Education

Saint Alphonsus graduates.

November is Black Catholic History Month. Accordingly, I offer these images of a 1949 kindergarten graduation celebration at Saint Alphonsus Catholic School captured by Wilson’s preeminent 20th century photographers Charles Raines and Guy Cox. Do you recognize any of the children?

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Many thanks to John Teel for sharing these images from the Raines & Cox collection of photographs at the North Carolina State Archives. They are catalogued as PhC_196_CW_1211H _StAlphonsusGraduation1 through 10..

“It is good just to know where you came from.”

At the end of October, I had the extraordinary good fortune to conduct three workshops for Gentlemen’s Agreement, an achievement program targeting African-American young men attending Wilson County high schools. Both the format and the audience were new for me. I was nervous, but I needn’t have been. The students were attentive and responsive and gratifyingly curious about the history of their hometown and the contributions of African-Americans to Wilson’s development. I am grateful to Gentlemen’s Agreement, Living the Word Ministry/North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Wilson County Public Schools and Freeman Round House and Museum for the opportunity to introduce these young people to the idea of sankofa and to give back to the community that nurtured me.

The Rev. Maurice Barnes, left, and historical blogger Lisa Henderson, right, joined Wilson high school students for a windshield tour of African American history in Wilson. Pictured are some of the students who participated. From left are Barnes, Michael Thomas, Jaden Spruill and Christopher Richardson, all Hunt High School students, and Henderson. (Photo courtesy of Wilson Times.)

Windshield tour a reminder of Wilson’s past.

By Drew C. Wilson, 12 November 2019.

Wilson teens from three high schools took windshield tours of places in African American history recently.

“In Our Backyard: Black Genius and the Quest for Racial Equity” is a youth development and leadership program to show participants of The Gentlemen’s Agreement and other youth from Wilson’s three traditional high schools a slice of Wilson history that is often forgotten.

Lisa Henderson, curator of the Black Wide Awake blog about black history in Wilson, led the most recent tour on a bus through Wilson’s streets.

“It was an amazing opportunity for me,” Henderson said. “One of the reasons I do the blog is to create a record that anyone can access going forward and to be able to connect. What is always exciting to me is to be able to find something in the historical record and then picture where it is now or what’s there now. And Wilson has changed so much in good ways and in bad that I wanted to give these students a sense of possibilities, a sense of what has come before and what could be possible going forward.”

Henderson is a Wilson native who was born at Mercy Hospital and educated in Wilson schools.

“To be able to take the windshield tour and go down the 500 block of Nash Street and see some of the sights that we had talked about in the workshop and have them go, ‘Wow, wait, I know that place,’ or ‘Yeah, I get my hair cut there’ or ‘I go to church there’ and to understand the age of these places and the significance of these places in history is really rewarding.” 

“It showed us where people stayed and bigger places like the Mercy Hospital,” said Jaden Spruill, a senior at Hunt High School. “A lot of people don’t know these things. I personally didn’t know a lot of these things until I got into Gentlemen’s Agreement. I feel like this is important to know. If you don’t know this about Wilson, you get the history behind Wilson and you take more pride and you get more understanding about what was really going on around here before we were here.”

“I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know about Wilson about the old places from back in the ’30s I didn’t know,” said Christopher Richardson Jr., a Hunt junior. “We heard is was just a country road past the hospital, and now they have a lot more. It is important for people to know about the past then and what can happen now.”

Michael Thomas, a Hunt sophomore, said it was a good experience. “I just learned about black history in Wilson,” he said. “It is good just to know where you come from and what your background is.”

“There was a lot that I didn’t know,” Michael added. “That strip of downtown, the 500 block of Nash Street, before you get to the railroads, there were a lot of stores there, but now it’s just empty. I could picture those roads there being jam-packed with people, and it was a good sight to see. You’ve got to know where you come from. If you are going to live here in Wilson and have an impact, you have got to know where you come from.” 

