Month: August 2020

Allen is getting along nicely.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 June 1937.

Allen died two days later of complications from her surgery.

——

In the 1900 census of Stewarts Creek township, Harnett County, N.C.: farmer Ed Armstrong, 29; wife Mary, 25; and six daughters Josephine, 12, Ella, 9, Mary, 6, Rachel, 5, Ola, 3, and Julia, 1.

In the 1910 census of Duke township, Harnett County: farmer Ed Armstrong, 45; wife Cornelia, 45; and children Ellie, 19, Mamie, 17, Rachael, 15, Viola, 14, Julia, 12, Maggie, 10, Ernest, 8, and James, 6.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Allen James B (c; Rachel) rest 217 S Goldsboro h 900 Atlanta [217 S. Goldsboro is the site of today’s Worrell’s Seafood.]

On 26 November 1929, Rachel Armstrong, 36, of Harnett County, daughter of Eddie Armstrong and Lelia Smith, married James Bland Allen, 45, divorced, of Craven County, N.C., son of Wyatt Allen and Eliza Hicks, in Greensville County, Virginia.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 900 Atlantic Street, cafe proprietor Jim Allen, 45; wife Rachel, 32, private nurse; children Elouise, 10, and Fred, 8; and these lodgers — farm laborer Floyd Baker, 26; cook Gertrude Kannary, 27; and Katherine, 10, Martha, 7, and Elouise Baker, 1.

Rachel Allen died 5 June 1937 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born about 1897 in Dunn, N.C., to Edward and Cornelius [sic] Armstrong; was married to James Allen; lived at 405 East Green Street; and worked as a midwife and hospital nurse. Informant was Maggie Armstrong, Durham, N.C.

Barton College’s oral history project.

The introduction to Barton College’s Crossing the Tracks: An Oral History of East and West Wilson:

“Starting in the spring of 2013 and concluding in the fall of 2014, Barton College students began interviewing Wilson residents about social, cultural, political, and economic relations between residents of East and West Wilson, and how these relations have changed over the past sixty to seventy years. 

“In spite of the many significant achievements of the modern Civil Rights Movement, our nation, state, and community bear the scars and legacies of a deeply troubled racial history that continues to impact our relationships. While we might like to forget or gloss over the painful part of that history, its effect lingers, and denying it will not make it go away.  As the writer James Baldwin once said, ‘The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.’  One of the goals of Crossing the Tracks, then, is to bring these unconscious forces of history into our consciousness, so that we might begin to confront the historical effects of white supremacy and begin the process of healing.

“A history of segregation, built on a foundation of white supremacy, created a separate but unequal society.  And the traditional historical narrative is at best an incomplete history, written and preserved by those who hold political, social, and economic power.  It too often omits the strong voices and tremendous contributions of those on the margins of power.  Part of the mission of the Freeman Round House Museum is to fill this gap in the historical record by preserving and publicizing the contributions of African American Wilsonians to education, medicine, the arts, criminal justice, and entertainment.  Crossing the Tracks supports this mission.  It is an accessible collection of first-person accounts of life in Wilson that students, scholars, and the general public can use to study and write about this remarkable, underrepresented history.  In many ways, it builds on the work of Dr. Charles W. McKinney, Jr., whose book, Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina, documents decades of committed struggle by East Wilson residents to lay the groundwork for the modern Civil Rights Movement.”

The project includes videotaped interviews with 22 residents of East Wilson. The recollections of many, including Samuel Lathan, Roderick Taylor Jr., and Mattie Bynum Jones, date to the 1930s and ’40s, the latter decades covered by the blog. Barton College partnered with the Freeman Roundhouse and Museum to obtain these invaluable stories and all are available online.

The murder of Willie Black.

When the registrar filed 48 year-old Willie Black‘s death certificate on 6 February 1933, she recorded his cause of death as “gun shot wounds inflicted by parties or party unknown to the Coroner Jurry.”

However, on 27 January 1933, the Wilson Daily Times reported Willie Black’s widow Sarah Black and her “paramour” Robert Collins had confessed to the crime. On 7 February 1933, the paper reported that a grand jury had returned an indictment against Sarah Black for first degree murder in the slaying of her husband. Collins was also charged.

Sarah Black went on trial in May. 

Elijah King testified that he heard two gunshots in the direction of the railroad. He went to the police station, then returned with officers to the Norfolk and Southern railroad, where they found a dead man lying about 150 yards from Rountree Bridge road. [Rountree Bridge road was most likely the continuation beyond city limits of what was then Stantonsburg Street and is now Black Creek Road. Rountree Bridge crossed Contentnea Creek three miles southeast of Wilson.]

Acting Coroner Ashe Hines testified that the body bore two gunshots wounds, one at close range behind the right ear and the other in the back. 

Willie Black’s son, also named Willie Black, testified next. He was Sarah Black’s stepson. His father and stepmother had been married about two years before, and they quarreled frequently. On the night of the murder, Black Jr. saw Sarah talking with a preacher who lived nearby. His father was not at home, and Black Jr. thought he was at work.

Willie Black Jr. got home about 7:30 PM and found a lamp burning in his parents’ bedroom. He went to James Stancil’s store and stayed until about 9:00 PM, then went home and went to bed. Sarah Black came home about 10:00 PM, and ten minutes later the police arrived. Willie Jr. asked, “Where’s Papa?,” and the police took him and his stepmother to view the body where it lay. Sarah Black cried a little. The police questioned them about a single gauge shotgun.

The night before the shooting, Willie and Sarah Black had argued about the pigtails he brought home for dinner. Sarah Black: “I do not like them.” Willie Black: “If you don’t like them, you can thrown them out.” Sarah Black: I don’t even know why I married you. Willie Black Jr. admitted he and his stepmother had argued, too, but denied ever pulling a knife on her or threatening her.

