1940s

Play with all your might.

On 12 May 1946, Charles Raines and/or Guy Cox visited Saint Alphonsus Catholic School to take these priceless photos of young pupils. Can you identify any of the children?

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Many thanks to John Teel for sharing these images from the Raines & Cox collection of photographs at the North Carolina State Archives. They are catalogued as  PhC_196_CW_104H_StAlphonseSchool1,  PhC_196_CW_104H_StAlphonseSchool2 and
PhC_196_CW_104H_StAlphonseSchool3.

Troop 11 receive their pins.

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  • W.C. Hart — Walter C. Hart
  • Calvary Presbyterian Church
  • Rev. O.J. Hawkins
  • The Girl Scouts — Jean Wynn, Marjorie Taylor, Helen Barnes, Ruth Hart, Vilma Dew, Mary Morris, Barbara Jones, Evangeline Reid, Myrtle Lynch and Dorthy Bynum

Hattie Margaret Henderson joined Troop 11 shortly after the first group of girls received their pins. This Girl Scout Handbook, published in 1948, belonged to Henderson.

Snaps, no. 40: back of house at the Zam-Zam Club.

Raines & Cox shot this photograph of the kitchen staff of the Zam-Zam Club in 1946. Does anyone recognize any of the workers?

Many thanks to John Teel for sharing this image from the Raines & Cox collection of photographs at the North Carolina State Archives. Though it was not taken there, this photograph is found among those shot at the Zam-Zam Club, a night club just north of Wilson city limits. The Zam-Zam, named for an Egyptian ship torpedoed by the Nazis in 1941, opened just after World War II to entertain eastern North Carolina’s white “movers and shakers.” The photo is catalogued as PhC_196_ZZ_8B_Staff.

Snaps, no. 39: unknown man.

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Over their 60+-year career as Wilson’s preeminent photographers, Charles Raines and Guy Cox recorded nearly every facet of county life, including weddings, schools, street scenes and the tobacco industry. In 1993, a Wilson Daily Times article reported that Raines & Cox had shot more than 39,000 studio portraits.

From 1947 until the early 2000s, Raines & Cox’ studio occupied the upper floor of 315-317 East Nash Street, the Carroll building. The image above, which likely depicts the building’s elevator operator, was probably shot shortly after the studio opened.

[UPDATE, 3 July 2018: Per Guy Cox Jr., Doll Speight was the long-time elevator operator and de facto building superintendent at the Carroll Building. However, this is not Speight and does not appear to be the Carroll Building elevator. Was it at Cherry Hotel? The First Union National Bank Building?]

If you can identify this gentleman by name, please let me know.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 April 1947.

Many thanks to John Teel for sharing this image from the Raines & Cox collection of photographs at the North Carolina State Archives. Though it was not taken there, this photograph is found among those shot at the Zam-Zam Club, a night club just north of Wilson city limits. The Zam-Zam, named for an Egyptian ship torpedoed by the Nazis in 1941, opened just after World War II to entertain eastern North Carolina’s “movers and shakers.” The photo is catalogued as PhC_196_ZZ_187_Elevator_Operator.

Snaps, no. 38: James Battle and friends?

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These are two of 19 images from “[t]wo small souvenir albums from PhC.196, Raines & Cox Studio Photo Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC. The negatives were sent to the Raines & Cox Studio in Wilson, NC, to be printed by a James Battle, likely from Wilson, and the resulting little albums were for some reason never delivered to Mr. Battle. The photos in the smaller album depict various scenes and unidentified men and women in unidentified locations in what looks like eastern Europe, and those in the slightly larger one show an unidentified African American woman and various scenes in Atlantic City, NJ. Based on the scant information available in these albums and on the envelope in which they were originally housed, it appears that James Battle was probably a soldier in the US Army and the pictures in both albums were probably shot by him in the mid to late 1940s.

“Please help us identify James Battle and his Army buddies and lady friends depicted in these photos.”

The albums may be found at the Flickr account of the State Archives of North Carolina.

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At least eight James Battles born in Wilson registered for the World War II draft, but only one — James Carter Battle — was still living in Wilson at the time. (The others lived in nearby towns and Norfolk, Virginia.) Was this the James Battle who ordered these albums?

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Carolina Posse Kills Ex-GI.

The lynchings of two Wilson County men are recorded at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The name of the first, killed in 1887, is unknown. The second man, shot to death in 1946, was J.C. Farmer, a 19 year-old veteran of World War II.

Farmer and some friends were in Sims, a village in the western part of the county, playing around while waiting for a bus to take them into Wilson for a Saturday night out. Constable Fes Bissette confronted the group, ordering Farmer to get into his squad car. When Farmer refused, Bissette him in the back of the head with a blackjack, drew his gun and tried to force Farmer into the car. The two scuffled. Seizing control of the gun, Farmer shot Bissette through the hand and fled. An hour later, 20 to 25 white men, including Alcoholic Beverage Control agents armed with submachine guns, cornered Farmer near his mother Mattie Barnes Farmer‘s house and opened fire.

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New Journal and Guide (Norfolk, Va.), 17 August 1946.

Though the scant news accounts available are silent, it appears that Farmer was driven ten miles to Wilson to Mercy Hospital, where Dr. Batie T. Clark pronounced him dead from a “gun shot wound chest” about 30 minutes after arrival. Clark also noted on Farmer’s death certificate, by way of explanation: “shot by officer of law in gun duel” though it is not at all clear which member of the posse’s shot hit Farmer, and there had been no “duel.” (Also, who transported Farmer to town — his family or law enforcement? Why was he seen by Badie Clark, a white doctor, rather than, say, Joseph Cowan?)

In 1951, the Civil Rights Congress issued We Charge Genocide: An Historic Appeal to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government Against the Negro People, a “record of mass slayings on the basis of race.” Among the litany of such state-sanctioned crimes committed from 1945 to 1951 was the killing of J.C. Farmer.

Equal Justice Initiative’s 2015 Lynching in America report mentioned J.C. Farmer’s murder in the chapter described racial terror directed at African-American veterans: “No one was more at risk of experiencing violence and targeted racial terror than black veterans who had proven their valor and courage as soldiers during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Because of their military service, black veterans were seen as a particular threat to Jim Crow and racial subordination. Thousands of black veterans were assaulted, threatened, abused, or lynched following military service.” Farmer’s death was just one of a wave of such lynchings in 1946.

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In the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Josh Farmer, 51; wife Mattie, 46; and children William A., 21, Josh W., 17, Waneta, 14, Lonnie D., 12, Robert, 10, Albert H., 6, and J.C., 3.

In the 1940 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Jack Farmer, 59; wife Mattie, 55; and children Authur, 24, Jack Jr., 23, Robert, 20, Harry, 16, J.C., 13, and Juanita Barnes, 22, and her children Mattie Lee, 3, and Marjorie, 1.

J.C. Farmer registered for the World War II draft on 21 October 1944, was honorably discharged on 16 August 1945, and was dead 13 days’ shy of a year later.

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For the hanged and beaten. For the shot, drowned and burned. The tortured, tormented and terrorized. For those abandoned by the rule of law.

We will remember.

With hope because hopelessness is the enemy of justice. With courage because peace requires bravery. With persistence because justice is a constant struggle. With faith because we shall overcome.

National Memorial for Peace and Justice