race

A few reasons why Negro ministers should support race enterprises.

The Word, in short: “buy Black.”

Cleveland Gazette, 6 July 1912.

  • A.N. Darden — Arthur N. Darden, son of Charles H. and Dinah Scarborough Darden, was only 23 years old when he penned this opinion letter published in the Cleveland Gazette, an African-American newspaper. His message of “race pride” to Black clergy is summarized in his final paragraph: ” … if the race sticks together in business life the day is nearer than we think when Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hand to God and our race become the chief corner stone that the builders rejected.”

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.

Relation between the races.

Smithfield Herald, 13 February 1896.

John H. Skinner, an accommodationist’s accommodationist, wrote this letter to the editor of the Smithfield Herald in 1896. His point is not entirely clear, but his disparagement of African-Americans — in service to race relations — is painfully so.  

Take it down.

From The News and Observer, today’s headline: “Daniels family removes statue of racist ancestor in Raleigh“:

“Frank Daniels Jr. of Raleigh, retired president and publisher of The News & Observer, said in a statement Tuesday that his grandfather’s bigoted beliefs overshadowed his other accomplishments, including, Daniels said, ‘creating one of the nation’s leading newspapers.’”

“’Josephus Daniels’s legacy of service to North Carolina and our country does not transcend his reprehensible stand on race and his active support of racist activities,’ Daniels said. ‘In the 75 years since his death, The N&O and our family have been a progressive voice for equality for all North Carolinians, and we recognize this statue undermines those efforts.’”

The article glancingly mentions Daniels’ ownership of the Wilson Advance. It was in this newspaper that he cut his teeth as an unabashed white supremacist, using the paper as a platform for his relentless drumbeat for the suppression of civil rights for African-Americans.
In two columns of the same issue, published 31 October 1884, Daniels published editorial comment ranging from the snide:

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… to the unvarnished:

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… to the grotesque:

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Wilson Advance, 31 October 1884.

The Wilson County Historical Association erected a marker for Josephus Daniels near the county courthouse. It makes no mention of his most efficacious role — spearhead of the disenfranchisement and general subjugation of North Carolina’s African-American citizenry. Despite repeated calls for its removal, notably led by the indefatigable Castonoble Hooks, the marker stands.

I amplify Mr. Hooks’ voice here: TAKE IT DOWN.

——

Update, 18 June 2020: Today, the city of Wilson quietly removed the historical marker honoring Josephus Daniels today and returned it to the Wilson County Historical Association.

“Wilson removed Josephus Daniels marker: Family cited his ‘indefensible positions on race,” Wilson Daily Times, 18 June 2020.

The South is all right.

On the eve of the civil rights movement, Wilson Daily Times editor John D. Gold penned this soothing editorial meant to reassure his readers (or the white ones, anyway) that there was no trouble “between the races” in the South, that colored people know “the Southern white man is his friend,” and that Negroes are loyal and faithful around the house and farm. The piece is rubbish, but includes views of Charlie Thomas, who worked for the Golds as a house servant and at the newspaper, and Dick Pender, who worked for the Golds and, most especially, for Joshua Barnes. (Pender died in 1896; Gold had to reach way back for him.)

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 May 1948.

Held for murder of neighbor.

The Rocky Mount Telegram‘s headline blares “WILSON NEGRO,” and the article identifies both the alleged shooter and his victim as black. However, the Wilson Daily Times‘ 28 January 1938 coverage of the incident reveals that both Charles Davis and Lawrence Lamm were, in fact, white.

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Rocky Mount (N.C.) Telegram, 28 January 1938.

Lamm’s death certificate, marriage license, and census records confirm that he was white. (The Daily Times‘ piece revealed that the bad blood between Davis and Lamm stretched back “since a day over a decade ago when Lamm is alleged to have bitten off Davis’ father’s ear in a quarrel.” On 8 September 1938, the Daily Times reported that the defendant, whose actual name, was Charles Smith, was found not guilty on a directed verdict as the evidence determined that he had acted in self-defense.)

