City of Wilson

No one appears to know anything of him.

Dr. A.F. Williams likely hesitated briefly before setting the nib of his fountain pen to paper. Full name of deceased? “Sam Bright (Party gave this name which may or may not be correct.)”


“This man was brought to Wilson by the Norfolk Southern train, having been found on the track. No one appears to know anything of him — either name or residence.”

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.

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.

Lane Street Project: aerial views, part 2.

In an earlier post, we saw aerial photographs depicting the decline of the Lane Street cemeteries from 1937 to 1948 to 1954 and 1964. An additional image, taken in 1971, completes the arc of ruin of these sacred spaces.

Vick Cemetery was completely forested, as was Rountree Cemetery. Odd Fellows appears marginally better kept, with a path still visible at its eastern edge. Five or so years later, when I discovered these cemeteries as a child riding a bicycle from her home in Bel Air Forrest, the vegetation was even thicker.

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Thanks again to  Will Corbett, GIS Coordinator, Wilson County Technology Services Department, for sharing these images.

More news of Wilson, N.C.


Pittsburgh Courier, 4 April 1936.

  • Elizabeth Darden James
  • Mr. and Mrs. George W. Ellis — on 28 September 1927, George W. Ellis, 52, of Wilson, married Mable Weaver, 26, of Wilson in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister B.F. Jordan preformed the ceremony in the presence of James Whitfield, Robert Haskins and Rosa Arrington. George Ellis was a carpenter; Mable W. Ellis, a public nurse.
  • U.N.I.A. — Universal Negro Improvement Association, the black nationalist fraternal organization founded by Marcus Garvey, had an active chapter in Wilson in the 1920s.
  • Rev. and Mrs. I. Albert Moore — I. Albert Moore served very briefly as pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church. By late 1937, when the photo below ran, he was head of Jones Tabernacle A.M.E. Zion in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Recorder, 4 December 1937.

  • Mrs. Ben F. RobbinsVashti Smith Robbins. In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Robbins Benj (c; Vashti) barber Reid Barber Shop r 313 Pender.
  • Carrie H. Hargraves — possibly, in the 1928 Hargrove John (c; Carrie) lab h 1212 Carolina
  • Christine Norwood — Norwood died 12 August 1944 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 45 years old; was born in Wilson to Richard Norwood and Ceceline Hill; and lived at 205 Pender Street. Hazel Covington of Durham, N.C. was informant.
  • Inza
  • Sarah Reid — probably Sarah Reid who died 22 March 1945 at 907 Washington Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 56 years old; was born in Wayne County to Zion Reid and Eliza Reid; was single; worked at Watson’s Tobacco Factory. Frederick Reid, 1009 Washington Street, was informant.
  • George Barnes — “Picture-Taking” George W. Barnes. Barnes died 13 April 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 65 years old; was married to Mary Barnes; was born in Wilson County to George A. Barnes and Annie Battle; lived at 803 East Green Street; and was a photographer.
  • Ruth Colest Jones — Ruth Jones died 20 March 1936 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 28 years old; was born 10 January 1908 in Lake City, South Carolina, to David Cameron and Sarah Cameron; was married to Cornelious Jones; and she lived at 720 East Green Street. Bessie Laury was informant.
  • Rev. B.J. Jordan — Rev. Benjamin F. Jordan.

The Williamsons of Wilson and Xenia, Ohio.

Shortly after their marriage, Charles and Clara Vick Williamson followed the footsteps of Charles Rountree‘s family to Xenia, Ohio.


In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: domestic servant Robert Vick, 19, and wife Spicy, 18; Anna Williamson, 25, washerwoman, children Jena, 10, Charles, 5, and Ann I.M., 2, and husband Jackson Williamson, 45, blacksmith.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Tarboro Street, Jack Williamson, 55, blacksmith; wife Ann, 30; and children Eugina, 20, cook, Charles 16, blacksmith shop worker, Tete, 14, and Lea, 4.

