Photos of the Colored Graded and Independent Schools.

Circa 1992, the C.H. Darden High School Alumni Association published a pamphlet featuring a short memoir of the school’s long-time principal Edward M. Barnes (1905-2002). Among other things, Mr. Barnes spoke of the school boycott that led to the opening of Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute. Accompanying the text are these remarkable images.

First, another group photograph of the Colored Graded School’s teachers. Eleven teachers walked off the job to protest the superintendent’s assault on Mary C. Euell. Presumably, these are the eleven.

“The Staff of Wilson Graded School c. 1918. Ms. Uzell, the teacher whom the Superintendent slapped. Back Row: 3rd from right.” [The teacher’s name, in fact, was Euell.]

Second, a group photograph of students standing in front of the familiar bay windows and entry door of the Colored Graded School on Stantonsburg Street. The school’s highest grade level was eighth, and this may have been a group of graduating students.

“Our only public school was emptied of all the students” “The Colored Graded School”

Third, and most astonishingly, a photograph of the two-story building that housed Wilson Normal and Industrial School, also known as the Independent School, its lawn and balconies brimming with students and, it appears, parents.

“The Independent School was housed in one of Mr. Sam Vick’s houses on E. Vance Street.”

I am trying to track down the originals of these photographs to share with you. As I have testified repeatedly, the school boycott and creation of the W.N.I.A. were the most revolutionary collective strikes against white supremacy (and, to use a thoroughly modern term: misogynoir) in the history of Wilson County.

In the meantime, here’s W.N.I.A. on East Vance Street in the 1922 Sanborn map of Wilson. The shotgun (endway) house at 602 is clearly visible above.

The school building was still standing in 1964, as shown in this close-up of an aerial image of part of Wilson.

However, by time the city was next photographed in 1971, the Independent School building had been demolished.

This apartment building occupies the site today.

Aerial photos courtesy of Wilson County Technology Services Department; photo of 604-606 East Vance Street by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020.

The ax slaying of Ollie Richardson.

White farmer Walter Butts split open the head of farm worker Ollie Richardson after an argument. The next day, following a preliminary hearing, a justice of the peace dismissed charges against Butts.

A guide to the article: the lighter text in the second half, beginning “A preliminary hearing …,” is the first edition version. The heavier text at the beginning, which details what happened at the hearing, was inserted later.

In a nutshell, deputy sheriffs responding to the scene arrested Butts and William Moore, an African-American material witness, who was later allowed to post bond. (After all, he was not accused of committing any crime.) Butts did not testify at the hearing the next day. Moore  testified that Butts and Richardson argued, and Richardson said he was going to straighten Butts out and advanced on Butts, but Moore did not actually see anything in Richardson’s hands. “Two Negro girls” testified to something similar. Unnamed others testified that they saw a pitchfork under Richardson’s body after he’d been brained. In other words, there was no actual testimony that Richardson had threatened Butts with a pitchfork before Butts smashed him in the skull with an ax. Nonetheless, a justice of the peace declared the incident a justifiable homicide and let Butts go.

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Wilson Daily Times, 2 July 1946.

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Frank Richardson, 28; wife Mary W., 24; and children Lonie, 7, Ollie, 5, Bettie, 3, and Earlie, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson Mills township, Johnston County: Frank Richardson, 40; wife Harriet, 27; and children Lonie, 17, Bettie, 16, Ollie, 14, Early, 13, Beatrice, 10, Earnest L., 11, Vernell, 8, Gertrue, 6, Dump, 5, Tobus W., 5, Odel, 6 months, and Rosevelt, 2.

On 23 September 1935, Ollie F. Richardson, 21, of Cross Roads, son of Frank and Mary Richardson, married Crematha Wiggins, 20, of Wilson, daughter of Littleton Wiggins and Annie Royal, in Wilson in the presence of Oscar Eatman, Frank Richardson and Anna H. Royal.

In 1940, Ollie Frank Richardson registered for the World War II in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 20 August 1914 in Wilson; his contact was wife Crematha Richardson; and he worked for Otis Nichols, Bailey, Johnston County.

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Sallie B. Howard remembers Principal Barnes.

Circa 1992, the C.H. Darden High School Alumni Association published a short memoir of the school’s long-time principal Edward Morrison Barnes (1905-2002). Sallie Baldwin Howard, an accomplished educator in her own right, penned this brief forward.

My Principal

I remember Mr. [Edward M.] Barnes as my principal of both Wilson Public High School and Charles H. Darden High. As incongruous as this may seem, nevertheless — it is true. E.g. In 1938, Wilson Public High School became Charles H. Darden High School and Mr. Barnes, of course — was already the principal.

