Civic Life

Dr. Darden makes good.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 September 1936.

“Darden and Family at Pharmacy.” This unattributed photo is posted at “First Black Doctor in Opelika, AL,” Valle Vision News blog, 22 February 2018. Dr. Darden is at center, with his wife Maude Jean Logan Darden to the left, standing in front of his Opelika pharmacy. The man at far right may be J.B. Darden, a pharmacist who worked in his brother’s shop before settling in Virginia.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Men’s Civic Club, no. 3.

This photo of the Men’s Civic Club was taken in the home of one of its members in 1975. Though dated after the period of Black Wide-Awake, like this photo of the Book and Garden Club, it captures several men who came to prominence in Wilson’s African-American middle class in the first half of the 20th century.

Seated (all of whom were original members depicted in the 1941 photograph of the club):

Second row:

  • ??
  • ??
  • ??
  • Rev. Talmadge Watkins, Baptist minister.
  • Separise P. Artis, business owner.
  • Rev. Obra J. Hawkins, Presbyterian minister.
  • Dr. Frank N. Sullivan Sr., physician.
  • John W. Jones, educator.
  • ??
  • Milton M. Daniels, educator.
  • John M. Miller Jr., educator
  • Cleveland W. Lewis Sr., educator.
  • Walter Stevens, educator

Third row:

Any assistance identifying the other club members is much appreciated!

Photo from the collection of the late Susie Chavis Sullivan, courtesy of Frank N. Sullivan Jr. (who taught me to swim at Reid Street Community Center!) Thank you!


The Knights of Gideon meet.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 August 1919.

Founded about 1900, the Knights of Gideon were headquartered in Goldsboro, N.C., twenty-five miles south of Wilson. The group seems not to have been nearly as popular in Wilson County as similar fraternal organizations.

  • W.H. Green
  • Mrs. A.M. Whitley — perhaps, Sylvia Yancy Whitley, wife of Amos Whitley?
  • J.H. Palmer — in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Palmer John H (c) farmer h Elliott nr Hackney

Filling in the gaps.

Last week in Wilson.

My thanks to Wilson County Historical Association, Wilson County Tourism Development Authority, Drew C. Wilson of Wilson Times (where you can read the accompanying article), Reginald Speight of Congressman G.K. Butterfield Jr.‘s office, and local elected officials and members of the public who took time to show interest and support.


For fifty or so years after the Civil War, Wilson’s African-American community celebrated Emancipation Day on January 1. The day marked the issuance in 1863 of the Emancipation Proclamation and was decidedly symbolic, as that executive order could not be enforced on behalf of most of North Carolina’s enslaved. Instead, they were freed, as a practical matter, only after the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.

In Texas, freedom did not arrive until June 19 of that year, when a Union Army commander read General Order No. 3 upon arrival in Galveston. African-American Texans have been celebrating Juneteenth since 1866, and, after slowly gaining traction across the country over the last few decades, the holiday is now widely observed. (This very day, in fact, it’s on the verge of becoming a national holiday, which feels performative, if not downright gaslight-y, given where this country is on any and every substantive thing around Black history.)

Juneteenth is a new celebration in Wilson, but it picks up where an old one left off, and I love to see it. Starting June 18, The Spot, an after-school youth center in what was once the New Grabneck neighborhood, is presenting Walk In Their Shoes — “this project will reimagine our existing walking trail into an immersive storytelling experience. Students and families can attend during open walking times and use technology to hear real stories from real people in our community. Around the trail art installments created by SPOT students will give a visual insight to the story and bring it to life.”

On June 26, Mount Hebron Masonic Lodge No. 42 — chartered in Wilson in 1881 — is throwing a party in the iconic 500 block of East Nash Street featuring food, music, art, and dollops of history throughout. (Can you identify the five titans of East Wilson depicted at the top of their flyer?)

A Memorial Day parade to the cemetery.

Memorial Day services at “the cemetery” — which might have been Rest Haven, but was probably what we now know as Vick and Odd Fellows Cemeteries — were a regular event in the early 20th century.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 May 1940.

American Legion Post 17’s memorial services.

Wilson Daily Times, 27 May 1921.

The Omegas’ last chapter meeting of the year.

Though chartered in Wilson, Omega Psi Phi (not Chi) fraternity’s local graduate chapter included members from several eastern North Carolina counties. Here, a brief announcement of their chapter officers.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 May 1940.

Poppy Day.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 May 1930.