The only colored school with a domestic science class.

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Wilson Daily Times, 8 April 1921.

  • Elm City Colored Graded School
  • Prof. J.D. Reid — Reid was principal of the Wilson Colored Graded School.
  • Prof. W.S. Washington
  • Mary Howard — in the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on the Elm City and Wilson Road, farmer Junius Rosser, 59, wife Lizzie, 46, children Daniel, 14, Annie, 12, Bennie, 10, and Lizzie, 8, and boarder Mary Howard, 19, a teacher.

The Round House reborn.

Wilson cut the ribbon on the Oliver N. Freeman Round House and Museum of African-American History Sunday. I was blessed with the opportunity to draft most of the text accompanying the permanent exhibit and to curate much of the content. I’m so happy and so proud and so honored and so humbled. Preserving and presenting the history of the community that raised me is my ministry.

… “Oh? I’m on the program?”

I was too geeked about the museum to think straight enough to rehearse something, so I just let my heart speak. I said that I was born at all-black Mercy Hospital just before it closed. I was born on the cusp of segregation and integration — Wilson as it was and as it would be. Though I have not lived in Wilson for more than 30 years, something powerful that I had absorbed on Carolina Street, where I spent my first decade, or Queen Street, where my father grew up, or Elba Street, where my grandmother grew up, had stayed with me. I began to curate Black Wide Awake in 2015 as a way to preserve and present the stories of the people and places of home. Since then, I’ve gained as much I’ve given, including the singular honor of contributing to and creating for the Round House museum. I’m honored and deeply grateful, I said.

Photo by Janelle Booth Clevinger.

Congressman G.K. Butterfield, Jr., friend and neighbor, son of East Wilson, took the mic and gave tribute to the real MVP, William E. “Bill” Myers, whose tenacious vision over nearly two decades bent larger Wilson toward doing right by the historical and cultural legacy of our side of the tracks. Mr. Myers was feeling a little under the weather and could not be present, but surely felt the waves of love and appreciation rolling toward him from Nash Street.

George K. Butterfield, Jr., United Stated House of Representatives. (And The Monitors? Well, get to know them.)

With that, Michael E. Myers, Board chairman Ken Jones, and the Freeman family cut the ribbon, and the community stepped into the full flower of the renovated Round House and Museum.

East Wilson bona fides: in the museum’s foyer, W. and C., two of Bill Myers’ grandsons. Both are descendants of Judith Davis, Rev. Fred M. Davis, William B. Davis and Parker Battle. In addition, W. is descended from “Picture-Taking” George W. Barnes and Benjamin Mincey.

The Round House itself is now largely dedicated to the life and accomplishments of Oliver N. Freeman.

Before the crowd arrives.

A little interactive oral history.

The medical history of East Wilson.


Two members of the Round House board of directors — Jean Wynn Jones, Darden Class of ’52, and one of the first Girl Scouts in Troop 11, and Inez Dickerson Bell, Darden Class of ’44.


Please support the Freeman Round House and African-American Museum. Admission is free, but donations are vital to this small institution’s mission and are much appreciated.

1202 Nash Street East, Wilson, North Carolina

Wilson has lost an icon.

This morning’s announcement from Wilson’s Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education:

Our beloved, Sallie Baldwin Townsend Howard, passed away at 2:50am this morning, September 25, 2018. She was 102 years old and wanted everyone to know that “she was ready”. We miss her already but her life and her legacy remains with us, enshrined in the work we do for children for generations to come. Concerning her passing from this earth, this is what she had to say…

“When I lay me down to die
Have bade farewell this beauteous world
Of valleys green and oceans swirl
Of fragrant blossoms and birds that sing
Of happy voices with childlike ring
Of ecstasy from lovers kiss
Though evermore I’m done with this
And my journey through eternity
To the dawn of nothing be…
I shall begin it cheerfully
If little children let shed a tear
To express the love they bear
And weep my passing from this earth
Because til death, yea from birth
For truth and goodness I have striven
Because of kindness I have given
If they should weep to have me stay
Because I’ve lighted up their way
Then happy upon my couch I’ll lie
When I lay me down to die.”

Sallie B. Howard, 1948

Woman-slapping superintendent explodes again.


New York Age, 20 September 1919.

Charles Henry Moore, an Amherst College graduate who helped establish North Carolina State Agricultural and Technical University, served as a regional director for the Rosenwald Fund, whose school-building initiative Charles L. Coon largely opposed. Moore published an account of his school tour in May 1920 in volume 49, number 5, of The Southern Workman, Hampton Institute’s monthly magazine. The article did not mention Coon’s rudeness during Moore’s visit to Wilson County.