Henderson had given talks here about African American history in Wilson when the Rev. Maurice Barnes approached her to ask if she could lead a series of workshops for The Gentlemen’s Agreement program. 

“I jumped on the opportunity,” Henderson said. “The more I understood about the organization and what it is trying to do with promising young men in our school systems, any way I could help, I wanted to do it. It is important for young people to understand the past and the history of their community and have a pride in that community. Any way that I can contribute to another generation of Wilsonians knowing their past, I am happy to do it.”

“All told, for all three days, we had about 55 kids, from all three of the high schools to participate in this three-day workshop,” Barnes said. 

Similar workshops held in January and March and the windshield tours were paid for by a collaborative grant from Living the Word Ministry and the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum.

Hines Street school?

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What school is this?

The 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson shows a two-story wooden structure with an exterior staircase on East Hines Street near South Spring labeled “School (Negro).” (South Spring Street is now Douglas Street. Thus, this building would have been facing south on Hines in the block leading up to Lodge Street.) It’s not the Episcopal parochial school, which was a one-story building next to the church at South and Lodge Streets, and I am not aware of any other private schools for African-Americans operating in Wilson at the time.

This is the sole listing in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, which is for the Colored Graded School:

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By 1913, an extra story had been added to the building, and the exterior stairs removed. It was then labeled “Lodge Hall (Negro).”

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Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1913.

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Approximate location today on Hines just east of South Douglas. Aerial view courtesy of Google Maps.

Minutes of the school board.

The Wilson County Public Library’s Local History Collection contains a bound transcription of the Minutes of the Wilson Graded School 1881-1887, 1891-1902, compiled by school superintendent Charles L. Coon. Here, with annotations in brackets, are extracts from those minutes.

——

July 14th 1891

The Board met in the offices of F.A. Woodard.

The first order of business was the election of teachers. The following was selected with the salary of each (for colored school). P.O. [F.O.] Blount salary $30.00, Prof. Winstead $25.00, Levi Peacock $25.00, Addie Battle $20.00, Lucy Thompson 20.00

——

Sept 29th 1891

The Board met in office of F.A. Woodard.

The object of the meeting was to hear complaints against some of the Col teachers in Col Graded School viz Levi Peacock and Ida Thompson.

Several Col men were present & urge their dismissal.

The Board discussed the matter & decided unanimous that the charges were not sufficient cause for removal. Nothing further appearing the Board adjourned.

[There are no further clues to the complaints lodged or the reasons “several colored men” urged the dismissals of Levi H. Peacock and Ida Thompson.]

——

Dec. 30th 1891

The Board met in the office of Dr. Albert Anderson.

The first business was the resignation of F.O. Blount, principal of Col. School. On motion resignation was accepted.

B.R. Winstead was elected principal to fill the unexpired term of F.O. Blount.

Annie Washington was elected as teacher in col school to commence on Jany 6th 1892 at $20.00 per month if qualified for the position after examination by supt. Foust. No other business the board adjourned.

——

May 9th 1892

The Board met in office of F.A. Woodard, President.

The first order in business was the election of Supt. & Teachers for the white & colored schools.

Teachers for col. school

B.R. Winstead Principal $30.00, L.H. Peacock $25.00, Annie Washington Vick $25.00, Annie Blake $20.00, Sudie Harris $20.00

——

May 30th 1896

The Board in office at Branch & Co.’s bank, with Gen. Hackney ch’m in chair.

It was stated that the object of the meeting was to elect the teachers of the Colored School. The election resulted as follows:

Principal of building S.A. Smith $30.00 per month

Teachers L.H. Peacock $25.00, G.H. Towe $25.00, Miss Ida Rountree $20.00, Mrs. S.H. Vick $20.00

[Though among the best-educated members of their community, African-American teachers struggled to make ends meet on their salaries. As shown in this 1899 notice of sheriff’s sale, several waited until their property was at risk to pay taxes — or lost it to public auction.]

——

Feb. 10th 97

The Board met in the office of Mr. A.B. Deans, Dr. Moore absent.

