Guest speaker at VGCC tells personal stories from civil rights movement

Delores S. Eaton in the VGCC Civic Center. (VGCC photo)

Delores S. Eaton in the VGCC Civic Center. (VGCC photo)

In celebration of Black History Month, the Male Mentoring program at Vance-Granville Community College recently hosted a special guest speaker with unique insights into the people and events of the civil rights movement.

The speaker, Delores S. Eaton of Durham, is the wife of the late Granville County native, the Rev. Herbert H. Eaton, who was the immediate successor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. At age 86, Eaton has had a lifetime of experience with social justice activism. She gave students and other attendees her first-hand account of history in a conversation in the VGCC Civic Center that was moderated by Greg Nash, the chair of the college’s Adult Basic Skills department and co-coordinator for the Male Mentoring program.

“My father was a Pullman porter,” she recalled. “Because of that, I had the opportunity to sit at the foot of giants like A. Philip Randolph [leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters], who fought for civil rights.” As a teenager, she also met George Washington Carver, the pioneering scientist. Eaton’s ancestors helped found Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, and she was a neighbor to Rosa Parks in Alabama. Eaton participated in the march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. She said that “Selma,” the Academy Award-nominated 2014 film about those events, was “very accurate.” Eaton also described her experiences with Dr. King and his family and her impressions of Nelson Mandela. While she did not know the South African leader, she met him once. Also, her husband was one of the leaders in the divestment movement that put pressure on the University of Rochester, where he worked, to withdraw its holdings from the South African apartheid government.

“I feel a responsibility to tell young people about history,” Eaton said. She added that, after meeting VGCC students and taking questions from them during the program, “I think the future is in good hands.”

In keeping with the Black History theme, Eaton noted that “African Americans have an indomitable spirit, and their contributions have shaped U.S. history.” Nevertheless, she emphasized that race itself is a myth, a “pseudo-science.” “We are all just human beings,” she argued. “There is no collective inferiority or collective superiority.”

Before Eaton’s discussion, attendees were welcomed by Christopher Ford, a Warren Early College High School/College Transfer student who serves as president for the Male Mentoring program. Scott Rucker, a student in the Computer Technology Integration – Networking and Security program and a Male Mentoring participant, then spoke to explain the purpose of the event.

Kenny De La Torre, a VGCC continuing education student, Juan Hicks, an Adult Basic Skills student, and Khalil Gay, a Vance County Early College High School student, presented perspectives on African American history from today’s young people. Urella Richards, another VGCC student, gave a different perspective as a native of the West Indies who came back to school as an adult after years in the workforce.

In closing remarks, the president of VGCC, Dr. Stelfanie Williams, thanked Eaton for her work and remarked on the unique opportunity that students had to experience American history by listening to her stories.

Supported by a grant from the N.C. Community College System, the VGCC Male Mentoring program involves an active, intensive, and engaging process of academic coaching and case management to help male students succeed. For more information on the mentoring program, contact Anthony Pope at or (252) 738-3395, or Greg Nash at or (252) 738-3305.