Meet the Team

The Crafting Freedom Materials Project

In Memoriam

Dr. Emilly Paynter, a very valued member of the Crafting Freedom website development team, discovered she had terminal cancer during the last year of the grant and was forced to stop work. She died eight months later on January 9, 2010. She always went above and beyond the call of duty and would go far out of her way to help anyone in need. A poem she wrote about her philosophy of service follows this list of team members. The Crafting Freedom website is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Emily Paynter, who was greatly loved and is greatly missed.

Laurel C. Sneed, Founder and Executive Director

Laurel C. Sneed is Executive Director of the Apprend Foundation, Inc. and also serves as the director of the Thomas Day Education Project (TDEP), which she co-founded with her husband. Sneed is the lead instructional designer and executive producer of the "Crafting Freedom Materials Project,” known simply as the Crafting Freedom website. Sneed’s work as an educational media and multimedia producer, film-maker, and instructional designer has received national and international acclaim over the past thirty years. In the mid-1990s, she began focusing exclusively on history and humanities educational projects. In 1998, she designed Vietnam: Views and Voices, a multi-media web-based application for SAS In-School, a software company. In 2000, it was one of three educational software programs in the country named "Software of the Year" by Technology and Learning magazine. In 2003, another multimedia application, "Exploring the World of Thomas Day," which Sneed created won an Award of Excellence from Technology and Learning and was named one of the top 25 educational software programs of 2003. She is also currently serving as the executive producer of The Thin Edge of Freedom: The Life and Times of Thomas Day, a documentary film, and is director of a digital humanities start up project, entitled: Crafting Freedom Along NC 86: Discovering Hidden History with Mobile Technology.

Charles D. Sneed, Co-Founder and Financial Manager

Charles D. Sneed is the co-founder of the Thomas Day Education Project. He has taught at the elementary and secondary levels. Prior to co-founding the Thomas Day Education Project, Sneed had an extensive career in sales and marketing and was also an award-winning journalist for several years. He has worn many hats at Apprend including: coordinating workshops and seminars for Crafting Freedom; recruiting and registering applicants; giving presentations; and serving as a lesson plan developer and advisor on all aspects of the Crafting Freedom Materials Project. Since its inception, Sneed has overseen internal fiscal management of all grants that TDEP and the Apprend Foundation have received.

William Andrews, Scholar Advisor

Dr. William L. Andrews is the E. Maynard Adams Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Senior Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is series editor of North American Slave Narratives, Beginnings to 1920, a complete digitized library of autobiographies and biographies of North American slaves and ex-slaves, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Andrews served as scholar advisor on the Crafting Freedom website.

Bernadette Berry, Parent Advisor

Bernadette Berry is a stay-at-home mother who has always been very actively involved in the education of her three children as a school volunteer and tutor. She is very interested in the inclusion of more African American history and culture across the school curriculum and served as a parent advisor to the Crafting Freedom website.

Irene Hall, Field Tester

Dr. Irene Hall is a co-founder and co-principal of Discovery Charter School in Newark, New Jersey, a field test site for the Crafting Freedom lesson plans. Hall received her Ph.D. in education from Harvard University in 2007 and was a participant in a Crafting Freedom workshop in 2004.

Danielle Kelly, Coordinator and Instructional Designer

Danielle Kelly is the Coordinator and an Instructional Designer for the Crafting Freedom website. She has an M. A. in antebellum United States history with an emphasis in race and slavery. She has served as a graduate teaching assistant in Pepperdine University's Humanities series. Kelly was also the Web Content Specialist for Pepperdine’s portal project and she has nearly a decade of experience in website planning and content management. Kelly is also co-coordinator and collaborator for the Apprend Foundation's NEH Digital Start-Up initiative, Crafting Freedom Along NC 86: Discovering Hidden History through Mobile Technology project.

Daniel Kelo, Website Developer

Daniel Kelo is the web developer for the Crafting Freedom website. He has 20 years of experience in web application development. Kelo has also been a professional musician and audio producer/engineer for more than 25 years and currently operates a studio providing audio production and post-production services. He specializes in the integration of technological solutions supporting audio and video delivery via the web.