Mr. Barnes was also the first high school teacher hired from Wilson. He was hired as a French and English teacher. After less than two years, Mr. [William H.A.] Howard the principal died and Mr. Barnes became the principal. Our class of 1938 would be the first class to ever graduate from a Wilson public school named for an African-American: Charles H. Darden High School.

Consequently, the year 1938 becomes a historical landmark for the Black community. Both, our Principal and our class — were thrust into history simply because we just happened to be in a specific place at a specific time. Nevertheless, we’re proud that Lady Luck was on our side!

Tat, Tat, Tat …

Next, I remember my principal because of his habit of lightly tapping a thin ruler against the wall when he wished to gain the attention of students who might be loitering about the halls during  the changing or classes.

This soft “tat, tat, tat” was all that was needed to send us hurrying on to wherever we were supposed to be. I don’t remember ever hearing him raise his voice in order to achieve quiet or get the attention of that All-Black student body.

I’ve had many occasions to reflect on this as a teacher in the New York Public School System. I’d observe both the principal and the teachers practically wear out their lungs in a vain effort to achieve hallway order. Their loud and strident method of trying to achieve quiet, only added to the terrible din of noise.

Quiet Discipline

My memory of Mr. Barnes’s unique method of controlling his student population made a lasting impression on me and it has stayed with me during my many years of working with children.It has made me realize that one of the greatest accomplishments a classroom teacher can achieve is to train his/her children to respond to quiet discipline!

Even today, in the Youth Enrichment Program where I serve as Education Coordinator, Quiet Discipline is insisted upon. And like that of my principal’s so long ago, it still works!

Somebody Noticed — Thank God!

I also remember an occasion when my principal had more confidence in my ability than I had in myself.

Right from the outset, I’d decided that I didn’t like French. Today, I realize that I simply did not want to give up that much of my leisure time in order to learn the vocabulary and verb-conjugations necessary to master a foreign language. Completely unwilling to do this, I simply decided to just try and “get by!” And, of course, my grades quickly reflected just that! But even with the filing grades, I don’t remember being particularly concerned. But somebody was — Thank God!

Consequently, when my principal spoke to me about my grade (78%) — I was shocked and wondered who had ratted on me! How else would he know? I remember telling him that I simply couldn’t learn French — to which he, thank God — paid not the slightest bit of attention. Instead, after chastising me rather severely — he simply pulled me out of my regular class, plopped me down in his office and began teaching me the fundamentals of French. Teaching, testing and grading away — for a while week! At the end of the that time, my grades had zoomed up to 100%! Only then was I permitted to return to my regular class and rejoin my friends.

Nevertheless, as traumatic as this experience had been to my ego, I’d begun to understand the procedure of learning a foreign language. And despite myself, I’d fallen in love with the process. Moreover, that experience got me hooked on foreign languages. Later on in life, I went on to study French, Spanish, Hebrew and Kiswahili!

Fond Memories

There are so many meaningful memories that flood my mind as I think back to those high school days. Such as: our principal himself, driving is in his car to the various tournaments in which we had to participate. Or like arranging for me to have a little library job in order for me to have some spending change — $6.00 per month etc!

During those Terrible Thirties, I used to wonder if my principal realized that the $6.00 was more than spending change for me — but was desperately needed in our house to help out with the bills! How I hoped that he didn’t know this! But once I was an adult and I myself a classroom teacher, I came to realize that there is very little about pupils that the principal and teachers don’t know!

Anyway, during those skimpy days of the Deep Depression, when both the teachers and principal had been obliged to struggle mightily to get to where they were, not only did they know, but what they did for us precisely because they did know. But most importantly for us students — they also REMEMBERED!

S.B. Howard, 1992.

Moneys should be kept in the bank.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 January 1920.

—–

Perhaps, in the 1930 census of the Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: in a house owned and valued at $1000, widow Mary A. Batts, 50, servant; daughter Mamie, 26, servant; and son Lonnie, 35, farm laborer.

Thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for sharing this clipping.

“Uncle John” is killed in a fall.

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Wilson Daily Times, 18 August 1936.

The local newspaper may not have known “Uncle John”‘s name, but the coroner did. Forty-nine year-old (was that “aged”?) John W. Richardson was run over on Highway 91.

