Baby Boomer (born 1943 to 1963)
Leslie McKesson was born and raised in Lenoir, North Carolina to parents who were factory/textile workers from western North Carolina.
Leslie was a child pioneer of school desegregation in Caldwell County Public Schools. An only child, she loved learning, music, and spending time with cousins.
Leslie earned a bachelor of science in Criminal Justice from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also attended Appalachian State University where she earned a master of science in Adult Education and an Education Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) and Doctor of Education (Ed.D). degrees in Leadership and Higher Education.
Working for eight years as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal with a legal aid office, Leslie specialized in and practiced administrative law as allowed by statute. She then served as paralegal educator and program director at a community college and subsequently became Dean of Business, Public Services, and Academic Support. Leslie retired with 28 years of service to the North Carolina Community College System.
Leslie currently serves as adjunct instructor for Appalachian State University in the college of education, teaching at the undergraduate and doctorate levels, and at Lenoir-Rhyne University, teaching leadership at the master’s level.
She is the Executive Director of a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the presence of people of color in positions of workplace leadership. Leslie is also a consultant on matters of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and racism and presented a TEDx talk on gRaCE (Growing Racial and Cultural Empathy).
Leslie has been honored with the following awards and recognition:
- 2017 Naylor Outstanding Dissertation Award
- North Carolina Society of Historians 2013 Robert Bruce Cook Family History Book Award
- 2014 NC Women of Justice Award Nominee/Legal Professional Award, North Carolina Lawyers Weekly Magazine
- 2015 Robert and Kathy Zigli Research Award
- 42nd Annual Harambee Arts Festival Award in recognition of Distinguished Service to the Community
- Lifetime Achievement Award 2017 African American Citizens Group Burke County
- Loving Lenoir 2018 Service Award
- Appointed to the North Carolina African-American Heritage Commission by the Speaker of the NC House of Representatives (currently serving as a Commissioner).
Leslie is the author of Black and White: The Story of Harriet Harshaw and Squire James Alfred Dula, winner of the North Carolina Society of Historians’ 2013 Robert Bruce Cook Family History Book Award about the history of her home community, Dulatown. Telling the story of her great-great grandparents opened opportunities for her to speak about race and reconciliation, and to build a strong bond between the black and white sides of a family divided by slavery. A documentary titled Dulatown centers her research and contemporary race relations within her extended family, and has been featured on PBS stations throughout the southeastern United States.
She enjoys horticulture and singing and is an avid reader and writer.
Leslie is married and has four children.
Oral History Summary
DAR Patriot Ancestor(s)
Dula, William: Virginia
European Descent Male
In the News
The News Herald, February 20, 2013