Entertainment

Negro weddings.

Who knew that “negro wedding” was a whole subgenre of blackface?

… Me either.

But it was, and quite popular in Wilson County as late as the 1940s.

In 1927, Mrs. R.H. Llewellyn, clever and entertaining, entertained the Rotary Club with a negro wedding and a negro sermon. 

Wilson Daily Times, 14 December 1927.

In 1938, Stantonsburg High School’s senior class’ evening of “good clean fun and amusement” included a negro wedding.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 March 1938.

In 1941, Saratoga High School’s Beta Club presented a negro wedding whose finale was a stirring “Dark Town Strutter’s Ball.”

Wilson Daily Times, 26 February 1941.

Participants did not need to make up their own mockeries. Titles of negro wedding plays include “Henpeck at the Hitching Post,” “My Wild Days are Over,” and “The Coontown Wedding.” Characters in Mary Bonham’s “The Kink in Kizzie’s Wedding: A Mock Negro Wedding,” published in 1921, include Lizzie Straight, Pinky Black, Sunshine Franklin, Necessary Dolittle, George Washington Goot, and Uncle Remus. The opening lines: “CAPT. COTTON — ‘Bein’ as Ise de Knight ob de Hoss-shoe, an’ while we’s waitin’ fo’ de bridal paih, we will practice de riding’ gaits.’ ALL GROOMSMEN — ‘Thank-u-doo, obleeged-to-you!’ (They salute the Captain.)” Charming.

The Negro was given a very raw deal.

In 1919, Samuel H. Vick drafted a lengthy letter to the Daily Times to protest treatment of African-American patrons of the John Robinson Circus. 

The exact nature of the “raw deal” is not clear, but appears to involve forcing Black customers to buy premium-priced reserve seating rather than general admission tickets. Also, refusing to honor purchased tickets. And humiliating patrons by directing them to “the Nigger Wagon” and “the Nigger Hole” when they tried to enter the show. Vick’s anger is clear, but measured. He notes the general good relations between Black and white Wilsonians, but laments the potential for disruption of that goodwill by a rude stranger. Who could blame a Black man for losing his cool?

Wilson Daily Times, 1 October 1919.

Circus day in Wilson.


Wilson Daily Times, 29 September 1934.

The Daily Times printed these photographs without captions. What was the occasion of the parade?

Per an article on a previous page, Hagenback-Wallace — one of the largest circuses “in the land” — was scheduled to perform two shows in Wilson that day. “Great hulking elephants and prancing ponies, stately white ring horses and gaily striped zebras, towering giraffes and snobbish, little llamas, dappled draft horse teams of eight and ten, and double files of supercilious camels — these were the units of the colorful procession … that thrilled hundreds of Wilson circus fans this morning as the three long trains of the big show unloaded on the Norfolk and Southern sidings at Tarboro street and moved to the lot at the Old Ball Park.”

A closer look at the bottom image reveals that parade routes were among the few public spaces in which integration was acceptable in the 1930s.

The leaders of Wilson Cullud Society.

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Wilson Daily Times, 25 August 1899.

  • Spencer Barnes — Barnes was newly returned to Wilson after service in the Spanish-American war.
  • Ward McAllister — McAllister was the tastemaker and social arbiter of Gilded Age New York City.
  • Jim Ottis
  • Colored Odd Fellows Hall
  • Miss Brinkley –– probably, one of the daughters of Dick and Charlotte Brinkley. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Dick Brinkley, 65; wife Charolott, 49, cook; son Hilliard, 29; and daughters Nancy, 27, school teacher, and Bettie, 23, nurse.
  • Miss Rountree

The National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament.

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Indianapolis Recorder, 20 April 1940.

Hampton Institute (now University) sponsored the first National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament in 1929. The tournament aimed to “furnish an opportunity for state champions, runners-up, and teams with unusual records to play in a National Tournament, and to decide the National Championship.” Wilson High School (later Charles H. Darden High) of Wilson was among the field of teams at the first tournament.

Marble competition.

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Wilson Daily Times, 2 July 1940.

Parker Reuben Battle was born in Wilson on 21 July 1928 to John Battle and Gladys O’kelly Battle. [His aunt, Roberta Battle Johnson, was one of the teachers who resigned en masse to protest the mistreatment of teacher Mary C. Euell by a white superintendent.]

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 322 South Spring Street, owned and valued at $8000, cooper John Battle, 39; wife Gladis, 26; and children Grace G., 3, and Parker, 1; also, blacksmith Timothy Black, 23; wife Grace, 30; relative Olga L. [Battle], 22, public school teacher.

In the 1940 census of New Rochelle, Westchester County, New York: at 154 Crosby Place, garage helper Arthur Johnson, 30, wife Cora, 30, boarding house keeper, and son Arthur W., 9; brother-in-law Jack Willis, 33, chauffeur, and [Johnson’s] sister Pricie, 24, and children Albert, 3, Anna, 2, and Joan Arlene, 3 months; porter Herman Murphy, 28, and cook Vernon Murphy, 28; lodgers Grace Jean Battle, 13, and Parker Battle, 11; and lodger David Johnson, 21, waxer. The Battle children were reported as born in North Carolina and living in Wilson in 1935.

Gala Mid-Nite Show.

The 7 October 1933 edition of the Wilson Daily Times ran this advertisement for a Gala Mid-Nite Show at the Carolina Theatre featuring Moran & Mack, the Two Black Crows, and unidentified “all colored musical and dancing vaudeville acts.”

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The Carolina was a segregated theatre with seating for African-Americans available in its balcony. Moran & Mack were a famed blackface minstrel act. If you care to see a snippet of Hypnotized, here you are.

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