Mr. Oettinger moved that the position of Primary Teacher in the Colored School, held by Mrs. S.H. Vick, be declared vacant, owing to her physical inability to fill the place the remainder of the spring. Carried.

Mr. Oettinger moved that Mrs. R.C. Melton be employed to fill out the unexpired term. Carried.

The Committee appointed to arrange for the rental of an additional home for the Colored School, reported that they had investigated the matter & decided not to rent for this spring.

[“Physical inability” appears to have been a euphemism for Annie Washington Vick’s pregnancy with son Daniel, born in 1897.

The crowded conditions of Wilson’s only public school for black children had become acute by 1897, when the school board considered, but rejected, a suggestion to rent a house as an overflow classroom.]

——

Mar 13th, 97

School Board met in office of Mr. A.B. Deans, Mr. Oettinger, Dr. Anderson & Mr. Wootten absent.

Prof. Smith, Prin. of Col. Sch., made a statement as to his understanding of the conditions upon which he took the sch. census of the col. race last year.

After discussion, Dr. Moore moved to reconsider the motion made at a previous meeting, to deduct $16.22 from am’t p’d Prof. Smith for his work) from the last month’s salary, & to deduct only $6.22 thus paying him $10.00 for his services. Carried.

[Each year, a school board representative conducted a survey of school-aged children in its district to determine the need for teachers at each grade level. Occasionally, as noted elsewhere in the minutes, the board would scrap an upper grade for want of students. The root of Simeon Smith’s pay question is not clear.]

——

Feb. 18th, 1898

School Board met in the office of Mr. J. Oettinger, Mr. A.B. Deans absent.

Supt stated that he had called the meeting to consider the crowded condition of affairs at the colored school, and to make arrangements for securing more room.

It was agreed to build at once, a two room addition, 24×50 ft. and place sufficient piazza space for the entire building.

Mr. Oettinger moved that Mr. W.P. Wootten, Dr. C.E. Moore and the Supt. be appointed a committee to have building put up at once. Carried.

[The board finally moved to address the crowding, authorized the building to two new classrooms and a porch.]

——

Mar. 2nd, 98

Called meeting of School Board at office of Mr. A.B. Deans. All present.

Supt. was ordered to purchase desks necessary to properly seat the new building at colored school.

Building comm. reported new building about ready for use.

[It’s hard to imagine that the rooms were thrown up in less than two weeks, but if they were, this seems a testament to poor quality.

——

Aug. 31, 98.

Board met at call of Supt. to elect a teacher for 5th & 6th Grades, Colored School. All present.

Supt. reported that he had held an examination on the 29th inst. at which all applicants were examined.

Mrs. A.V.C. Hunt had stood the best examination, and was duly elected to fill the vacancy at salary of $20.00 per month.

….

[Two months after her hire as a teacher, erstwhile grocer Annie V.C. Hunt was embroiled in a conflict that led to the shooting death of her husband James Hunt in 1900.]

——

Sept. 27, 00.

Board met in extra session, at office of W.P. Wootten. All present except Mr. Oettinger.

Sec’y stated that meeting had been called at request of S.A. Smith, Prin. Col. School, for the purpose of investigating the charges against him, as per rumors being circulated regarding his character by Chas. Barbour.

Chas. Barbour, being called, stated that he had no charges to make against Smith, that he merely wanted Board to discharge his wife, Sallie Barbour, from her position as teacher in Col. School. She had not requested to be allowed to  resign, but he desired her discharged. He gave no valid reason for his wish. Supt. stated that he had no complaints to make against Mrs. Barbour.

Charges against Smith were dismissed, & Barbour was told that Board could not discharge his wife without cause.

[Shortly after this humiliating attempt by Charles Barbour to have his wife discharged from her teaching position, Sallie Barbour filed for divorce. Her petition cited a litany of abuses, including physical violence, and she sought custody of their sons.

——

Nov. 10, 00.

Called meeting of Board held in office of Drs. Moore & Anderson, Mr. Wootten and & Mr. Simms absent.

