From the 1949 edition of The Bear, the yearbook of Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina:
Helen Jean Harrison
In the 1930 census of Bailey township, Nash County: farmer Ellie W. Harris, 45; wife Rosa A., 44; and children Carrie L.,21, William E., 19, Ojetta, 18, Lila M., 16, Ethel M., 14, Mattie E., 13, Robert H., 10, Jessie L., 10, Beatrice, 8, George L., 6, and Hellin J., 2. Ellie, Rosa, and their four oldest children were born in South Carolina; Ethel in Virginia; and the remaining in North Carolina.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 303 Lane Street, Eli Harrison, 56, mechanic helper in “carpentering”; wife Rosa, 54, tobacco factory laborer; and children Ethel, 23, Jessie, 19, Beatrix, 17, Leroy, 16, and Helen, 12. Eli, Rosa and Ethel Harrison was South Carolina-born; the others, North Carolina.
The eighteenth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.
Location: A 1936 state road map of Wilson County shows Yelverton School on present-day Aspen Grove Church Road near the Pitt County line.
Per notification of public sale in 1951: “YELVERTON COLORED SCHOOL in Saratoga Township, containing two acres, more or less, and more particularly described as follows: BEGINNING at a stake on the East side of Aspin Grove Road beside a white oak, runs thence South 55 1/2 [degrees] East 204 feet to a stake with a sourwood and 2 pine pointers, corners, runs thence 34 1/6 [degrees] West 420 feet to a stake, corners, runs thence North 55 1/2 [degrees] to a stake on the easterly side of said road, thence with said road to the beginning. Being the identical land described in a judgment recorded in Book 179, at page 155, in the Office of the Register of Deeds of Wilson County.”
Description: Per The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24, Bynums School had two acres valued at $200, but “no house.” Yelverton School was built in 1925-16 with $700.00 from the Rosenwald Fund, $2025.00 from Wilson County, and $50.00 from local families.
“This is good two-teacher school with cloak rooms and industrial room. It is properly located on a good site. I recommend that the following improvements be made:
“Put in at least 30 feet of blackboard to the room. This should be provided with a chalk rail.
“Put in terra cotta thimbles in all chimneys.
“Provide good stoves. Jacketed stoves are to be desired. We furnish blue prints for jackets and they can be made for about $20.00 a piece at an good tinner’s.
“Hooks for cloaks and shelves for lunch boxes should be provided in the cloak rooms.
“The seats now in the building should be reconditioned and a sufficient number of new ones provided to accommodate the enrollment. The old seats that are badly cut can be put in very good condition by planing off the rough tops and staining and varnishing.
“Finally the privies should be removed to the line of the school property. They should be provided with pits and the houses should be made fly proof.
“The patrons should be encouraged to clean off the lot so as to provide play ground for the children.”
The condition of Yelverton School has declined considerably in the 13 years since Plate 256, above, published in the research report.
A bank of nine-over-nine windows.
One of the two classrooms. Note the stove and original five-panel door.
The rear of the school.
Known faculty: teachers Otto E. Sanders, Esther B. Logan, Merle S. Turner, Izetta Green, Louise Delorme, Dorothy Eleen Jones.
Plate 256 published in the Research Report; other photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2020.
In the fall of 1944, Darden High School’s football team, finding no teachers available to fill the role, coached itself.
Wilson Daily Times, 10 October 1944.
(Note the reference to the team’s playing field. Darden had no formal football field, and the team had to spend its own money to rent Fleming Stadium for home games.)
Herman Hines — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1001 Vance Street, wagon factory laborer Wesley Hines, 35; wife Lucy, 30, a private nurse; and sons Herman, 13, and Charles, 10. Oddly, three before the article above was published, Herman Wesley Hines registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 7 October 1944 in Wilson; lived at 1001 East Vance; his contact was his father Wesley Edward Hines; had a burn scar on his left ankle; and worked as a section hand for the railroad. Was this in fact his father’s occupation? Hines and others were members of the Class of 1945. [Note: Herman Hines died 30 July 2014 in Reidsville, North Carolina. His obituary mentions his coaching stint at Darden.]
