Chairman Jones tells the story of director Anna Jones’s father, James Henry Jones, who was born on a former slave plantation in 1916. A self-educated farmer, he emerged as a trailblazer during the 1969 school desegregation crisis in Northampton County, NC, leading the fight to end nearly a century of inequality in education for black children. Jones placed his own children on the front lines, bringing blacks and whites together for dialogue that allowed integration to tiptoe into his rural county and transform the educational landscape for all. His leadership as North Carolina’s first black school board chairman introduced a new era in education and had a marked effect on racial progress in the state.
Jones died in 1984, the year that the Northampton County school system received accreditation for the first time in its history, largely due to his vision and efforts. His story unfolds through his daughter’s conversations with those across North Carolina who participated in the integration movement and witnessed his extraordinary courage and leadership.