Civil rights

Five days of wokeness in Wide-Awake.

The Change Coalition of Wilson presents “Translating Pain Into Purpose: Wake Up, Wide Awake Spirit Week” — five days of programming to promote civil, historical, educational, legislative and social awareness !

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Today, Craig Barnes Jr. will be leading groups of visitors on a tour of Say Their Names, my exhibit at Imagination Station. If you didn’t get an opportunity to see the exhibit before the pandemic temporarily closed the museum’s doors, please come out today. I couldn’t be prouder of the work Change Coalition is putting in to push Wilson forward, and I’m pleased to be able to contribute to the curriculum of change.

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Take it down.

From The News and Observer, today’s headline: “Daniels family removes statue of racist ancestor in Raleigh“:

“Frank Daniels Jr. of Raleigh, retired president and publisher of The News & Observer, said in a statement Tuesday that his grandfather’s bigoted beliefs overshadowed his other accomplishments, including, Daniels said, ‘creating one of the nation’s leading newspapers.’”

“’Josephus Daniels’s legacy of service to North Carolina and our country does not transcend his reprehensible stand on race and his active support of racist activities,’ Daniels said. ‘In the 75 years since his death, The N&O and our family have been a progressive voice for equality for all North Carolinians, and we recognize this statue undermines those efforts.’”

The article glancingly mentions Daniels’ ownership of the Wilson Advance. It was in this newspaper that he cut his teeth as an unabashed white supremacist, using the paper as a platform for his relentless drumbeat for the suppression of civil rights for African-Americans.
In two columns of the same issue, published 31 October 1884, Daniels published editorial comment ranging from the snide:

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… to the unvarnished:

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… to the grotesque:

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Wilson Advance, 31 October 1884.

The Wilson County Historical Association erected a marker for Josephus Daniels near the county courthouse. It makes no mention of his most efficacious role — spearhead of the disenfranchisement and general subjugation of North Carolina’s African-American citizenry. Despite repeated calls for its removal, notably led by the indefatigable Castonoble Hooks, the marker stands.

I amplify Mr. Hooks’ voice here: TAKE IT DOWN.

——

Update, 18 June 2020: Today, the city of Wilson quietly removed the historical marker honoring Josephus Daniels today and returned it to the Wilson County Historical Association.

“Wilson removed Josephus Daniels marker: Family cited his ‘indefensible positions on race,” Wilson Daily Times, 18 June 2020.

Segregation Chronicles.

Okay, Wide-Awake. I need testimony.

I’m starting a side project (working name: Segregation Chronicles) that will document the physical legacy of racial injustice in Wilson County. I was born in the waning days of legal segregation, and I haven’t lived here in almost 40 years, but I can reel off two dozen-plus sites that stand as mute testimony to trauma that continues to haunt us. I know y’all know more than I do, though, so I’m asking for your help. (Or your mama’s. Or your granddaddy’s.)

At which restaurants did we have to go around back for food? (Like Parker’s.) What theatres had separate entrances and black balconies? (Like the Drake.) What businesses had partitions in their sitting rooms — or whole separate sitting areas? (Like the train station.) Who wouldn’t let you eat at the lunch counter? Who had a colored water fountain (other than the county courthouse)? Where did the Klan rally? Where were German POWs allowed to rest, but your father was told to get his black ass up? Where was the black liquor house that had to pay off a white cop to sell white people liquor after midnight?

Please post here. Or email me at blackwideawake@gmail.com. Or let me know if you’d rather call. All responses from any source, black or white, appreciated. Thank you, and stay tuned. (Especially if you want to know what this photograph shows.)

UPDATE: Check out Segregation Chronicles here, blackwideawake.tumblr.com.

Rev. Foster, strong race man.

Among the many pastors who passed through Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church on their way to prominence, Rev. Richard A.G. Foster ranks among the most accomplished. An early and vocal proponent of equal rights, Rev. Foster spent an impactful couple of years in Wilson, as seen here and here and here and here.

In April 1951, Color magazine called Rev. Foster “The Most Powerful Negro in New Haven” in an in-depth article that credited the “strong race man and … public-spirited citizen” with “doing more for race relations in New Haven than any other person.”

