In 1968, John L. Hairston led the integration of the Stokes County School system and continued on as the principal of London School until his retirement in 1983. Fifty years later, the Celebrating Courage Weekend honors Hairston’s legacy and the influence it has on the environmental movement that blossomed out of the Southeastern Stokes County Community.
An original short documentary, also called “Celebrating Courage,” features local voices sharing how John L. Hairston raised a community of leaders, the ripple effects his grace had on the area, and how he can inspire our environmental advocacy today.
A 1951 alumni of NC A&T State University, John L. Hairston gave up opportunities to earn a higher wage in New Jersey to instead focus on his role as an educator in his home of Stokes County. In 1968, a peaceful march led by local students helped to integrate the public schools, a local restaurant, the movie theater and the laundromat. The story of John L. Hairston’s leadership is detailed in Henry Wiencek’s 1999 award-winning book, “The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White” in a chapter entitled, “The Liberation of Walnut Cove.” Wiencek compares Hairston to the fictional character George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Hairston would be 100 on Monday, August 13, 2018. He passed away on August 19th, 1993.
The Celebrating Courage Weekend includes a series of community activities that are free and open to the public on Saturday, August 11 and Sunday, August 12 in both the Walnut Cove and Pine Hall communities. Saturday afternoon will include storytelling and singing workshops, followed by a fish fry fundraiser, the “Celebrating Courage” documentary film premiere and a community sing-a-long. Sunday will include a church service focused on John L. Hairston, a free community luncheon, followed by a second screening of the original documentary film “Celebrating Courage.” The event is in collaboration with the Stokes County Historical Society, the Stokes County Arts Council, Residents for Coal Ash Cleanup, and Appalachian Voices.