Lisa Mozer was the guest speaker at the Iredell County Public Library on Tuesday. She presented a program called Generations of Statesville Lineage and is leading an effort to get five African American sites, landmarks, and people recognized in a historic registry.

BY KARISSA MILLER

After Lisa Mozer retired and moved back to Statesville to be close to her family, she began walking regularly and reminiscing about her childhood.

“I started connecting with my ancestors and I felt a closeness,” she said.

While on her walks Mozer began noticing the decayed street pavement on sidewalks in the streets south of downtown. It got her thinking about the past and the need to preserve Black history. 

On Tuesday afternoon at the Iredell County Public Library, Mozer shared what she’s learned about her family history — she is part of the fourth generation of her family born free in Statesville following the Emancipation Proclamation — and the history of her community. 

“Statesville is my hometown. It’s also the hometown of my parents, my grandparents and possibly even my great great grandparents,” Mozer told a small group who attended the local history program.

Background

Mozer served in the military for 22 years. Her service included nine years in the Marine Corps and 13 years in the Air Force.

She received training in the military as a weather forecaster. This experience created an opportunity for Mozer to transition into a non-government career for 16 years as a weather forecaster. She worked as a meteorologist for The Weather Channel in Atlanta, Ga., for seven years.

Following her career as a meteorologist, Mozer worked as a science teacher, developed a curriculum and taught international students.

Life Change

After her storied career, Mozer returned to Statesville and began researching local history. Much of what she has learned about Black history could be lost because it is not well documented.

“There are 45 registries for historic recognition that could be a building or a person’s residence or an event that happened at that landmark in Iredell County. There are 38 for the City of Statesville, but only one is African-American,” Mozer explained.

That one site is Mount Pleasant AME Zion Church, which Mozer said was built by individuals who had been enslaved and the first generation of Black residents who were born free.

“Every culture celebrates freedom. What could be more historically significant for this community when we are talking about the last generation enslaved and the first generation outside of enslaved? That is historical,” Mozer said.

“Only having this one landmark,” she said, “it’s an oversight. It’s a gross oversight,” she added.

Mozer believes in bringing people together and is committed to doing so in a positive and respectful way. After going through a life change with the loss of her son, she said she needed to find her purpose. 

Mozer is leading a local effort to get more African-American historic sites, landmarks and people added to that registry.

“Statesville is a historical town and Black history is a part of history,” she said, noting that some of the landmarks, such as Billingsley Academy, are gone.

Mozer is currently researching how to preserve five key locations, including the former home of the Holliday family on Garfield Street. Dr. Robert Sumner Holliday and Mary Charlton Holliday were significant leaders in the community as a physician and teacher.

Other sites include Green Street Cemetery, Morningside School, the open space of Billingsley Academy and Mt. Pleasant (which is on the registry but will still be included because of the district application requirements).

Mozer believes it’s important to keep working for a better community. She wants to foster opportunities for inclusion and diversity for the African-American community, which is her end goal.


CORRECTION: An error related to the length of Lisa Mozer’s tenure at The Weather Channel in the original version of this article has been corrected.

2 thoughts on “Preserving Black History: Statesville resident leading effort to ensure local sites and landmarks are not forgotten

  1. Patricia Jenkins says:

    There are so many cities around the United States that need to value and implement the documentation, preservation and restoration of many historical sites of African Americans that made a positive impact in their communities. It is way overdue.

  2. Thank you for publishing this report. Please note that the Billingsley Academy was never a hospital it does have the same name sake as the Billingsley hospital that was the first hospital integrated in and treated both blacks and whites. Morningside school was not in Academy but it was the only school for many years students in the black community could matriculate in academia. And for many years black students from the city and the county attended Morningside school located on Garfield Street. Thank you again so very much.

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