Children

Kirby’s School.

The thirteenth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Kirby’s School

Also known as Kirby’s Crossing School. This school is listed as a Rosenwald school in Survey File Materials Received from Volunteer Surveyors of Rosenwald Schools Since September 2002.

Location: A 1925 soil map of Wilson County appears to show a school next to Saint Delight Free Will Baptist Church on a tiny lane that runs parallel to the railroad.

However, 1936 state road map of Wilson County shows a school on what appears to be present-day Newsome Mill Road, near the community of Boyette, which was a name by which the Kirby’s Crossing community was once known.

Description: Per The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24, Kirbys School was a three-room school seated on one acre. This photo appears in the report, but may depict an earlier school in the vicinity, also called Kirby’s, that served white children.

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In 1936, African-American children at Rocky Branch, Williamson, Kirby’s, New Vester and Calvin Level schools — all in the rural southwest quadrant of Wilson County — responded to a survey about education and farm life.

Known faculty: None.

Photos of the Colored Graded and Independent Schools.

Circa 1992, the C.H. Darden High School Alumni Association published a pamphlet featuring a short memoir of the school’s long-time principal Edward M. Barnes (1905-2002). Among other things, Mr. Barnes spoke of the school boycott that led to the opening of Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute. Accompanying the text are these remarkable images.

First, another group photograph of the Colored Graded School’s teachers. Eleven teachers walked off the job to protest the superintendent’s assault on Mary C. Euell. Presumably, these are the eleven.

“The Staff of Wilson Graded School c. 1918. Ms. Uzell, the teacher whom the Superintendent slapped. Back Row: 3rd from right.” [The teacher’s name, in fact, was Euell.]

Second, a group photograph of students standing in front of the familiar bay windows and entry door of the Colored Graded School on Stantonsburg Street. The school’s highest grade level was eighth, and this may have been a group of graduating students.

“Our only public school was emptied of all the students” “The Colored Graded School”

Third, and most astonishingly, a photograph of the two-story building that housed Wilson Normal and Industrial School, also known as the Independent School, its lawn and balconies brimming with students and, it appears, parents.

“The Independent School was housed in one of Mr. Sam Vick’s houses on E. Vance Street.”

I am trying to track down the originals of these photographs to share with you. As I have testified repeatedly, the school boycott and creation of the W.N.I.A. were the most revolutionary collective strikes against white supremacy (and, to use a thoroughly modern term: misogynoir) in the history of Wilson County.

In the meantime, here’s W.N.I.A. on East Vance Street in the 1922 Sanborn map of Wilson. The shotgun (endway) house at 602 is clearly visible above.

The school building was still standing in 1964, as shown in this close-up of an aerial image of part of Wilson.

However, by time the city was next photographed in 1971, the Independent School building had been demolished.

This apartment building occupies the site today.

Aerial photos courtesy of Wilson County Technology Services Department; photo of 604-606 East Vance Street by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020.

Teenager killed in a car-bike accident.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 May 1946.

Fourteen year-old Jesse Lee Davis was seated on the handlebars of his friend Walter Rogers‘ bicycle when a car made a left turn in front of them. Rogers did not see the car and ran into it, killing Davis. The driver of the car, a 22 year-old white man named Vernest Ballance, was initially charged with manslaughter in Davis’ death, but the case was dismissed after a preliminary hearing.

  • Jesse Lee Davis

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Jesse Lee Davis was the son of Clinton Davis and Alliner Sherrod Davis Randall.

  • Walter Rogers

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 705 East Green (one of several families in a rooming house), tobacco factory stemmer Thomas Rodgers, 37; wife Minorh, 33, housemaid; and children Ruth, 15, Joseph, 14, Otis G., 12, and Walter, 8.

Marble competition.

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Wilson Daily Times, 2 July 1940.

Parker Reuben Battle was born in Wilson on 21 July 1928 to John Battle and Gladys O’kelly Battle. [His aunt, Roberta Battle Johnson, was one of the teachers who resigned en masse to protest the mistreatment of teacher Mary C. Euell by a white superintendent.]

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 322 South Spring Street, owned and valued at $8000, cooper John Battle, 39; wife Gladis, 26; and children Grace G., 3, and Parker, 1; also, blacksmith Timothy Black, 23; wife Grace, 30; relative Olga L. [Battle], 22, public school teacher.

In the 1940 census of New Rochelle, Westchester County, New York: at 154 Crosby Place, garage helper Arthur Johnson, 30, wife Cora, 30, boarding house keeper, and son Arthur W., 9; brother-in-law Jack Willis, 33, chauffeur, and [Johnson’s] sister Pricie, 24, and children Albert, 3, Anna, 2, and Joan Arlene, 3 months; porter Herman Murphy, 28, and cook Vernon Murphy, 28; lodgers Grace Jean Battle, 13, and Parker Battle, 11; and lodger David Johnson, 21, waxer. The Battle children were reported as born in North Carolina and living in Wilson in 1935.

A long trip caused the miscarriage.

The local registrar attributed the cause of Esther Atkinson Pridgen‘s miscarriage to recent long-distance travel. Though midwife Nan Best delivered the child in Wilson, it appears that Chauncey Pridgen was living in Atlantic City already, where he is found in the 1940 census.

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“Supposed trip from Atlantic City N.J. the day before caused mother to miscarry.”

While building Saint Alphonsus.

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“St. Alphonsus Catholic Church met at Reid Street Center in 1938 while the church was being built. The photograph was submitted by James “Casey” Ellis.” Wilson Daily Times, 20 April 1999.

If you can identify any of the parishioners, please let me know.

The doctor could not get there.

Six month-old Shirley Jean Everett died before Dr. T.G Bradshaw could reach her in the winter of 1948. Given the condition of the roads, it is not clear how he “sent medicine” from his office in Rock Ridge.

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“Probably Pneumonia Did not see [her?] & Roads so bad no one could get to see her Sent medicine 2/4/48”

 

Divine healer?

In a nine-day span in 1914, Wilson residents Mary A. Williams and James T. Rountree died while under the care of William F. Edwards, a “divine healer.”

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William F. Edwards was only passing through town and apparently moved on with impunity. Two years later the “Gospel preacher and healer” was in Concord, North Carolina, “still curing the people.”

Concord Daily Tribune, 4 December 1916.

Concord Daily Tribune, 11 December 1916.

Four years after that, “The World’s Wonder Christian Scientist Preacher Healer” was in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, exhorting black and white to come throw their crutches away.

The Independent (Elizabeth City, N.C.), 11 June 1920.

Hat tip to D.P. for locating these articles about Edwards.