1940s

The Singing Engineers.

“Billy Rowe’s Note Book” was a regular music column published in the Pittsburgh Courier. In late summer 1943, Edgar T. Rouseau filled in for the vacationing Rowe. Rouseau, with the American Allied Forces “somewhere in the Mediterranean,” shined a spotlight on “sepia bands” whose members were soldiers, including that of the famous Singing Engineers of the all-black 41st Engineer Regiment.

 

Pittsburgh Courier, 11 September 1943.

William Coleman, of Wilson, N.C., plays the alto sax. He is an experienced player who was formerly with Snookum Russell’s Min[illegible], the Frank H. Young Shows and the Carolina Stompers.”

The obituary of Charles Oats.

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Wilson Daily Times, 16 July 1941.

Incredibly, the grave markers of Charles Oats and his wife Emma Oats are among the few that remain at Rountree cemetery. Oats was an employee of C.H. Darden and Sons Funeral Home.

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In the 1870 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Albert Oates, 40; wife Elizabeth, 30; and children Ferrebee, 10, and Charly, 3.

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Albert Oates, 51; wife Bettie, 34; and children Charles, 13, Turner, 11, Adam, 9, and Willie, 3.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: day laborer Charles Oates, 34; wife Emma, 30; and children Willie, 11, Fannie, 9, Annie, 8, Effie, 5, and Queen Elsie, 4.

On 9 August 1916, Charles Oats, 53, applied for a license to marry Lou Woodard, 48. It was never returned for registration.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on 119 Ash Street, laborer Charlie Oats, 52; wife Lilla, 42; and step-children Lizzie, 24, and Elmira Woodard, 15.

On 6 December 1920, Fannie McCullers died in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 32 years old; married to Andrew McCullers; lived on Ash Street; and was born in Wilson County to Charley Oates of Edgecombe County and Emma Williams of Wilson County.

On 3 February 1921, Matthew Smith of Greene County married Annie Edmundson, 30, of Wilson, daughter of Charles and Emma Oats. A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of James Debury, Charles Thomas and Richard Green.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 203 Stantonsburg, rented for $24/month, Charlie Oats, 67, undertaking establishment laborer; wife Emma, 53; daughter Almira, 25; and mother Betsie, 92.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Jeff Benjamin, 41, bricklayer; wife Marie, 26, tobacco factory laborer; and lodger Charlie Oats, 75, widower, undertaker shop laborer.

Charles Oats died 13 July 1941 at his home at 112 South Vick Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 September 1873 in Edgecombe County to Albert Oats and Bessie Mercer; was widowed; and was an undertakers assistant.

School days.

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Inez Dickerson Bell, Pauline Farmer White, James Ellis, Deveria Jackson Turner Wing.

James “Casey” Ellis submitted this 1941 photo of himself and three Darden High School friends to the Wilson Daily Times, which ran it on 1 April 2003. Bell, White, and Turner graduated in the Class of 1944.

 

Music lessons.

Though this image of Sister Antonio Spruill of Oblate Sisters of Providence was taken in the 1950s, just beyond the range of Black Wide Awake, it’s really just too great not to be included here. Barbara Farmer, at far left, identified the other girls as Josephine Collins, Gail Peacock, JoAnn Jenkins and Wilter Davis. (Thank you!)

“Music Class St. Alphonsus School in Wilson, N.C.”

In 1947, per the city directory, Saint Alphonsus Catholic School operated from 600 East Green Street, the large two-story house at the corner of Pender Street built for J.D. and Eleanor Reid. By 1950, the house was a nunnery for the Oblate Sisters.

Founded in 1828, the Oblate Sisters of Providence was the first permanent community of Roman Catholic sisters of African descent in the United States. Though small, the order remains active.

Wilson Daily Times, 25 May 1946.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 September 1948.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Caesar Parker of Keo, Arkansas.

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Undated issue of the Arkansas Gazette.

