Meet the Team

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, Charles D. Sneed. She is an educational media and multimedia producer and instructional designer whose work in industry and education has received national and international acclaim over the past thirty years. In the mid-1990s, Sneed began focusing exclusively on history education. In 2000, she designed Vietnam: Views and Voices, a multi-media web-based application for SAS In-School, a software company. It was one of three educational software programs of 2000 to be named "Software of the Year" by Technology and Learning. In 2003, another multimedia application, "Exploring the World of Thomas Day," that Sneed created won national and international acclaim. It received an Award of Excellence from Technology and Learning and was named one of the top 25 educational software programs of 2003. Sneed served as lead instructional designer and executive producer of the "Crafting Freedom Materials Project" a web-based resource for teachers that contains lesson plans, web videos, slide shows, and other materials on ten nineteenth-century African American artisans, entrepreneurs, and artists. She is also the executive producer of The Thin Edge of Freedom: Thomas Day and the Free Black Experience, 1800-ca. 1861, a documentary film about Thomas Day.

Charles D. Sneed, Logistics Manager for the Apprend Foundation

Charles D. Sneed is the co-founder of the Thomas Day Education Project (TDEP) and is financial manager for the Apprend Foundation. He has taught at the elementary and secondary levels and in addition to a B.A. in economics, he holds a Master's degree in Family and Consumer Science. Prior to co-founding the Thomas Day Education Project, he had a career in sales and marketing and was also an award-winning journalist for several years.

William Andrews, Scholar Advisor

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 NEH. He served as a scholar advisor to the Crafting Freedom Materials Project and the Crafting Freedom exhibit project. He is a frequent presenter at Crafting Freedom Workshops.

Ira Berlin, Scholar Advisor

Ira Berlin is a Distinguished Professor of history at the University of Maryland who has written extensively on American history and the larger Atlantic world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially the history of slavery. His first book, Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (1975) won the Best First Book Prize awarded by the National Historical Society and remains a major work on the subject of free blacks. Berlin is the founding editor of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project, which he directed until 1991. He is a long time advisor to the Thomas Day Education Project and serves as a scholar advisor on the documentary film, The Thin Edge of Freedom: Thomas Day and the Free Black Experience, 1800-ca. 1861.

Jerome Bias, Traditional Cabinetmaker and Board of Directors

Jerome Bias is a traditional furniture maker following in the footsteps of Thomas Day. Bias gives presentations and demonstrations about traditional cabinetmaking at schools, museums and other locations and is a presenter at the Crafting Freedom Workshops.

Elsabet Fisseha, Assistant Director, Crafting Freedom Workshops

Elsabet Fisseha is the Assistant Director of the Crafting Freedom Workshops. She oversees recruitment, registration, participant accommodations, meals and participant stipends. She also works very closely with Laurel and Charlie Sneed in management of all aspects of the workshops.

Vanessa Richmond Graves, Board of Directors

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 three North Carolina counties. She is a board member of the Thomas Day House/Union Tavern, Inc., the organization that restored Thomas Day's workshop and home into a hands-on furniture museum. She has been a valued teacher mentor and presenter for TDEP workshops since 2003.

Danielle Kelly, Coordinator and Instructional Designer

Danielle Kelly is assisting with the conversion of 12 Crafting Freedom lesson plans for publication on the EDSITEment website. Kelly was the Coordinator and an Instructional Designer for the Crafting Freedom Materials Project, developing language arts and social studies lesson plans for elementary and middle grades. Kelly was also the Coordinator and a Collaborator for Crafting Freedom Along NC 86: Discovering Hidden History with Mobile Technology. 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 for four courses 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.

Daniel Kelo, Technology Consultant

Daniel Kelo assists with ongoing web-based projects for the Apprend Foundation. Kelo was the technology consultant for Crafting Freedom Along NC 86: Discovering Hidden History with Mobile Technology. He has 20 years of experience in application development and has developed web applications since the advent of the web. He 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 and continues to keep abreast of new and emerging technologies.