Beverly J. McNeill, Teacher Consultant

Beverly J. McNeill is a veteran K-12 teacher with 30+ years of experience. She became involved with TDEP over a decade ago as a "Thomas Day fellow" in the first series of teacher workshops offered in North Carolina. McNeill has been a teacher-mentor for TDEP ever since and has mentored hundreds of teachers through the Crafting Freedom workshops in sessions she facilitated on how to integrate African American history and culture into year-round teaching. She served as a lesson plan consultant and field-tester of lessons on the Crafting Freedom website.

Lewis Nelson, Teacher Consultant

Lewis Nelson is a veteran middle school social studies teacher. He received a M. A. in history from the College of William and Mary, and is currently teaching social studies at Southern Middle School in Person County, North Carolina. Nelson has long served as a teacher-mentor with the Crafting Freedom workshops. He has also served as a lesson plan consultant on the Crafting Freedom website.

Emily Paynter

Dr. Emily Paynter was a long-time advisor and consultant to the Thomas Day Education Project, Apprend Foundation, and the Crafting Freedom Workshops. She was best known as the Registrar for the Crafting Freedom workshops who answered participants' phone calls and processed their applications from 2005–2007. She also served as a consultant on the website’s development in many capacities: she developed a step–by-step process to aid teachers conceptualization of lesson plans and materials; she developed the Elizabeth Keckly language arts lesson plan and PDF slide show; and she was responsible for obtaining rights and permissions to use copyrighted material on this website.

Stephanie Perry, Community Consultant

Stephanie Perry, a community organizer and spoken word artist, became involved in the Crafting Freedom workshops when working as a manager at a hotel where the workshops were housed. She found the slave narratives and visits to plantation sites where enslaved people lived to be "life-changing" experiences. Shortly thereafter, Perry left the hotel business to become the director of Justice United, a community development organization in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where her work is focused on the education of at–risk minority youth from economically challenged communities. Perry served as a community consultant on the Crafting Freedom website and encouraged the focus on the "lived experience" of African Americans who prevailed and "crafted freedom" for themselves and others in the face of seemingly overwhelming obstacles.

Vanessa Richmond Graves, Field Tester

Vanessa Richmond Graves is a veteran K-12 teacher with 30+ years of experience. She became involved with TDEP over a decade ago as a "Thomas Day fellow" in the first series of teacher workshops offered in North Carolina counties. She is a long-time teacher-trainer with the North Carolina Teachers' Academy. Graves served as a field-tester for the Crafting Freedom lesson plans and materials.

Sarah Russell, Scholar Advisor and Teacher Consultant

Dr. Sarah Russell has been an instructor in the Humanities department at the North Carolina School of Science and Math for nearly a decade. She attended graduate school at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she specialized in southern history and slavery in the Americas. Russell's doctoral dissertation was entitled "Cultural Conflicts and Common Interests: the Making of the Sugar Planter Class in Louisiana, 1795 to 1853" and was completed in 2000 under Dr. Ira Berlin. She served as a scholar advisor and lesson plan developer for the Crafting Freedom website.

Michele Ware, Scholar Advisor

Dr. Michele Ware is currently serving as interim Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts at North Carolina Central University and also as associate professor in the Department of English. She has won numerous awards for excellence in teaching and has been a lecturer and served as assistant director of the Crafting Freedom workshops. She served as a lesson plan consultant and scholar advisor on the Crafting Freedom website.

Christine Williams, Teacher Consultant

Christine Williams is a veteran social studies teacher with Wake County Public Schools where she serves as a Teacher Mentor, Testing Coordinator, Positive Behavior Support Coach, and a member of the Leadership Team. Williams has more than 30 years of experience working with at-risk students and was a three-year participant in Wake County's "Conversations on Diversity Project." Williams became a Thomas Day Fellow in 2007 and since has served as a lesson plan consultant and field tester for the Crafting Freedom website.

Lara Willox, Evaluator

Dr. Lara Willox is an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of West Georgia-Carrolton; previously, she was a doctoral candidate in education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she has taught courses on social studies methods. For twelve years, she served as a social studies teacher and taught at-risk students in urban areas as well as in other settings. One of her major areas of focus is multi-cultural education and training teachers to work with diverse students. Willox served as an evaluator for the Crafting Freedom Materials Project.

A needle’s leading edge

points and sets the path.

A needle’s trailing edge

Has much to do as well---

It gathers up the

hopes and dreams

and gently pulls them through.

Emily Paynter

March 31, 1947-January 9, 2010