James Jones — In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 Stantonsburg Street, Wesley Jones, 51, fertilizer plant laborer; wife Martha, 52, tobacco factory laborer; and children Lucille, 22, teacher at Fremont School, Vernon, 20, Willie, 16, John, 14, James, 12, and Elroy, 10. On 26 December 1945, James Thomas Jones registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 23 December 1927 in Wilson; lived at 901 Stantonsburg Street; his contact was Wesley Jones; and he worked at Contentnea Guano Company, Wilson.
John Melton — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow T[illegible] Barnes, 72, washing; daughter Cora Melton, 42, widow and private cook; and grandchildren Lucy, 16, Virginia, 15, John, 14, W.T., 8, and Hilda, 7; and daughter Lillie Barnes, 40, “sick.” On 11 September 1944, John Melton registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 11 September 1926 in Wilson; lived at 1206 Washington Street; his contact was mother Cora Melton; and reworked at Imperial Tobacco Company, Wilson.
— in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Elizabeth Wilson, 55; daughter Marie, 29; lodgers Earnest Mack, 35, and Jessie McMillion, 34; and grandsons Lindberg, 12, and Rodney Wilson, 14. On 10 September 1945, Lindbergh Wilson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 9 September 1927 in Wilson County; he lived at 1013 Stantonsburg Street; his contact was Marie Wilson; and his “employer” was N.C. State [North Carolina College?], Durham.
Lester McNeil — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 107 South Carroll Street, railroad station porter Chester McNeal, 49; wife, Mary, 36, tobacco factory stemmer; daughter Ula, 20, and son Lester, 12; adopted daughter Elane Barnes, 20; and adopted son William McNeal, 1. On 28 September 1945, Lester McNeil registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 27 September 1927 in Wilson; he lived at 107 South Carroll; his contact was Chester McNeil; and his “employer” was Darden High School.
Charles Hines — Hines was the younger brother of Herman Hines, above. On 19 December 1957, Charles Edwin Hines married Anna Johnson Goode in Wilson.
Thomas Stokes — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1208 Atlanta Street, barber James Stokes, 35; wife Viola, 25; children Frank, 8, Dorthea, 4, Thomas, 2, and Julia, 18 months; and mother Julia, 64. On 24 July 1945, Thomas Watson Stokes registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 24 July 1927 in Wilson; he lived at 1206 Atlantic Street; his contact was Viola Stokes; he had a small scar on his forehead; and he was a self-employed painter.
Robert Speight — On 9 August 1944, Robert Elton Speight registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 9 August 1926 in Wilson County; he lived at 624 Viola Street; his contact was father Theodore Speight; and he was a student at Darden High School.
Ernest Halliday — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 612 East Suggs Street, Westley Holiday, 40; wife Rosa, 30; and children Earlise, 13, Edward, 11, Deborah, 9, Lula M., 6, Earnest, 4, and Joseph, 1. On 19 June 1944, Ernest Holliday registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 18 June 1926 in Wilson County; he lived at 512 East Spruce Street; his contact was Rosa Holliday; and he was unemployed.
Robert Jenkins — On 22 January 1945, Robert Allen Jenkins registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 21 January 1927 in Wilson; he lived at 611 Viola Street; his contact was mother Geneva Mercer; he had a scar on his right leg below his knee; and he was a student at Darden High School.
The seventeenth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.
“Rosenwald’s Ripples Continue to Spread,” Wilson Daily Times, 8 September 2001.
Location: A 1936 state road map of Wilson County shows Bynum School on present-day Tartt’s Mill Road.
