Nicholas Roberts
Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Prominent African American Religious and Educational Leader to be Featured on N.C. Highway Historical Marker

Sep 5, 2023

The life of a prominent religious and educational leader during the late 1800s will be recognized with a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker.

The marker commemorating Dr. Nicholas Franklin Roberts will be unveiled during a ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 16 in his hometown of Seaboard, N.C.

Born in Seaboard in 1849, Roberts exhibited mathematical talent and a precocious scholastic aptitude. In 1868, he opened a school for African Americans in Seaboard in Northampton County. He later enrolled at Shaw University in 1871 and pursued further studies at the University of Chicago. He returned to North Carolina to be headmaster of the Peabody School in Warrenton.

Roberts has been described as “one of the pioneers in the early history” of African American Baptists in North Carolina. He helped organize the Baptist Sunday School Convention and served as President of the Colored Baptist Sunday School Convention for many years. He was elected president of the General State Baptist Convention in 1885 and is said to have led the organization for several years although definitive years of service are not documented.

He also contributed to Baptist messaging and periodicals as the co-editor of the African Expositor, a quarterly publication with a statewide outreach. In the late 1890s, he also managed the Baptist Sentinel. His ministry also included pastoring the Second Baptist Church and Blount Baptist Church, both in Raleigh.

Roberts was known throughout Raleigh, serving as an alderman and a member of the city’s Street Committee. He also was a member of the Wake County School Board — the only African American member during the 19th century. Furthermore, he served as acting president of Shaw University. Although his tenure lasted only five months, he was the first African American president of the institution.

The marker dedication ceremony will take place Saturday, Sept. 16 at 11 a.m., at the Seaboard Town Hall at 102 West Central St.

For more information about the historical marker and the event, please visit

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) manages, promotes, and enhances the things that people love about North Carolina – its diverse arts and culture, rich history, and spectacular natural areas. Through its programs, the department enhances education, stimulates economic development, improves public health, expands accessibility, and strengthens community resiliency.

The department manages over 100 locations across the state, including 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, five science museums, four aquariums, 35 state parks, four recreation areas, dozens of state trails and natural areas, the North Carolina Zoo, the North Carolina Symphony, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, the American Indian Heritage Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Office of State Archaeology, the Highway Historical Markers program, the N.C. Land and Water Fund, and the Natural Heritage Program. For more information, please visit

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