——

In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer John Horton, 73; wife Esther, 65; and son Louis, 23; hired girl Rosell Peacock, 19; and nephews Nathaniel Hopson, 16, and John W. Richardson, 16.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer John W. Richardson, 43; wife Henrietta, 38; children Ramon, 11, Lena, 7, and Nannie L., 3; mother-in-law Ida Joyner, 50; and brother-in-law Isom Joyner, 20.

Lane Street Project: aerial views, part 2.

In an earlier post, we saw aerial photographs depicting the decline of the Lane Street cemeteries from 1937 to 1948 to 1954 and 1964. An additional image, taken in 1971, completes the arc of ruin of these sacred spaces.

Vick Cemetery was completely forested, as was Rountree Cemetery. Odd Fellows appears marginally better kept, with a path still visible at its eastern edge. Five or so years later, when I discovered these cemeteries as a child riding a bicycle from her home in Bel Air Forrest, the vegetation was even thicker.

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Thanks again to  Will Corbett, GIS Coordinator, Wilson County Technology Services Department, for sharing these images.

#PreserveBlackSpace

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“As protesters demand a national reckoning on America’s whitewashed history, activists are rallying around a former abolitionists’ home in downtown Brooklyn with ties to the Underground Railroad as a chance to diversify historic preservation. High-profile endorsements to designate the building with landmark status, including by Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Attorney General Letitia James, have bolstered a campaign by activists that goes back 16 years. …”

“Of course Black lives matter,” said [preservation activist Michael Henry] Adams. “Of course Black landmarks matter. Black people are not just Black people. We are Americans. We are the people who built this nation, so our history is second to none.

“Landmark designations in marginalized and low-income communities are rare, fueled by the corrosive effects of time and lack of sustaining endowments. Just last year, the Weeksville Heritage Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a museum at the site of one of America’s first free black communities, had to launch a crowdfunding campaign to stave off closure. In a city of over 37,000 sites designated for landmark status, just 17 of New York’s landmarks are dedicated to abolitionist and Underground Railroad history, remnants of a resistance that helped over 3,000 fugitive enslaved people find freedom. Nationally, only 2% of the 95,000 entries on the National Register of Historic Places focus on the experience of Black Americans, according to The New Yorker (a figure the NRHP is now working to change).”

The East Wilson Historic District has been on the Register since 1988.  Read the full article here.

Snaps, no. 70: Frances L.J.S. Edmundson.

Frances Jones Smith Edmundson and Katie Hill, undated but probably early 1970s. (Are they standing in front of a school?)
——

In the 1870 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County: Lewis Speight, 34; wife Kezzie, 36; and son Bill, 1.

In the 1880 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County: Lewis Speight, 34; wife Cuzzie, 30; and children Edward, 10, Violet, 8, Annie, 6, and Mirtie, 2.

Jos. J. Jones, 38, and Violet Speight, 22, were married 17 June 1896 in Wilson County. O.L.W. Smith performed the ceremony in the presence of Burt EllisAnnie E. Speight, and Louisa Washington.

In the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Joseph Jones, 40, farmer; wife Violet, 27; and children Agnes, 13, and Anna, 12. [The children’s ages appear to be in error and should be 3 and 2.]

On 23 April 1902, Cuzzy Speight filed a widow’s application #765144 for the pension of Lewis Speight, who had served in an unknown unit of the United States Colored Troops.

In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Joseph Jones, 55, farmer; wife Violet, 36; and children Agnes, 11, Roscoe, 10, Frances, 6, William H., 4, and Benjamin, 2.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Joseph J. Jones, 58, tenant farmer; wife Violet, 45; and children Rosco, 19, Frances, 15, William H., 14, Benjamin, 12, and Lizzie Beth, 8; and mother-in-law Cuzzie Ward, 65.

On 29 January 1924, Rosco Jones, 22, of Stantonsburg, son of Joe and Violet Jones, married Lavinia Hagins, 20, daughter of Dave and Almena Hagans, at the home of “Mr. J.J. Jones” in Stantonsburg. A.J. Rhoades, A.M.E. Zion minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of Joe Ward, M.V. Reid and Mena Winstead.

On 3 February 1924, William Jones, 21, of Stantonsburg, son of Joseph and Violet Jones, married Mena Winstead, 18, daughter of Will Hall and Amanda W. Williams, at Mena Winstead’s residence. J.F. Ward, A.M.E. Zion minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of Lavenia JonesJoe Ward and Alexander Ellis.

Roscoe Jones died 29 July 1928 in Stantonsburg, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 June 1900 in Wilson County to Joseph J. Jones of Wilson County and Violet Speight of Greene County, and was a farmer.

