Winston-Salem, N.C. — ''I followed the grown-ups to the rear of the bus when I was six years old. They told me to 'know my place,' '' said Joseph Bradshaw, a black, retired teacher, as he talked to an intimate group of people in his living room.
Mr. Bradshaw, a native of Winston-Salem, spends his spare time updating black history in the area. ''Too much black history has been neglected and lost.''
He is now a key member of an interracial ad hoc group that will soon become a permanent organization dedicated to developing the ''true history of Negroes and black people in Winston-Salem.''
This group is a follow-up to an ambitious black-history renaissance in this city of 131,885 people, 40.2 percent black, highlighted by a recent one-week seminar entitled ''Filling in the Picture: the Local Black Experience Past and Present.''
This Winston-Salem revival symbolizes a growing interest in ''lost black history'' among whites as well as blacks around the nation.
A year ago the Ohio Historical Society lent its Columbus facilities to a budding new project, the Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center. A feature of its Black History Month was the world premiere of a movie about a slave revolt, ''The Denmark Vesey Rebellion.''
The program kicked off a series of statewide activities that brought the museum project to Ohio State University, Cleveland, and to Cincinnati. Earlier this year a ceremony was held in Xenia, Ohio, to initiate renovation of two historic buildings to house the museum on the campus of Wilberforce University, oldest US college founded by blacks (of the African Methodist Episcopal Church) for the education of blacks.
A Richmond, Va., group has leased a building constructed in 1895 as headquarters of the First Battalion, Virginia Volunteers Infantry, black militiamen. It's now slated to house a proposed Virginia Museum of Black History Archives.
Winston-Salem residents take pride in a collection of letters, papers, and records of H.H. Hall, the city's first black physician. The collection is on exhibit at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University in Greensboro, N.C. Dr. Hall practiced in the late 19th century.
''This is a truly valuable collection,'' says Dr. Mattye Reed of A&T. ''His record books, dating back to the 1870s, include all the names of his patients, how much he charged each, and incidental information about these people.'' Dr. Reed says she salvaged Hall's papers from a flea market in Greensboro.
''Too many families classify such papers as junk - some even more valuable than those left by Dr. Hall,'' says Bradshaw. ''Many papers like these are still stacked in obscure corners in black homes, just one housecleaning away from the trash piles.''
Sharing his view are the Winston-Salem seminar's codirectors - Donald Schoonmaker, a history professor at predominantly white Wake Forest University, and Louise Hamilton, a retired history professor at predominantly black Winston-Salem State University.
They say the history project's steering committee will become a permanent organization in May. Its goals:
* To form a permanent black history organization.
* To establish a permanent museum or cultural center as home base for activities and accumulation of historical documents, artifacts, and historical slides and films.
* To continue an ongoing program to acquaint the Winston-Salem community with black contributions to the progress of this area.
* To create a black history consortium in the Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point triangle.
The twin city of Winston-Salem was created in the 1916 union of Salem, a quiet, sleepy community founded by the Moravian Church in 1716, and Winston, a brash, bustling tobacco-textile town. Blacks were first brought to Salem as slaves of the hard-working Moravian missionaries. The Moravians established the city's oldest black congregation, St. Phillip's Moravian Church, in 1823.
Kenneth R. Williams, the city's first black alderman back in 1947 and a former chancellor of Winston-Salem State, supports the new historical organization. He adds, ''I see Winston-Salem expressing a new respect for black people - even electing a black mayor by the end of the 20th century.''