Biography

Sallie B. Howard remembers Principal Barnes.

Circa 1992, the C.H. Darden High School Alumni Association published a short memoir of the school’s long-time principal Edward Morrison Barnes (1905-2002). Sallie Baldwin Howard, an accomplished educator in her own right, penned this brief forward.

My Principal

I remember Mr. [Edward M.] Barnes as my principal of both Wilson Public High School and Charles H. Darden High. As incongruous as this may seem, nevertheless — it is true. E.g. In 1938, Wilson Public High School became Charles H. Darden High School and Mr. Barnes, of course — was already the principal.

Mr. Barnes was also the first high school teacher hired from Wilson. He was hired as a French and English teacher. After less than two years, Mr. [William H.A.] Howard the principal died and Mr. Barnes became the principal. Our class of 1938 would be the first class to ever graduate from a Wilson public school named for an African-American: Charles H. Darden High School.

Consequently, the year 1938 becomes a historical landmark for the Black community. Both, our Principal and our class — were thrust into history simply because we just happened to be in a specific place at a specific time. Nevertheless, we’re proud that Lady Luck was on our side!

Tat, Tat, Tat …

Next, I remember my principal because of his habit of lightly tapping a thin ruler against the wall when he wished to gain the attention of students who might be loitering about the halls during  the changing or classes.

This soft “tat, tat, tat” was all that was needed to send us hurrying on to wherever we were supposed to be. I don’t remember ever hearing him raise his voice in order to achieve quiet or get the attention of that All-Black student body.

I’ve had many occasions to reflect on this as a teacher in the New York Public School System. I’d observe both the principal and the teachers practically wear out their lungs in a vain effort to achieve hallway order. Their loud and strident method of trying to achieve quiet, only added to the terrible din of noise.

Quiet Discipline

My memory of Mr. Barnes’s unique method of controlling his student population made a lasting impression on me and it has stayed with me during my many years of working with children.It has made me realize that one of the greatest accomplishments a classroom teacher can achieve is to train his/her children to respond to quiet discipline!

Even today, in the Youth Enrichment Program where I serve as Education Coordinator, Quiet Discipline is insisted upon. And like that of my principal’s so long ago, it still works!

Somebody Noticed — Thank God!

I also remember an occasion when my principal had more confidence in my ability than I had in myself.

Right from the outset, I’d decided that I didn’t like French. Today, I realize that I simply did not want to give up that much of my leisure time in order to learn the vocabulary and verb-conjugations necessary to master a foreign language. Completely unwilling to do this, I simply decided to just try and “get by!” And, of course, my grades quickly reflected just that! But even with the filing grades, I don’t remember being particularly concerned. But somebody was — Thank God!

Consequently, when my principal spoke to me about my grade (78%) — I was shocked and wondered who had ratted on me! How else would he know? I remember telling him that I simply couldn’t learn French — to which he, thank God — paid not the slightest bit of attention. Instead, after chastising me rather severely — he simply pulled me out of my regular class, plopped me down in his office and began teaching me the fundamentals of French. Teaching, testing and grading away — for a while week! At the end of the that time, my grades had zoomed up to 100%! Only then was I permitted to return to my regular class and rejoin my friends.

Nevertheless, as traumatic as this experience had been to my ego, I’d begun to understand the procedure of learning a foreign language. And despite myself, I’d fallen in love with the process. Moreover, that experience got me hooked on foreign languages. Later on in life, I went on to study French, Spanish, Hebrew and Kiswahili!

Fond Memories

There are so many meaningful memories that flood my mind as I think back to those high school days. Such as: our principal himself, driving is in his car to the various tournaments in which we had to participate. Or like arranging for me to have a little library job in order for me to have some spending change — $6.00 per month etc!

During those Terrible Thirties, I used to wonder if my principal realized that the $6.00 was more than spending change for me — but was desperately needed in our house to help out with the bills! How I hoped that he didn’t know this! But once I was an adult and I myself a classroom teacher, I came to realize that there is very little about pupils that the principal and teachers don’t know!

Anyway, during those skimpy days of the Deep Depression, when both the teachers and principal had been obliged to struggle mightily to get to where they were, not only did they know, but what they did for us precisely because they did know. But most importantly for us students — they also REMEMBERED!

S.B. Howard, 1992.

A Sallie Barbour student remembers.

Cora and Levi Wellington reared seven children on Manchester Street, first in a three-room endway house at 313 and then a four-room house at 402. Cora Wellington, now Dawson, is now 92 years old and has vivid memories of her East Wilson school days: 

From Charles L. Coon, The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24.