A deep kudos (and recommended reading, no. 4).

Last week, the MacArthur Foundation awarded a “Genius Grant” to writer-historian Saidiya Hartman.  Per the Foundation, Hartman “is a scholar of African American literature and cultural history whose works explore the afterlife of slavery in modern American society and bear witness to lives, traumas, and fleeting moments of beauty that historical archives have omitted or obscured. She weaves findings from her meticulous historical research into narratives that retrieve from oblivion stories of nameless and sparsely documented historical actors, such as female captives on slave ships and the inhabitants of slums at the turn of the twentieth century.”

She’s also, obviously, a role model for me, both for her purpose and the beautiful language with which she brings it to light. If you don’t know Hartman, see here a transcript of her NPR interview with Farai Chideya following publication of Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, and here, the MacArthur Foundation’s fantastic video of Hartman discussing her work, then read both Lose Your Mother (2007) and Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (2019).

Studio shots, no. 116: Josephus and Minnie Taylor Johnson family.

The unsuccessful legal battle of Josephus Johnson to have his children educated in white Wilson County schools is chronicled here. As noted in earlier posts, despite admitted remote African ancestry and the verdict of the North Carolina Supreme Court, the Johnsons continued to live as white people in their community and beyond.

Here are Minnie Etta Taylor Johnson, Josephus S. Johnson, and their oldest children Carl, Arthur and Fannie.

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And three of the Johnsons’ sons as adults:

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Carl Johnson (1903-1978).

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Luther Johnson (1908-1985).

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James Clinton Johnson (1911-1962).

Photos courtesy of Ancestry.com users Mary Barber, Joe Whisnant, and welderpbr.

Detroit Drewry.

Overwhelmingly, the residents counted in 1870 in Wilson County’s first post-Civil War were North Carolina natives. African-Americans were even more likely than whites to have been born in-state. A handful reported birthplaces in Virginia and South Carolina, but only one, George Drewry, was born outside the South. The 1870 census of Saratoga township lists Drewry, 21, with wife Rixy, 22, and son Frank, 7 months, both born in North Carolina.

Drewry apparently lived in Wilson County only briefly, as he married Rixie Tayborn in Nash County in 1869, and the family is listed in Nash in 1880. I have found nothing to explain how or why Drewry migrated to Wilson County.

Here are the available facts:

In the 1850 census of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan: Hannah Drury, 49, born in England; with Henry Luker, 11, Frances Drury, 9, Louisa Drury, 8 and George Drury, 2, all born in Michigan.  All were described as white. [After Henry Luce Luker, first husband of Hannah Carlton, died in Detroit in early 1838, a probate court judge granted letters of administration to John Drury [Drewry], who had become her second husband on 11 July 1838. It appears, however, that John Drewry died before 1850.]

In the 1860 census of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan:  Hannah Drewry, 50, Henry Luker, 21, and George Drewer, 11, all described as white.

On 15 February 1869, George Drewry, son of Hannah Drewry, married Rixey Taybron, daughter of Allen and Elizabeth Taybron, in Nash County. Both were described as colored. [Which begs the question of whether George Drewry passed for “colored” in order to marry in North Carolina.]

In the 1870 census of Saratoga, Wilson County, as above, all described as mulatto.

In the 1880 census of Ferrell township, Nash County: farmer Geo. Drewry, 30, farmer, born in Michigan; wife Abi Rixie, 35, described as “bilious”; and children Virginia, 8, Morris, 2, Denniss, 3 months, and Alcy, 4, all described as mulatto.

On 15 March 1885, George D. Drewry, 36, married Amanda Tayborn, 34, daughter of Allen Tayborn, in Wilson County. [Mandy Taybron was the sister of Drewry’s first wife, Rixie Tabron.]

In the 1900 census of Farrells township, Nash County: George Drury, 52; wife Mandy, 49; and children Virginia, 27, Octavia, 19, Nora, 17, Granville, 15, Qinly, 13, Charlie, 11, and Belinda, 2.

