History of the Lafayette Society
The Lafayette Society was founded by Ms. Martha Duell in 1981 as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. Its mission is to honor the memory of the marquis de Lafayette and to promote awareness of his significant contributions to mankind and freedom through events, programs, and educational activities.
The marquis de Lafayette was a French nobleman who, at the age of 19, defied his king by sailing to America in 1777 to fight in the Revolutionary War against England. His bravery and leadership in the field, his loyalty to General George Washington, his generosity in spending most of his personal wealth on the American cause, and his success in persuading the French king to send soldiers and money were decisive factors in America’s victory. Lafayette’s brilliant command of the Virginia army enabled him to corner General Cornwallis at Yorktown and proved to be the turning point of the Revolutionary War.
In 1783, Campbellton and Cross Creek were merged and named Fayetteville, the very first United States city or town to be named in honor of Lafayette. It was the only name-sake city that Lafayette actually visited. On the 200th anniversary of the naming, the Lafayette Society dedicated the statue of Lafayette in Cross Creek Park. Led by Martha Duell, the Society raised all the funds from private donations.
The Lafayette Society has fulfilled its educational mission in various ways. It has funded scholarships for high school and college students, established the Lafayette Room in the Methodist University library, and sponsored lectures by Lafayette scholars. It also funded and commissioned the placement of bronze and granite historic markers for the Lafayette Trail, now one of twelve Cultural Heritage Trails of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Lafayette Society coordinated Fayetteville’s celebration of Lafayette’s 250th birthday celebration in 2007. This city-wide event included numerous educational activities -- a Lafayette poster contest in the public schools, class visits by a Lafayette reenactor and by the french baroque dancers from Tryon Palace, and a showing of the restored version of 1776 to over 1000 Cumberland County school children at the Cameo Theatre. In addition, the Society created HERO OF TWO WORLDS, a Lafayette biography in comic book form now being used as a teaching aid in history classes in the public schools. The illustrations were done by graphic art students at Fayetteville State University as part of their course work.
The Lafayette Society continues its educational activities to this day with scholarships, an annual membership meeting open to the public that focuses on Lafayette’s story, and a city-wide celebration of Lafayette’s birthday each September.