The obituary of Juanita Kelley Wilson.

Philadelphia Daily News, 1 July 1994.

Juanita Kelley Wilson made the great migration in stages. Born in South Carolina, she spent her childhood in Wilson before moving to Richmond, Virginia, and then on to Philadelphia.


In the 1920 census of Richmond, Virginia, 16 year-old Juanita Kelley is listed as a servant for the family of James and Clara Williams, 1622 Maryland Avenue.

Negro laborers wanted.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 March 1918.

Badin Aluminum Works placed this alluring ad in the Daily Times in 1918. Though working for Alcoa seemed to offer an appealing alternative to sharecropping, life in this company town had a dark side — literally, as the families of African-American workers lived segregated in Negro Town, and figuratively, as the extent and impact of industrial pollution continues to come to light.

“Badin has become a crucible for questions about the legacy of industrialization, racial capitalism, and environmental justice in the American South, and for how choices made and prejudices fomented a century ago reverberate into the present — with the added complication that Badin was a company town.” Read Emily Cataneo’s The Complicated Lgacy of Badin, North Carolina, http://www.undark.org, for more.

[I am searching for evidence that any Black Wilson County families answered this siren call.]

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The death of little Bettie Askew of Whitesboro.

The death certificate of five-month-old Bettie Louise Askew caught my eye not only because of her young age, but also her birthplace — Whitesboro, the all-Black town in southern New Jersey founded by former United States Congressman George H. White and promoted by Samuel H. Vick.


Theodocia Magnolia Boykin was born in Wilson County to John Boykin and Dicy Bailey Boykin on 7 February 1884. The 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County shows house mover John Boykin, 50; wife Dicy, 44, cooking; and children Sallie, 19, cooking, James, 18, day laborer, Dotia, 14, Susia, 14, Lillie, 10, and Eliza, 7. John Askew, a native of Northampton County, North Carolina, migrated with his family to Cape May County, New Jersey, shortly after 1900.

It’s not clear where Bettie Askew’s parents met, but John S. Askew, 26, of New Jersey, and Dothia Boykin, 24, of Wilson, applied for a marriage license in Wilson County. Though the license was never returned to the Wilson County Register of Deeds’ office for registration, Episcopal church records show that they were married on 2 September 1908.

Their first child, Bettie Louise, was born in Whitesboro in 1909, but brought back to Wilson prior to her death in April 1910. The 1910 census of Middle township, Cape May County, New Jersey, shows John S. Askew, 28, a wagon wheelwright, and wife Theodothia M., 26.

A second daughter, Elsie Joanne, was born 14 April 1911. [Per her death certificate, she was born in New York.]

John S. Askew apparently died around 1911, probably in New Jersey.

The 1912 Wilson city directory lists Theodosie Askew, music teacher living on Viola on the corner of Vick.

On 20 December 1913, Ezekiel Warren, 22, of Black Creek, married Thedore [sic] Askew, 30, of Wilson, in Wilson.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Nathan W. Boyett, 69, carpenter, widower; nieces Therorshia Warren, 36, Elsie J. Askew, 9, and Elenzie C. Askew, 3; and roomer Lucy Wethers, 64. [Elenzie Cathleen Warren was Theodocia Askew Warren’s daughter with Ezekiel Warren.]

In the 1930 census of Newport News, Virginia: on Shoe Lane, Jesse Faulkland, 40, brickyard laborer; wife Eliza M., 37; children Rachael R., 16, Ethel M., 14, Jesse A., 10, Margaret C., 7, and Coynetta M., 4; nieces Elsie Askew, 18, and Cathleen Warren, 12; and lodger Coy Jones, 52, shipyard laborer. [Eliza Boykin Faulkland was Theodocia Magnolia Boykin Askew Warren’s sister.]

On 31 August 1931, Curtis Wiggins, 23, of Whalleyville, Virginia, son of Robert Wiggins and Cora Ford, married Joann Askew, 21, of Buckingham, Pennsylvania, daughter of John Askew and Magnolia Boyd, in Newport News, Virginia.

In the 1940 census of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: at 4431 Brown Street, William Ricks, 25, cook and waiter at cafe; wife Anna, 26, hotel maid; and aunt and lodger Magnolia Henry, 56, widow.