OLD DARKIE PASSES ON TO REWARD LEAVING MANY GOOD EXAMPLES FOR OTHERS TO FOLLOW

By Robert Sakon

In the early hours of the morning of June 27, 1940, Caeser Parker, colored, passed away. His passing was indeed marked by the stillness of the morning as he had lived his life, quiet and peaceful. Caeser Parker was born in Wilson, North Carolina in the year 1861 and moved to Arkansas in the year 1890. During this time he had resided in and around England and Keo. Coming to Lonoke county as a young man Caeser Parker, with his wife, began his lifelong work farming, producing from the earth that which all of us must depend upon. During this time he raised his family of three boys and five girls, which still survive. In the year of 1924 in the month of March, his wife died. It was a severe blow to lose his mate of forty years. So well was his family thought of that at the funeral of his wife the Colored Baptist church at Keo could not hold the ones who came to pay their respects. In the year 1926, Caesar remarried, still determined to continue his life farming, living among those who knew him best. He joined the Baptist church at Keo in 1892 and was a deacon for 44 years, the oldest deacon in that church in the point of service. At the time of his death he was living on the farm he bought from Mr. Jimmy Cobb 25 years ago. This forty acre farm was his pride and joy.

Surviving are two sons, Will and R.D. Parker of Keo; three daughters, Lula of Little Rock, Etta of Tucker and Mary Armstrong of Los Angeles, Calif. His funeral was held on the evening of June 30, at the colored Baptist church of Keo where every seat and available space was filled with those who came to pay their respects to this well known and beloved colored person. Among the many white people to attend were Mr. and Mrs. M. Adler, Mrs. A. Lindenburg and Robert Sakon of England, and many from Keo and surrounding territory. The pastor of the church called upon the writer to say a few words. Robert Sakon said: “We enter this world without our consent; we leave against our wishes, yet, if each and every one of us can live the life of the deceased then we can proudly have no fear of the hereafter. A better colored person never lived than Caeser Parker; he always was a person that was well loved by both the white and the colored. He has built a place in the hearts of all of us who knew him that can never be replaced. Caeser Parker added much to the prestige of the colored race; he lived a life that was without blemish his record was clean he was not as well known as the great Booker T. Washington, the colored educator, or as powerful with his fists as Joe Louis, but to us who knew him he was a champion in every way. everyone whether he be white or colored can proudly point to in his record of 79 years never once being in trouble of any kind. His death is a great loss to the colored people, but is a goal that to live like him is to have the respect, the best interest, the betterment of their race because of the respect of the white people and the colored. W.M. Wilson said that in the passing of Caeser Parker one of the best beloved darkies of our time has passed beyond. Caeser Parker was always trying to help, always taking pleasure in aiding the American Red Cross with his bit, always trying to build up goodwill for those of his race, in life, as in death, kind, gracious and peaceful.

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Caesar Parker (1861-1940).

In the 1870 census of California township, Pitt County: John Parker, 50; wife Piety, 40; and children Esther, 20, Sarah, 18,  Green, 16, and Ceasar, 8; [and grandchildren] John, 3, and Lucy, Fannie and Rose, 8 months. [No cohabitation record exists for John and Piety Parker in either Wilson or Pitt Counties. Assuming Caesar Parker’s birthplace is correct in his obituary,  it is not clear if the family was originally from Wilson and moved to Pitt, or were Pitt County natives who lived briefly in Wilson.]

In the 1880 census of Falkland township, Pitt County: John Parker, 60; wife Pietty, 50; children Esther, 33, Greene, 25, and Ceasur, 18; and grandchildren John, 11, Lucy and Fanny, 9, Henry, 5, and Sarah, 4.

On 26 January 1882, Caesar Parker, 21, son of John and Pristy Parker, married Judy Newton, 20, daughter of Abel and Mary Newton, in Falkland township, Pitt County.

In the 1900 census of Lafayette township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: Ceaza Parker, 39; wife Juda, 42; and children Mattie, 16, Ned, 14, Daniel, 12, Louvenia, 18, Herbert, 4, Piety, 4, and Mary A., 1. Next door: Bud Fobes, 27; wife Esther, 23; and sons Artha, 1, and an unnamed newborn; plus boarder Piety Parker, 80. All over age 4 were born in North Carolina.

In the 1910 census of Lafayette township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: on Witherspoon Road, farmer Caesar Parker, 49; wife Judah, 47; children Louvenia, 17, Hubbard, 15, Piety, 13, and Mary A., 11; and Frank Dancy, 10

In the 1920 census of Lafayette township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: on Keo Road, Caesar Parker, 60; wife Judie, 62; daughters Piety, 23, and Mary A., 20; and granddaughter Emma, 5.