In the 1910 census of Mannings township, Nash County: George Drury, 62, born in Michigan; wife Mandy, 39; and children Octavia, 28, Belinda, 13, and Charles, 20, plus grandchildren Ida, 5, and Maggie, 2, all mulatto.

In the 1920 census of Ferrells township, Nash County: Dewit J. Levy, 34; wife Octavia, 37; step-daughters Ida, 14, and Maggie Wiggins, 12; father-in-law Geo. W. Drewry,72, widower; sister-in-law Jennie Drewry, 46; and step-daughter [niece?] Blonnie Drewry.

George Drewry died 20 March 1921 in Ferrells township, Nash County.  Per his death certificate, he was the widower of Rixie Drewry; colored, about 80 years old; and born in Canada to an unknown father and Mary Ann Drewry, both of Canada. He was buried in the Pulley burying ground.  Informant was Morris Drewry.

 

Sankofa: remembering Marie Everett.

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For hundreds of years, the Akan of Ghana and Ivory Coast have used symbols, called adinkra, as visual representations of concepts and aphorisms. Sankofa is often illustrated as a bird looking over its back. Sankofa means, literally, “go back and get it.” Black Wide Awake exists to do just that.

I had never heard of Marie Everett until I read Charles W. McKinney’s excellent Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina. I’m not sure how it is possible that her struggle was so quickly forgotten in Wilson. However, it is never too late to reclaim one’s history. To go back and get it.  So, here is the story of the fight for justice for Everett — a small victory that sent a big message to Wilson’s black community and likely a shudder of premonition through its white one:

On 6 October 1945, 15 year-old Marie Everett took in a movie at the Carolina Theatre in downtown Wilson. (The Carolina admitted black patrons to its balcony.) As Everett stood with friend Julia Armstrong at the concession stand, a cashier yelled at her to get in line. Everett responded that she was not in line and, on the way back to her seat, stuck out her tongue. According to a witness, the cashier grabbed Everett, slapped her and began to choke her. Everett fought back. Somebody called the police, and Everett was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. The next day in court, Everett’s charge was upgraded to simple assault. Though this misdemeanor carried a maximum thirty-day sentence and fifty-dollar fine, finding her guilty, the judge upped Everett’s time to three months in county jail. As Wilson’s black elite fretted and dragged their feet, the town’s tiny NAACP chapter swung into action, securing a white lawyer from nearby Tarboro and notifying the national office. In the meantime, Everett was remanded to jail to await a hearing on her appeal. There she sat for four months (though her original sentence had expired) until a court date. Wilson County appointed two attorneys to the prosecution, and one opened with a statement to the jury that the case would “show the niggers that the war is over.” Everett was convicted anew, and Judge C.W. Harris, astonishingly, increased her sentence from three to six months, to be served — even more astonishingly — at the women’s prison in Raleigh. (In other words, hard time.) Everett was a minor, though, and the prison refused to admit her. Branch secretary Argie Evans Allen of the Wilson NAACP jumped in again to send word to Thurgood Marshall, head of the organization’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Marshall engaged M. Hugh Thompson, a black lawyer in Durham, who alerted state officials to the shenanigans playing out in Wilson. After intervention by the State Commissioner of Paroles and Governor R. Gregg Cherry, Everett walked out of jail on March 18. She had missed nearly five months of her freshman year of high school.

The Wilson Daily Times, as was its wont, gave Everett’s story short-shrift. However, the Norfolk Journal & Guide, an African-American newspaper serving Tidewater Virginia, stood in the gap. (Contrary to the article’s speculation, there was already a NAACP branch on the ground in Wilson, and it should have been credited with taking bold action to free Everett.)

Norfolk Journal & Guide, 23 March 1946.

Sankofa bird, brass goldweight, 19th century, British Museum.org. For more about the Carolina Theatre, including blueprints showing its separate entrance and ticket booth for African-Americans, see here.