Officer Lloyd Lucas testified that he had questioned Sarah Black, and she told him that she was a burial society meeting and then a prayer meeting during the time WIllie Black was supposed to have been killed. Lucas denied trying to intimidate Sarah Black or “wring a confession out of her,” but allowed he might have said “damn.”

Robert Collins, who was alleged to be Sarah Black’s lover, was charged with the actual killing and was to be tried after Black’s trial.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 May 1933.

Which happened immediately. The next day’s edition announced that Collins turned state’s evidence and testified to this sorry chain of events:

Robert Collins lived in Happy Hill and had known Sarah Black three to four years. About a week before the murder, at Sarah Black’s sister’s house, Sarah had told him she was tired of Willie Black and wanted him out of the way. She would furnish him with Willie Black’s own gun and would pay him with money and clothing. (Williams Lumber employees testified that they saw Sarah come to talk to Collins at work.) On the night of the shooting, Sarah hid Willie’s shotgun in a ditch. She and Collins followed Willie as he walked down the railroad, and Collins shot him in the back. Black kept walking. Sarah Black asked if Collins was going to shoot him again, and Collins said he could not. She then took the gun and shot her husband down. Collins and Sarah Black went to the Black home, then separated. When confronted by the police, Collins confessed and took all the blame for himself.

The jury deliberated about two-and-a-half hours before delivering its decision. Guilty. As to both. Collins was immediately sentenced to 29 years and Sarah Black to the electric chair. 

[But stay tuned.]

——

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Street, day laborer Chas. Hines, 38, and wife Isabella, 38; step-daughter Mary Jane Bryant, 18; cook Jane Black, 35, widow, and her children William, 14, Clara, 4, Lucy, 1, plus day laborer Ed Black, 21, all boarders; and day laborer William York, 75, boarder.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Wiggins Street, widow Jane Black, 45, house servant, and children Willie, 24, Caria, 14, Lucy, 11, Samuel, 7, and Gertrude, 3. 

In 1918, Will Black registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in February 1883; lived on Goldsboro Street, Wilson; was a laborer for Imperial Tobacco Company; and his contact was wife Matilda Black.

On 27 August 1928, Matilda Black died in Castalia township, Nash County. Per her death certificate, she was about 36 years old; married to Will Black; lived in Wilson; was born in Nash County to Richard Taylor and Dianah Hill; and was buried in a family cemetery. Will Black was informant.

Will Black, 40, of Wilson, son of Fred and Jane Black, married Sarah Kittrell, 25, of Wilson, daughter of Ed and Rosa Kittrell, on 11 August 1930 in Wilson. Disciples minister Fred Williams performed the ceremony in Wilson in the presence of Mae H. Young, Jas. H. Knight and Clara Ward.

Boxcar.

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 8 June 1913.

Joe Saunders was arrested for shooting Charles Coley at a house at 114 Wiggins Street. Wilson Hospital and Tubercular Home (later known as Mercy) did not open until 1914. Other hospitals in town would not admit African-Americans, so Coley was carried to a boxcar to die or recuperate.

 

Circus day in Wilson.


Wilson Daily Times, 29 September 1934.

The Daily Times printed these photographs without captions. What was the occasion of the parade?

Per an article on a previous page, Hagenback-Wallace — one of the largest circuses “in the land” — was scheduled to perform two shows in Wilson that day. “Great hulking elephants and prancing ponies, stately white ring horses and gaily striped zebras, towering giraffes and snobbish, little llamas, dappled draft horse teams of eight and ten, and double files of supercilious camels — these were the units of the colorful procession … that thrilled hundreds of Wilson circus fans this morning as the three long trains of the big show unloaded on the Norfolk and Southern sidings at Tarboro street and moved to the lot at the Old Ball Park.”

A closer look at the bottom image reveals that parade routes were among the few public spaces in which integration was acceptable in the 1930s.

Dear ol’ Darden.

I’ve come to understand that the word “classmate” just hits different when you came up through all-black schools or attended an HBCU. (I did neither.) Here, my father and members of his beloved C.H. Darden High School Class of 1952. Of the men in this photo, he’s the last living; three of the women have gone on, too.

The Class of ‘52 was my village. Their children were my earliest friends. Darden High School’s last class graduated when I was not quite six, but I grew up steeped in its great legacy. Black Wide-Awake memorializes its earliest years and boosts its fading memory. “We sing a song of adoration, a song full of love and praise … Dear ol’ Darden High!”

(Also, that pennant. ✊🏾)

Photo in the collection of R.C. and B.A. Henderson.

County schools, no. 16: Healthy Plains School.

The sixteenth 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.

Healthy Plains School

Healthy Plains School is not listed as a Rosenwald School in Survey File Materials Received from Volunteer Surveyors of Rosenwald Schools Since September 2002.Nor is it listed in Superintendent Charles L. Coon’s report The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24.

Location:  A 1936 state road map of Wilson County shows Healthy Plains School on present-day U.S. 264 Alternate, just west of the Greene County line near Spring Branch Church Road.

Description: This school was likely named for (and near by) Healthy Plain Primitive Baptist Church, an African-American church (to be distinguished from a white church of the same name near Buckhorn in western Wilson County).

Known faculty: teacher Mary Estelle Barnes.

O.N. Freeman’s handiwork.

O. Nestus Freeman‘s stonework was not limited to houses. Below, a mailbox stand he created for his good friend John W. Woodard, who lived west of Wilson on Tartts Mill Road.


The handcarved inscription reads
: J.W. Woodard, R.F.D. No 4, Box 33, Wilson N.C. Nov. 12, 1935

Photo courtesy of J.W. Woodard’s grandson Daryl M. Woodard. Thank you!