I am humbled by the outpouring of donations to Freeman Round House and Museum made in response to my Facebook Birthday Fundraiser. I surpassed my first goal — $250 — in about an hour. I upped it to $400, and y’all blew past that one, too. Some of you grew up in Wilson and know intimately the people and places I blog about. More know Wilson only through the love letter that is Black Wide Awake.
Thank you for reading and following and commenting and encouraging my documentation of the community that raised me. Thank you for caring about the preservation of the history of a place you may never have seen. Thank you for the gift of money, so fundamental to the support of the little museum dedicated to telling the stories of Wilson’s African American community.
This table reveals the stark disparities in wealth between whites and blacks in early twentieth century Wilson County.
The columns, representing tax categories and values, are Number of Polls; Number Acres Land; Value Land and Timber; Number Town Lots; Total Value Real Estate; Total Value Personal Property; Aggregate Value Real and Personal.
[I am intrigued by the differences in land ownership among African-Americans in different townships. Some surely is attributable merely to population, but I wonder about additional causes of inequality. Why so few taxable individuals or landowners in Stantonsburg township? Why were African-Americans in Spring Hill township so much more prosperous? I have some theories, but I want to explore more. — LYH]
Report of the North Carolina Corporation Commission as a Board of State Tax Commissioners (1907).
During our conversation in February, Samuel C. Lathan told me that Peter Lupe was the only black person “allowed” to sell beer on the 500 block of East Nash. This piece, floating somewhere between news and society column, supports Mr. Lathan’s observation.
Thomas’ first bit of “triviata” — Attorney George Tomlinson appeared at an alderman meeting on behalf of Willie Prince to complain that the police were showing favoritism toward Lupe while harassing Prince and others and that Prince’s on-premise wine license had been revoked, but Lupe remained free to pour. City tax collector Richard R. Smiley step up to resolve part of Prince’s complaint by revoking Lupe’s license on the spot.
The second item — One Saturday night, exactly five minutes after a “negro woman” was booked on a liquor charge, Lupe bonded her out.
The third — The police arrested James Patrick on a vagrancy charge and found his pockets full of “good luck negro charms.” (Again, “jo-mo.” Was this actually a local variant on “mojo”?) Patrick explained that, in exchange for rent, he had promised to get his landlady’s boyfriend to come back. [Sidenote: Vagrancy laws essentially criminalized joblessness and were wielded to harass poor people, especially those of color. After a number of constitutional challenges, in the 1960s most vagrancy laws were replaced by statutes prohibiting more specific behavior, such as public intoxication or disorderly conduct.]
On February 5, I’ll be giving a lecture at Wilson County Public Library, 249 Nash Street N., Wilson, North Carolina, as part of the library’s ongoing commitment to supporting the study of local and African-American history. I hope to see you there.
“All receipts given to colored hospital,” Wilson Daily Times, 11 April 1930.
This advertisement touts a midnight variety show and movie screening to benefit Mercy Hospital. The institution, in continuous financial straits, had recently been sold at auction to businessman Wade H. Gardner.
Though the ad is not explicit, it seems to be directed at a white audience. James Edward Andrews, Carl S. Hinnant (described in the 1930 federal census of Wilson as an orchestra musician), Sidney Willoughby and Lester Rose were local white men, and a “black face comedy act” would not have had primary appeal to an African-American audience.
Eighty years ago today, Richard Sheridan and Ed Nicholsonwere fined for trespassing after protesting the exclusion of taxi drivers from Wilson’s bus station.
In a nutshell:
Miley Glover and Dr. Mallory A. Pittman leased a building to various bus companies for use as a bus station. Glover and Pittman also leased “taxi rights” to the building to J.D. Peacock of Goldsboro, who barred any other taxi drivers from seeking fares on the premises. When Sheridan and Nicholson attempted to pick up fares at the station, they were arrested and charged with trespassing. Their lawyer argued that the station owners had created a taxi monopoly in contravention of state law, but the recorder (magistrate) did not agree. Each man was assessed a five-dollar fine.
The 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory reveals two taxicab companies in Wilson. J. Clifford Peacock and George B. Patrick owned Oak Cab Company, based at the bus station. Hugh T. Foster owned Taxi-Cab Service at 508 East Nash. Oak Cab’s arrangement with Glover and Peacock meant that, effectively, black drivers had no access to white patrons arriving in Wilson by bus. It also meant that black riders had to leave the station’s premises to hail a cab.
Per the nomination form for Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse District, the taxi stand and bus station at 307 East Green Street were built for Miley Glover in 1937 and 1938. The bus station was one of Wilson’s few Art Deco buildings. It operated into the 1990s and was demolished after the city built a public transportation hub on Nash Street.
Richard Sheridan — Richard Sheridan, 26, son of Richard and Fannie Sheridan, married Beatrice Bullock, 19, daughter of Alice Bullock, on 1 September 1935 in Wilson. Sheridan registered for the World War II draft in Wilson in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 20 September 1910 in Maxton, N.C.; resided at 1115 Atlantic Street, Wilson; his contact was mother, Fannie Sheridan, 1115 Atlantic; and he worked for traveling salesman John Whelan.
Photo of bus station and taxi stand courtesy of Dean Jeffrey at Flickr, 2001.
City directories offer fine-grained looks at a city’s residents at short intervals. The 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., directory reveals the types of work available to African-Americans during the booming tobacco era. This post is the seventh in an alphabetical series listing all “colored” directory entries for whom an occupation was listed. The address is the resident’s home, unless a business address is noted.
Gaines, Charles, elevator operator, 203 Stantonsburg Road
Gaines, Dora, domestic, 528 Smith
Gardner, Alice, maid — Wilson Sanatorium, Sunshine Alley
Gardner, George, farmer, Spring Street Alley
Gardner, Preston, clerk — Peter Artis, Wiggins Street
For the first time in 1940, the federal census recorded income. As reported in column 32, “Amount of money wages or salary received (including commissions),” these 27 men and women had the highest incomes among African-Americans in the city:
Only four women earned a thousand or more dollars a year, all of them teachers. (At what “private school” did Alberta Daniels teach?)
Dr. Joseph F. Cowan reported the highest salary of any African-American in town. However, other doctors and dentists in East Wilson, including Boisey O. Barnes, George K. Butterfield Sr., and William A. Mitchner, reported no wages or salary at all, perhaps because their income derived not from self-paid salaries, but from practice or business profits or investments.)
On 2 February 1907, A.P. Branch agreed to advance John Artis, colored, forty to fifty dollars in supplies “to enable me to make a crop” on the land on which he lived in Black Creek township rented from and owned by Nathan Bass. Artis agreed to raise twelve acres in cotton, nine acre in corn and four acres in tobacco and gave Branch a lien on his crop as well as a seven year-old black mare mule named Rody, a buggy and harness, an iron axle cart, and all his farming implements.
In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer John Artis; wife Lucy, 40; children Nora, 10, John E., 15, Eliza, 13, Katie, 11, and Robert, 7; and nephew Luther, 23.
Deed book 72, page 191, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.