Sec’y stated that he had been enjoined by S.A. Woodard, Att’y for Chas. Barbour, against paying Mrs. Barbour any further salary.

Upon motion, the Sec’y was instructed to inform Mrs. Barbour that her salary was withheld till she obtained legal order, giving full authority to Board to pay her salary to her alone.

[Failing to get her fired, Barbour secured an injunction prohibiting the school board from paying his wife. The board determined to advise Sallie Barbour that her salary would be withheld until she got a court order making it payable to her alone.]

——

Feb. 2, /01

Meeting of the Board, all present. Sec’y stated that he received the resignation of Mrs. Hunt as teacher of 5th Grade, Col. School.

Resignation accepted to take effect at once.

Motion made that Clarrissy Williams be elected to fill the unexpired term of Mrs. Hunt. Carried.

[The board hired Clarissa Williams to fill the position vacated by Annie Hunt when she left Wilson. Williams would prove to be a loyal employee, declining to resign in the wake of the Coon-Euell slapping incident and serving briefly as colored school principal when J.D. Reid was forced out.]

——

Mar. 30, 1901.

At a called meeting of the Board, the Sec’y presented the resignation of G.H. Towe, as teacher of 3rd and 4th Grades, in Colored.

The resignation was accepted to take effect at once.

The Supt. reported the result of an examination he had held to fill this vacancy, and, upon motion, Cora Miller was elected to fill out the unexpired term of G.H. Towe.

[Five months later, Cora Miller married George Washington, brother of Annie Washington Vick.]

——

MINUTES OF BOARD SESSION OF 1901-1902.

[No date.]

Board met in the office of Dr. Moore, Mr. Simms absent.

The resignation of S.A. Smith as Principal of the Colored School was accepted, as he had been elected to a similar position in the Schools of Winston. To fill this vacancy the Board elected J.D. Reid, Wilson, N.C.

To fill the other vacancies in the Colored School, the Board elected Cora Miller, and Mrs. S.A. Smith, both of Wilson, N.C.

[Simeon Smith took a position at a large African-American graded school in Winston-Salem. His wife soon joined him there.]

——

  • F.O. Blount — Frank Oscar Blount.
  • Prof. Winstead/B.R. Winstead — Braswell R. Winstead.
  • Levi Peacock/L.H. Peacock — Levi H. Peacock.
  • Addie Battle
  • Lucy Thompson — Lucy A. Thompson died 24 July 1946 at her home at 310 Singletary Street. Per her death certificate, she was 71 years old; was born in Wilson County to Ennis Thompson of Greene County and Hellen A. Ruffin of Louisburg, N.C.; was single; and was a teacher. Virginia D. Humphrey was informant. Thompson was buried in Rountree cemetery.
  • Ida Thompson
  • Annie Washington/Annie Washington Vick/Mrs. S.H. Vick — Annie Washington Vick.
  • Annie Blake — Annie Blake Rodgers.
  • Sudie Harris
  • S.A. Smith — Simeon A. Smith.
  • Mrs. S.A. Smith — Minnie Joyner Smith.
  • G.H. Towe — Granville H. Towe.
  • Ida Rountree — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: carpenter Henry Rountree, 52; wife Emma, 55; and children Charley, 34, drayman, and Ida, 27, schoolteacher.
  • Mrs. R.C. Melton — Rebecca Canty Melton.
  • Mrs. A.V.C. Hunt — Annie V. Collins Hunt.
  • Clarrissy Williams — Clarissa Williams.
  • J.D. Reid — Judge James D. Reid.

Darden faculty.

The faculty of C.H. Darden High School, 1937-38:

Bottom row: Spencer J. Satchell, Juanita Pope Morrisey, Cora Miller Washington Artis, Naomi Freeman, Flora Clark Bethel, Marian Howard Miller, Margaret Edwards, Edward M. Barnes, John M. Miller Jr.

Middle row: Margaret Harris, Jane Amos Boyd, Annie Parker Dupree, Helen Delzelle Beckwith Whitted, Rosa Lee Kittrell Williams, A.A. Morrisey.