Cora Ruth Greene Wellington Dawson attended Sallie Barbour School from 1934 to 1937.  Eleanor P. Reid was principal. Mrs. Dawson recalls that Mrs. Reid rang a big bell when school started (and everyone had to be seated), at lunch time, and at the end of the day. She remembers eating peanut butter with jelly sandwiches and homemade soup at school everyday – at no charge. She remembers huge swings and merry go rounds in the playground and outside toilets. Some of the teachers at the school were Mrs. Georgia Dupree, Mrs. Addie Butterfield (who taught 4th grade), and Mrs. Celie Norwood.  Mrs. Norwood, who taught Mrs. Dawson’s first husband Levi Wellington in third grade, lived in a two-story house on Pender Street. The house, which has been demolished, stood behind Calvary Presbyterian Church, which then faced Green Street.  Many of the teachers, who were always sharply dressed in heels and suits, walked down Wainwright Street to the school.

Sallie Barbour School was located across from Cemetery Street near the present location of cinderblock apartments. Mrs. Dawson recalled that students entered the school on the Stantonsburg Street side, now known as Pender Street. The back of the school faced Manchester Street. This section of Wilson is often referred to as “the school yard” long after Sallie Barbour School is gone. The school building was all wood. The front porch, where everyone entered the building, was very large. The principal’s office, located in the front of the building, faced Stantonsburg Street, and children had to pass Mrs. Reid’s office and walk down a long hall way to their classes. Though she was just six years old, Mrs. Dawson remembers having to take her younger brother to school with her because she was his babysitter. She would go downstairs to the girls’ toilet outside to change his diaper, and the teacher would make a place for him to take a nap behind the big blackboard in the back of the classroom.

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Cora Green Wellington Dawson in 2018.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Grace Street, public service laborer Henry Green, 47; wife Lottie, 40, cook; and children Cora, 12, Fred, 9, Henry Jr., 7, Edward, 2, and James, no age given.

Cora Green married Levi Wellington on 28 September 1944.

Levi Wellington- student at Sallie Barbour School in 1934

Levi Wellington.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Highway 42, farmer Haywood Willieston, 35; wife Lonie, 30; and children Haywood, 12, Leavay, 10, Sudie, 6, Mary, 8, Magline, 4, Raymond, 2.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Grace Street, public service laborer Haywood Wellington, 46; wife Lona, 40; and children Levi, 20, grocery store delivery, Sudie, 16, Magerlean, 14, Raymon, 12, Helen, 7, and Gereldean, 4.

In 1940, Levi Wellington registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 16 September 1919 in Greene County, North Carolina; lived at 409 Grace Street, Wilson; his contact was mother Lona Wellington, same address; and he worked for Barnes-Graves Grocery Company.

Levi Wellington died 13 November 1978 in Wilson.

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Cora and Levi Wellington at their house on Manchester Street, 1960s.

Many thanks to Dr. Judy Wellington Rashid for sharing her mother’s memories of the Sallie Barbour School and photographs of her family.

She Changed the World: Ruth Whitehead Whaley.

Last week, Wayne County Public Library presented Part II of “Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History,” Wayne County’s contribution to She Changed the World: North Carolina Woman Breaking Barriers, an initiative by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to celebrate the achievements of North Carolina women and explore the diversity of their experiences and impact on our history. Part II focuses on Goldsboro native Ruth Whitehead Whaley, the first African-American woman admitted to the North Carolina bar.

My thanks to Local History librarians Marty Tschetter and Paul Saylors for inviting me to contribute remarks on the influence Ms. Whaley has had on my mission in Black Wide-Awake and the importance of stories like hers.

Goldsboro News-Argus, 30 May 1932.

[Sidenote: Judge Frank A. Daniels was the older brother of Josephus Daniels, newspaper editor and racist demagogue. Both grew up in Wilson.]

The Dunston twins turn 90.

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Wilson Daily Times, 15 April 2006.

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Harry Dunston married Mary Stancil on 28 December 1897 on Oneal township, Johnston County.

In the 1910 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Harry Dunston, 58, his wife of 6 years Livia A., 46, and children James, 10, Pearly, 7, Percy, 7, Alparada, 3, and Ollie, 1 1/2.

In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Harry Duncan [sic], 59; wife Livian, 39; and children Alparato, 11, Oliver W. 9, Bettie, 8, Clara, 7, Joseph, 6, Sidney, 5, Ruby and Ruth, 3, and Pearl and Percy, 15.

Livan Dunston died 29 April 1947 in Old Fields township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 May 1885 in Wilson County to Best Taborn and Clara Locus; was married to Harry Dunston; and is buried at New Vester.

Harry Dunston died 10 August 1950 in Old Fields township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born December 1859 in Wake County to Ben Dunston and Harriett Hester; was a widower; was a farmer; and was buried at New Vester. Eliza Dunstan Hayes was informant.

Ruby Dunston Jones passed away 6 March 2016, just before her 100th birthday.

 

Madam Walker and Doctor Ward.

