Eric Jackson wants to show Johnston residents how world events have shaped their county.
Take World War I, for example. That war took many young Johnston men out of state, even out of county, for the first time. When their tours ended, they brought their new experiences back home to their friends and families, changing perspectives in Johnston forever.
“You have young men living in a rural area, never moved out of the county or out of the state, traveling overseas,” Jackson says. “How did that affect them, seeing the world for the first time. How did that affect African Americans? How did that affect the women they left at home?”
To answer those questions and others, Jackson has partnered with the Johnston County Heritage Center to launch “Heritage Tuesdays,” a lecture series at Johnston Community College. The idea is to examine how world events resonated in Johnston County, said Jackson, who teaches history at JCC and serves on the board of the Selma Historical Museum.
“I thought, ‘What would be a good way of getting the students and the public to engage more about local history? How can we get more public awareness?’ ” Jackson said. “It’s going to be an evolving thing.”
Every other month, JCC will host a lecture on a historical event and how it shaped Johnston County. The first lecture, on World War I, will be at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, in the library on the college’s Smithfield campus, 245 College Road.
Future lectures are still taking shape, but Jackson said he’d like to talk about the Civil War Battle of Bentonville and about black history. He also wants to lecture on Clayton native William Dodd, who was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first ambassador to Germany.
Jackson attended graduate school with Todd Johnson, director of the Johnston County Heritage Center. When Jackson came to him with the idea of partnering with the Heritage Center, Johnson said, he jumped at the chance.
Johnson said he hopes to use the Heritage Center’s connections with elected leaders, military veterans and longtime Johnston residents to make the lecture series as rich as possible.
“We're just partnering and hoping that we can get the younger generation interested in the Johnston County story,” Johnson said.
The Heritage Center will provide artifacts and photos to enhance the lecture experience. For the Oct. 7 lecture, for example, the center will provide a helmet and knapsack that belonged to a young chauffeur in the U.S. Air Service. It will also display newspaper clippings and a gas mask.
“(The idea is) just to share Johnston County history through the community college and target students but also invite members of the community at large,” Johnson said.
The lectures are free. Stay tuned for information about future talks.