Top row: Marie Davis, Estelle Lane Shade, Ethel Alexander, Mamie Whitehead.

Photo courtesy of Freeman Round House and African American Museum.

The history of Alpha Phi Alpha.

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Charles H. Wesley, The History of Alpha Phi Alpha: A Development in College Life (1929).

While working as treasurer of Wilson’s Commercial Bank, Virginia native Henry S. Stanback founded a graduate chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in Greensboro, North Carolina. Kappa Lambda remains an active chapter.

Hat tip to S.M. Stevens for sharing this citation.

Dark side of the campus.

There’s a small liberal arts college in Wilson, once known as Atlantic Christian College, now as Barton. It was founded in 1902 by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on a campus just southeast of Grabneck. The actress Ava Gardner attended the school, but did not graduate. In her era, and into my lifetime, Atlantic Christian admitted only white students. Those students produced a yearbook called The Pine Knot, filled each year with cheerful images of the people and events deemed most memorable. In the 1935 edition, the editors saw fit to insert between the campus athletes and the advertisements this page, labeled “Dark Side of the Campus”:

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The men and women depicted are not named or otherwise commented upon. They are, presumably, the housekeepers and custodians, cooks and gardeners, mechanics and porters who kept Atlantic Christian College running and eased life for its merry undergraduates. I cannot identify them, but I can honor their service and memory by recognizing them individually. If you know any of these Depression-era employees of A.C.C., please let me know.

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Doctors in the house.

Again, for a town whose population did not hit 10,000 until 1920 (of which only half were black), Wilson produced an astounding number of African-American physicians in the last decades of the nineteenth century and first few of the twentieth century. To the ranks of Drs. Joseph Henry WardCharles Hudson Bynum, William Henry BryantJohn Wesley Darden, James Thomas Suggs, Walter Theodore Darden, James Alexander Battle, James Arthur Cotton, John Clemon Williamson and Rolland Tyson Winstead, add four grandsons of Della Hines Barnes — Drs. Boisey O. Barnes, William C. Hines, Walter D. Hines and Clifton R. Hines.

African-American physicians who practiced in Wilson prior to World War II, but were born elsewhere, included: George W. Williams, Frank Settle HargraveWilliam Arthur Mitchner, Michael Edmund Dubissette, William H. Atkinson Jr., Thomas Clinton Tinsley, Matthew Stanley Gilliam Sr., and Joseph Franklin Cowan.

Native-born dentists from this period, none of whom practiced in Wilson, included Paul L. Jackson, Christopher L. Taylor and James D. Reid, while William H. Phillips, Lee C. Jones and George K. Butterfield Sr. settled in the community from elsewhere.

Simms’ Blue Book and National Negro Business & Professional Directory (1923).

Walter Dortch Hines, U. of Michigan A.B. ’30, M.D. ’33.

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Walter D. Hines, son of Walter S. and Sarah Dortch Hines, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1930 and a medical degree from the same in institution in 1933. Above, his senior portrait as it appears in the university’s 1930 yearbook. Below, the 1933 yearbook.

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In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Walter Hines, 30; wife Sarah, 29; children Elizabeth, 2, and Walter D., 8 months; and boarder Inez Moore, 31, a school teacher.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Walter Hines, 40, wife Sara, 37, Elizabeth, 11, Walter Jr., 10, and Carl, 5.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Walter Hines, 50, wife Sarah, 48, and children Elizabeth, 21, Walter, 20, Carl W., 16, and Clifton R., 7.

In the 1931 edition of Polk’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, Directory: Hines Walter D student 1003 E Huron

In the 1933 edition of Polk’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, Directory: Hines Walter D student 1005 Catherine

On 2 January 1938, the Pittsburgh Courier carried this announcement of the marriage between Walter D. Hines and Cadence Lee Baker, formerly of Chicago, and her ascension into the haute mode of Detroit’s black elite:

The Hineses had been married for some time, however, as they appear in the 1936 Durham, N.C., city directory; Walter working as a physician and Cadence as a stenographer for North Carolina Mutual.