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“In New Haven, Conn., the folk will all tell any visitor that Rev. Richard A.G Foster is the most powerful Negro in town. Rev. Foster is not a rich man, but he’s a man who knows how to get things down. A strong race man and a public-spirited citizen, he is credited with doing more for race relations in New Haven than any other person.

Operates Like One-Man F.E.P.C.

“Within two years Rev. Foster secured more than 2700 jobs for Negroes in the city, and he has been directly responsible for getting Negroes jobs in many factories and plants which previously refused to hire colored help. He demanded more money for domestic workers such as cooks, maids, butlers, and chauffeurs and got it! Foster helped raise theirs salaries more than 100 per cent. As a result of his efforts, Negroes are employed in the city’s welfare department as investigators and stenographers. He gave New Haven its first Negro city court clerk, and got several Negroes jobs in the police department.

Helped Levi Jackson Play At Yale U.

“The powerful pastor of Varick Memorial Church for eleven years molded public opinion in favor Levi Jackson’s acceptance to play football at Yale University. Rev. Foster served on the Board of Aldermen from 1943 to 1950, during which time he sponsored and engineered the passage of the F.E.P.C. bill. Always fighting hard for the rights of minorities, the New Haven minister saw to it that public workers employed in his district included Negroes — and as a result, the district is now the cleanest and has the best lighting.”

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He is now fighting to obtain appointments for Negroes to various important local and state commissions, and he feels that a member of his race should serve as assistant to the states attorney. Appointed by the late Governor James L. McConaughey, Foster is the only Negro on the Rent Control Board for the New Haven district.

Twenty-Five Years of Church Leadership

It was Bishop W.J. Walls who recognized Rev. Foster’s excellent qualities of leadership eleven years ago, and appointed him to Varick Memorial Church. Now celebrating his 25th year in the ministry, and his eleventh at the New Haven church, Foster has built up an enviable  record. When he first came to Varick Memorial his weekly salary was a mere $35, and the church membership was only 37, although the enrollment listed 227 members. Today the church has over 1100 members, and his salary has increased proportionately. He is, at present, directing a $25,000 mortgage fund for his church.

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Rev. Foster attended school at Livingston College, chief educational institution of A.M.E. Zion, Hood Theological Seminary, and did graduate work at Syracuse University.

[The caption under the top photo on this page: “‘Most of our people,’ said Rev. Foster, ‘have religion that is only mouth-deep. What we need is religion that reaches the center of the spirit and whole of the being.’ ….”]

Many thanks to Rev. Foster’s daughter Marianne Foster for sharing this article.

The South is all right.

On the eve of the civil rights movement, Wilson Daily Times editor John D. Gold penned this soothing editorial meant to reassure his readers (or the white ones, anyway) that there was no trouble “between the races” in the South, that colored people know “the Southern white man is his friend,” and that Negroes are loyal and faithful around the house and farm. The piece is rubbish, but includes views of Charlie Thomas, who worked for the Golds as a house servant and at the newspaper, and Dick Pender, who worked for the Golds and, most especially, for Joshua Barnes. (Pender died in 1896; Gold had to reach way back for him.)

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 May 1948.

Poll tax list, Taylors township, 1902.

Of the 130 men who paid poll taxes in Taylors township, Wilson County, in 1902, I can identify forty-four as African-American. North Carolina’s 1900 constitutional amendment added literacy requirements to paying poll taxes as prerequisites to voter eligibility. Thus, most of the men here — all, in fact, but those descended from free men who had voted prior to 1867 — had been recently disenfranchised.

Page one of the 1902 poll tax list for Taylors township.

Poll Tax Lists (1902), Tax Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.

The 102nd anniversary of the school boycott.

Today marks the 102nd 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 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.

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2016/01/07/we-tender-our-resignation-and-east-wilson-followed/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2018/03/30/the-heroic-teachers-of-principal-reids-school/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2016/12/10/a-continuation-of-the-bad-feelings/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2017/04/02/what-happened-when-white-perverts-threatened-to-slap-colored-school-teachers/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2018/02/11/604-606-east-vance-street/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2018/04/17/mary-euell-and-dr-du-bois/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2019/11/01/minutes-of-the-school-board/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2019/10/27/attack-on-prof-j-d-reid/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2019/07/30/lynching-going-o…-the-white-folks/

To hold this element in check.

