Children

The death of Alphonso Battle, age 15.

The Daily Times reported the death of 15 year-old Alphonso Battle as tragic, but straightforward — he had accidentally shot himself in the chest while squirrel hunting.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 October 1937.

Bizarrely, though, Battle’s death certificate tells a completely different story, establishing his legal cause of death as “natural cause no sign of foul play.”

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In the 1930 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer John H. Battle, 49; wife Loutoria, 40; and children Johnie L., 21, Nettie, 19, Bessie L., 16, Mary L., 15, Roosevelt, 14, Armettie, 11, Alphnza, 8, Estelle, 7, Augustus, 4, and Harvey L., 2.

Snaps, no. 80: Two boys and a dog.

Lucian J. Henderson, in aviator helmet and goggles, stands with a dog between two unidentified houses in East Wilson. The boy at left in striped socks, also unidentified, is standing in the remnants of a light snow. The photo dates to the mid-1930s.

Photo in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

The 103rd anniversary of the school boycott.

Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the resignation of 11 African-American teachers in Wilson, North Carolina, in rebuke of their “high-handed” black principal and the white school superintendent who slapped one of them. In their wake, black parents pulled their children out of the public school en masse and established a private alternative in a building owned by a prominent black businessman.  Financed with 25¢-a-week tuition payments and elaborate student musical performances, the Independent School operated for nearly ten years. The school boycott, sparked by African-American women standing at the very intersection of perceived powerless in the Jim Crow South, was an astonishing act of prolonged resistance that unified Wilson’s black toilers and strivers.

The teachers.

The school boycott is largely forgotten in Wilson, and its heroes go unsung. In their honor, today, and every April 9, I publish links to these Black Wide-Awake posts chronicling the walk-out and its aftermath. Please read and share and speak the names of Mary C. Euell and the revolutionary teachers of the Colored Graded School.

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what-happened-when-white-perverts-threatened-to-slap-colored-school-teachers

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lynching-going-on-and-there-are-men-trying-to-stand-in-with-the-white-folks

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Albert Gay Jr. knocked from bicycle.

Eight year-old Albert Sylvester Gay Jr. broke three ribs when an automobile knocked from off his bicycle. 

Wilson Daily Times, 11 July 1925.

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In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Alice Gay, 45; daughter Beatrice, 26; grandson Jerome Wood, 11; granddaughter Gereddine, 10; son Albert, 30; daughter-in-law Anabell, 24; grandsons Albert Jr., 4, and Jesse, 2; son-in-law Fredrick Bolling, 35; daughter Lillie, 23; and grandchildren Delma, 4, and Fredrick, 2.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 623 Green, widow Annie B. Gay, 30, a laundress; husband Albert, 40, a bellboy; mother-in-law Alic, 73; and children Albert Jr., 14, Jessie, 11, Hal, 8, Samual, 6, Mirrian, 4, and Ralph, 2. The house was valued at $8000.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 623 Green, Albert Gay, 24, truck driver for retail furniture store; and his siblings Harrell, 19, Samuel, 17, Annie M., 14, and Ralph, 12; plus lodgers Mrs. Julia Russell, 40, and her son, Albert, 22.

The death of young Alex Washington.

Twelve year-old Alexander Washington died of appendicitis in March 1918, a not uncommon outcome in an era of clumsy surgery and few antibiotics. Compounding the sadness of his young death is the realization that he was already a full-time working man when he was struck down.

Washington’s death certificate notes that he was a servant in a boarding house and employed by Mrs. Lillie Barnes. Astonishingly, in 1916, when he was 11, he was listed as a butler in the Wilson city directory. I have not been able to identify with certainty Lillie Barnes or the boarding house. The inclusion of the honorific “Mrs.” implies that Lillie Barnes was white. However, there was only one Lillie Barnes listed in the 1912 and 1916 city directories, and she was “colored.” In 1916, Lillie Barnes was listed with no occupation and living at 612 East Nash Street. The 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals a small shotgun, or “endway,” house at this address, not a dwelling large enough to have been a boarding house requiring a full-time servant.

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In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Spruce Street, Aaron Washington, 46, drayman; wife Stella, 36, laundress; and children Clee, 17, cook, Ora, 12, cook, Grey A., 10, Hattie, 8, Alex, 6, Beatrice, 5, Lillie R., 2, and James W., 1.

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Washington Alex (c) butler h Wainwright av nr S Reid. Also: Washington Aaron (c) drayman h Wainwright av nr S Reid; Washington Hattie (c) dom h Wainwright av nr S Reid; Washington Ora M (c) dom h Wainwright av nr S Reid.

[Note: The informant on Alexander Washington’s death certificate was his paternal grandmother, Judia [Julia] Washington. She correctly named Alex’s father, Aaron Washington, but when asked “maiden name of mother,” she gave her own maiden name — Judia Sharpe. It was a surprisingly common mistake. Alex Washington’s mother was Estella Simms Washington.]

Lane Street Project: Delzela Rountree.

Delzela Dau of Jack & Lucile Rountree Born Aug. 5, 1897 Died Mar. 8, 1914 An angel visited the green earth and took the flower away.

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In the 1900 census of Falkland township, Pitt County: farmer Jack Rountree, 49; wife Lucy, 27; and children Julius, 5, Daisy E., 2, and Cora, 2 months; sisters Marcela, 23, Cora, 24, and Ella Bargeron, 26; and boarder Jacob Worthan, 18.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, farmer Jack Rountree, 53; wife Lucy, 35; and children Junius, 15, Delzel, 12, Cora Lee, 10, John H., 7, James, 6, Mable, 4, and Gollie May, 1.

Daisy L. [sic] Roundtree died 5 August 1914 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1898to Jack Roundtree and Lucy Body; was single; lived on Stantonsburg Street; and was buried in Wilson. 

Drowned while swimming in backwaters.

An article about severe flooding on the Roanoke River mentioned the drowning death of 13 year-old Willie Forsythe in Wilson County’s Black Creek.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 August 1940.

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In the 1930 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: William Forsythe, 60; wife Marilda, 55; granddaughter Nancy Forsythe, 13; and grandson William Oliver, 2 months.

Willie Forsythe died 18 August 1940 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 13 years old; was born in Wilson County (or perhaps Brooklyn, N.Y.) to James Oliver of Brooklyn and Viola Forsythe of Wilson County; and was buried in a family cemetery. Informant was William Forsythe. 

“Accidental drowning — while swimming in Black Creek”