The Netflix limited series Self Made is refocusing attention on Madam C.J. Walker, the millionaire entrepreneur and empowerer of women best known for her haircare empire. The series is honest about being more “inspired by” Madam Walker’s life than true to it. Chockablock with B-list black star power (plus Octavia Spencer), Self Made is entertaining if you don’t think about it too hard. Ultimately, however, its heavy-handed resort to tropes and types and its soap opera style do a disservice to her story. Anyone wanting a closer truth should turn to A’Lelia Bundles’ On Her Own Ground, or my fave, Beverly Lowry’s Her Dream of Dreams: The Rise and Triumph of Madam C.J. Walker. Among other things, you’ll find an important part of Walker’s story completely omitted from Self-Made — her relationship with Dr. Joseph H. Ward, an African-American physician born in Wilson about 1872.

When she first arrived in Indianapolis in 1910, Walker boarded with Joseph and Zella Locklear Ward and gave beauty culture demonstrations in their parlor.

Indianapolis Recorder, 12 February 1910.

Indianapolis Recorder, 5 March 1910.

Walker and her daughter Lelia Robinson grew close to the Wards, and Dr. Ward was Madam’s personal physician the remainder of her life. He was at her bedside when she died.

The Wards accompanied Madam Walker on a drive to Kansas City, Missouri, where she addressed the National Educational Congress on “How the Negro Woman May Success in Business.” Indianapolis Star, 13 July 1913.

On a drive from Saint Louis to Kansas City, the automobile in which the Wards and Walker were traveling was jumped by a wild animal. Indianapolis Star, 28 September 1913.

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Also in 1913, on the steps of the newly dedicated Y.M.C.A., Madam Walker with Booker T. Washington and, behind them, her lawyer Freeman Ransom and Dr. Joseph H. Ward.  

From Lowry’s Her Dream of Dreams:

“By Friday, Ward informs the household that Madame Walker cannot last longer than Sunday. On Saturday night, about midnight, she slips into unconsciousness. And her faithful friends and doctors and family gather around her bed; they are religious people who also believe in love and company, and that no one should pass from this life into the next alone. And so they wait, hushed, whispering, watching her, waiting.

“Sunday dawns warms and clear, and early rays of the sun crack through the drawn damask curtains and perhaps fall in splinters across the rose silk coverlet on Madame’s bed. At seven o’clock her people are still there, but no one feels her go and no one knows when she dies until Ward turns and says, ‘It’s over.’

“And if they weep it is with relief, for the end of her suffering. Her dying words, Ward later reports, were ‘I want to live to help my race.'”

Photo courtesy of Madam Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

Remembering Mrs. Johnson, honoring Mrs. Richie.

Pioneering mathematician Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson passed away today at the age of 101. Mrs. Johnson’s calculations of orbital mechanics were vital to the success of the United States’ first manned space flights.

Wilson County’s own Christine Barnes Richie also worked as a “human computer” for NASA’s predecessor in the 1950s. In 2019, Mrs. Richie was selected as one of two inaugural recipients of the Salem College Trailblazer Award. Her taped acceptance speech was aired at Salem College’s 2019 commencement ceremony.

Many thanks to Patricia Freeman for sharing.

Update: James Woodard’s father, Amos.

A few days ago, the blog of the North Carolina Civil War and Reconstruction History Center posted an article on James Woodard, whose Wilson County connection I shared here. This article explores the identity of James Woodard’s father Amos, who is recorded in family lore as having been sold away. Identifying two Amos Woodards from Wilson County who enlisted in regiments of the United States Colored Troops, researcher Cheri Todd Molter speculates that Amos’ sudden departure was due to his having run away to join the Army, rather than being sold away.

The records below offer descriptions of both men. Further research is required to determine which, if either, was James Woodard’s father, and if either were related to London Woodard.

Amos Woodard enlisted in Company M, 14 Regiment U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, on 24 April 1865 in New Bern, North Carolina. He was 18 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall, with black eyes, hair and complexion. He deserted on 13 July 1865 at Fort Macon, N.C.

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Amos Woodard enlisted in Company I, 14 Regiment U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, on 4 April 1865 in New Bern, North Carolina. He was 18 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, with black eyes and hair and yellow complexion. He deserted on 10 June 1865 at Morehead City, N.C., and returned to duty in August.

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Porch talk.

I’m deeply grateful to Harry B. Harris for allowing me to share the first episode of “Porch Talk,” his series of interviews with the elders of East Wilson. Harris here is talking with Romaine Ellis Blackston, Samuel C. Lathan, and Sterling Corbett on the porch of the East Nash Street house in which 94 year-old Mrs. Blackston has lived all her life. Her recollection of the residents and businesses of East Nash Street is like a walk through the posts of Black Wide-Awake. Enjoy!