County urged to remove Confederate monument.
This ought to be easy. Then again, so should doing right by Vick Cemetery.
The bronze plaque — underneath the crossed flags and between the segregated water fountains — reads: To the valor of Wilson County soldiers. Who really believes the United Daughters of the Confederacy intended in 1926 to honor all Wilson County veterans?
Lane Street Project: Vick Cemetery revealed.
In June 2022, New South Associates conducted a ground-penetrating radar survey of Vick Cemetery.
Last week, via public records request to the City of Wilson, I asked for a copy of the GPR report. (Having heard nothing about the results of the survey, I assumed I would be told the report had not yet been completed and was not yet available.)
Today I received the report.
It is dated 7 September 2022.
My first emotional response was disappointment, followed closely by anger. And then I opened the 143-page report. And was overtaken by grief.
It will take me a minute to digest this document and pull together my thoughts on its significance for past and future. For now, I shame the devil by sharing its heart — the revelation that Vick Cemetery holds at least 4224 dead. That it is nearly FULL of graves. And the City was in no hurry to tell you about it.
“Wake Up, Negro, and Secure Your Position in Tomorrow’s World.”
Though some decades past its peak popularity, Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association still retained a fervent following in the 1940s when Solomon Fitzhue delivered two speeches in Wilson.
Wilson Daily Times, 16 April 1948.
Arkansas native Fitzhue was active in Ohio’s division of U.N.I.A. into the 1960s.
Wilson Daily Times, 24 April 1948.
The 105th anniversary of the school boycott.
Today marks the 105th 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 school boycott has been largely forgotten in Wilson, and its heroes have gone 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.
And here, my Zoom lecture, “Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute: A Community Response to Injustice,” delivered in February 2022.
C.S. Darden writes the Secretary of War.
Four months after the United States entered World War I, Wilson-born attorney Charles S. Darden (then living in Los Angeles, California) wrote Secretary of War Lindley Garrison on behalf of African-American men who had tried to enlist in the military’s “Aviation Department.” “I was informed, some time ago,” he wrote, “through the News Papers, that applications from young colored men would be acceptable to the government …, and I am now unable to understand where the local Recruiting Officers of of [sic] that Department get their instructions to the contrary.”
Signal Corps Captain Thomas H. McConnell responded quickly and succinctly: “At the present time no colored aero squadrons are being formed and applications from colored men for this branch of the service cannot be considered for that reason.”
United States War Department. Letter from Secretary of War to Charles S. Darden, August 11, 1917. W.E.B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.
Thanks to Patricia Freeman to bringing this letter to my attention!
Save Your Spaces.
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.
A morning with the Knights.
I spent a delightful hour or so yesterday speaking with students at Greenfield School about revolutionary African-American teacher Mary C. Euell and the Wilson Colored Graded School boycott. I appreciate the opportunity to share community history and stories of resistance with young people, and I thank Jennifer Johnson, Greenfield’s librarian, for the invitation.
Greenfield opened in the fall of 1970, the same semester I started first grade. That’s not a coincidence. After 16 years of stonewalling post-Brown v. Board of Education, Wilson finally fully integrated its school system in 1970, more or less at gunpoint. Some in the city’s monied class had seen the handwriting on the wall, and Greenfield was just one of many seg academies that sprang up across the South.
Fifty-two years is a long time, but no guarantor of change for the better. Greenfield, however, has moved along the arc of the moral universe, and the faces of the teenagers who listened so attentively and asked such thoughtful questions reflect its progress.
Lane Street Project: Zoom Q. and A. tonight.
Please join me tonight for a little history of Wilson’s African-American cemeteries and of Lane Street Project. The Season 3 opening clean-up is in just a few days, and this will be an opportunity to ask anything you want to know about us!
Lisa Y. Henderson is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Lane Street Project Q&A
Time: Jan 10, 2023 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 853 9578 0016
One tap mobile
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.
N.A.A.C.P.’s Walter White speaks in Wilson.
Wilson Daily Times, 19 May 1933.
Two years into his long stint as Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Walter F. White delivered a lecture at Wilson’s Calvary Presbyterian Church.
For more about White’s extraordinary life as a civil rights activist, see here and A.J. Baime’s White Lies: The Double Life of Walter F. White and America’s Darkest Secret (2022).
Walter F. White (1893-1955).
Hat tip to G.K. Butterfield Jr. for the article on White’s visit — he learned of the event from his father, G.K. Butterfield Sr.
Photograph of Walter Francis White, between 1920 and 1940. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (051.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP [Digital ID # cph.3c07019].