Month: June 2018

Snaps, no. 38: James Battle and friends?

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These are two of 19 images from “[t]wo small souvenir albums from PhC.196, Raines & Cox Studio Photo Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC. The negatives were sent to the Raines & Cox Studio in Wilson, NC, to be printed by a James Battle, likely from Wilson, and the resulting little albums were for some reason never delivered to Mr. Battle. The photos in the smaller album depict various scenes and unidentified men and women in unidentified locations in what looks like eastern Europe, and those in the slightly larger one show an unidentified African American woman and various scenes in Atlantic City, NJ. Based on the scant information available in these albums and on the envelope in which they were originally housed, it appears that James Battle was probably a soldier in the US Army and the pictures in both albums were probably shot by him in the mid to late 1940s.

“Please help us identify James Battle and his Army buddies and lady friends depicted in these photos.”

The albums may be found at the Flickr account of the State Archives of North Carolina.

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At least eight James Battles born in Wilson registered for the World War II draft, but only one — James Carter Battle — was still living in Wilson at the time. (The others lived in nearby towns and Norfolk, Virginia.) Was this the James Battle who ordered these albums?

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Studio shots, no. 86: Pauline Artis Harris.

Pauline Artis Harris (1899-1994).

On 14 March 1922, Benjaman A. Harris, 25, of Nahunta, son of Ed and Bettie Harris, married Pauline Artis, 20, of Nahunta, daughter of Wash [sic; Noah] and Patience Artis, in Eureka, Nahunta township, Wayne County.

In the mid-1920s, Benjamin and Pauline Artis Harris moved ten miles north to Wilson.

In the 1925 Wilson city directory: Harris Benj bricklyr h 407 Viola.

Harris, in partnership with George Best, opened a grocery store near the city limits on East Nash Street. In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Harris Benj A (c; Pauline) (Harris & Best) r Finch; Harris & Best (c) (B A Harris and Geo Best) gros 1316 E Nash

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Harris Benj (c; Pauline) brklyr h 312 Finch

The census taker apparently missed the family’s household in both the 1930 and 1940 censuses of Wilson, Wilson County.

Pauline Artis Harris died 9 September 1994 in Wilson.

Photographs courtesy of K.M. Harris (top) and Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, the 100th anniversary commemorative booklet of Calvary Presbyterian Church.

Carolina Posse Kills Ex-GI.

The lynchings of two Wilson County men are recorded at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The name of the first, killed in 1887, is unknown. The second man, shot to death in 1946, was J.C. Farmer, a 19 year-old veteran of World War II.

Farmer and some friends were in Sims, a village in the western part of the county, playing around while waiting for a bus to take them into Wilson for a Saturday night out. Constable Fes Bissette confronted the group, ordering Farmer to get into his squad car. When Farmer refused, Bissette him in the back of the head with a blackjack, drew his gun and tried to force Farmer into the car. The two scuffled. Seizing control of the gun, Farmer shot Bissette through the hand and fled. An hour later, 20 to 25 white men, including Alcoholic Beverage Control agents armed with submachine guns, cornered Farmer near his mother Mattie Barnes Farmer‘s house and opened fire.

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New Journal and Guide (Norfolk, Va.), 17 August 1946.

Though the scant news accounts available are silent, it appears that Farmer was driven ten miles to Wilson to Mercy Hospital, where Dr. Batie T. Clark pronounced him dead from a “gun shot wound chest” about 30 minutes after arrival. Clark also noted on Farmer’s death certificate, by way of explanation: “shot by officer of law in gun duel” though it is not at all clear which member of the posse’s shot hit Farmer, and there had been no “duel.” (Also, who transported Farmer to town — his family or law enforcement? Why was he seen by Badie Clark, a white doctor, rather than, say, Joseph Cowan?)

In 1951, the Civil Rights Congress issued We Charge Genocide: An Historic Appeal to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government Against the Negro People, a “record of mass slayings on the basis of race.” Among the litany of such state-sanctioned crimes committed from 1945 to 1951 was the killing of J.C. Farmer.

Equal Justice Initiative’s 2015 Lynching in America report mentioned J.C. Farmer’s murder in the chapter described racial terror directed at African-American veterans: “No one was more at risk of experiencing violence and targeted racial terror than black veterans who had proven their valor and courage as soldiers during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Because of their military service, black veterans were seen as a particular threat to Jim Crow and racial subordination. Thousands of black veterans were assaulted, threatened, abused, or lynched following military service.” Farmer’s death was just one of a wave of such lynchings in 1946.

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In the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Josh Farmer, 51; wife Mattie, 46; and children William A., 21, Josh W., 17, Waneta, 14, Lonnie D., 12, Robert, 10, Albert H., 6, and J.C., 3.

In the 1940 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Jack Farmer, 59; wife Mattie, 55; and children Authur, 24, Jack Jr., 23, Robert, 20, Harry, 16, J.C., 13, and Juanita Barnes, 22, and her children Mattie Lee, 3, and Marjorie, 1.

J.C. Farmer registered for the World War II draft on 21 October 1944, was honorably discharged on 16 August 1945, and was dead 13 days’ shy of a year later.

