On Friday, February 3rd, Denice Evans-Sheppard, Executive Director of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, spoke to students during a presentation hosted by East Woods School and the Multicultural Club, created by Eighth Grade student Wynne W. The Bennett family organized the event, alums who were the first black students at East Woods in the graduating classes of 1977, 1981, and 1986 and who remain actively involved in our school community.
Ms. Evans-Sheppard is the descendant of David Carll, a free Black man whose family has lived in Oyster Bay in the same house since 1865. He ran a shipping company that transported freight to Connecticut, married a white woman from Wales, enlisted to fight for the North in the Civil War, and used his $300 war bonus to buy a house in Oyster Bay. He's the great-great-grandfather of the famous singer, actor, and fashion designer Vanessa Williams.
Denice Evans-Sheppard is the great-great-granddaughter of David Carll and spoke to students about the history of African Americans in Oyster Bay. Many local residents don't know that during its early founding, Oyster Bay had a population of 17% of Black residents who were both free and enslaved. Ms. Evans-Sheppard encouraged students to investigate their families' histories and ask questions such as "Where did our ancestors come from?" and "What did they do?" She asked students to learn to be detectives and piece together their histories so they may pass on that information to future generations. Ms. Evans-Sheppard shared that she now occupies the house David Carll initially purchased in 1865. During renovations, she discovered in the floor of the home a shell casing for heavy artillery, which she believes was used during one of the American wars. Ms. Kang allowed the students to examine the artifact as an illustration from the period that David Carll lived. She encouraged students to learn what their ancestors did for a living and how they existed. She presented the students with a challenge to speak to their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles and to write down their findings so they can pass those stories down to the next generation.