On 6 January 1887, Charles Williamson, 21, son of Jack and Ann Williamson, married Clara Vick, 18, daughter of Nelson and Viney Vick, in the Town of Wilson. Amanda Vick applied for the license, and A.M.E. Zion minister H.C. Phillips performed the ceremony in the presence of S.H. Vick, H.C. Rountree and Daniel Vick.

In the 1900 census of Xenia, Greene County: on 128 East Second Street, blacksmith Charles Williamson, 30; wife Clearo, 26; and children Mamie, 10, Charles A., 7, William H., 6, and John, 2. All the children were born in Ohio.

On 27 September 1904, Charles Williamson, 34, of Xenia, Ohio, blacksmith, born in North Carolina to Jack and Ann Williamson, married Lulu B. Anderson, 21, of Xenia, born in North Carolina to George Nelson Anderson and China Brown, in Xenia, Ohio.

In the 1910 census of Xenia, Greene County, Ohio: at 228 Fair Street, ropewalk laborer Charles Williamson, 46, married twice; wife Lula, 29; and children barber Charles Jr., 18, ropewalk laborer William, 16, John, 12, Hugh, 3, and Marcus, 4. Charles and Lula were born in North Carolina; the children in Ohio.

Though described as a ropewalk laborer in the 1910 census, Charles Williamson Sr. apparently continued to do some blacksmithing work as a horseshoer in 1911.

Xenia Daily Gazette, 12 April 1911.

On 8 July 1912, Charles Arnold Williamson Jr., laborer, of Xenia, age 20 on 1 April 1912, born in Xenia to Charles Williamson and Clara Vick, married Marguerite Scott Howard, age 18 on 10 September 1911, born in Xenia to James A. Howard and Mary Lucy Scott, in Xenia.

Xenia Daily Gazette, 27 February 1913.

Xenia Daily Gazette, 20 June 1913. Was this Charles Williamson Sr.’s second wife Lula?

In 1917, Charles Williamson registered for the World War I draft in Xenia, Ohio. Per his registration card, he was born 1 April 1894 in Xenia; resided at 1118 East Main, Xenia; was a laborer at H.& A. Twine Company; was single and had a dependent child.

In the 1920 census of Xenia, Greene County, Ohio: at 31 Orchard Street, Charles Williamson, 27, and wife Lena, 28.

In the 1920 census of Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio: factory laborer Charles H. Jennings, 39, and wife Mamie, 26.

In the 1930 census of Xenia, Greene County, Ohio: at 33 Orchard Street, owned and valued at $200, Charles Williamson, 36, mason tender in construction.

In the 1930 census of Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio: at 3323 Erie, foundry moulder Charles H. Jennings, 49; wife Mamie E., 29, laundress; and boarder John Williamson, 33, restaurant manager.

In the 1930 census of Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio: at 511 Wyandotte, Hugh Williamson, 29; wife Elsie, 27; and children Carmen, 4, Leona, 3, and May, 10 months.

In 1940, Marcus McCampbell Williamson registered for the World War II draft in Xenia County, Ohio. Per his registration card, he was born 1 January 1906 in Zenia, Ohio; lived at Rural Route #5, Xenia; and worked for himself. Contact was aunt Hattie Young, Route 5, Xenia, Ohio.

In 1942, Hugh Theodore Roosevelt Williamson registered for the World War II draft in Lucas County, Ohio. Per his registration card, he was born 14 November 1900 in Zenia, Ohio; lived at 3323 Erie Street, Toledo; and worked for Toledo Smoke Shop. Contact was sister Mamie Jennings, 2332 North Erie, Toledo, Ohio.

In 1942, Charles Williamson registered for the World War II draft in Greene County, Ohio. Per his registration card, he was born 1 April 1896 in Xenia, Ohio; lived at 51 Columbus Road, Xenia; and was unemployed. Contact was Mamie Jennings, 2332 North Erie, Toledo, Ohio.

Charles Williamson died 16 July 1971 in Xenia, Greene County, Ohio.

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Xenia Daily Gazette, 16 July 1971.