In 2020, the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, with action steps that include upcoming additions to rank requirements and a new Eagle-required merit badge. For Eagle Scout candidate Elijah North of Troop 350, there was no need to wait when he could lead the way!
Working with NC State University College of Natural Resources (his project beneficiary), Elijah planned and led the construction of a biographical kiosk dedicated to John Chavis at the Hill Forest, Mangum-Chavis Cemetery in Rougemont, NC.
John Chavis served as a soldier during the American Revolutionary War, enlisting in December 1778 and serving in the 5th Virginia Regiment for three years. Captain Mayo Carrington of the regiment wrote in a bounty warrant dated March 1783 that Chavis had "faithfully fulfilled [his duties] and is thereby entitled to all immunities granted to three year soldiers." A 1789 tax list of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, shows that he was listed as a free black man owning one horse
In the 1790s, Chavis lived in Princeton, New Jersey, where he took private classes under John Witherspoon to prepare for entering the Presbyterian ministry at the College of New Jersey (later to become Princeton University). In 1794, Chavis transferred to Liberty Hall Academy in Virginia (later to become Washington and Lee University)
On November 19, 1800 Chavis completed with high honors a rigorous theological examination that began on June 11, 1800 in Virginia and applied (and received) freeman's papers in Virginia.
In 1808, Chavis opened a school in his home in Raleigh, NC , where he taught both white and black children. His school was described as one of the best in the state. Students from some of the most prominent white families in the South studied at Chavis' school, including Priestly H. Mangum, brother of Senator Willie P. Mangum; Archibald E. Henderson and John L. Henderson, sons of Chief Justice Henderson; Governor Charles Manly; The Reverend William Harris; Dr. James L. Wortham; the Edwardses, Enlows (Enloes), Hargroves, and Horners; and Abraham Rencher, Minister of Portugal and Territorial Governor of New Mexico.
Chavis maintained a long friendship with one of his white students, Willie P. Mangum, who was elected as a US Senator from Virginia.
Chavis died in June 1838 in circumstances that remain unclear.
According to his biographer, tradition suggests that Chavis was killed by whites who did not want him educating blacks. Local legend says that Chavis was beaten to death in his home
The John Chavis Historical Society was founded in 1986, with one of its goals to locate Chavis' gravesite.
Chavis was buried on the plantation of Senator Willie P. Mangum, Chavis' former student. After numerous searches for the gravesite, in 1988 members of the John Chavis Historical Society found the old cemetery.
Both Chavis Heights apartments and Chavis Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, are named after him, as are a residential house and board room at Washington and Lee University.
Elijah’s Eagle Scout project will allow John Chavis’ biography to be permanently displayed for school groups and other visitors to the Hill Forest, Mangum-Chavis Cemetery