Updated: Jun 23, 2021
Coming Saturday I´ll be heading South again. This time the goal is to meet and record with Iris Thompson Chapman in Mebane, hometown of her relative How Thomson, perhaps the last direct descendant in a lineage of African American fiddlers dating back to the 1700s. On my way back I will share images and videos capture on location, for now, just some basic information...
Iris Thompson Chapman was born in Orange County and completed high school at Central High in Hillsborough. She matriculated to North Carolina College (now NCCU), where she earned a BA degree in English. Dr. Chapman continued her education at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC, earning both her master’s and doctorate degrees.
Her experience ranged from teaching on the secondary level to professorships at various colleges and universities. Dr. Chapman’s specialty was English Composition and Rhetoric, and she also did scholarly work in African Studies and Oral History. Dr. Chapman retired from Elon University as Professor Emeritus. A short time later, she accepted an adjunct assignment at her undergraduate alma mater, North Carolina Central University, in the English Department.
A few relevant highlights from her career include taking college students to Ghana, West Africa, as a coordinator of one of Elon University’s Study Abroad Programs and coordinating First Year Writing. She produced the award-winning film, The Life and Times of the Fiddler Joe Thompson. Also, she has created and presented a highly regarded workshop on the development of the Black Church and has edited a deceased friend’s memoir, Outliving Your Disease, by Sheila Alston, that related her spiritual battle against cancer. Currently, she’s working on a documentary about The Closing of a School, specifically showcasing the closing of Central High School in Hillsborough, NC, where she graduated.
Dr. Chapman is still active in her community and church. She serves on the Mebane Museum Board of Directors and is now the president of Alamance Burlington Schools Closing the Achievement Gap board. She attends Green Level Christian Church in Haw River where she is past youth director and now has developed a College and Career Coaching Program for students at her church.
Dr. Chapman is the daughter of George W. Thompson, Joe Thompson’s first cousin and the late Ira Belle Thompson. She resides in Mebane, with her husband, William Chapman, and they have one son, William.