The cut-off date for Black Wide-Awake‘s content is 1949. I chose a badge logo as a vintage style. The hand-lettering similarly reflects the era, bringing to mind signs that might have adorned the storefronts of businesses along the 500 block of East Nash Street.
The name. In 1919, city leaders established the Wide-Awake Wilson Commission to spearhead efforts to build a monument to World War veterans, a new courthouse, and other civic projects. In 1962, the Chamber of Commerce dusted off the alliterative moniker and adopted it as the city’s business slogan. To put it mildly, the campaign took off.
All roads lead to Wide-Awake Wilson. This logo, with its crowing rooster, was ubiquitous in local advertising in the early 1960s. Wilson Daily Times, 26 September 1962.
That summer, the city surprised its citizenry with the stealth installation of an enormous plywood rooster atop a downtown water tower. Outlined by white marquee-style lights, this landmark loomed over all the years of my life in Wilson.
It’s a little hard to see here, but that’s a rooster. Wilson Daily Times, 28 July 1962.
Long after the city abandoned its slogan, the rooster insured that “Wide-Awake” stuck. And by time it was hauled down in the late 1980s, the association was indelible. I drafted the subtitle of this blog first: “Documents of Historical and Genealogical Interest to Researchers of Wilson, North Carolina’s African-American Past.” When I was searching for a title … “Black Wide-Awake”? Well, of course.
The colors. Simple. Black for the culture. Red, for the blood, for family.
The icon. The fist upon which the rooster perches, shaped vaguely like the water tower, evokes unity and power. Unlike the city’s bird, the Black Wide-Awake rooster is looking backward. It is sankofa. We have returned to claim that which was forgotten. We have come for the ancestors.