1920s

In justice to them, they should be entitled to this consideration.

I’m joining a long line of appeals to city officials to do something about conditions in and around the Negro cemetery.

On 10 February 1925, a Wilson Daily Times‘ report on proceedings at a board of aldermen’s meeting, Samuel H. Vick “brought up the matter of the colored cemetery” and requested that an awning be placed (?) and that roads into and out of the cemetery be repaired. A Mr. Grantham, chairman of the cemetery commission said it was difficult to get the cemetery into a correct shape and “lay it out” as graves had been placed “everywhere and without regard to lines or streets.” Further, some of the cemetery’s land was “worthless for the purpose, as it was in a bottom” [i.e. water-logged and prone to flooding.] Grantham also mused about the “old cemetery” — the one near Cemetery Street — “which if the graves were removed would be worth considerable money.” (The graves were in fact moved to Rest Haven in 1940.) In the end, Grantham agreed to come up with a plan and report back.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 February 1925.

Twelve years later, the roads were still a problem. On 24 September 1937, the Daily Times printed this enlightened, but unattributed, op-ed piece under the headline “City Should Pave the Road to the Negro Cemetery.” A paved road was not merely a convenience to family members paying respects. The previous winter, “when after the successive rains, the ground was so soft that it was impossible to conduct funerals in the cemetery, the negro undertakers were compelled to hold out their bodies until the spring, when the road was in a condition to move over it with vehicles and conduct the interments.” This was city property, the writer pointed out, and money from the sale of burial plots went into the city treasury, and “the colored people are taxpayers,” and justice should be done accordingly.

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Wilson Daily Times, 24 September 1937.

Camillus L. Darden followed up a week later with a letter to the newspaper described a disastrous, but apt, attempt to expose an alderman to conditions on the roads leading to the graveyard. The “main road” seems to be what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway (and was East Nash Street/N.C. Highway 264 in my childhood.) My best guess is that this road was paved in the 1940s or early ’50s, but Lane Street, onto which one makes a right turn from the main road to reach Rountree, Odd Fellows and Vick cemeteries, was dirt and gravel into the 1980s.

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Wilson Daily Times, 30 September 1937.

Green Street lot for sale at auction.

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Wilson Daily Times, 4 January 1922.

  • Jonah Reid and wife — Wayne County native Jonah Reid was a son of Jonah Williams below. Jonah married his first cousin Magnolia Artis, daughter of Thomas and Louisa Artis Artis, on 30 August 1892 in Wayne County, North Carolina.
  • J.D. Reid — principal and banker.
  • Jonah Williams — Jonah Williams established several Primitive Baptist churches in Wayne, Wilson and Edgecombe Counties.
  • B.R. Winstead — Educator Braswell R. Winstead was a close associate of Samuel H. Vick, serving for a while as assistant postmaster. He lived at 415 East Green at the time of his death in 1926.

Dressmakers.

Twelve of the fifteen dressmakers listed in the 1922 Wilson city directory were African-American women.

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Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1922).

