Meet the Team

Apprend/Crafting Freedom Management and Key Advisors

Laurel C. Sneed, Executive Director - Apprend Foundation

Laurel C. Sneed is Executive Director of the Apprend Foundation, Inc. and also serves as the director of the Crafting Freedom Workshops. She is an educational media and multimedia producer and instructional designer whose work in industry and education has received national and international acclaim over the past thirty years. In the mid-1990s, Sneed began focusing exclusively on history education. In 2000, she designed Vietnam: Views and Voices, a multi-media web-based application for SAS In-School, a software company. It was named software of the year ( one of three software programs) in 2000 by Technology and Learning. In 2003, another multimedia application, "Exploring the World of Thomas Day," that Sneed created won national and international acclaim. It received an Award of Excellence from Technology and Learning and was named one of the top 25 educational software programs of 2003. Sneed is also an independent scholar who's research in 1995 under the direction of eminent historian, John Hope Franklin, discovered the Southern Virginia origins of North Carolina's most acclaimed artisan, the free black cabinetmaker, Thomas Day (1801–ca. 1861)

Charles D. Sneed, Assistant Director, Apprend Foundation

Charles D. Sneed is the co-founder of the Thomas Day Education Project (TDEP) and is financial manager for the Apprend Foundation. He has taught at the elementary and secondary levels and in addition to a B.A. in economics, he holds a Master's degree in Family and Consumer Science. Prior to co-founding the Thomas Day Education Project, he had a career in sales and marketing and was also an award-winning journalist for several years.

Elsabet Fisseha, Office Administrator & Workshop Assistant Director

Elsabet Fisseha is the Assistant Director of the Crafting Freedom Workshops. She oversees recruitment, registration, participant accommodations, meals and participant stipends. She also works very closely with Laurel and Charlie Sneed in management of all aspects of the workshops


Apprend/Crafting Freedom Board of Directors

Chrystal Regan, Board of Directors

Since 2001 Chrystal Regan has had a distinguished career in public education serving both as a classroom teacher and as an assistant principal. Regan has taught African-American history at Rolesville High School in Rolesville, NC from 2014-prsent and has also served as interim chair of the history department. In addition to a B.S. degree in History Secondary Education from NC Agricultural and Technical University, she also holds two Masters degrees: one in School Administration from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Masters in Public History from North Carolina State University. Her thesis for the latter degree was on: "Free Women of Color in North Carolina 1830–1865." Ms Regan was selected to be a Crafting Freedom Summer Scholar in 2005 and began serving on the board in 2016. She was unanimously elected Board Chair in 2017.

Valencia Abbott, Board of Directors

Valencia Abbott has a long and impressive career as an educator specializing in American history with a focus on the African American experience. She currently serves as a Social Studies/ History teacher at the Rockingham Early College High School in Wentworth, NC (2012-2018) Abbott earned her Masters in Liberal Studies and her post-baccalaureate certificate in African American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She was selected to be a Crafting Freedom Summer Scholar in 2006.

Patricia King Butler, Board of Directors

Patricia King Butler has served as Director of the Liberty Partnerships Program at Long Island University for over 15 years. In this role she has fostered programs that serve academically at-risk youth by providing academic, cultural and social enrichment activities and college preparation throughout Brooklyn, New York. She is also the co-founder of Camp Umoja, a cultural arts enrichment camp based in New Jersey that explores African/African American history and culture through the arts, historical site visits, and research. Butler was a Thomas Day Fellow in 2005.

Vanessa Richmond Graves, Board of Directors

Vanessa Richmond Graves is a veteran K-12 teacher with 30+ years of experience. She became involved with TDEP, over a decade ago, as a "Thomas Day fellow" in the first series of teacher workshops offered in three North Carolina counties. She is a board member of the Thomas Day House/Union Tavern, Inc., the organization that restored Thomas Day's workshop and home into a hands-on furniture museum. She has been a valued teacher mentor and presenter for TDEP workshops since 2003.

Beverly J. McNeill, Board of Directors and Teacher Consultant

Beverly J. McNeill is a veteran K-12 teacher with 30+ years of experience. She too became involved with TDEP, over a decade ago, as a "Thomas Day fellow" in the first series of teacher workshops conducted in three counties. She has been a teacher mentor for TDEP ever since. McNeill has developed lesson plans for the Crafting Freedom Project and has mentored hundreds of teachers in sessions she has facilitated on how to integrate African American history and culture into one’s year-round teaching. She serves as the chairperson of the board of directors of the Apprend Foundation.

Patricia Dane Rogers, Board of Directors

Patricia Rogers is a former Washington Post reporter and columnist with a focus on design, architecture and the decorative arts. Now an independent writer, she published the first major national newspaper article about Thomas Day in The Post in 1997, "Carved in History, Thomas Day: A Success in an Unlikely Time and Place." The story's lead was her discovery and identification of Day's Bible. She has been researching him ever since. Rogers co-authored the publication, "The Hidden History of Thomas Day" with Laurel Sneed and was a presenter at a symposium on the topic sponsored by the North Carolina Humanities Council in Yanceyville, North Carolina in the summer of 2009.

Michele Ware, Board of Directors and Scholar Advisor

Michele Ware is Associate Professor in the Department of Language and Literature at North Carolina Central University. She has won numerous awards for excellence in teaching at the university and has been a lecturer and served as assistant director of the Crafting Freedom workshops.


Key Advisors

William Andrews, Scholar Advisor

William L. Andrews is the E. Maynard Adams Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Senior Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is series editor of North American Slave Narratives, Beginnings to 1920 a complete digitized library of autobiographies and biographies of North American slaves and ex-slaves, funded by the NEH. He served as a scholar advisor to the Crafting Freedom Materials Project and the Crafting Freedom exhibit project. He is a frequent presenter at Crafting Freedom Workshops.

Jerome Bias, Traditional Cabinetmaker

Jerome Bias is a traditional furniture maker following in the footsteps of Thomas Day. Bias gives presentations and demonstrations about traditional cabinetmaking at schools, museums and other locations and is a presenter at the Crafting Freedom Workshops.

Juanita Marie Holland, Scholar Advisor

Juanita M. Holland is a former professor of Art History and retired grant writer. She lectures widely on African-American artists of the 19th century with a specialty in Edward Mitchell Bannister, a 19th century painter and the focus of her doctoral dissertation.

Nellie Chubbs Miles, Traditional Seamstress

Nellie "Chubbs" Miles, a key presenter at the Crafting Freedom Workshops, grew up in the 1940s and 50s on several tobacco farms in rural Person County, NC. She learned to sew from her mother and grand–mother and became an accomplished seamstress and dress designer as an adult. She demonstrates sewing techniques and makes presentations that bring to life her childhood world as the daughter of a tobacco sharecropper during the Jim Crow era.

Peter Wood, Scholar Advisor

Peter H. Wood is professor emeritus at Duke University where he taught American history for over 30 years. Wood graduated from Harvard College in 1964 and spent two years at Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. His first book, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (Knopf, 1974) was nominated for the National Book Award and won the Beveridge Prize of the American Historical Association. Wood is co-author, with Elizabeth Fenn, of Natives and Newcomers (UNC Press, 1983), a brief history of early North Carolina which won the American Historical Association's Robinson Prize. He has been a scholar advisor to the Thomas Day Education Project since it's inception and has been a presenter at Let It Shine and Crafting Freedom workshops.