Wayne County native Caswell C. Henderson (1865-1927) migrated to New York City in the 1890s, but returned South to Wilson to visit his sister Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver. Their great-niece Hattie Henderson Ricks recalled the elaborate steps he took to carry out his daily ritual. First, Henderson would leave their house on Elba Street and walk west on Green Street. He crossed the railroad tracks and walked a few more blocks before turning left on a cross street, then left to walk east on Nash Street to the Hotel Cherry. He entered the hotel through its front doors — as any white guest would — bought a newspaper, shot the breeze for a while with other white guests and staff, then exited right to walk back up Nash Street. After a few blocks, he turned right, then right again on Green and crossed the tracks back into the African-American world.
“Uncle Caswell had been home, he’d been to Wilson. He come down there visiting Mama …. He passed for white. He would go and get a paper every morning down there to Cherry Hotel. Walk down there for the exercise and get that paper. And they all thought he was white. He’d go in the hotel there and ask for a paper and come in there and talk to the people. And he’d leave the hotel and walk the other direction, then walk back down Green Street and come on home.”
Cherry Hotel in an undated postcard issued by the Asheville Post Card Company.
Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.