In the 1930 census of Lafayette township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: farmer Ceasar Parker, 69; wife Annie, 56; grandchildren Emma Parker, 16, Herbert Moore, 9, and Lottie Greene, 6; and stepsons Leroy Newsom, 19, Willie Newsum, 18, and Elihue Austin, 16.

In the 1940 census of Lafayette township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: on “unimproved dirt road running west into Keo Road,” in a house owned and valued at $200, farmer Caesar Parker, 79; wife Annie, 68; daughter Prince Brockman, 40; her children Cumy, 16, Elvira, 16, Mary, 14, Andrew, 12, Willie, 8, and Almary, 6; and granddaughter Lottie Parker, 16.

Caesar Parker died 27 June 1940 in Lafayette township, Lonoke County, Arkansas. Per his death certificate, he was 80 years old; the son of John Parker and Piti Etta of North Carolina; was married to Annie Parker, 66; and worked as a farmer.

Images courtesy of Ancestry.com user Joanetta Counce.

All invited to the farm family picnic.

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Wilson Daily Times, 21 June 1947.

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  • C.W. Foster — Carter W. Foster.
  • Helen T. Wade — In the 1947 North Carolina Manual, published by the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office, Helen T. Wade is listed as the colored home demonstration agent for Wilson County. Wade married Charles E. Branford in 1950.
  • Frederick Douglass High School was Elm City’s African-American high school from 1939 until the end of segregation in Wilson County schools in 1969.

Ruby Jane Lassiter comes home.

Ruby Jane Lassiter, born 19 August 1923 in Wilson, N.C., died 30 August 1943 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

On 30 August 1943, two months after she arrived in Indianapolis (and 11 days after her birthday), 20 year-old Ruby Jane Lassiter was dead. Her family entrusted her body to Jacobs Brothers Funeral Home, and the newly digitized records of that establishment detail the arrangements to bring her home.

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(Plummer D. and Cary D. Jacobs, born in 1897 and 1901 in Dudley, Wayne County, North Carolina, were the nephews of Jesse A. Jacobs, Jr.)

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In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: at 709 Lipscomb Road, owned and valued at $1000, truck gardener Jesse C. Lassiter, 41, widower, and children Jesse C., Jr., 15, James D., 13, Ernest D., 12, Annie B., 10, Mildred P., 8, Ruby J., 7, Lesie D., 6, Harvey G., 5, and Wade, 2. [Mildred Lassiter Sherrod died six months prior to her sister Ruby, also of tuberculosis.]

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 709 Lipscomb Road, WPA laborer Jessie Lassiter, 50, and children Ruby, 16, Lessie L., 15, Harvey, 14, and Wade, 12.

Many thanks to Allen County (Ind.) Public Library’s Genealogy Center, the Indiana African American Genealogy Group, and the Indiana Genealogical Society for collaborating to digitize Jacobs Brothers Funeral Home’s records and to digitalblackhistory.com for bringing this database to my attention.

Coley receives a degree in library science.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 June 1947.

Elizabeth Pauleze Coley was almost certainly the first, and perhaps the only, African-American native of Wilson to graduate what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. A 1940 graduate of Charles H. Darden High School, she received her first degree from North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University) in 1944.

Coley married Kelly Winslow Bryant of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and eventually migrated to suburban Washington, D.C. Though it’s not clear whether she ever worked in Wilson — the main library on West Nash Street was whites-only in 1947, and the tiny Negro branch remained a fledgling — Elizabeth Pauleze Coley Bryant did become a librarian.

Roundtable (1969), the yearbook of Frank W. Ballou High School, Washington, D.C.

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Elizabeth P. Coley was born 1 May 1923 in Wilson to David Henry Coley and Eva Jane Speight.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 930 [sic, 931] Carolina Street, barber Henry Coley, 48; wife Eva, 46, teacher; and children James, 16, Eva, 15, and Elizabeth, 13. [The ages of this entire family are off. David H. Coley was in fact about; Eva, about 30; Elizabeth, about 6; and Eva, about 4.]

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 East Green, rented for $15/month, barber Henry D. Coley, 44; wife Eva J., 39, teacher in public schools; and daughters Elizabeth P., 16, Grace L., 14, and Eva E., 10.

In the 1948 Rocky Mount, North Carolina, city directory: Bryant Kelly W (c; Pauleze; Wright’s Chick Shack) r 522 Raleigh rd