Patricia King Butler, Board of Directors

Patricia King Butler has served as Director of the Liberty Partnerships Program at Long Island University for over 15 years. In this role she has fostered programs that serve academically at-risk youth by providing academic, cultural and social enrichment activities and college preparation throughout Brooklyn, New York. She is also the co-founder of Camp Umoja, a cultural arts enrichment camp based in New Jersey that explores African/African American history and culture through the arts, historical site visits, and research. Butler was a Thomas Day Fellow in 2005 which she considers a transformative event in both her personal and professional life as an educator.

Beverly J. McNeill, Chair, Board of Directors and Teacher Consultant

Beverly J. McNeill is a veteran K-12 teacher with 30+ years of experience. She too became involved with TDEP, over a decade ago, as a "Thomas Day fellow" in the first series of teacher workshops conducted in three counties. She has been a teacher mentor for TDEP ever since. McNeill has developed lesson plans for the Crafting Freedom Project and has mentored hundreds of teachers in sessions she has facilitated on how to integrate African American history and culture into one’s year-round teaching. She serves as the chairperson of the board of directors of the Apprend Foundation.

Patricia Dane Rogers, Board of Directors

Patricia Rogers is a former Washington Post reporter and columnist with a focus on design, architecture and the decorative arts. Now an independent writer, she published the first major national newspaper article about Thomas Day in The Post in 1997, "Carved in History, Thomas Day: A Success in an Unlikely Time and Place." The story's lead was her discovery and identification of Day's Bible. She has been researching him ever since. Rogers co-authored the publication, "The Hidden History of Thomas Day" with Laurel Sneed and was a presenter at a symposium on the topic sponsored by the North Carolina Humanities Council in Yanceyville, North Carolina in the summer of 2009.

Stephen Stept, Scriptwriter, The Thin Edge of Freedom: The Life and Times of Thomas Day

Stephen Stept is a documentary filmmaker whose works frequently address historical subjects. He has been a principal of three major television projects funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities: A Vision of Empire: Henry Luce and Time-Life’s America, which he produced, wrote and directed for PBS’s American Masters series; Darrow, a feature-length dramatic biography of Clarence Darrow, starring Kevin Spacey, which Stept conceived, co-produced and co-wrote for PBS’s American Playhouse (this teleplay for Darrow was a Humanitas Prize finalist). Stept is the scriptwriter and producer on the film The Thin Edge of Freedom: Thomas Day and the Free Black Experience, 1800-ca. 1861, American. Prominent credits as a producer-writer include: Destination America, a four-part PBS series on immigration for David Grubin Productions; The Revolution, a 13-hour series on the American Revolution for the History Channel, on which he was also Series Producer; and Hoover Dam for the PBS series American Experience.

Michele Ware, Board of Directors and Scholar Advisor

Michele Ware is Associate Professor in the Department of Language and Literature at North Carolina Central University. She has won numerous awards for excellence in teaching at the university and has been a lecturer and served as assistant director of the Crafting Freedom workshops. She is currently serving as a lesson plan developer and scholar advisor on the Crafting Freedom Materials Project.

Peter Wood, Scholar Advisor

Peter H. Wood is professor emeritus at Duke University where he taught American history for over 30 years. Wood graduated from Harvard College in 1964 and spent two years at Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. His first book, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (Knopf, 1974) was nominated for the National Book Award and won the Beveridge Prize of the American Historical Association. Wood is co-author, with Elizabeth Fenn, of Natives and Newcomers (UNC Press, 1983), a brief history of early North Carolina which won the American Historical Association's Robinson Prize. He has been a scholar advisor to the Thomas Day Education Project since it's inception and has been a presenter at Let It Shine and Crafting Freedom workshops. He also serves as an advisor on research the Apprend foundation has sponsored and on the script The Thin Edge of Freedom: Thomas Day and the Free Black Experience, 1800-ca. 1861.

All content (c) 2009 by the Apprend Foundation.