1986. He later returned as an associate professor for the Wilson College.

1982: Pamela Banks-Lee becomes the college’s first Black female faculty member.

Photo of Pam Banks-Lee standing behind a desk in front of a chalkboard.

Banks-Lee retired in 2022, after mentoring countless graduate students and conducting research to advance the field of textiles for audiology.

1990: Harold Freeman becomes the first Black professor to earn a named professorship at the Wilson College of Textiles.

A photo of Harold Freeman (middle) speaking with a group of people outside.

Harold S. Freeman became the Ciba Professor of Dye Chemistry at the age of 39. An internationally recognized dye chemist, he received the Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal for Excellence, the highest faculty honor bestowed by the trustees and NC State University in 2017.

How Black Culture and Black History Informs Sneakerhead Culture

Wilson College of Textiles Associate Professor Delisia Matthews researches the roots and culture of sneaker fanatics.

Delisia Matthews wears a long grey dress with with white drawstrings at the collar and long sleeves. She sits on top of a larger-than-life green couch made out of synthetic turf with her legs crossed and looking straight ahead but away from the camera, which is positioned to her right. Behind her, a remodeled shipping container that has been turned into a work space is visible.

Diversity Propels the Wilson College of Textiles and the North Carolina Textile Foundation

Diversity and inclusivity are interwoven into the core values that inform the work of the Wilson College of Textiles and the North Carolina Textile Foundation (NCTF), which serves as the college’s philanthropic arm.

The NCTF makes the college’s groundbreaking, industry-leading work possible. That exceptional work includes supporting change agents, glass ceiling breakers and equity seekers in a variety of ways. With the foundation’s financial backing and extensive network of connections, our college’s students, staff and alumni, including members of the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council, can continue to further their understanding and celebration of diversity and inclusion.  

Donate to the Textiles Diversity and Inclusion Fund

Jasmine Cox ’13, ’20

Jasmine Cox

Current Ph.D. student Jasmine Cox ’13, ’20, who is co-president of the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council, helps alumni connect with their alma mater while also giving students from rural North Carolina access to a world-class textile technology education.

Remington Scott ’16, ’19

Remington Scott

As a two-time graduate, Remington Scott ’16, ’19 credits the Wilson College of Textiles for giving him the fundamentals he needed to be successful throughout his career, including his current role as a R&D engineer at Honeywell.

Find resources and community

Black History Month is the perfect chance to learn and connect. Here are just a few of the opportunities offered through NC State: