Honoring Elizabeth McPherson

Elizabeth Parker McPherson Receives the Crafting Freedom Award

For her outstanding leadership to the Thomas Day Education Project and the Append Foundation, we are greatly indebted to Lib McPherson. Therefore, the Apprend Foundation board has chosen Lib McPherson to be the recipient of Crafting Freedom Award for her decades of generous, dedicated service.

Elizabeth “Lib” McPherson is the second recipient of the Crafting Freedom Award for service as a founding board member and key advisor-strategist to the TDEP and the Apprend Foundation since 1992. In 1989 Laurel and Charlie Sneed, founders of the Thomas Day Education Project (TDEP) and the Apprend Foundation, were introduced to Lib and her husband Tom when they were proprietors from 1980 – 1994 of the “Woodside,” a popular country inn in Milton, NC. In 1980 the McPhersons purchased  and restored  “Woodside” and secured its registration on the National Register of Historic Places. The “Woodside” (also known as the Caleb H. Richmond House) is one of the most significant Boom Era Greek Revival style homes in the state with a newell post, stair railings  and all interior architecture crafted by Thomas Day. It has recently re-opened as a Bed and Breakfast Inn.

Lib shared Laurel’s enthusiasm for learning more about Thomas Day and was the major mentor to her as she initiated research that led in 1995 to the discovery of Thomas Day’s family of origin, including identification of his brother, Rev. John Day, a major Liberian statesman and famed Baptist missionary on the continent of Africa. Lib was also a critical link to Mrs. Mary Satterfield, Milton community historian,  who had been researching Thomas Day for more than fifty years. Mrs. Satterifield shared all of her research with Laurel and became a key collaborator in her research efforts. But perhaps the most significant contribution Lib made to the early development of TDEP was her urging that the Sneeds develop a ten-year strategic plan. Leading the strategic planning, Lib guided the  Sneeds who were able to refine their vision for a black history education project and to complete the plan over several months. Twenty years later most of  goals in that plan have been accomplished with the exception of finishing the documentary film in progress: The Thin Edge of Freedom: Thomas Day and the Free Black Experience 1800-1861. Currently, matching production funds are being sought so the film can be completed.

Another of Lib’s important contributions to TDEP and the Apprend Foundation was her early theory that Thomas Day was a “closet abolitionist.”  Seeing a historical production of the Quaker abolitionist leadership in Guilford and Alamance Counties started her thinking. At the time (late 1990’s) there was little evidence to support this theory, but Lib proposed it because she believed that Thomas Day would not have sent his children to Wesleyan Academy in Massachusetts, an abolitionist–led school, had he not sympathized with the school’s ardent antislavery views. She also had heard stories from long­–time Milton residents that Day had hidden fugitive slaves in the basement of the Tavern and she did not believe that such  “local history” should be totally dismissed. There were also similar stories about Day “rescuing slaves” that had been passed down to his descendants and the descendents of other free black families in North Carolina. Although none of those accounts about Day’s alleged harboring of fugitives has ever been verified. Research conducted by Patricia Dane Rogers and Laurel Sneed uncovered evidence in 2006 that linked Thomas Day to major black abolitionist figures in the North, in addition to his close ties with the white abolitionist leaders at Wesleyan Academy. These links to abolitionists coupled with evidence of Day’s attendance at black abolitionist conventions, indicate that Day was involved on a national level in the antislavery movement. Lib was the first person to “connect the dots” and to make the leap of faith that there was far more to Thomas Day politically than he revealed publically in North Carolina.

For more about Lib McPherson’s life of service, please see her biography written when she received the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Alumni Association’s prestigious Woman of Distinction Award on October 24, 2013.