Lane Street Project has an opportunity to set up a booth at Wilson Juneteenth Festival to raise awareness of our work and the cemeteries we serve. This is an excellent chance to connect with the community, especially families who might be descended from or related to people buried in Vick Cemetery.
We have less than three weeks to pull this together. The festival is June 17th and runs from 2:00 P.M.-9:00 P.M. We need more volunteers who will commit to manning our booth during the day. We’ll be handing out informational literature about the clean-ups at Odd Fellows and about the recent findings at Vick Cemetery. If you’ve been wanting to help Lane Street Project, but dragging vines out of the woods isn’t your thing, please consider volunteering for an hour or two.
If interested, please contact me as soon as possible at email@example.com or via the Lane Street Project Facebook page. Thank you!
Priscilla Joyner was born in Nash County, not Wilson, but close enough for her life story — and the context in which it unfolded — to be of particular interest to Black Wide-Awake readers.
“Priscilla Joyner was born into the world of slavery in 1858 North Carolina and came of age at the dawn of emancipation. Raised by a white slaveholding woman, Joyner never knew the truth about her parentage. She grew up isolated and unsure of who she was and where she belonged—feelings that no emancipation proclamation could assuage.
“Her life story—candidly recounted in an oral history for the Federal Writers’ Project—captures the intimate nature of freedom. Using Joyner’s interview and the interviews of other formerly enslaved people, historian Carole Emberton uncovers the deeply personal, emotional journeys of freedom’s charter generation—the people born into slavery who walked into a new world of freedom during the Civil War. From the seemingly mundane to the most vital, emancipation opened up a myriad of new possibilities ….
“… Uncertainty about her parentage haunted her life, and as Jim Crow took hold throughout the South, segregation, disfranchisement, and racial violence threatened the loving home she made for her family. But through it all, she found beauty in the world and added to it where she could.”
Priscilla Joyner’s family in the 1860 census of Dortches township, Nash County, N.C. She is believed to have been the daughter of Ann Liza Joyner and an unknown African-American man.
Hugh B. Johnston, writing as “An Old Reporter,” wrote dozens of genealogy columns for the Daily Times and Rocky Mount Telegram. His piece about Jesse Farmer relayed two anecdotes highlighting the violent treatment of enslaved people.
In the first, after naming the eight people Jesse and Mary Batts Farmer enslaved near present-day Elm City — Nellie, Clarkey, Ailsey, Dinah, Jim, Jerry, Hilliard, and Cindy — Johnston recounts Dinah’s reaction to Emancipation. “I understand that I’d been freed,” she told Jesse Farmer. “Well, I haven’t freed you yet,” he responded, and beat her.
The second incident occurred during the Civil War. A free woman of color named Clarkey had just died, and her body lay in a cabin at the edge of the yard. Jim O’Neal, overseer on a neighboring plantation, arrived with several people enslaved by Dr. George Sugg. O’Neal accused Jerry of having stolen one of his hogs with Bill, an enslaved man standing “nearly naked and bound with leather straps.” Mary Batts Farmer defended Jerry and declared he would not be beaten. When O’Neal threatened to do so anyway, Mary Farmer told Jerry to defend himself. He grabbed an ax and walked away, and despite orders, the enslaved men with O’Neal refused to follow. O’Neal then took Bill under the lean-to of Clarkey’s cabin and forced the others to beat him with switches “until he almost smoked.”
Rocky Mount Telegram, 14 March 1956.
In 1866, Jerry Farmer and Kate Sugs registered their two-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.
In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Jerry Farmer, 26, and wife Kate, 26.
In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jerry Farmer, 37, widower.
On 10 January 1884, Jerry Farmer, 39, married Annice Pender, 23, at Abram Sharpe’s. Charles Barnes, Haywood Batts, and Haywood Pender were witnesses.
Daniel, a tall, handsome, dark-skinned man, left William Barnes’ plantation near Oak Grove [Saratoga] on the night of 20 September 1834. Eleven months later, Barnes began running ads in the Tarboro Press, offering a $50 reward for Daniel’s capture. Despite specific details about Daniel’s physique, his mother and siblings (from whom he had been separated when sold by Asahel Farmer), and even his father (a blacksmith who worked nearly independently in Nash County), Daniel was still on the lam in May 1936 when this ad ran, and as late as April 1837, when the Press re-printed it.
Tarboro’ Press, 7 May 1836.
Four years later, Abner Tison, another Saratoga-area planter, offered a reward for a Daniel whose physical description closely matched the Daniel above. He’d been missing a year. Though the ages are off, this Daniel had some notable scars, and was said to have been raised in Pitt County, this is surely the same knock-kneed man, bound and determined to take his freedom.
