About Jester Hairston

A short video with an overview of Jester Hairston's immense contribution to our culture as shared by his daughter. 

Jester Hairston, composer and actor, was born in Belews Creek on July 9th, 1901.  

Jester Hairston, composer and actor, was born in Belews Creek on July 9th, 1901.  

Jester Hairston is the widest-recognized artist from the Stokes County area. He traveled the world teaching others the spirituals he heard as small child. Although Hairston moved away from the Belews Creek community when he was young, he dedicated his career to carrying on the music he learned from his grandparents. Hairston composed and arranged over 300 songs. 

''I decided that I wanted to make my mark in folk songs because my grandparents were slaves,'' he said. ''I wanted to keep that music alive.'' Mr. Hairston received an honorary doctorate in music from Tufts in 1977.

Hairston's song Amen was featured in The Lilies of the Field, for which Sidney Poitier won the first Academy Award given to an African-American. 

Hairston also supplemented his career as an actor and appeared in a wide range of films and television programs, even into his nineties as Rolly Forbes on the sit-com Amen.

Hairston was well known for being a civil rights leader by uniting both the black and white side of his family lineage through the Hairston Clan. Henry Wiencek identifies The Hairstons as the nation's largest family in his 1999 book The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White. ''Jester Hairston was a great believer in family and reconciliation,'' said Wiencek.

Hairston's life story was featured in the 2013 documentary Amen: The Life and Music of Jester Hairston


Jester Hairston, Wikipedia

Jester Hairston, 98, Choral Expert and Actor, The New York Times, January 30, 2000

A Family In Black And White: Meet The Hairstons, Black And White, CBS News, March 30, 1999



About The Lilies Project

Caroline Armijo’s The Lilies Project proposed using public art and public programming to address coal ash impacting her home community. Walnut Cove, NC is adjacent to Duke Energy’s Belews Creek Power Station, which houses 20 million tons of coal ash. Armijo, mixed-media artist will partner with scientists from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to create a series of sculptures that repurpose this hazardous waste material safely and that will become the centerpiece of a new public park. This project will also serve as a local pilot for environmental policy that can provide safer alternative for how coal ash is managed in the region.

About Caroline Rutledge Armijo

Caroline Rutledge Armijo is a Stokes County mixed-media artist, environmental advocate and mother who lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her work expresses her concern for environmental justice issues threatening her home community, including coal ash and fracking. She works with Residents for Coal Ash Cleanup based at Belews Creek, NC and Alliance of Carolinians Together (ACT) against Coal Ash. Caroline is the ninth generation of her family to live in Stokes County, NC. She primarily works in book arts, collage and paper sculpture.

About ArtPlace America

ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) is a ten-year collaboration among 16 partner foundations, along with 8 federal agencies and 6 financial institutions, that works to position arts and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development in order to help strengthen the social, physical, and economic fabric of communities. 

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