In 1940, Walter Dortsch Hines registered for the World War II draft in Detroit, Michigan. Per his registration card, he was born 17 July 1909 in Wilson, North Carolina; he resided at 7068 Michigan [Avenue], Detroit; he was a self-employed physician at the above address; his next-of-kin was mother Sarah Elizabeth Hines, 617 East Greene, Wilson; he was 5’10’, 154 lbs., with blue eyes and brown hair; he had a dark complexion; and he had a scar on the dorsal aspect of his left hand.

On 27 April 1946, the Pittsburgh Courier printed a photo (so dark as to be useless) of the Detroit Hineses visit to Los Angeles, where Elizabeth Hines Eason and her husband Newell lived. Sarah Dortch Hines crossed the country from Wilson to join her children. Within two years, Walter and Cadence Hines had relocated to California.

Per the 1960 California Board of Medical Examiners Directory, Hines was licensed to practice in California in 1948 and maintained an office at 4830 Avalon Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Dr. Walter D. Hines died 6 February 1996 in Los Angeles.

Frederick Douglass resurrected.

“We have a righted a wrong”: Board votes to name elementary school for Frederick Douglass

By Drew C. Wilson, Wilson Daily Times, 19 February 2018.

The Wilson County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to rename Elm City Elementary School after abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

All six board members supported the proposal. Board member Robin Flinn was absent from the meeting.

“I am just proud of them for understanding and knowing that it was time,” said Alice Freeman, a 1964 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and a former president of the Frederick Douglass High School Alumni Association.

The effort to rename the school was led by alumni association members who have made multiple requests to adopt the Douglass name going back to the early 1970s.

“I am very happy and I am just so proud of our organization and the hard work that it took,” Freeman said. “I am just really proud of the school board because they realized the importance of it. They realized our contributions. They realized that after 40 years, almost 50 years, we have remained active. We’ve got good folks and we are going to move forward with this. We’re just excited.”

Bill Myers, a former teacher at Frederick Douglass High School, said after the decision that it was hard to put his feelings at the moment into words.

“I can’t even express it really. We have righted a wrong,” Myers said.

“The question should have been ‘Why change the name in the first place?’ So to do it now is just electrifying,” Myers said.

Elm City Elementary has been named after the community in which it is located since 1970, when integration began in Wilson County. The school was named Frederick Douglass High School from 1939 to 1969. During that time it was attended by members of the African-American population in Wilson County. In 1970, former Frederick Douglass students joined students at Elm City High School to form an integrated school.

Though Elm City Elementary has undergone multiple renovations since 1970, two major portions of the school, the auditorium and the gymnasium, were originally part of Frederick Douglass High School.

The original Douglass auditorium.

The Frederick Douglass High School Alumni Association has a long history of financial support of Elm City Elementary and Elm City Middle.

“I’m just tickled to death, particularly for all those kids that were here tonight and the association that has been doing so much to promote and keep the thing going,” Myers said. “They have been giving away money, scholarships, everything, every year and this is why I wanted to be here to do this, for them.”

Myers said he felt a major part of this effort to rename the school and regain the 30-year legacy of the high school.

“This was my first teaching job over here and I feel very much still a part of it,” Myers said. “I am happy for them. I am happy that this board could see through that and try to rectify something that happened that was definitely wrong.”

According to Lane Mills, superintendent of Wilson County Schools, costs associated with changing the name of Elm City Elementary School would be about $11,353.

The costs would include $4,317 for staff long-sleeve and short-sleeve T-shirts, $2,500 for a new school marquee, $800 for a new school sign, $704 to replace the rugs at the entrances, $450 for new checks, receipts, a deposit stamp, $450 for new PTO checks and deposit slips, $250 for school pencils, $200 for school stamps and $200 for ink pens, plus other miscellaneous items.

The original Douglass gymnasium.

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2019.