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Stories of Impact: Johnston County Heritage Center


Johnston County Heritage Centers mission is to conduct and encourage historical and genealogical research and to collect, preserve and share materials that relate to the history of Johnston County.


The Heritage Center has many great resources on the history of Johnston County. They provide online access to over half a million Johnston County records including census data, newspapers, obituaries, soldier records, marriages, and more.


In 2021, Johnston County Heritage Center received a North Carolina Humanities American Rescue Plan Humanities Grant to help sustain their operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic and hire two student interns and an African-American history scholar to help develop an interpretation plan for the Smithfield Freedman’s Schoolhouse.


“This grant helps our organization to develop plans for interpreting an important African American historic site, the only freedmen’s schoolhouse known to remain in North Carolina, in a way that is meaningful and enlightening to the general public,” said Todd Johnson, Executive Director, Johnston County Heritage Center.


Freedmen’s Bureau records show there were over 160 schools for freedmen operating in North Carolina between emancipation in 1865 and the General Assembly’s passage of a new school law in 1870. According to the State Historic Preservation Office, the Smithfield schoolhouse is the only one of these schools known to remain standing.


Work is expected to be completed by spring of 2023 and will include restoring the schoolhouse to its 1860s appearance and adding a small restroom and kitchen wing to the rear of the building.


North Carolina Humanities awarded a total of $1,271,060 in American Rescue Plan Humanities Grants to 90 North Carolina cultural organizations in September 2021. Funding for North Carolina Humanities American Rescue Plan Humanities Grants was provided to North Carolina Humanities by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), approved by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in March 2021. To see a list of all 90 grantees visit


Stories of Impact is a limited-time blog series that highlights various North Carolina Humanities American Rescue Plan Humanities Grant recipients and their amazing work across the state.