Clinton J. Calloway was director of agricultural extension work at Tuskegee Institute and managed the Rosenwald program.

J.D. Reid, then principal of the Wilson Colored Graded School, played a significant role in the “woman-slapping” incident.

For more re Wilson County’s Rosenwald schools, see here.

Studio shots, no. 90: Edna E. Gaston.

Per an eBay listing for a reproduction of this photo: “Photo. North Carolina. Black girl and doll carriage. The girl’s name is Edna Earl Gaston. She was the niece of John Clark who was a founder of St Mark’s Episcopal Church. He was also the first Black mail carrier in Wilson, North Carolina. 1925.”

In fact, Edna Earline Gaston was the daughter of Albert Sessle Gaston of Wilson and Annie House Gaston of Moore County, North Carolina. John H. Clark was her great-uncle, brother of Albert Gaston’s mother Ella Clark Gaston.


In the 1900 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: Ella Gaston, 30, divorced, with sons Ralph, 10, and Albert, 2. [Also in the 1900 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson township, North Carolina: 44 year-old barber John Gaston, [second] wife Sabrina [Sattena] 22, and children Theodore, 13, Cicero, 10, George, 8, and Caroline, 2 months. John A. Gaston was Albert Gaston’s father.]

In 1918, Albert Gaston registered for the World War I draft in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per his registration card, he was born 16 August 1897 in Wilson, N.C.; resided at 2105 Nassau Street, Philadelphia; worked as a longshoreman; and his nearest relative was Anna Gaston.

In the 1920 census of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania: at 2105 Nassau Street, building laborer Albert Gaston, 22; wife Anne T., 23; daughter Edna E., 1;  lodger Harry Jenkins, 19, a laundry laborer; and “mother” Hellen Hunton, 53. All were born in North Carolina.

Shortly after the census, the Gastons returned to North Carolina, where they took positions in Annie H. Gaston’s home county. On 28 April 1921, The Moore County News of Carthage printed principal Albert Gaston’s address to the Shady Grove colored school.

By October 1921, Gaston had take over as head of the struggling Addor school. Per this 1997 National Register of Historic Places nomination report, the Gastons began an energetic campaign to raise money for a Rosenwald School, and the Lincoln Park school near Pinebluff was the result.

Albert Sessel Gaston registered for the World War II draft in 1942 in Raeford, Hoke County, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 15 August 1897 in Wilson; was employed by the Board of Education in Raeford; and his contact was Annie L. Gaston, 119 Lincoln Street, Hampton, Virginia.

Annie Lillian Gaston died 2 June 1952 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 17 July 1896 in Moore County to John House and Maggie Gunter; was a schoolteacher; and was married. Albert Gaston was informant.

Per the Social Security Death Index, Albert Gaston died November 1979 and Edna Gaston Coles died 25 July 1999, both in Philadelphia.

Signatures, no. 5.

Signatures are often-overlooked scraps of information that yield not only obvious clues about literacy, but also subtleties like depth and quality of education and preferred names, spellings and pronunciations. They are also, in original documents, tangible traces of our forebears’ corporality — evidence that that they were once here.

This is the fifth in a series of posts featuring the signatures of men and women born before 1900, men and women who could not take even a basic education for granted.

  • Alexander Barnes Joyner (1896-?), 1917, World War I draft registration card, Wilson; 1942, World War II draft registration card, New York, New York.

  • William M. King, 1912, the marriage license of Banks Blow and Mag Parker, Wilson.

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Back to school!

More Raines and Cox photographs of Saint Alphonsus School, these taken in 1949.

Book Week.

Your Best Friends Read Good Books.

This photo, perhaps also shot by Raines and Cox, appears to date from the 1950s.


Saint Alphonsus School Drum & Bugle Corps.

[On a personal note: One day when I was 4, I followed another child out the front of Kiddie Kollege of Knowledge (formerly St. Alphonsus School) with my arms spread wide. In the inexplicable way that crazy things happen to little kids, my pinky got caught and crushed between the heavy double doors seen in the third image above. My aunt, Hattie H. Ellis, came up Carroll Street from Darden High School — she was a guidance counselor — to take me to the doctor, and I proudly showed off my little cast when I returned to school the next day.]

Top photos: 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_StAlphonsusClassroom3 and
PhC_196_CW_StAlphonsusClassroom2. Bottom: courtesy of Wilson Community Improvement Association.

Colored graded school honor roll.

WCGS students

Wilson Daily Times, 10 March 1922.