In November 1896, the Wilson Advance published an editorial plainly warning that annexing the “negro settlement” east of the railroad would imperil white control. “Our town government at present is good” and “to include this portion of our suburbs would greatly reduce, if not entirely wipe out [the white] majority.”

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Wilson Advance, 12 November 1896.

Martin Luther King Jr. thought everyone should be equal.

From Drew C. Wilson’s article, “Students learn legacy of civil rights,” in the 19 January 2020 online edition of the Wilson Times:

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“Martin Luther King thought everyone should be equal,” wrote Lavender Miller, a student in Helen Williams’ first grade class.

On Friday, Lavender and other first graders were polishing second drafts of papers they wrote about King’s life.

“Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929. He had a brother and a sister,” wrote first grader Mateo Bacas. “Martin Luther King Jr. cannot go to the movie because it said white only.”

In Mateo’s first iteration, King stood in front of a lectern with a microphone delivering his speech. In the second, more colorful version, Mateo drew King larger and with a crown on his head.

“Martin Luther King grew up to be a minister,” wrote first grader Zymir McArthur. “Some people didn’t like him. He fought against racism. He gave a speech, ‘I Have a Dream,’ in D.C. He wanted his children to be able to hold hands with white children.”

Some thoughts:

1) Mateo’s drawing #2?  I’d blow it up and hang it behind my desk.

(2) Second drafts of papers — in first grade? That’s the kind of early literacy I love.

(3) These babies attend Samuel H. Vick Elementary, which has been around in one form or another long enough for my 85 year-old father to have attended. (Here’s another first grade class at Vick.) There were no white children there with which to hold hands in his day. And I’d bet there are next to none now.

(4) There are, however, many Latino children at Vick, mostly Mexican-American, and these black and brown children hold East Wilson’s future in their little hands.

(5) Martin Luther King Jr. Day post-dates my elementary and secondary education. I don’t recall him being much remarked upon in any classroom I sat in, but that was okay — I got my Black History at home.

(6) I live in Atlanta, Dr. King’s hometown. I am watching the annual commemoration of his life and legacy, broadcast live from Ebenezer Baptist Church. Today, we are often reminded, is a day on, not a day off. My service is Black Wide Awake. And I’m on.

Speight School.

Per Speight Middle School’s “About Us“:

“Speight Middle School first opened its doors in the fall of 1951 at 6640 Speight School Road[, Stantonsburg, North Carolina.]  At that time, however, Speight School stood as the only school on this side of Wilson County where young black children could receive a high school education.  Before Speight opened, black students were only provided with a 7th-grade education. Recognizing the need for further educational opportunities, concerned citizens began meeting to organize their efforts to provide a high school education for their children.  It took ten years, a lawsuit, and a donation of land, but Speight School was finally opened. The school started out with a faculty of 24 teachers, a librarian, and a principal. By the end of its third year, it was the largest high school in the county, with 40 teachers and approximately 1100 students.  At its peak, Speight School served over 1400 students a year. In 1970, Speight became a middle school when the integration of the county system was complete. Speight Middle School was reopened in a beautiful new facility on Old Stantonsburg Road July on 2001. Although we were all excited about the new facility, the faculty and staff of Speight are dedicated to maintaining its positive reputation, high standards of excellence, and high quality of education for our students.  Through the efforts of our staff, students, parents, and community supporters, we know that Speight Middle School will continue to be a symbol of educational excellence and opportunity in the Wilson County area.”

Speight High School was the culmination of the persistent and creative demands of Mark B. Sharpe and other African-American parents that Wilson County meet its obligation to educate their children.  For a full account of their triumphant struggle, see Charles W. McKinney’s Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina.

From “County Schools Enter New Era With Consolidation Completed: Two New Colored Schools Are Best in North Carolina,” Wilson Daily Times, 15 August 1951.