Frances Jones, 25, married Robert Speight, 40, on 9 December 1928 in Stantonsburg. A.M.E. Zion minister J.F. Wardperformed the ceremony at the Missionary Baptist church.

In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Robert Speight, 48; wife Frances, 26; and son Albert, 4.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Benjamin Speight, 20; father Lewis, 73; mother Violet, 55; sister Elizabeth, 18; and grandmother Cuzzie Ward, 80, widow.

Violet Jones died 25 January 1931 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1876; was married to Joseph Jones; was born in Wilson County to Lewis Speights and Cussey Speights; and farmed.

Agnes Beamans died 23 November 1931 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 35 years old; was born in Wilson County to Joseph Jones and Violet Speights; and was married to Jasper Beaman.

Causey Ward died 13 July 1932 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 90 years old; was born in Greene County; and was the widow of Lam Ward. [I have not found the marriage license for Cuzzey Speight and Lam Ward.]

On 9 December 1932, Ben Jones, 21, of Saratoga, son of Joseph and Violet Jones, married Irene Speight, 18, of Saratoga, daughter of Marie SpeightC.D. Ward, A.M.E. Zion minister, performed the ceremony at his home in the presence of Ernest Barnes, Elizabeth Jones and Mary Speight.

William Henry Jones died 1 September 1934 in Stantonsburg township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 31 January 1905 in Wilson County to Joseph Jones and Violet Speight; was married to Minnie Jones; worked as a truck driver; and his informant was Benjamin Jones.

Frances Speight, 50, daughter of Joe Jones and Violet Speight, married Hadie Edmundson, 54, son of Rufus Edmundson and Eva Rice Edmundson, on 15 July 1956 in Wilson.

Frances Louise Speight Edmundson died 14 June 1976 in Stantonsburg, Wilson County. Her death certificate lists her birth date as 12 October 1905 [but it was likely 1903]. Her parents were Joseph Jones and Violet Speight Jones of Stantonsburg, Wilson County.

Elizabeth Barnes Turner died 1 June 1992. She was born 1 January 1912 to Joseph Jones and Violet Speight.

Katie Hill was likely Katie Brown Hill, who was born in 1908 to Leroy Brown and Fannie Levester in Greene County and died in Wilson County in 1996.

Many thanks to Tiyatti Speight for sharing this family photograph.

More news of Wilson, N.C.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 4 April 1936.

  • Elizabeth Darden James
  • Mr. and Mrs. George W. Ellis — on 28 September 1927, George W. Ellis, 52, of Wilson, married Mable Weaver, 26, of Wilson in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister B.F. Jordan preformed the ceremony in the presence of James Whitfield, Robert Haskins and Rosa Arrington. George Ellis was a carpenter; Mable W. Ellis, a public nurse.
  • U.N.I.A. — Universal Negro Improvement Association, the black nationalist fraternal organization founded by Marcus Garvey, had an active chapter in Wilson in the 1920s.
  • Rev. and Mrs. I. Albert Moore — I. Albert Moore served very briefly as pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church. By late 1937, when the photo below ran, he was head of Jones Tabernacle A.M.E. Zion in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Recorder, 4 December 1937.

  • Mrs. Ben F. RobbinsVashti Smith Robbins. In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Robbins Benj (c; Vashti) barber Reid Barber Shop r 313 Pender.
  • Carrie H. Hargraves — possibly, in the 1928 Hargrove John (c; Carrie) lab h 1212 Carolina
  • Christine Norwood — Norwood died 12 August 1944 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 45 years old; was born in Wilson to Richard Norwood and Ceceline Hill; and lived at 205 Pender Street. Hazel Covington of Durham, N.C. was informant.
  • Inza
  • Sarah Reid — probably Sarah Reid who died 22 March 1945 at 907 Washington Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 56 years old; was born in Wayne County to Zion Reid and Eliza Reid; was single; worked at Watson’s Tobacco Factory. Frederick Reid, 1009 Washington Street, was informant.
  • George Barnes — “Picture-Taking” George W. Barnes. Barnes died 13 April 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 65 years old; was married to Mary Barnes; was born in Wilson County to George A. Barnes and Annie Battle; lived at 803 East Green Street; and was a photographer.
  • Ruth Colest Jones — Ruth Jones died 20 March 1936 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 28 years old; was born 10 January 1908 in Lake City, South Carolina, to David Cameron and Sarah Cameron; was married to Cornelious Jones; and she lived at 720 East Green Street. Bessie Laury was informant.
  • Rev. B.J. Jordan — Rev. Benjamin F. Jordan.