Per notification of public sale in 1951: “BYNUMS COLORED SCHOOL in Gardners Township, containing one-half acre, more or less, and more particularly described as follows: ALL that certain tract of land beginning at a stake near a Branch on the lands of Charles Bynum, thence in a northerly direction 70 yards to a stake, cornering, thence in an easterly direction 35 yards, cornering, thence in a Southerly direction 70 yards to a pine, thence West 35 yards to the beginning. Being the identical land described in a deed recorded in Book 14, at page 377, Wilson County Registry.”
Bynum School building is still standing, but was long ago converted to a dwelling. This may be it:
Per a 8 September 2001 Daily Times article: the school was “a simple, two-room building that housed first through seventh grades.” “When [Simon Barnes Jr.] was 7 years old, [teacher Beatrice] Jones had paid him 25 cents to build a fire in the cast iron stove in the schoolhouse.” “‘I took a biscuit filled with preserves and ham in my back pocket everyday,’ [Simon Barnes Jr.] said, ‘I sat on it all morning. When I took it out, it was flat.’ After eating his lunch, he slaked his thirst with water from the big pump in the school yard.” “[Fannie] Corbett said by the time she was there, the parents had contributed lumber to partition off a lunch room and bought a little oil stove and some bowls. A nearby housewife baked biscuits fresh each day for the students.”
Known faculty: Principal Doris Freeman James; teachers Mrs. Dunstan, Lena Washington Hilliard, Beatrice Jones, Mamie Pender, Thelma Saunders Cooper.”In those days you made do with what you had, [Bennie Woodard] said. ‘The teachers did an outstanding job with what they had.’ And that set an example for the students. ‘That’s why none of us can forget Beatrice Jones,’ [Woodard] said. ‘I don’t think any of us would have made it had it not been for her.’
Taken circa 1931, this beautiful photograph of E. Courtney Fitts‘ class (likely first graders) at the Colored Graded School deserves a closer look. Mrs. Fitts stands in a fur-trimmed coat in front of the school’s double doors, just under the building’s street number — 705. The Colored Graded School was notoriously overcrowded, and all fifty children standing on the steps below her may well were in Mrs. Fitts’ class.
I am only able to identify three of the children, but I honor them all in this five-part series.
The North Carolina State Archives holds records of the former Department of Public Instruction’s Division of Negro Education, including correspondence between the Rosenwald Fund and county school superintendents.
In March 1926, Rosenwald Fund Supervisor W.F. Credle wrote Wilson County School Superintendent Charles L. Coon to update Coon on his visit to Elm City and to tout several sources of funding “for the colored children of North Carolina.” “We are very anxious to add on schools in towns the size of Elm City where buildings large enough for the accommodation of a high school can be provided.”
Though initially cool to the idea of external control of funds, Coon responded quickly, inviting Credle to meet with the Board of Education to discuss “the whole problem of colored school buildings for Wilson county.”
On April 26, Credle sent Coon a report on the schools he had inspected during his visit and urged him to consider employing a Jeanes teacher, who “could assist the people in raising as much money by private contributions for school buildings and equipment as the county would have to spend for her salary.” (The Jeanes Foundation funded educational and vocational training in rural African-American communities, primarily via teacher placement.)
On May 31, Credle wrote again, “happy to advise” that checks for Stantonsburg ($900), Evansdale ($700) and Saratoga Schools ($900) were attached, and Yelverton and New Vester were coming.
“The chancellor of Fayetteville State University, T.J. Bryan, came to town Aug. 5 to honor as trailblazers eight women who graduated from the school in the 1940s, when it was known as Fayetteville State Teachers College.”
Graduate of Nash County Training School; Master of Education, Pennsylvania State University; 38-year teaching career in Wilson and Nash Counties; owner and operator of Edwards Funeral Home; taught at Wilson Technical Community Center; member, Wilson County Commissioner; NAACP Life Member; member, Ladies Auxiliary, American Legion Post 17; member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Links, Inc.
