ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Dr. Larry McDaniel, an associate professor of management and chair for the Department of Management, Marketing and Logistics for Alabama Agriculture and Mechanical University spoke at Anniston Army Depot's Black History Month Luncheon Feb. 13.

The event, held at the Berman Varner House, garnered a capacity crowd and featured a choir of ANAD employees.

McDaniel shared the story of William Hooper Councill to the audience.

Councill was born into slavery in North Carolina, but grew to be appointed the first principal of the State Colored Normal School at Huntsville, which is now known as Alabama A&M University.

"His parents were both slaves on the Councill plantation," said McDaniel. "When William was five, his father escaped to Canada and tried unsuccessfully to obtain freedom for his family. In 1857, William, his mother, and his brother, Cicero, were sold at the Richmond slave market to a trader, who in turn sold them on to a planter in Alabama."

During the Civil War, Councill and his family escaped to the North.

Though many former slaves remained in the North or moved West following the war, Councill decided to return to Alabama to attend school.

Following graduation, he taught at several public schools for blacks in the state while also attending night school to study chemistry, math, law and Latin.

"Councill was admitted to the Alabama bar, but he never practiced law in the state," said McDaniel.

In 1875, at the age of 26, Councill was appointed by the Alabama State Legislature as the State Colored Normal School at Huntsville's first principal.

Alabama A&M University is one of the state's historical black colleges and universities.

McDaniel said he is often asked whether or not HBCUs remain relevant in today's society.

The professor detailed studies which show these universities enrolled 10 percent of African American students nationwide, yet accounted for 17 percent of all African American graduates.