Institutions

The 103rd anniversary of the school boycott.

Today marks the 103rd 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 teachers.

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.

we-tender-our-resignation-and-east-wilson-followed

the-heroic-teachers-of-principal-reids-school

a-continuation-of-the-bad-feelings

what-happened-when-white-perverts-threatened-to-slap-colored-school-teachers

604-606-east-vance-street

mary-euell-and-dr-du-bois

minutes-of-the-school-board

attack-on-prof-j-d-reid

lucas-delivers-retribution

lynching-going-on-and-there-are-men-trying-to-stand-in-with-the-white-folks

photos-of-the-colored-graded-and-independent-schools

new-school-open

the-program

a-big-occasion-in-the-history-of-the-race-in-this-city

Lane Street Project: African-American cemeteries and cemetery projects.

Odd Fellows Cemetery, Wilson, N.C., January 2021.

It is impossible to list every African-American cemetery in the United States. Or even every abandoned African-American cemetery. Here, however, is the start of a running list of abandoned or abused African-American cemeteries whose particular circumstances have garnered media (or my) attention, and the organizations attempting to reclaim them. It takes its inspiration from the Adams-McEachin African American Burial Grounds Network Act, which proposes a voluntary national database of historic African-American burial grounds. This legislation would also establish a National Park Service program, in coordination with state, local, private, and non-profit groups, to educate the public and provide technical assistance for community members and public and private organizations to research, survey, identify, record, and preserve burial sites and cemeteries within the Network.

NORTH CAROLINA

  • Rountree, Odd Fellows and Vick Cemeteries, Lane Street Project, Wilson
  • Oakdale Cemetery, Wilson
  • South Asheville Cemetery, Asheville
  • Cemetery, Ayden
  • Black Bottom Memorial Cemetery, Belhaven
  • Cedar Grove Cemetery, Charlotte
  • Geer Cemetery, Friends of Geer, Durham
  • Oak Grove Cemetery, Elizabeth City
  • Elm City Colored Cemetery, Elm City
  • Greenleaf Cemetery, Goldsboro
  • Bryan Cemetery, James City
  • Glades and McDowell Cemeteries, McDowell Cemetery Association, Marion
  • Greenwood Cemetery, New Bern
  • Oberlin Cemetery, Raleigh
  • Unity Cemetery, Rocky Mount
  • John N. Smith Cemetery, Cemetery Restoration Committee, Southport
  • Green Street/Union Grove Cemetery, Statesville
  • Pine Forest Cemetery, Wilmington
  • Saint Phillips Moravian Second Graveyard, Winston-Salem

ALABAMA

ARKANSAS

  • Cherokee Cemetery, Huntington

FLORIDA

GEORGIA

ILLINOIS

KENTUCKY

  • African Cemetery #2, Lexington

MARYLAND

MICHIGAN

  • Detroit Memorial Park, Detroit

MISSISSIPPI

  • Old Lottville Cemetery, Farmhaven
  • Saint Luke’s Cemetery, Meridian
  • Noble Cemetery, Yazoo County

NEW JERSEY

  • African Burying Ground, Bedminster
  • Johnson Cemetery, Camden

NEW YORK

  • Mount Zion Cemetery, Kingston
  • African Burial Ground, Manhattan

PENNSYLVANIA

SOUTH CAROLINA

  • Douglas Cemetery, Columbia
  • Randolph Cemetery, Columbia
  • Silver Bluff Cemetery, Jackson
  • Old Soapstone Cemetery, “Little Liberia,” Pumpkintown

TENNESSEE

  • Beck Knob Cemetery, Chattanooga

TEXAS

VIRGINIA

WASHINGTON, D.C.

  • Columbian Harmony Cemetery
  • Mount Zion and Female Union Band Society Cemetery

WEST VIRGINIA

  • Anderson Cemetery, Glen Allen

“You got to know where you and how you got to where you are.” — Charles White, local historian, Buckingham County, Virginia

Benefit for Mercy Hospital.

Unlike this benefit in 1930, the program below was aimed at an African-American audience.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 December 1946.

——

 

“Gone But Not Forgotten,” again.

There was a recording glitch the first time around, so …

It’s the Encore (and a little bit updated) Edition of GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Wilson’s African-American Cemeteries.

You are invited to attend via Zoom, 15 February 2021 at 7:00 PM Eastern Time.

Please register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMkdO6qpzMiG9W-Pby5RTH1Ay4vgkHsT2pC

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the meeting.

If you missed the first talk, I hope to see you at this one!

Photograph of Lula Dew Wooten’s gravestone in Odd Fellows cemetery by Lisa Y. Henderson, January 2021.

Lane Street Project: B.H.M. Clean-Up testimony.

The community delivered another successful volunteer clean-up at Odd Fellows cemetery yesterday. I’ll let folk tell you about it.

Angie Hall stands near her finds.