I’m honored to join these amazing women at Save Your Spaces Cultural Heritage and Historic Preservation Festival to talk about successes and challenges in the critical work of preserving African-American cemeteries.
If you’re intrigued by local history, have stories to tell or histories to preserve, are curious and want to learn more about cultural heritage and create ways to preserve it, please join us March 4 at Create ATL, 900 Murphy Avenue SW, Atlanta.
Twelve years beforeRosa Parks refused to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus, Irene Barron sat down in the white section of a Wilson bus and held her ground. Barron’s action followed James Parker‘s similar refusal by three months and suggests concerted action.
Do you know of Irene Barron? I am seeking more information about this freedom fighter.
As we have seen here and here, for more than 50 years after the Civil War, January 1 (rather than Juneteenth) was the date Wilson’s African-American community celebrated Emancipation.
In 1917 (not ’18, per the headline), the Negro Business League sponsored the observation of the 54th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation at Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church. Master of ceremony Samuel H. Vick delivered remarks that appear calculated to soothe white attendees, as jarring as they may seem now. Mamie Faithful, a local teacher, recited two of her own patriotic poems, which, in the writer’s opinion, compared favorably to those of Paul Laurence Dunbar. And Presbyterian minister Halley B. Taylor delivered the keynote address on the progress and shortcomings of the Negro.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: retail merchant Sulley Rodgers, 35; wife Earley, 33; and school teacher Mamie Faithful, 50, boarder.
Mamie Faithful is listed in the 1922, 1925, and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 114 Fourth Street, owned and valued at $1000, widow Mary Woodard, 34, laundress, and roomer Mamie Faithful, 61.
Mamie Faithful died at Mercy Hospital in Wilson on 15 January 1938. Per her death certificate, she was 63 years old; was single; worked as a laborer; and was born in Tarboro, N.C., to Irvin Thigpen and Beedie Faithful. Informant was James L. Faithful, Tarboro.
This event didn’t happen in Wilson County, but it has everything to do with the mission of Black Wide-Awake, and I want to share it.
The freshly unveiled marker.
“First, I’d like to recognize my family, Joseph R. Holmes’ family, here today — including three of his brother Jasper’s great-granddaughters. Some here may remember their uncle, Dr. J. Maxwell Allen, who practiced dentistry in Charlotte Court House. His sister, my great-aunt Julia, first told me of Joseph Holmes when I was an inquisitive teenager digging for my roots. She did not know the details — only that her grandfather’s brother Joseph, born enslaved, had been killed because of his political activity. That was enough, though, to set this journey in motion.
“On behalf of the Holmes-Allen family, I extend thanks to all who made this day possible. So many in Charlotte County gave in so many ways — time, money, influence, prayer (look at God!) — and we are profoundly grateful for your embrace and support of this project.
“We are also grateful to Kathy Liston. When I reached out to Kathy nearly ten years ago, seeking help to find the truth of Joseph Holmes’ life, I did not even dream of this day. I first visited Charlotte Court House in 2012 at Kathy’s invitation. She took me to Joseph Holmes’ homestead; to Roxabel, the plantation on which he may have been enslaved; to the school at Keysville whose establishment he championed; and finally to this courthouse, to the very steps on which he bled and died. The historical marker we reveal today stands as a testament to Kathy’s persistence and insistence, her values and vision, her energy and expertise, and we cannot thank her enough.
“The beautiful story of Joseph R. Holmes’ life, and the terrible story of his death, were all but forgotten in Charlotte County — suppressed by some, repressed by others. This is an all too common phenomenon of American history. Though Africans arrived in this very state in 1619, the contributions of African Americans to the building of this country — both literally and metaphorically — are seldom recalled, much less memorialized. Black communities dealt with their trauma by hiding it away, refusing to speak of their loss and pain. It is never too late, however, to reclaim our heroes.
“For hundreds of years, the Akan people of Ghana have used symbols, called adinkra, as visual representations of concepts and proverbs. The word Sankofa, often depicted as a bird looking toward its tail, means ‘go back and get it.’ The broader concept of Sankofa urges us to know our pasts as we move forward.
Today, we have gone back for Joseph R. Holmes. In the shadow of Confederate monuments, we shine a light on his works; we affirm his life; we reclaim his legacy. As long as we speak his name, he lives forever. Will you say it with me?
“Joseph R. Holmes. Joseph R. Holmes. Joseph R. Holmes.
“Your family remembers. Your community remembers. We honor your life and sacrifice.
I find myself with an unexpected day off, so what better way to kick off the real holiday than chopping it up with Zella Palmer about family, Black history, and Wide-Awake Wilson?
Zella is chair and director of Dillard University’s Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture and renowned for her innovative work to preserve African-American food culture. Find out what she and I have in common — besides everything Black — this afternoon at 3:00 PM Eastern in our Instagram Live conversation @maisonzella!