1930s

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.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 9.57.31 PM.png

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 9.56.15 PM.png

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.

202001162043512908

202001162044439896

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.

201912311555526419.png

Wilson Daily Times, 30 September 1937.

The Oleanders Quartette performs.

201912021957381149.png

201912022005221878.png

Wilson Daily Times, 8 December 1937.

This was probably the Oleander Quartet, comprised of George Boyd, Cecil Murray, Howard Scott, George Hall, and pianist Elijah Lamar, which performed blues and spirituals on radio, mostly as a backup to Leadbelly, the legendary folk and blues singer. (Notably, the group backed him on a recording of “Pick a Bale of Cotton” circa 1935.)

Freeman’s Pond.

Among the many ventures to which Oliver Nestus Freeman turned his hand was the establishment of a recreation area for African-Americans. The exact location of the park is surprisingly hazy, given that it contained a pond large enough to swim and boat in. This article about the 1933 drowning of Lawrence Haskins is the only written reference to Freeman’s Pond that I’ve found. The “fair grounds,” which had hosted horse racing, bicycle racing and baseball since the late 1800s, was beyond city limits in a wooded area just beyond present-day Dick’s Hot Dog Stand and Wells Elementary School.

Screen Shot 2019-11-28 at 8.12.41 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 29 July 1933.

This photo of Connie Freeman and friends in small rowboats on Freeman’s Pond is reproduced at the Freeman Round House and Museum.

——

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Warren Street, Robert Haskins, 37, bottling company laborer; wife Gertrude, 28; and children Mandy, 14, Elizabeth, 12, Estelle, 10, Robert, 7, Lossie, 5, Lawrence, 4, and Thomas, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: insurance agent Robert Haskins, 44; wife Gertrude, 39; and children Mandy, 22, Elizabeth, 20, Estell, 18, Robert, 17, Lossie, 14, Larence, 12, and Tommie, 11.

Laurence Edward Haskins died 29 June 1933 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 September 1917 in Wilson to Robert Haskins and Gertrude Farmer; he was a school boy; and he lived at 1300 Atlantic Street. Cause of death was “accidental drowning while in [sic] bathing in Contentnea Creek.” [This does not comport with the conjectured location for Freeman’s Pond above.]

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.

Screen Shot 2019-11-24 at 5.34.46 AM.png

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.

Darden faculty.

The faculty of C.H. Darden High School, 1937-38:

Bottom row: Spencer J. Satchell, Juanita Pope Morrisey, Cora Miller Washington Artis, Naomi Freeman, Flora Clark Bethel, Marian Howard Miller, Margaret Edwards, Edward M. Barnes, John M. Miller Jr.

Middle row: Margaret Harris, Jane Amos Boyd, Annie Parker Dupree, Helen Delzelle Beckwith Whitted, Rosa Lee Kittrell Williams, A.A. Morrisey.

Top row: Marie Davis, Estelle Lane Shade, Ethel Alexander, Mamie Whitehead.

Photo courtesy of Freeman Round House and African American Museum.

Lord, I am saved.

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 9.46.06 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 9.46.48 PM.png

Monroe (La.) News Star, 27 September 1930.

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 9.49.31 PM.png

Statesville Record & Landmark, 29 September 1930.

Randall and Bynum were granted last-minute reprieves after Sharp and Richardson asserted that the men had not been involved in the death of Williford.

——

  • Aaron Sharp — in the 1910 census of Wilbanks, Gardners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Daniel Sharp, 46; wife Hattie, 38; and sons Daniel, 19, Edmond, 14, Ben, 12, Henry, 5, and Aaron, 2.  In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Daniel Sharp, 54; sons Daniel, 28, Henry, 6, and Aaron, 12; daughter-in-law Lizzie, 23; and mother Harriet, 80. Aaron Sharp died 26 September 1930 in State Prison, Raleigh, as a result of “legal electrocution.” Per his death certificate he was 22 years old; was born in Wilson County to Daniel and Hattie Sharp; was single and had worked as a farmer. His remains were removed to Duke University [presumably, for use in the newly opened Duke University School of Medicine.]
  • Berry Richardson — Berry Richardson died 26 September 1930 in State Prison, Raleigh, as a result of “legal electrocution.” Per his death certificate he was 20 years old; was born in Robeson County to Emma Hamilton; was single and had worked as a farmer. His remains were removed to Fairmont, North Carolina.
  • William Randall — possibly, in the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Charlie Randall, 48; wife Mary, 42; and children Minnie, 21, Blossie, 20, Elijah, 19, William, 18, Nathan, 16, Mary, 15, Joseph, 14, Katie, 13, Sam, 12, Charlie, 10, John, 9, and Cora, 8.
  • Wright Bynum

Dark side of the campus.

There’s a small liberal arts college in Wilson, once known as Atlantic Christian College, now as Barton. It was founded in 1902 by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on a campus just southeast of Grabneck. The actress Ava Gardner attended the school, but did not graduate. In her era, and into my lifetime, Atlantic Christian admitted only white students. Those students produced a yearbook called The Pine Knot, filled each year with cheerful images of the people and events deemed most memorable. In the 1935 edition, the editors saw fit to insert between the campus athletes and the advertisements this page, labeled “Dark Side of the Campus”:

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 1.46.08 PM.png

The men and women depicted are not named or otherwise commented upon. They are, presumably, the housekeepers and custodians, cooks and gardeners, mechanics and porters who kept Atlantic Christian College running and eased life for its merry undergraduates. I cannot identify them, but I can honor their service and memory by recognizing them individually. If you know any of these Depression-era employees of A.C.C., please let me know.

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 2.20.37 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 2.20.52 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 2.21.08 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 2.21.24 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 2.21.36 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 2.22.01 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 2.22.11 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 2.22.22 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 2.22.30 PM.png