The Rev. Joan Tarpley-Robinson, pastor of Rosebud Baptist Church in Chatham since 2011, was guest speaker at the Pittsylvania County Retired Teachers Association’s February meeting.

A retired mathematics professor at Danville Community College, she now spends much time tutoring students, serving her church and its association and fostering healthy race relationships.

Inspired by the late Carter G. Woodson who promoted the study of African-American history, Tarpley-Robinson has written and presents a one-woman play that traces that history from the introduction of slaves in the United States in 1619 until the present.

Using her own family as examples throughout the play, she relies on documents, pictures and memorabilia to authenticate her story. Her great-grandfather, Stephen Tarpley, was a slave who lived on a farm in the Callands community of Pittsylvania County. Dying at the age of 112, he was able to relate to his descendants much information about the conditions under which slaves lived.

Tarpley-Robinson’s play continues past the Emancipation Proclamation, Jim Crow laws, establishment of schools for blacks, and on to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. Using herself as an example of the integration of schools, she tells of her own experience as one of the first African-American students to attend Tunstall High School under the Freedom of Choice plan. She remembers that other students were more curious about her than resentful.

Graduating in 1969, Tarpley-Robinson went on to attend St. Paul’s College, receiving her degree in 1973, and later studied at the University of Virginia, Appalachian State University and Duke University.

The purpose of her play, she said, is to emphasize how encouraging African-American history is. Obstacles have been overcome and King’s dream is being realized as evidenced by the success attainable by all Americans. There are improvements still to be made, but in order to achieve them we must come together, embrace our history and move forward, and love each other in spite of the things that could so easily divide us, she said.

A business session preceded the program during which Carol Peterson was chosen as nominee for the state award for most active member based on her work with Blanche’s Closet and the Scholarship Committee of PCRTA. President Mable Scott with be vice president of District E of the Virginia Retired Teachers Association for 2019-2021.

Students in the culinary arts department of the Career and Technical Center prepared and served the meal under the direction of Donna Hutson. Special guests included Pittsylvania County School Board Chairman Calvin Doss, and Career and Technical Center Principal Jessica Dalton.

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