Working toward the back of Odd Fellows, Angie Hall noticed several water-filled depressions. After clearing away vines and debris, she and another volunteer uncovered two headstones: “Today I did a thing. I volunteered to assist the Lane Street Project clearing out the old cemetery, and I discovered a few graves once my feet fell into a hole of water. Here I stand in front of two graves. I don’t know why I wanted to know more about who they were but the feeling of joy and accomplishment I felt was amazing. And today my grandma turned 80! What a blessing to be in the presence of my ancestors on this beautiful Saturday.”  

Joshua Robinson noticed that work was being done on more than one level: “Awesome experience, I am so happy to see such a project bring the community together. We were clearing tree limbs, vines, and other debris to find those lost to time, but we were also clearing the way for a better city, unity, and love!”
 
Julia Newton, who came to the Project from East Wilson’s Seeds of Hope community garden: “I spent some more time removing layers of wisteria roots from around the graves of Samuel and Annie Vick. It’s deeply humbling to do this work. This situation must exist in every community in the South. Thanks to everyone for their help and friendliness.”
 
Shaquanda King reflected on the impact of volunteering to improve her home community: “My cousin and I volunteered for the first time yesterday for the early morning. Was able to gain some knowledge and history from the overseers. It was an amazing experience for someone who was born and raised here.”
 
Janelle Booth Clevinger returned after helping make the January Clean-Up Kick-Off a success. She  encountered one of the cemetery’s vexing problems: “Another great afternoon spent with wonderful people! The best projects are grassroots projects, filled with people who are there for the right reasons! Thought I’d found an area full of tombstones, but they turned out to be strangely shaped pieces of concrete that resemble footings of some sort. We are thinking they may have been dumped there as trash. Leave it to me to find garbage.”
 
Castonoble Hooks, a key member of the Lane Street Project team: “Honored to be a part from the very start because I can see the progress firsthand. The removal of wisteria has opened up parts of this sacred burial site allowing the light of the sun to shine upon and bring honor again to our ancestors. Hands-on history, excited to see children black, white, and Hispanic working with fervor. This project, like no other, attracts the best of the best — a group as diverse as the country itself.”

Historical markers installed.

The pandemic has iced plans for formal unveilings, but Wilson County Historical Association carried through with the installation of four markers commemorating Black people, places, and events who left outsized impressions in Wilson’s history. Please look for the four — Dr. Frank S. HargraveCharles H. Darden, Operation Dixie, and the Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute — in East Wilson as part of your Black History Month activities.

I’m honored to have been asked to collaborate with W.C.H.A. on the selection of subjects for the 2020 markers, and I appreciate the Association’s commitment to telling the stories of all of Wilson.

The Round House Museum adds virtual tours.

I met historical consultant Beth Nevarez in late February 2020, just a couple of weeks before COVID-19 shuttered the world.  I followed Beth on Instagram @bethnevarezhistory and came to admire the work she does on behalf of two local institutions, the Tobacco Farm Life Museum and Ava Gardner Museum, to help them maintain their missions and keep their collections accessible in the unprecedented conditions created by a global pandemic. I was excited last fall to be able to connect Nevarez and Bill Myers, the Freeman Round House’s Executive Director, and the result is a fantastic update to the Round House museum’s website. The museum is now open with safety protocols in place, but until you’re able to get there, you can enjoy virtual tours of several of its exhibits. Please check it out here, and please consider including the Freeman Round House and African-American Museum in your giving plans. As a small institution with a unique and important local focus, it needs your support more than ever.

Bill Myers introduces the virtual exhibits.

A little of what you’ll find.

In Plain Sight.

Adam Rosenblatt of Friends of Geer Cemetery traveled to Wilson this past Saturday to help Lane Street Project in its first public cemetery clean-up. We appreciate both his physical labor and the opportunity to form alliances and learn from F.O.G.C. as we chart a path for our cemeteries. 

Please join Friends of Geer Cemetery on 23 January 2021 for the virtual grand opening of its outdoor exhibit, In Plain Sight: Reflections Past & Actions Present in Durham’s Geer Cemetery. Eventbrite link here.

In Plain Sight: Reflections Past & Actions Present in Durham’s Geer Cemetery

The Friends of Geer Cemetery are proud to introduce In Plain Sight — an outdoor educational exhibit in Durham’s historic African American burial ground — through this Virtual Grand Opening. For far too long, the graves of this city’s African American founders have been hidden from view, their stories underappreciated. Join us to learn more about their lives and ongoing efforts to ensure respect for their memory.

In Plain Sight is a journey through the history of Durham and the cemetery itself, the result of a collaborative effort with local students, scholars, volunteers, and descendants of those laid to rest here. In this Virtual Grand Opening, you will learn about both the space and this project, hear from the Friends of Geer Cemetery about their advocacy work, and be prepared for a visit to the outdoor exhibit — on your own any time through Sunday, March 7th, or with safely distanced guided tours (visit DurhamInPlainSight.com for details).

The Virtual Grand Opening will be followed by an open Q&A session.

In Plain Sight is made possible in part by a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and through generous matching donations from more than 70 supporters.