Snaps, no. 18: Tenner Anderson Pleasant.

The 1960 Panther’s Paw, the yearbook of all-white Lee Woodard High School in Black Creek, carried this photograph:

The photo changed in the following year’s edition, but the caption was nearly identical — “Aunt Tena” Pleasant keeps our building nice and clean.”:


In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Benjamin Anderson, 33; wife Amanda, 25, farm laborer; and children Johnnie, 11, farm laborer, Tenna, 10, Jonas, 9, Annie, 6, Charlie, 3, and Bettie, 3 months.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, WIlson County: laborer Ben Anderson, 45; [second] wife Jane, 35; and children Elbert, 18, Annie, 13, Charlie, 11, Bettie, 10, and Martha, 8; plus boarder Lafyette Locus, 19.

On 25 August 1910, Walter Pleasant, 26, of Black Creek, son of George Pleasant, married Tena Anderson, 22, of Black Creek, daughter of Ben Anderson, in Black Creek.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: on the road east from Black Creek to Wilson, farmer Walter Pleasant, 36, wife Tenie, 27, farm laborer, and daughter Lillie, 4.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Walter Plesent, 45; wife Tina, 40; and children Lillie, 14, Maud, 9, and Arthur, 7; nephew Robert Best, 14; and widowed aunt Hattie Smith, 60.

In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Walter Pleasant, 53; wife Tenner, 55, school dormitory cook; father-in-law Ben Anderson, 75; nephew Arthur L. Bennett, 20, farm laborer; niece Maude E. Dunn, 18, cook; and nice Tenner L. Dunn, 13.

Walter Pleasant died 9 January 1945 in Black Creek township, Wilson County, Per his death certificate, he was born 12 October 1883 in Wilson County to George Pleasant of Richmond, Virginia, and Adeline Smith of Edgecombe County. Wife Teenie Pleasant was informant, and he was buried in Black Creek.

Tennie (Tener) Pleasant died 1 February 1962 at her home at 1218 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 April 1891 in WIlson County to Ben Anderson and Mandy Brooks; was a widow; and was buried in Black Creek cemetery. Informant was Tenner Wiggins, 1427 Avenue C, Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Miss Freeman, student of social work.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 17 February 1940.

Mary Frances Freeman Ellis (1914-1996) was the daughter of O. Nestus and Willie Mae Hendley Freeman.

Founded in 1920, the Atlanta School of Social Work merged with Atlanta University in 1947.


In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, Oliver N. Freeman, 38; wife Willie May, 31; and children Naomi, 8, Oliver N. Jr., 7, Mary F., 5, and Connie, 4.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1300 East Nash Street, valued at $6000, Oliver N. Freeman, 48, building contractor; wife Willie May, 41, born in Tennessee; and children Naomi, 18, Oliver N. Jr., 17, Mary F., 16, and Connie H., 14.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Nestus Freeman, 58; wife Willie, 51; and daughters Connie, 25, and Mary Frances, 24.

604-606 East Vance Street.

Though located within the East Wilson Historic District, this 1970s-era apartment building is not counted as a contributing structure. Its site, however, is significant. Here was located the Wilson Independent School, founded to educate the children who withdrew from the Colored Graded School after superintendent Charles L. Coon slapped teacher Mary Euell.

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2018.


Robert A. Johnson.

Robert A. Johnson served 30 years as the first African-American high school principal in the Elm City community. “Under his leadership, not only did Frederick Douglass [High School] receive high academic ratings, its superiority in co-curricular areas received state-wide recognition, particularly its band and basketball teams.”

A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Johnson received a B.A. from Ohio State University and, later a master’s degree from New York University.


Robert A. Johnson, 34, married Grace A. McNeil, 27, on 3 June 1939 in Forsyth County, North Carolina.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 206 Reid Street, shoe shop owner James Mack, 41; wife Beualah, 40, born in Salisbury; and Robert Johnson, 34, teacher in Wilson County school, born in Winston-Salem.

In 1940, Robert Arthur Johnson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 19 October 1905 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; his contact was father William Johnson, 806 Stadium Drive, Winston-Salem; and his employer was Elm City Board of Trustees.

Robert Arthur Johnson died 14 March 1966 of a heart attack at Frederick Douglass High School, Elm City. Per his death certificate, he was born 19 October 1905 in Winston-Salem to William Johnson and Amie Williams; was married to Grace Johnson; and was employed as a principal by Wilson County Schools.

Text adapted from article in and photo courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).

