Notes on Booker T. Washington’s visit.

As we’ve discussed here and here, Booker T. Washington visited Wilson in October 1910 with a who’s who of educators, businessmen and A.M.E. Zion clergymen.

Certain documents from Greensboro History Museum’s A.H. Peeler Collection have been digitized by Gateway, a collaborative community history portal hosted by the University Libraries of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Peeler was a long-time principal and community leader whose personal archive is rich with resources related to African-American education in early 20th-century North Carolina, especially in Greensboro. Somewhere along the way, Peeler obtained a sheaf of lined note paper on which someone — perhaps Washington’s secretary Emmett J. Scott? — jotted brief notes about their stops.

Wilson was the ninth stop on the tour, and the local delegation received high marks for content and presentation. The city’s mayor, W.W. Briggs, met with Washington’s retinue, as did Charles L. Coon, who was basking in the heat of his controversial 1909 address, “Public Taxation in Negro Schools,” which argued that funding the education of Black children did not create a drain on white taxpayers.

The Colored Graded School was lauded as the “best public school facilities seen[,] suppose best in state[, with a] chapel for exercises.” [This is the first I’ve heard of the Graded School having a chapel. It’s too bad no architectural drawings of the building exist.] “Washington’s happy here,” the amanuensis continued, presumably because of quality of agricultural products grown by African-American farmers in the area, including “pumpkins, cotton, corn.” “Swellest banquet” speaks for itself. “One man rule — Vick: 400 houses” speaks to a recognition of the immense wealth and political influence Samuel H. Vick wielded in the city.

Wilson photographer O.V. Foust captured this grouping of Booker T. Washington, seated at center, his Tuskegee party, and leading North Carolina educators seated on Sam Vick’s front lawn. An unknown man in a slouch-brimmed hat photobombed them at far left. The photograph is part of the Peeler Collection.

Hat tip to former Congressman G.K. Butterfield Jr. for alerting me to this find!

One comment

  1. . and just think….he traveled the state when transportation and road access was VERY limited for Black people.

    This is an example of sheer grit and steadfast
    determination…dedication and duty bound!!

    Thank you, my Dear Ancestor.

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