Recommended reading, no. 6.

I’m always on the lookout for kindred spirits. In today’s New York Times, a delightful piece on Sola Olusunde, a history and archival image enthusiast, who posts on Twitter photographs, video footage, and news clippings of all things “New York, Black, and urban.” Olusunde caught his hometown paper’s attention after a video he posted of a racist attack on Black children by white residents of Rosedale, Queens, in 1975 racked up 4.5 million views.

New York Times, 12 August 2020.

Correspondent George F. King.

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The Denver Star, 27 September 1913.

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The Denver Star, 10 January 1914.

George F. King was a Virginia-born news reporter and editor who built his career as a correspondent covering African-American people and issues in the South. He reported on Booker T. Washington’s visit to Wilson in 1910, but I can find no sources beyond these two Denver Star articles to establish that he actually lived in Wilson.

Greensboro Daily News, 3 November 1910.


County schools, no. 14: Saratoga School.

The fourteenth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Saratoga School

Saratoga School is listed as a Rosenwald school in Survey File Materials Received from Volunteer Surveyors of Rosenwald Schools Since September 2002.” This school was consolidated with other small schools in 1951, and its students then attended Speight High School.

Location: Per a sale advertised in the Wilson Daily Times for several weeks in the fall of 1951, “SARATOGA COLORED SCHOOL in Saratoga township, containing two acres, more or less, and more particularly described as follows: BEGINNING at a stake in the Saratoga-Stantonsburg Road, thence Northwest 140 yards to a stake, thence Southwest 70 yards parallel with said road thence Southeast 140 yards and parallel with the first line in the said Saratoga-Stantonsburg Road, thence with the said road 70 yards to the beginning. Being the identical land described in a deed recorded in Book 157, at page 70, Wilson County Registry.”

The school has been demolished.

Description: This school is described in The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24 as a one-room building on two acres.

Known faculty: teachers Alice Mitchell, Naomi Jones, Mary E. Diggs, Corine l. Francis, Katie J. Woodard, Mary J. Lassiter.

Pop-bottle blow.

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News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 28 August 1944.

Robert Evans was arrested and charged with murder after flipping a glass bottle back at Walter T. Woodard.

Two weeks later, Evans was free. Judge J.J. Burney had directed a verdict of acquittal — meaning the prosecution has not proved its case under any reasonable interpretation of the facts.


Wilson Daily Times, 12 September 1944.

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“Blow on head with Bottle Instant death”

Dr. James T. Thomas, briefly of Wilson.

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Madison (Ind.) Daily Herald, 12 August 1922.


In the 1900 census of Winston, Forsyth County, North Carolina: tobacco roller William Taylor, 31; wife Mary, 27; and children Anna, 8, James T., 6, Geneva, 4, and Charles, 1.

James T. Taylor registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1917. Per his draft card, he was born 27 December 1893 in Danville, Virginia; lived at 653 [later 706] East Green Street, Wilson; and worked as a bellhop at Yarmouth Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey (“student” crossed through). [Taylor was a college student at the time. Why was he living in Wilson with the family of John W. and Edmonia Barnes Farmer?]

On 12 August 1922, James T. Taylor, born 27 December 1893 in Danville, Virginia, to William T. Taylor and Mary Thompson, and a resident of Wilson, N.C., married Gertrude E. Tandy, born 15 January 1898 in Bedford, Kentucky, to George Tandy and Josephine Stafford, in Madison, Indiana.

In 1926 James Taylor took a position as professor of psychology at North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) and later Dean of Men and Athletic Director and then Director of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Circa 1930, the Taylors bought a house at 2106 Fayetteville Street.

College Heights Historic District, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.

In the 1930 census of Durham, Durham County, North Carolina: college teacher James Taylor, 36, and wife Gertrude, 32, school supervisor.

In the 1940 census of Durham, Durham County, North Carolina: James T. Taylor, 45, born in Virginia, college teacher; wife Gertrude E., 40, born in Indiana, public school supervisor; and nephew James B. Clarke, 19.

Gertrude Elinor Taylor died 24 January 1954 in Durham, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 January 1900 in Marion, Indiana, to George Tandy and Josephine Stafford; was married; and was a school teacher. Prof. James T. Taylor, 2106 Fayetteville Street, was informant.

The Eagle (1954), the yearbook of North Carolina College [now North Carolina Central University.]

On 30 June 1955, James T. Taylor, 57, of Durham, son of William T. and Mary T. Taylor, married Galatia Elizabeth Lynch, 41, of High Point, N.C., daughter of James C. Cunningham and Lillie B. Cunningham, in High Point, Guilford County, North Carolina.

N.C.C.U.’s James T. Taylor Education Building, constructed in 1955.

In November 1968, North Carolina Governor Dan Moore named James T. Taylor as chairman of the state’s Good Neighbor Council, “the official state agency for moderating racial troubles.” Per a 14 November 1960 article in the News and Observer, Taylor retired from N.C.C.U. in 1959 and was a past president of N.C. Teachers Association (where he led a fight for equal pay for African-American teachers) and an organizer of the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs.

James Thomas Taylor died 29 March 1970 in Durham, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 December 1893 in Danville, Virginia, to William Thomas Taylor and Mary Brown; was a widower; and was a retired professor at N.C. Central University. Mrs. Irma Lash of Brooklyn, N.Y., was informant.

The Women Who Ran the Schools: The Jeanes Teachers and Durham County’s Rural Black Schools,

News and Observer, 30 March 1970.

Another look at the location of Oakdale, the “colored cemetery.”

As noted here, I have long been intrigued by the disappearance (in space and memory) of Wilson’s first African-American cemetery, sometimes called Oaklawn or Oakland or Oakdale. The precise location of the first city-owned black cemetery is a mystery, though most people believe (and as I conjectured here) it was above Cemetery Street where Whitfield Homes are now situated.