Maude J. Yancey, M.S., M.P.H.

Maude Josephine Yancey entered Knoxville College in 1938 in the first step toward her long career in health education at North Carolina College [now North Carolina Central University] in Durham, N.C., Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, N.C.


New York Age, 29 April 1944.

Her education included a scholarship to study at University of Michigan.

From July Meeting, 1946, Proceedings of the Board of Regents [of the University of Michigan] (1946).

Excerpt from Maude J. Yancey, “The Establishment of the University Health Service at the University of Michigan,” published in Studies in the History of Higher Education in Michigan, University of Michigan (1950).

American Journal of Public Health (1951).


In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 538 East Nash Street, druggist Darcy C. Yancey, 46, wife Lelia B., 40, and daughter Maude, 9.

The Eagle yearbook, North Carolina College (1952).

Lincoln University, 1882-’83.

During academic year 1882-’83, 73 of Lincoln University’s 214 students were from North Carolina. Five of that 73, all in the collegiate division, were from Wilson County: juniors Frank O. Blount, Cato D. Suggs [Daniel Cato Suggs], and Samuel H. Vick; sophomore Braswell R. Winstead; and freshman Francis M. Hines (whose home was Toisnot.)

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N.B.: Though Francis M. Hines’ home was listed as Toisnot, now Elm City, and firmly within Wilson County, it seems certain that he was in fact from the Temperance Hall area of Edgecombe County, a few miles east and just across the county line. Hines graduated from Lincoln in 1886 and, upon his return to Edgecombe County, plunged into local politics. He quickly rose to leadership of the Knights of Labor and, on the strength of the African-American voting power in a county in which they were the majority population, was elected Register of Deeds. Tragically, Hines died of kidney disease at the age of 28. Local newspapers’ laconic reports of his death did not fail to include aspersions.

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Tarborough Southerner, 21 February 1889.

He is buried in the cemetery of Pyatt Memorial A.M.E. Church in the Temperance Hall community.

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Prominent Sigma transfers to Howard.

New York Age, 20 January 1923.

Fred M. Davis Jr. (1899-1949), like his younger brother William B. Davis, was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.


In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Fred M. Davis, 33, paper hanger; wife Diannon, 31; children Eva M., 6, Bertha E., 5, and Fred M., 17 months; plus mother Judith Davis, 50, laundress.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Fred M. Davis, 42, Baptist church minister; wife Dianah, 42; children Eva M., 16, Bertha, 15, Fred, 11, Ruth, 13, Addie L., 8, and William B., 5; and mother Jud., 60.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Fred M. Davis, 50, church preacher; [second] wife Minnie, 39; children Fred Jr., 20, Berthia, 22, school teacher; Addie, 18, and William B., 16; and mother Judie, 76.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 621 East Green Street, Rev. Fred M. Davis, 73, minister; wife Minnie J., 59; [son-in-law] Dr. G.K. Butterfield, 35, dentist; [daughter] Addie L. Butterfield, 34; son William B. Davis, 32, high school teacher; daughter-in-law Hazel M. Davis, 30, teacher; grandson William B. Davis, 4 months; and son Fred M. Davis, 40, home interior decorator.

In 1942, Fred Marshon Davis Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 27 October 1899 in Wilson; resided at 621 East Green; his contact was Rev. Fred M. Davis; and he was self-employed.

Fred M. Davis died 7 February 1949 at Mercy Hospital after being struck by a car while riding a bicycle. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 October 1900 in Wilson to Fred M. Davis Sr. and Diana Dunston; resided at 621 East Green; was single; and was employed as an interior decorator/wallpaper hanger. Addie Butterfield was informant.

Remembering Dr. Lawrence M. Clark Sr.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the passing of Dr. Lawrence M. Clark. Dr. Clark was an accomplished mathematician and college administrator at North Carolina State University, but was equally passionate about following a calling to record the local African-American history of his hometown, Danville, Virginia. Dr. Clark and his wife, Dr. Irene Reynolds Clark, have stood as role models for me for the vital importance of the principle of sankofa and of the value and impact of preserving and presenting a people’s history.

I am thankful to the Clark children, my friends Lawrence Jr., Deborah, Linda and Sheila, for generously sharing their parents with all who know, admire and stood to learn from them. In some small way, I hope that Black Wide-Awake honors Dr. Clark’s legacy.

For the full post excerpting an interview with Dr. Lawrence M. Clark, published by the Virginia Center for Digital History, see here.