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For the hanged and beaten. For the shot, drowned and burned. The tortured, tormented and terrorized. For those abandoned by the rule of law.

We will remember.

With hope because hopelessness is the enemy of justice. With courage because peace requires bravery. With persistence because justice is a constant struggle. With faith because we shall overcome.

National Memorial for Peace and Justice

A sacred space for truth-telling.

We traveled this weekend to Montgomery, Alabama, to visit Equal Justice Initiative’s recently opened National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum. The Memorial is “the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.”

“The memorial structure on the center of the site is constructed of over 800 corten steel monuments, one for each county in the United States where a racial terror lynching took place. The names of the lynching victims are engraved on the columns.”

I wandered beneath the monuments, which hang from the rafters like the broken bodies of the men and women whose deaths they commemorate, searching for Wilson County. I turned each corner with a rising sense of anxiety until there, among the final stelae:

However, “the memorial is more than a static monument. In the six-acre park surrounding the memorial is a field of identical monuments, waiting to be claimed and installed in the counties they represent. Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror and which have not.”

Wilson County, here is yours. Come get it.

For more about the Memorial and Museum, please click here and here. And until such time as you can make your way to Alabama, please consider a donation to support EJI’s work “to challenge poverty and racial injustice, advocate for equal treatment in the criminal justice system, and create hope for marginalized communities.”

“… and O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck, put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs you got to love them. The dark, dark liver — love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts. Hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”  

 Toni Morrison

Negro scouts revived.

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Wilson Daily Times, 16 August 1946.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 May 1949.

  • Mrs. W.C. Hart — Spartanburg, South Carolina native Sophia Shelton Hart was a teacher.
  • Mrs. B.O. Barnes — Flossie Howard Barnes.
  • The Girl Scouts — Mildred Mincey, Cleo Taylor, Louise Holiday, Joyce Walker, Joan Wright, Thelma Weaver, Betty Mincey, Bella Mildred Gilchrist, Barbara Hodges, Brownie Moore, Ruth Hart, Helen Barnes, Hattie M. Henderson, Marjorie Taylor, Clara Cannon, Selma Brown, Vilma Dew, Jean Wynn, Myrtle Lynch, Mary Morris, Barbara Hodges, Evangeline Reid, Barbara Jones.

Sophia and Walter C. Hart, early 1930s.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1947-1948).

Photograph courtesy of grandson Keith M. Harris.

Looping.

In this undated photograph, probably taken in the 1930s or ’40s, shows children and adults — four African-American — looping, or tying green tobacco leaves to sticks for drying.

Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Archives and History, reprinted in Keith Barnes’ The World’s Greatest Tobacco Market: A Pictorial History of Tobacco in Wilson, North Carolina (2007).

Mary Jane Stancil and family.

As shown here and here and here, the interrelated Ayers, Hawley, Rose and Taylor families shifted back and forth across the color line for decades. Despite highly publicized legal challenges to their status, most were accepted as white by about 1920.


Mary Jane Taylor Stancil (1867-1921), upper left. The infant is her son Oscar Stancil, who died in 1904. This may be a death portrait, a type of memento mori. The women at right at are unknown.

In the 1880 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Sallie Taylor, about 45; and her children William, 19, Jacob, 17, Jane, 14, Robert L., 12, Thomas, 10, and Luretta, 8, all mulatto.

On 12 September 1899, J.H. Stancil, 23, white, of Wilson County, son of Andrew and Nancy Stancil, married Mary Jane Hawley, 28, white, of Johnston County, daughter of Sally Ann Hawley, in Johnston County.

In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer James H. Stancill, 23, and wife Mary J., 20, both white.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Red Hill Road, farmer James H. Stansil, 32; wife Mary J., 41; and children Frederick, 9, and Viola, 8. James was described as white. The “W” beside Mary Jane and their children was marked through and replaced with “M” [mulatto]. [Similarly, on nearby Kenly Road, the racial designation of Elender F., 46, William M., 19, Mary L., 16, Maggie P., 13, Henry L., 11, Betsey P., 8, and Mamie G. Hawley, 4, were changed to match that of their husband and father John D. Hawley, 54, mulatto. John Hawley was Mary Jane Stancil’s brother.]

In the 1920 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: farmer James H. Stancil, 42, wife Mary J., 50, and daughter Viola, 17, all white.

Mary Jane Stancil died 5 July 1921 in Oldfields township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 October 1867 in Wilson County to John Clark of Johnston County and an unknown mother; was married to John [sic] H. Stancil; and was white.

Josephus and Minnie Taylor Johnson and their oldest children Arthur, Fannie and Carl.

Josephus and Minnie Johnson took their fight to have their children admitted to white Wilson County schools to the North Carolina Supreme Court, and lost. Minnie T. Johnson was Mary Jane Stancil’s niece.

Viola Stancil Lucas (1902-1989).

Viola Stancil Lucas was the daughter of James H. and Mary Jane Taylor Stancil.

Many thanks to Linda Lucas Martin for sharing these family photographs.