No official records related to the cemetery survive, and no plat map delineates its complete boundaries. However, I’ve found one reference to the “colored cemetery” on a 1923 plat map of “The D.C. Sugg Property Located on Stantonsburg Road and Lincoln Avenue.”  Using a 1937 aerial photograph of the area (the graves in the cemetery were disinterred in the early 1940s), plus the plat, I’ve come up with a revised location estimate.

Here’s the plat map, with modern street names noted and the area marked “Colored Cemetery” emphasized:

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Plat Book 1, page 215 (annotated), Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Wilson disinterred the (known) graves at Oakdale in 1941. Accordingly, I searched the 1937 aerial photograph of this area, below. The street at left is Railroad Street. Manchester Street is at far right, and parallel to it was then Stantonsburg Street. (North of Cemetery, it is now Pender Street. The lower section is now Black Creek Road.)The red-dashed lines mark current streets, including Pender, New, Nora, and Blount. The blue-dashed line is Nora St. as it appears on the 1923 plat map above. The green marks the borders of the colored cemetery above. (I have added a northern border though none is shown on the plat map.)

If my mark-up is correct, the cemetery (or, at least, its southern extension) was south of Cemetery Street near the site now occupied by Daniels Learning Center (the former Elvie Street School.)

I ran the mark-up by Will Corbett, GIS Coordinator, Wilson County Technology Services Department, for an opinion on my conjecture. He agreed and returned this graphic:

Bingo. The blue-shaded area is the “colored cemetery” overlaid on a current map of the neighborhood. This image reveals that the cemetery covered what is now a row of houses fronting on New Street, as well nearly the entirety of the lawn and semi-circular driveway in front of Daniels/Elvie school.

Was this cemetery marked on Sanborn fire insurance maps? It is not on the 1922 map, the last one for which I have access.

The maps corresponding to the sections marked 25 and 29 show houses along Railroad, Suggs and Stantonsburg Streets, and a few along the north side of East Contentnea (now Cemetery) Street. However, south of East Contentnea, the space is blank but for subsection numbers 225 and 256, and no corresponding maps were made. Though it is not marked, Oakdale cemetery was located in this space.

With the information above, I revisited a plat map the city filed in 1942. I initially had difficulty interpreting “The Town of Wilson Property on Cemetery Street,” but I now see it is oriented south to north. Turn it upside down, and the outline of the old colored cemetery clearly emerges. As I suspected, the city had owned the section between present-day New and Cemetery Streets as well as the inverted L below New, and it is likely that there were also burials in this space.

Plat book 3, page 150, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

No one appears to know anything of him.

Dr. A.F. Williams likely hesitated briefly before setting the nib of his fountain pen to paper. Full name of deceased? “Sam Bright (Party gave this name which may or may not be correct.)”


“This man was brought to Wilson by the Norfolk Southern train, having been found on the track. No one appears to know anything of him — either name or residence.”

Snaps, no. 72: Jesse and Delphia Ruffin Harris.

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The 13 September 2018 edition of the Wilson Daily Times featured Jerry Harris‘ contribution of this photograph of his grandparents Jesse “Jack” Harris and Delphia Ruffin Harris, most likely taken in the 1950s or early 1960s.


In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Gray Ruffin, 24; wife Mariah, 22; and children Hurbert, 3, William, 2, and Delphia, 10 months; plus brother Walter, 19.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Arch Harris, 53; wife Rosa, 45; and children James, 22, Arch, 20, Mary Jane, 18, Nancy, 16, Lucy, 12, Minnie, 11, Maggie, 8, Jessie, 6, and Annie, 3.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Wilson Road, farmer Gray Ruffin, age unknown; wife Maria, 45; and children Hubbard, 13, William, 12, Delphia, 11, Lizzie, 9, Mary, 8, Pattie, 7, Franklin, 6, London, 4, and Bessie, 11 months.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: James Harris, 28, Dora, 22, and Rosa, 1, with grandmother Cherady Harris, 80. Next door: Arch Harris, 56, Rosa, 51, and children Jessie, 15, Annie, 12, and James, 12.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Barnes Crossing Road, farmer H. Gray Ruffin, 38; wife Mariah, 35; and children G. Hurbert Jr., 22, H. William, 21, Delphia, 20, Lizzie, 18, Mary, 16, Pattie, 15, B. Frank, 14, London, 13, Bessie, 11, [illegible], 10, and W. George, 9.

Jesse Harris, 32, of Wilson, married Delphia Ruffin, 27, of Gardners, on 17 January 1927 in Wilson.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Highway 91, Jessie Harris, 34, farmer; wife Delphia, 36; children Rosetta, 12, Alberta, 9, James, 2, and Jesse Jr., 1; and mother Rosa, 66, widow.

In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Wilson Road, Jack Harris, 43, farm laborer; wife Delphia, 40; children Rosetta, 22, Odell, 20, Annie M., 15, James Oscar, 13, Jesse, 12, Thelma, 10, Amos, 8, Archie, 7, and Chaney Mae, 5; and grandsons Ned, 5, and Leroy, 1.

Willie Gray Ruffin died 24 September 1969 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 July 1921 to Delphia Ruffin; lived at 801 Moore Street; was married to Mildred Ruffin; worked as a laborer. Channie M. Horton, 609 Stephenson Street, was informant.

Jesse Harris died 4 June 1975 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 November 1893 to Art Harris Jr. and Rosetta Woodard; was married to Delphia Harris; lived at 919 Poplar Street; and was a farmer.

Delphia Harris died 10 May 1984 in Raleigh, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 May 1899 in Wilson to Gray and Mariah Ruffin; was a widow; and had worked in farm labor.