  • Blount, Hellen — Born about 1915 to Mark and Mary Alice Black, Blount. Helen died 15 April 1932 of pulmonary tuberculosis. She lived at 113 South East Street.
  • Williams, Edmund — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 701 Vance Street, A.C.L. station laborer Allen Williams; wife Fennie, 39, laundress; and children Guss, 23, barber; Osca, 20, barber; Rosca, 20, A.C.L. station laborer; Lenard, 16; Edmond, 12, Albert, 10; Lizzie, 11; and Frederick, 3.
  • Boykin, Lila Ruth — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 900 Viola Street, valued at $4000, Christian church clergyman James Boykin, 44; wife Nancy S., 59; daughter Lila R., 19; and roomers Ines Williams, 23, widow, and Minnie Nelson, 20, who both worked as servants.
  • Haskins, Estelle — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Warren Street, Robert Haskins, 37, bottling company laborer; wife Gertrude, 28; and children Mandy, 14, Elizabeth, 12, Estelle, 10, Robert, 7, Lossie, 5, Lawrence, 4, and Thomas, 1. Estelle H. Goodman died 6 January 1972 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 February 1911 in Wilson to Robert Haskins Sr. and Gertrude Farmer; was married to Arthur Goodman; and resided at 1224 Queen Street.
  • Cooke, Clementine — Perhaps, Cook Clementine (c) cook Cherry Hotel h 605 Nash.
  • Freeman, Naomi — Naomi Olivia Freeman. 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.
  • Wilson, Irene — Probably, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 302 Vick, Mollie Wilson, 46; son Lennie, 25, house carpenter; daughter-in-law Georgia, 23; grandson Lennie Jr., 2; and children John A., 22, house carpenter; Annie D., 19, Sarah, 17, Bunyon, 16, Hirmon, 14, William H., 12, James J., 10, and Ire, 7.
  • Gilliam, Matthew — In 1940, Matthew Stanley Gilliam registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 19 August 1913 in Wilson; his contact was mother Annie Lee Gilliam; and he was employed by State Department (K.R. Curtis), Court House, Wilson. [His father was physician Matthew S. Gilliam.]
  • Bynum, Lizzie Mae — Probably, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 511 Narroway, widow Annie Bynum, 47, and children Ruth, 23, Joseph, 17, Curley C., 16, Feedy, 14, Lucy, 15, and Lizzie M., 7. Lizzie Bynum died 16 April 1932 of pulmonary tuberculosis. Per her death certificate, she was born about 1909 to Cooper and Emma Woodard Bynum, both born in Edgecombe County; was a student; and the family resided at 208 North East Street. Curley Bynum was informant. [Three blocks from Hellen Blount, above, who died the day before Lizzie.]
  • Brooks, William
  • Cox, Ebenezer — in the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Eddie Cox, 27, wife Mattie, 27, and son Ebernezer Cox, 11. In the 1925 Wilson city directory, Ebenezer is listed as a resident at 111 Carroll Street, the address at which his father operated Cox’s Pressing Club.
  • Williams, Martha — Perhaps, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: laundress Minnie Williams, 27, and children Martha, 11, and Lawrence, 9, on Bynum Street.
  • Speight, Inez L.
  • Barnes, Frank Washington — Frank W. Barnes (25 March 1911-21 March 1982) was the son of Jesse Reese Barnes and Sarah Eliza Barnes. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, farmer Jesse Barnes, 46; wife Sarah, 47; and children Ned, 23, farm laborer; Nancy, 22, college student; Lemon, 20, pressing club laborer; Jessie Belle, 18, high school student; Maggie, 15; Ardenia, 13; Frank, 11; James, 6; and Mildred, 3.
  • Brown, James
  • Purdie, Esther — in the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Street P. Purdie, 49; wife Lenora, 28; and children Ethel, 20, Jane, 19, Raleigh, 20, Needie, 18, Mittie, 16, Esther, 14, Niney, 7, Paul, 6, Samuel, 5, and Erand, 3.
  • Williams, John
  • Blount, Florence — Florence Blount Hollingsworth English (26 March 1912-26 February 1988) was the sister of Hellen Blount, above. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cafe cook Mark Blount, 67; wife Alice, 31; children Florence, 10, and Helen, 7; son-in-law Boston Griffin, 39, furniture company delivery man; and roomer David Carrol, 40, tobacco factory worker.
  • Griffith, Mildred
  • Bullock, Viola — perhaps Viola Bullock Sams, who died 14 May 1974 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 March 1909 in South Carolina to Sam Bullock and Martell Coper; was widowed; resided at 415 South Pender Street. Fred Woodard was informant.
