Historian and former Pontiac, Mich. mayor, Willie W. Payne, will lecture during Black History Month as part of the “Brown Bag Lecture Series.” The series is being presented by The Earl Lester Cole Honors College in conjunction with the Criminal Justice Department of Grambling State University and will be held in Room 12, Woodson Hall, at 11 a.m., Feb. 11, 18 and 25.Payne will discuss with students qualities of leadership, scholarship and service. He will also elaborate on the necessity for good instruction, the necessity for graduate and professional school and making use of the latest innovations in technology.
Payne will discuss the Underground Railroad Michigan route and will chronicle the lives of southern fugitive slaves in their quest to flee captivity and Michigan abolitionists and free Blacks that help thousands of runaways reach Canada and freedom via the Underground Railroad. The discussion will show how leadership, scholarship and service changed the face of America. Payne will also explain the importance of being current with the most innovative technology and the benefits of good instruction towards creating effective leaders.
A 1979 Grambling graduate, Payne has done extensive research on the topic. Payne began his research in 1983 while highlighting Black history in Oakland County Michigan and while working as a news reporter for the Oakland Press in Pontiac, Mich.
His story centered on the small, rural Michigan community of Cassopolis which boost the highest percentage of mixed ancestry in Michigan. He later learned the community was the first stop on the Underground Railroad route and the intermingling between southern slaves, Native Americans, Whites and other settlers was commonplace.
“Although the 16 million Africans uprooted from Africa between 1600 and the end of the Civil War were transported to this country to become laborers, they carved out a different destiny for themselves because of their will to be free and the help they received from Michigan abolitionists,” said Payne.”
“Because of their struggle to be free, Blacks now pursue and occupy different trades and professions, including the presidency of the United States,” explained Payne, who feels excited about sharing his research.
“Black history not only educates those who never knew or have forgotten that our history is part of American history, but it also encourages others, especially our youth, to pattern their lives after our great ancestors and leaders who helped shape America,” he said.
Payne, a Spearsville native, is also writer and director of the award winning stage narrative, The Underground Railroad Michigan Connection.
Now retired, he lives in Farmerville with his wife Brenda. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Grambling State University and a honorary doctorate degree from Shreveport Bible College. He is a former news reporter, school board trustee, a published author, a veteran police officer and an advocate for children.
In 2002, former Farmerville Mayor Willie Davis and Spearsville Mayor Joe Futch designated April 20th as “Mayor Willie Payne Day” in Spearsville. Some affiliations include NAACP, Rotary Club, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and Free and Accepted Masons Gibraltar Lodge No. 19 F&A.M. State of Michigan. He presently serves on the Design Advisory Board for the New Monroe Airport Terminal and is a substitute teacher in the Union Parish School and is vice president of Union Parish.