Maggie Dew — in the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Joseph Dew, 28; wife Mittie, 27; and daughters Julia, 4, and Maggie, 1.
Willie C. Maryland — in the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Richard Maryland, 36; wife Mary, 30; and children Dasie Lee, 14, and Willie C., 12.
Frances Weaver — in the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Lonnie Weaver, 40; wife Anner, 34; daughter Frances, 9; and widowed mother-in-law Clara Daws, 56.
James Hall — in the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Sela Hall, 34, and children Sylvester, 16, Joe and Joseph, 15, James, 13, Ora Lillie, 9, Erma Lee, 7, and Mildred R., 4.
Daniel Armstrong — in the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Armstrong, 52; wife Minnie, 42; and children Mary, 19, Fred, 18, Rosa, 16, Clarence, 14, Nathan, 11, Daniel, 9, Louise, 8, David, 6, and Henry, 6 months.
Vera Armstrong — in the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Harvey Lee Armstrong, 36; wife Lelah, 30; and children Vera, 11, James, 9, Harvey Lee, 7, Mary, 5, Shirley, 3, and William E., 1.
The photos of the old church (since replaced) above and the Rosenwald-funded school, below, come courtesy of New Vester Missionary Baptist Church, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in the fall of 2022.
New Vester School was built on the two-teacher plan, but was later enlarged. The view above shows one of the two banks of six windows at the rear of the building.
I repped hard for Wide-Awake yesterday at Save Your Spaces Festival, talking about Lane Street Project and the challenges and rewards of African-American cemetery preservation, as well as learning about amazing local projects here in Atlanta from public historians, artists, preservationists, and others of my new “tribe.”
Deep appreciation to the visionary Nedra Deadwyler, founder of Civil Bikes and Save Your Spaces, for pulling me into this conversation with gentle prods and encouragement over the past year or so. My acute awareness that I am neither a public historian nor preservationist by training has had me hiding my light, but this experience reassured me of the value I bring to the work. I’ll move forward with a steadier voice and better tools to help save the historic spaces that mean most to me.
I’m honored to join these amazing women at Save Your Spaces Cultural Heritage and Historic Preservation Festival to talk about successes and challenges in the critical work of preserving African-American cemeteries.
If you’re intrigued by local history, have stories to tell or histories to preserve, are curious and want to learn more about cultural heritage and create ways to preserve it, please join us March 4 at Create ATL, 900 Murphy Avenue SW, Atlanta.
Wilson native Howard Monroe Fitts Jr. passed away 30 January 2023 in Durham, North Carolina, at age 101. Dr. Fitts was a Professor Emeritus at North Carolina Central University and a widely recognized public health advocate.
In 1994, Dr. Fitts sat for an interview for Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies’ Behind the Veil Oral History Project. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the project aimed to record and preserve the living memory of African American life during the era of legal segregation in the American South. Dr. Fitts’ interview, which can be found here, richly explored his upbringing in Wilson in the 1920s and ’30s.
I spent a delightful hour or so yesterday speaking with students at Greenfield School about revolutionary African-American teacher Mary C. Euell and the Wilson Colored Graded School boycott. I appreciate the opportunity to share community history and stories of resistance with young people, and I thank Jennifer Johnson, Greenfield’s librarian, for the invitation.
Greenfield opened in the fall of 1970, the same semester I started first grade. That’s not a coincidence. After 16 years of stonewalling post-Brown v. Board of Education, Wilson finally fully integrated its school system in 1970, more or less at gunpoint. Some in the city’s monied class had seen the handwriting on the wall, and Greenfield was just one of many seg academies that sprang up across the South.
Fifty-two years is a long time, but no guarantor of change for the better. Greenfield, however, has moved along the arc of the moral universe, and the faces of the teenagers who listened so attentively and asked such thoughtful questions reflect its progress.
Floreta Walson Allen died 3 November 1949 in rural Pasquotank County, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born 17 May 1908 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Stacy J. Walson and Ruby A. Trowell; was married; was employed as a teacher. She was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Lesly J. Walson was informant.
Though she was said to have lived and taught in Wilson for ten years, I have not found record of her in the city.
Speaking to my home community at Wilson County Public Library has been a highlight of my Februarys lately, and I’m excited to return in person this year. I’ll be trying to do justice to the extraordinary life of Samuel H. Vick in an hour or so, and I look forward to seeing you there.