  • Battle, Daisy — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 404 Spring Street, Mary Battle, 41, tobacco factory worker, and children Flonnie, 12, Daisy, 12, David, 22, railroad crossing flagman, Jimmie, 7, and John, 5.
  • Farmer, Alice Gray — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 506 Hines Street, tobacco factory worker Jeff Farmer, 57; wife Blanche, 47, laundress; and children Charlie, 24, a tobacco factory worker, Jeff Jr., 18, a grocery company truck driver, Henry, 14, Alice, 12, Sam, 8, and Blanche, 5.
  • Jones, Gertrude — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 808 East Nash, Butler Jones, 39, painter; wife Myrtle, 36; and children Gertrude, 12, Louise, 6, Joseph, 5, Ruth M., 3, and Willard, 3 months.
  • Parker, Lucile — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: wagon factory laborer Allison Parker, 46; wife Mary, 40, a tobacco factory worker; and children Marie, 14, Martha, 11, and Lucille, 8, at 901 Nash Street.
  • Taylor, Ossie Mae — Ossie Taylor Barnes died 12 February 1970 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was a widow; was born 4 July 1908 in Wilson to Joseph and Martha Taylor and resided at 202 North East Street. Informant was Ida Edmundson, 711 Suggs Street.
  • Wilkerson, Maggie Belle
  • Barnes, Frank
  • Bowens, Nathan — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 406 South Lodge Street, rented for $10/month, North Carolina native Flora Royal, 42, tobacco factory worker, and her Florida-born son Nathan Bowens, 22, tobacco factory laborer.
  • Ellis, Robert — perhaps, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 640 Nash Street, sawmill laborer Robert Ellis, 30; wife Ella, 28; and children Robert, 9, John H., 7, James H., 6, and Ella P., 4; plus sister-in-law Hermenetta, 25.
  • Gardner, Levi — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, tobacco factory worker Will Gardner, 44; wife Mary, 40; and son Levi, 9.
  • Perry, Samuel — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, wagon factory laborer Sam Perry, 39; wife Sis, 36, tobacco factory worker; and children David, 11, Samuel, 9, and Nettie, 7.
  • Perry, David — see above.
  • Townsend, Haywood — Haywood Townsend’s delayed birth certificate indicates that he was born in Wilson in 1909 to Andrew Townsend and Lula McCoy. In the 1928 Wilson city directory, Townsend Haywood (c) student h 506 Banks.
  • Battle, Clara — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 304 East South Street, rented for $24/month, Joseph Battle, 50, janitor at colored high school; wife Gertrude, 42; and daughter Clara, 22; and roomers Earnest Heath, 24, cook, barber James Pettiford, 32, Robert McNeal, 23, servant, Essie M. Anderson, 18, servant, and Viola McLean, 24, “sick.”
  • Tarboro, Emma Lou — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, ice plant laborer Issac Tarboro, 39; wife Emma, 38; and children Thomas, 14, Emma Lou, 12, Issac Jr., 8, John, 5, Virginia, 3, and Richard, 8 months.
  • Weaver, Lewis — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 620 Stantonsburg Street, oil mill laborer Nathan Weaver, 47; wife Pattie, 45; and sons Lewis, 12, and Perry, 6.
  • Spells, E____
  • Williams, Marie — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1004 Nash Street, Edd Williams, 39; wife Minnie, 37; and children Marie, 14, Reges, 12, Gency, 10, and Jessie, 5 months.
  • Best, Herman — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1107 Nash Street, William Best, 37; wife Ada, 39; children Dorthy L., 6, Andrew(?), 12, Herman, 11, and Elizabeth, 8; plus brothers-in-law James Sims, 48, and Willie Sims, 38.
  • Woo[dard?], George A.
  • Ruffin, ____
  • DuBerry, Sherman — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 307 Stantonsburg Street, rented for $12/month, tobacco factory worker Linda Deberry, 70, widow, and sons Sherman, 19, tobacco factory worker, and Herman, 10.
  • Venters, ____
  • Shade, Sarah — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 535 Nash Street, Turner Stokes, 50, carpenter; wife Morah, 39; mother-in-law Martha Pitt, 83; and boarders Isac Shade, 44, drugstore manager; wife Estella, 38; and children Kenneth, 13, and Sarah, 9.
  • Shade, Kenneth — see above.
  • Huzzy, [Eliza]beth
  • Baker, Irene
  • Peacock, Susan — Susan Peacock Prince.



Play with all your might.

On 12 May 1946, Charles Raines and/or Guy Cox visited Saint Alphonsus Catholic School to take these priceless photos of young pupils. Can you identify 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_104H_StAlphonseSchool1,  PhC_196_CW_104H_StAlphonseSchool2 and