Blue Ridge Job Corps Center

Blue Ridge Job Corps Observes Black History Month

February 25th, 2022

Ms. Diane Hayes is a member of the Board of the Mt. Pleasant Preservation Museum in Marion. She served as a librarian and genealogist in Franklin County, VA, for over 30 years, and she has a vast knowledge of the rich history of African Americans in Southwest Virginia. On February 16, she shared her knowledge with the staff and students of Blue Ridge Job Corps.
The Mount Pleasant Museum was founded by Evelyn Thompson Lawrence, in a hope to showcase the contributions of African Americans to Smyth County, VA and the surrounding areas. Ms. Hayes has worked as an archivist at the museum for several years, and continues to keep Ms. Lawrence’s vision alive since her passing in 2020.
Ms. Hayes provided photos of Marion and the surrounding community collected over the years for the museum, including Carnegie School, which was the all-black school in Marion. She discussed one very famous former teacher at the school, Katherine Johnson, who mathematical calculations helped to send astronauts to the moon for the first time. If her name rings a bell, it may be because her story was featured in the 2017 film Hidden Figures, where she was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson.
Hayes also shared the story Sallie’s Crying Tree, which has been given historical landmark status in Marion, VA. The tree is situated just outside of the grounds of Blue Ridge Job Corps, and has a fascinating, yet heartbreaking history. Named for Sarah Elizabeth “Sallie” Adams, who grew up as a slave in the 1840s. Adams was separated from her family at the age of 5, when she was bought by a rich man to help care for his sickly wife. The tree served as a refuge for young Sallie, as she would steal away at night to visit the tree, where she would often cry for her lost family. Once Sallie had her freedom after the Civil War, she started a family of her own, and years later, her granddaughter, Evelyn Thompson Lawrence, founded the Mt. Pleasant Museum.
Stories like these could be lost if not for folks like Diane Hayes, who work to ensure that the history of African Americans in the region are not forgotten.
The museum is located on West Main St. in Marion, VA, and is open for tours each Wednesday afternoon, or by request.