Rocky Mount NC – Andre Knight Give Holy Hope Episcopal Church Briefing


Background and Historical Significance

Holy Hope Episcopal Church (originally named St. Jude’s Church) was completed on August 6, 1916 for a white congregation in Spring Hope, Nash County. It is a replica of the original Church of the Good Shepherd in Rocky Mount and was designed by the Rector of Good Shepherd; Rev. Robert B. Owens. Holy Hope began as a mission to black people in Rocky Mount with the permission of the Trustees of the Diocese under the leadership of Rev. Owens. Several years later, the St. Jude’s congregation disbanded. The then-abandoned St. Jude’s Church was disassembled in Spring Hope, moved to Rocky Mount and reassembled in 1939. Several African American Rocky Mount families founded the church as Holy Hope Episcopal Church. As such, Holy Hope became Rocky Mount’s first African American Episcopal Church.

The area where it is located today is now designated as the Rocky Mount Central City Historic District. The Central City Historic District is a nationally designated historic district and encompasses both Edgecombe and Nash portions of Downtown Rocky Mount. This historic district includes 166 contributing structures in central Rocky Mount and includes a variety of industrial, commercial, residential and institutional buildings dating from the late-19th through mid-20th centuries. Holy Hope is one of those notable buildings. 

The late Anna Easter Brown, a founding member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the nation’s first African American sorority, was a member of Rocky Mount’s Chi Omega Chapter, lived one block away from the current location of Holy Hope, taught at the former Booker T. Washington High School (approximately five blocks from the current location) and was an active member of the Holy Hope Episcopal Church.

Why the Knight Family Purchased

Holy Hope After several conversations over several months with City Staff, it was evident that the City had neither funds nor plans for acquiring the former church. The staff was clear with the City Council that they planned to demolish the structure. In the meantime, the owner of the church property reached out to Andre’ Knight for help in selling the structure. The property owner was interested in transferring the property to someone that she knew would value the history and legacy that the church represented. The property was purchased by Mrs. Virginia Knight, who still retains ownership today. 

Andre’ Knight, in his role as City Council representative, led the effort to erect the local historical marker for Anna Easter Brown’s home; the local marker for the home of Dr. Douglas, the founder of the Douglas Block; the local marker for the Lincoln Park Hotel on Leggett Road; and the soon to be erected local marker for Thelonious Monk off South Washington Street. Mr. Knight has also been entrusted with the writings and collections of the late J. B. Harren, notable African American Rocky Mount historian, avid member of the NAACP and a founder of OIC in Rocky Mount. Proposed

Property Reuse Strategies/Options

Holy Hope has been a notable and majestic structure in the footprint of Downtown Rocky Mount since 1939. For that reason, the Knight Family plans to renovate and restore the property for use as an African American Museum of History to commemorate the tremendous accomplishments, achievements and contributions that black people have made to eastern North Carolina and the world. A committee is being assembled to:

    1. Raise funds for historic restoration and renovation of the Holy Hope church structure;

    2. Archive and display existing African American collections and memorabilia;

    3. Recruit additional collections and memorabilia from area residents and their families and friends here and abroad;

    4. Connect our eastern NC collections to other national and international collections, displays and historical societies;

    5. Manage the historic renovation process;

    6. Communicate and establish collaborations with the City of Rocky Mount and other appropriate entities; and 

    7. Determine next steps in embedding Holy Hope and the eastern NC African American Museum of History in the life and fabric of the growing and vibrant Rocky Mount region.

Andre’ Knight stated that “African American history in Rocky Mount and the Twin Counties has been overlooked, destroyed and devalued. This project has as much history as the former confederate-owned Rocky Mount Mills that now has new owners and investors with fresh, energetic, contemporary and inclusive vision, the Helen P. Gay Historic Train Station, the May and Gorham Building and the Douglas Block. The Holy Hope Church project is as vibrant, exciting and significant as any other historical development taking place in Downtown Rocky Mount.” 

For more information, please contact Andre’ Knight at 252-544-2949 or by email at andreknight@embarqmail.com .

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