Graduate of Coulter Memorial Academy, Cheraw, S.C.; Bachelor’s in Elementary Education; played on two-time state champion basketball team at FSU; taught and coached at Charles H. Darden High School and C.L. Coon Junior High School; elder, Calvary Presbyterian Church; member, Ladies Auxiliary, American Legion Post 17.
Graduate of Williston High School, Wilmington, N.C.; Bachelor’s in Elementary Education; Master of Education, Pennsylvania State University; taught at Sallie Barbour, Elvie Street and Wells Elementary School; also taught at Wilson Technical Community Center and ADAPT outreach center; member, Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church; recipient, Distinguished Service Award, Wilson Human Relations Commission; volunteers at Wilson Crisis Center and other organizations; board, Freeman Round House Museum; member, Book and Garden Club, NAACP, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Ladies Auxiliary of American Legion Post 17.
Graduate of Wilson Colored High School [Darden High School]; completed two-year program at State Teachers College Fayetteville and later bachelor’s in education; master’s degree in early childhood education, Columbia University; taught at one-room school in Nash County in 1930s and ’40s, then Vick and Hearne Elementary Schools; member, Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church; member, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Alice Marie Shaw Stevens, ’46
Grew up in western Wilson County; attended Rocky Branch School; graduate of Richard B. Harrison High School in Johnston County at age 15; graduated FSU with honors; master’s degree in education, N.C. State A.&T. University; started teaching in two and three-room schools, then Springfield and Lee Woodard Schools; member of Rocky Branch United Church of Christ since age 10; member, Order of Eastern Star.
Graduate of Darden High School; education degree from FSU; married career soldier; worked with Wilson Board of Elections; volunteers with Opportunities Industrialization Center.
Artelya Whitley Williams, ’49
Graduate of Mary Potter School in Oxford, N.C., and beauty school in New Jersey; bachelor’s degree from FSU and master’s degree from New York University; served in U.S. Army and Air Force; taught at Lucama Elementary and Spaulding and Spring Hope schools in Nash County.
The introduction to Barton College’s Crossing the Tracks: An Oral History of East and West Wilson:
“Starting in the spring of 2013 and concluding in the fall of 2014, Barton College students began interviewing Wilson residents about social, cultural, political, and economic relations between residents of East and West Wilson, and how these relations have changed over the past sixty to seventy years.
“In spite of the many significant achievements of the modern Civil Rights Movement, our nation, state, and community bear the scars and legacies of a deeply troubled racial history that continues to impact our relationships. While we might like to forget or gloss over the painful part of that history, its effect lingers, and denying it will not make it go away. As the writer James Baldwin once said, ‘The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.’ One of the goals of Crossing the Tracks, then, is to bring these unconscious forces of history into our consciousness, so that we might begin to confront the historical effects of white supremacy and begin the process of healing.
“A history of segregation, built on a foundation of white supremacy, created a separate but unequal society. And the traditional historical narrative is at best an incomplete history, written and preserved by those who hold political, social, and economic power. It too often omits the strong voices and tremendous contributions of those on the margins of power. Part of the mission of the Freeman Round House Museum is to fill this gap in the historical record by preserving and publicizing the contributions of African American Wilsonians to education, medicine, the arts, criminal justice, and entertainment. Crossing the Tracks supports this mission. It is an accessible collection of first-person accounts of life in Wilson that students, scholars, and the general public can use to study and write about this remarkable, underrepresented history. In many ways, it builds on the work of Dr. Charles W. McKinney, Jr., whose book, Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina, documents decades of committed struggle by East Wilson residents to lay the groundwork for the modern Civil Rights Movement.”
The project includes videotaped interviews with 22 residents of East Wilson. The recollections of many, including Samuel Lathan, Roderick Taylor Jr., and Mattie Bynum Jones, date to the 1930s and ’40s, the latter decades covered by the blog. Barton College partnered with the Freeman Roundhouse and Museum to obtain these invaluable stories and all are available online.