Education

A.A.H.C.’s new director.

North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources issued this press release on 21 May 2019. Congratulations to Angela Thorpe, who hails from Pinetops, just east of the Wilson-Edgecombe County line! Her interests and experience speak directly to so much of what Black Wide-Awake is about, and I wish her every success as director of the African American Heritage Commission:

“N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susi H. Hamilton announces the appointment of Angela Thorpe as the director of the N.C. African American Heritage Commission (AAHC). Thorpe has served as acting director since September 2018.

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“Prior to become acting director, Thorpe served as associate director of the AAHC since 2017. In that role she led the development of a five-year organizational strategic plan, managed organizational partnerships and grants, led collaborative programming efforts with groups and institutions across North Carolina, and oversaw organizational messaging and digital communications strategy.

“She was the first African American historic interpreter at the James K. Polk State Historic Site in Pineville, N.C. and worked to attract diverse audiences through inclusive programming and leading community engagement initiatives.

“Thorpe’s family home is the small community of Pinetops, N.C., but she calls herself an Air Force brat and has lived in the U.S. and abroad. She returned to her roots after receiving a B.A. in history with a minor in African American Studies from the University of Florida and was awarded the M.A. in history from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. As a graduate student she worked to connect marginalized communities with museums and was involved with the award-winning exhibit, “Warnersville: Our Home; Our Neighborhood, Our Stories,” at the Greensboro Historical Museum.

“Thorpe has written on museum professionals, public history and race for the National Council of Public History. She has also spoken on diversity and inclusion in museums and cultural institutions; community engagement; and African American heritage at conferences and symposia. She was awarded a Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship by the American Alliance of Museums in 2016.

“For additional information call (919) 814-6655. The N.C. African American Heritage Commission is a division of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.”

The 101st anniversary of the school boycott.

Today marks the 101st anniversary of the resignation of 11 African-American teachers in Wilson, North Carolina, in rebuke of their “high-handed” black principal and the white school superintendent who slapped one of them. In their wake, black parents pulled their children out of the public school en masse and established a private alternative in a building owned by a prominent black businessman.  Financed with 25¢-a-week tuition payments and elaborate student musical performances, the Independent School operated for nearly ten years. The school boycott, sparked by African-American women standing at the very intersection of perceived powerless in the Jim Crow South, was an astonishing act of prolonged resistance that unified Wilson’s black toilers and strivers.

The school boycott is largely forgotten in Wilson, and its heroes go unsung. In their honor, today, and every April 9, I publish links to these Black Wide-Awake posts chronicling the walk-out and its aftermath. Please read and share and speak the names of Mary C. Euell and the revolutionary teachers of the Colored Graded School.

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2016/01/07/we-tender-our-resignation-and-east-wilson-followed/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2018/03/30/the-heroic-teachers-of-principal-reids-school/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2016/12/10/a-continuation-of-the-bad-feelings/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2017/04/02/what-happened-when-white-perverts-threatened-to-slap-colored-school-teachers/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2018/02/11/604-606-east-vance-street/

Spelling bee winner.

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Wilson Daily Times, 6 May 1941.

The program.

The Times published the full program of commencement exercises for Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute’s first graduating class. The composition of the school’s board of directors reveals the depth of investment by East Wilson’s elite. (Even veterinarian E.L. Reid, whose brother J.D. Reid lit the match that started the public school boycott conflagration.)

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Wilson Times, 28 May 1919.

  • Harry C. Eldridge and J. Bassett Willard published Arcticania, or Columbia’s Trip to the North Pole, an Operetta in Two Acts, a “juvenile fairy spectable,” in 1916. Eldridge and Elizabeth F. Guptill published Midsummer Eve, a Musical Fairy Play for Children in 1920.
  • S.H. Vick — Samuel H. Vick, former teacher, former postmaster, real estate developer.
  • W.S. Hines — Walter S. Hines, barber.
  • W.H. Phillips — William H. Phillips, dentist.
  • N.J. Tate — Noah J. Tate, barber.
  • C.L. Darden — Camillus L. Darden, undertaker and business owner.
  • W.A. Mitchner — William A. Mitchner, physician.
  • J.W. Rogers — John W. Rogers, businessman.
  • D.C. Yancy — Darcy C. Yancey, pharmacist.
  • M.H. Wilson — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 126 Pender Street, Virginia-born house contractor Mansfield H. Wilson, 60; son Samuel H., 20; and sister-in-law Lucy Richards, 40.
  • L.A. Moore — Lee A. Moore, merchant and insurance agent.
  • William Hines — barber and real estate developer.
  • E.L. Reid — Elijah L. Reid, veterinarian.
  • A.L.E. Weeks — Alfred L.E. Weeks, Baptist minister.
  • R.R. Forman — Organist, pianist and composer Allie Waling Forman (1855-1937) registered her work under the name Mrs. R.R. Forman.
  • Frederic Boscovitz composed the duet “Bella Napoli” in 1900.
  • Rogenia Barnes — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street,
  • Lillian Wilson
  • Boisey Barnes — Boisey O. Barnes, half-brother of Walter and William Hines.
  • Lester Mitchell
  • Willard Crawford
  • Addie Davis — Addie Davis Butterfield, daughter of Baptist minister Fred M. Davis Sr.
  • Jos. Rosemond Johnson — James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) composed “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” as a poem in 1900, and his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) set it to music in 1905. In 1919, the year of the Industrial School graduation, the NAACP dubbed the song the “Negro National Anthem.”
  • R.N. Perry — Robert N. Perry, Episcopal priest.

 

A big occasion in the history of the race in this city.

I was astonished to realize that this article memorializes the first commencement exercises at the Independent School — here called by its full and official name, the Wilson  Normal and Industrial Institute. As chronicled here and here and here, a coalition of African-American parents and religious and civic leaders founded the Independent School (also known as the Industrial School) in the wake of an assault on a black teacher by the white school superintendent.

I have not been able to identify Judge William Harrison of Chicago, who delivered to the new school’s graduates a remarkably unprogressive message that seemingly flew in the face of the stand for civil rights the community had resolutely made just a year earlier. The Times reporter made no mention of the school’s genesis, preferring to focus at length on Harrison’s message of admiration for the white man’s guidance and fine example.

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Wilson Daily Times, 31 May 1919.

  • Judge William Harrison
  • Prof. S.H. Vick — Samuel H. Vick furnished a building on Vance Street to house the new school.
  • Rev. A.L.E. Weeks — Alfred L.E. Weeks was a member of the Colored Ministerial Union committee appointed to address the community’s concerns to the school board.
  • Joseph S. Jackson — Joseph S. Jackson Jr.
  • Boisy Barnes — Boisey O. Barnes.
  • Lester Mitchell — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, Annie Mitchell, 70, her children Sallie, 46, Eddie, 44, Albert, 42, Eva, 36, and Floyd, 34, plus niece Sevreane, 18, and nephew Lester, 15.
  • Willard Crawford — probably, Daniel Willard Crawford who died 16 October 1964 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 January 1900 in Wilson County to Daniel Crawford and Annie Whitted; was never married; and worked as a carpenter. Walter H. Whitted was informant.
  • Addie Davis — Addie Davis Butterfield.
  • Rev. R.N. Perry — Episcopal priest Robert N. Perry was also on the Ministerial Union’s committee.
  • Lillian Wilson — perhaps, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: livery stable groom William Wilson, 51; wife Sarah, 48, and daughters Elen, 23, and Lillian, 21, both tobacco factory workers.