In 1941, Curtis Wiggins registered for the World War II draft in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per his registration card, he was born 15 October 1908 in Whaleyville, Virginia; lived at 1255 South 18th Street, then 902 North Sartain, Philadlephia;his contact was wife Joanna Wiggins, 1255 South 18th; and he worked for Merchants & Miners Transportation Company, Philadelphia.

Elsie Wiggins died 27 January 1941 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 January 1911 in New York to John Askew and Magnolia Boykin; was married to Curtis Wiggins; and lived at 902 Sartain, Philadelphia.

In the 1950 census of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: at 741 45th Street, Magnolia Henry, 66, widow; nieces Ella Davis, 25, and Victoria Drain, 11; nephew Thomas Heath, 28, and his wife Geneva, 25, and son Thomas Jr., newborn; and lodgers Ruth Mines, 26, Nancy Mines, 4, Kenneth Mines, newborn, Flax Graves, 42, Susan Graves, 45, and Beatrice Graves, 15.

Magnolia Henry died 30 April 1951 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per her death certificate, she was born 7 February 1884 in Wilson, N.C., to John Boykin and Dicy Bailey; was a widow; and lived at 741 North 45th Street, Philadelphia.

The obituary of Sherman Hunter.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 May 1942.


In the 1920 census of Dodge County, Georgia: farmer Will Hunter, 50; wife Callie, 32; and children Albert, 15, Lillie M., 14, Talmage, 9, Shermon, 5, Wilbert, 3, and Missie, 3 months.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: widow Callie Hunter, 45, odd jobs farm laborer and children Talmer, 18, filling station laborer, Sherman, 15, Wilbert, 13, Detorist, 10, and Carrie, 8; plus, boarders Lula M. Drinks, 21, cook, and her children Eavans, 5, and Minnie, 8. All were born in Georgia except Eavans, who was born in North Carolina.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: widow Callie Hunter, 53, wash woman, and children Sherman, 25, farm laborer, Wibur, 23, laborer for livestock dealer, and Bertha, 16.

In 1942, Sherman Hunter registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 1 November 1914 in Chester, Georgia; lived on Route 2, Elm City (care of Governor Winstead); his contact was Governor Winstead “(colored)”; and was not employed (“last work for N.C. Peele, Elm City.” The card bears a later inscription: “Cancelled — Dead — May 11, 1942.”)

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Grant burned to death in home at veneer company.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 May 1948.


Emanuel Grant had lived in Wilson only a few months when he was killed in a house fire. Though the newspaper account of his death emphasizes his alleged intoxication, Grant’s death certificate paints a different picture of his demise, describing it as “by fire in burning building” due to being “unable to escape due to unconsciousness due to smoke filled room.”

Emanuel Grant died 25 May 1948 in Wilson. He was born 21 February 1914 in Georgetown, South Carolina, to Essau Grant and Lue White; worked as a laborer at Wilson Veneer Company; lived at Wilson Veneer; was single; and was returned to Georgetown, South Carolina, for burial.

The obituary of Jake Blackwell.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 May 1943.


In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer William Blackwell, 45; wife Sally Ann, 29; and children Bennie, 10, Curvis, 7, Jakie, 5, and Nancy, 1.

In October 1940, Jake Blackwell registered for the World War II draft in Atlantic County, New Jersey. Per his registration card, he was born 15 December 1914 in Wilson County, N.C.; lived at 923 Virginia Place, Atlantic City, New Jersey; his contact was Mabell Ingram, friend; and he was unemployed.

In the 1940 census of Prince George’s County, Maryland: at Glenn Dale Sanatorium, [a tuberculosis hospital], Jake Blackwell, born in North Carolina, resident of Washington, D.C.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Georgia Burke is a Broadway star.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 May 1944.

Georgia Burke was not, of course, a “girl.” She was close to 50 years old in 1944. Burke was one of eleven African-American teachers who resigned to protest the slapping of  teacher Mary C. Euell by school superintendent Charles L. Coon and the disrespect shown them by Colored Graded School principal J.D. Reid. With the others, Burke resumed teaching at the privately funded Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute, the institution referred to above as Wilson Training School for Negroes. For more about Burke, see here and here, and about the Normal and Industrial school, see here. For more about the talented Hartford C. Bess, see here.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.