  • Lucy Alston — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Walnut Street, hospital janitor Zick Artis, 26, and wife Belle, 30; and, renting from them, tobacco factory worker Lucy Alston, 33, and children Luvenia, 9, Eluse, 7, and Lucille, 6.
  • Mabel E. Anderson — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 202 Vick Street, painter William Brown, 29; wife Eva, 28, dressmaker; brother-in-law Walter Anderson, 23, plasterer; sister-in-law Mable, 21, dressmaker; and sister-in-law Alma Purcell, 20, all born in South Carolina.
  • Sarah L. Bowser — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Best [Burt] Bowser, 48, pool room conductor; wife Sarah, 40, seamstress; sons Russell, 19, Astor B., 13, and Thomas F., 11; sister-in-law Rosa Rountree, 21, public school teacher; brother-in-law James Rountree, 14, milliner store servant; and mother Lucinda Bowser, 60, widow.
  • Eva L. Brown — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 202 Vick Street, painter William Brown, 29; wife Eva, 28, dressmaker; brother-in-law Walter Anderson, 23, plasterer; sister-in-law Mable, 21, dressmaker; and sister-in-law Alma Purcell, 20, all born in South Carolina.
  • Stattie Cannon — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charles Cannon, 35, barber in a “white shop”; wife Statie, 34; and children Charles, 11, Ruth, 9, and Statie Benton, 13.
  • Lethia Clark — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Sarah Clark, 40, school teacher, and daughters Catherine, 22, Letha, 19, and Bettie, 17; granddaughter Ruth Jenkins, 8; and servant  Mary James, 26.
  • Sattena Gaston — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 120 Manchester Street, seamstress Sattena Gaston, 41, and sons Johnnie, 16, and Lorenzo, 13.
  • Jane Hooks
  • Letitia Lovitt — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 415 Stantonsburg Street, Almus Lovett, 42, shop blacksmith, and wife Letitia, 43, seamstress. Both were Georgia natives.
  • Eva Mitchell — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 549 Nash Street, widow Annie Mitchell, 71,  children Sallie, 46, Eddie, 44, Albert, 42, Eva, 36, and Floyd, 34, niece Severana, 18, and nephew Lester, 16.
  • Ruby I. Purcell — on 27 September 1922, John A. Shade, 22, son of I.A. and Estella Shade, married Ruby Percell, 20, daughter of H.H. and Ida M. Percell, in Wilson. W.H. Phillips applied for the license, and Presbyterian minister A.H. George performed the ceremony in the presence of Phillips, Henry N. Cherry and Will Farmer.
  • Ada Winstead — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Braswell Winstead, 60, wife Ada E., and daughter Ethel L., 13, at 300 Pender Street.

The murder of Cleophus Hinnant.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 22 December 1923.

Though the Courier reported Cleophus Hinnant’s death (and, apparently, his name) as a mystery, his death certificate was clear about what happened. Hinnant “was murdered. Shot to death by a man named Turner Williamson.”

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Turner Williamson was Cleophus Hinnant’s former father-in-law, father of his deceased first wife. I have not been able to discover more about this tragedy.

——

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Josiah Hinnant, 47, farmer; wife Mary L., 38; and son Cleophus, 17.

On 11 November 1920, Cleophus Hinnant, 18, of Cross Roads, son of Josiah and Victoria Hinnant, married Montie Williamson, 19, of Cross Roads, daughter of Turner and Margaret Williamson, at Turner Williamson’s. Baptist minister Emerson Hooker performed the ceremony in the presence of Abram Deans, Henry Bynum and David Bynum, all of Lucama.

Montia Hinnant died 27 November 1921 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 19 years old; was married to Cleother Hinnant; was born in Wilson County to Turner Williamson and Margarette Barnes; and was a tenant farmer for Josiah Hinnant. Josiah Hinnant was informant.

On 2 January 1923, Cleophus Hinnant and Gessie Bunch received a marriage license.

Josiah Hinnant filed for letters of administration for his son on 4 January 19. His application listed the value of Cleophus Hinnant’s estate as about $500, and his heirs as Gessie Hinnant and an unborn child.

Dr. Ward challenged Jim Crow.

Indiana History Blog published Nicole Poletika’s detailed look at Dr. Joseph H. Ward‘s role in challenging segregation as the head of Tuskegee, Alabama’s Veterans Hospital No. 91 in the 1920s and ’30s.

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Dr. Ward is on the front row, center (next to the nurse) in this 1933 photograph of Veterans Hospital staff.  Photo courtesy of VA History Highlights, “First African American Hospital Director in VA History,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For more on Dr. Ward, who was born in Wilson about 1869, see here and here and here and here and here.

[Sidenote: Dr. Ward was not born to “impoverished parents” per the article, though it is possible that he himself gave this gloss on his early life. Rather, his father was Napoleon Hagans, a prosperous freeborn farmer in nearby Wayne County, and his mother was Mittie Ward, a young freedwoman whose family moved into town after Emancipation from the plantation of Dr. David G.W. Ward near Stantonsburg.]

Hat tip to Zella Palmer for pointing me to this article. She is Dr. Ward’s great-granddaughter, and they are my cousins.

The history of Alpha Phi Alpha.

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Charles H. Wesley, The History of Alpha Phi Alpha: A Development in College Life (1929).

While working as treasurer of Wilson’s Commercial Bank, Virginia native Henry S. Stanback founded a graduate chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in Greensboro, North Carolina. Kappa Lambda remains an active chapter.

Hat tip to S.M. Stevens for sharing this citation.