Segregation

Brooks School.

The seventh in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Brooks School

Brooks School dates prior to 1881, making it the earliest documented rural African-American school in Wilson County. Brooks was not a Rosenwald school. It was consolidated with other small schools in 1951, and its students then attended Speight High School.

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Wilson Advance, 11 February 1881.

Dr. Alexander G. Brooks had been a wealthy slaveowner and may have donated the land upon which the school was built.

Location: Per a 1936 state road map of Wilson County, the approximate location was just east of Black Creek on present-day Woodbridge Road, in the vicinity of Bunches Church.

Description: Per The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24, Brooks School was a one-room school seated on one acre.

A February 1951 report on Wilson County schools found: “The Brooks Colored … building is in ‘fair condition’ and has only two teachers for seven grades ….” Wilson Daily Times, 16 February 1951.

Known faculty: Principal Alice B. Mitchell; teacher Nora Allen Mitchell Jones.

Pender School.

The sixth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Pender School

Pender School was originally built to educate white children. After school consolidation 1917-1924, the building was turned over for use by black children. Pender was not a Rosenwald school. After 1939, students in Pender district attended Frederick Douglass High School in Elm City.

Location: Per Deed Book 443, page 237, on 17 October 1951, the Board of Education of Wilson County sold the Board of Trustees of the Elm City Graded Schools several parcels: “Lot No. 3: BEGINS at a lightwood stake, in the Bain Edwards line near a small Branch; thence South with said line to a stake 70 yards, cornering; thence East 35 yards to a stake, cornering; thence North 70 yards to a stake, cornering; thence West 35 yards to the beginning, containing 1/2 acre; and being the identical property conveyed to the School Committee of Gardners Township and their successors in office by deed from Edwin Pender, et al., dated April 2, 1877 and duly recorded in Book 19, at page 496 Wilson County Registry; and being known as Pender’s Colored School lot.”

Per a 1936 state road map of Wilson County, the approximate location was on what is now Rosebud Church Road opposite its intersection with Redmon Road. An 8 September 2001 Daily Times article about Rosenwald schools quotes a former student as saying the Pender school building was still standing, but it has since been demolished.

Description: Per The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24, Pender School was a one-room school seated on one acre.

Known faculty: none.

Three cheers for Grant Goings.

“Wilson City Manager Grant Goings explained to council members Thursday night how the city became involved in removing Josephus Daniels’ historical marker earlier that day.

“Goings said he ordered the marker removed after the Daniels family settled the issue for him earlier in the week. Daniels’ relatives removed his Raleigh statute, citing his indefensible positions on race. Goings said the Cox-Corbett Historical Association and the Wilson County Historical Association had disagreements about Daniels’ history. One wanted it removed; the other did not. No compromise could be reached, and the debate regarding the marker lingered until Thursday when Goings made the decision.

“’Wilson is fortunate to have two historical societies,’ Goings said in a Friday statement to The Wilson Times. ‘In this case, there was respectable disagreement between the two about the history of Josephus Daniels. The family’s statement cleared that confusion, and the right thing to do was remove the marker as soon as possible.’”

Goings’ unilateral decision was absolutely the right thing to do, but took some backbone in Wilson. I recognize and honor his resolute matter-of-factness in getting this job done.

For the complete Wilson Times article re Goings’ decision, see here.

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.

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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.

Barnes School.

The fourth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Barnes School

[Please note that there appear to have been two “colored” Barnes Schools in the early 20th century, one under the jurisdiction of Wilson city schools, and one near Stantonsburg (perhaps affiliated with Barnes Church) under in the county school system. The post concerns the former.]

Barnes School was erected with Rosenwald funds in 1920.

Location: “3 1/2 miles west of Wilson on the Municipal Airport Road.”

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“This building can be torn down and the lumber salvaged to be used for other purposes. This building is located in one of the best farming sections in eastern North Carolina and only a 10 minute ride from the center of the city.” Wilson Daily Times, 26 March 1951.

A 1925 soil map of Wilson County shows a school on what is now Airport Boulevard near a branch of Hominy Swamp and the present-day YMCA pool. This accords with the recollection of D.W. Saulter, whose grandfather purchased a school building on Airport Boulevard and converted it into a residence. She reports that the building has been demolished.

In May 1942, an article in the Wilson Daily Times announced locations for sugar ration registration, including “Barnes school, all colored people in Wilson Township west of Wilson living within Wilson township.”

Description: From Research Report:Tools for Assessing the Significance and Integrity North Carolina’s Rosenwald Schools and Comprehensive Investigation of Rosenwald Schools in Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Wayne and Wilson Counties, “[Superintendent Charles L.] Coon notes that a five-room Barnes school, valued with its land at $9,300, was erected in 1920 in the city of Wilson …. Further, the school that the [Rosenwald] Fund supported was a three-teacher type that cost $6,000, with $700 in Fund support, $1,000 in public funds, and a whopping $4,300 contribution from the black community.”

D.W. Saulter recalls that the building was faced with windows and had a central inset front door.

Known faculty: principal Ruth Jones Palmer; teachers Dora GodwinCora Farmer, and Margaret L. Morrison.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 April 1935.

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Wilson Daily Times, 18 December 1946.

The public schools of Wilson County, part 2.

In 1924, the Wilson County Board of Education published Superintendent Charles L. Coon’s report The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24. I went looking for a copy today and found one in Google Books.

On pages 19-21, Coon’s report contains a table of the value of colored school property in 1924.

In Wilson township, there were five schools: twelve-room Old School (the Colored Graded School), ten-room New School (Wilson Colored High School, later Darden High School), five-room Barnes, one-room Lanes, and Lovers (which I have never heard of.) Lovers School had “no house,” which meant its pupils met in a church or some other building

In Toisnot township: five-room Elm City School and Penders, Turners, and Pages, all one room.

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In Cross Roads township, three-room Lucama and one-room Powells and Calvins [Calvin Level]. In Gardners township, one-room Holdens, Wilbanks and Bynums Schools and unhoused Whitley School.

In Old Fields township, Sims School (“no house”) and two-room schools Jones Hill and New Vester Schools. In Springhill township, one-room Williamson and three-room Rocky Branch and Kirbys Schools. In Taylors township, unhoused Farmers School, one-room Howards School, and three-room Mitchell School.

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In Black Creek township, there were four one-room schools, Ruffins, Ferrells, Brooks and Minshew. In Stantonsburg township, neither Evansdale nor Stantonsburg Schools had a dedicated building. In Saratoga township, Saratoga School had one room, but Yelverton and Bethel Schools had none.

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The public schools of Wilson County, part 1.

In 1924, the Wilson County Board of Education published Superintendent Charles L. Coon’s report The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24. I went looking for a copy today and found one in Google Books. (And, yes, this is the same Charles Coon who slapped Mary C. Euell and thereby sparked the boycott of the Wilson Colored Graded School.)

An examination of two charts in the report led to an epiphany. The first shows white schools in Wilson County in 1917; the second, white schools in 1924, after a consolidation of most one and two-room rural schools and construction of several modern brick buildings. I’d been puzzled by the apparent duplication of black and white school names in newspapers, and I immediately noticed a Lane School in the 1917 chart in the same location as the black Lane School. I looked more closely. Here were Turner, Wilbanks, Pender, Minshew and Ferrells Schools, all later described as “colored.” And the 1924 chart shows none of them. I deduce that after decommission as white schools, these decrepit buildings were handed down to African-Americans for the education of their children.

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A bonus: the report includes photographs of several county schools that housed African-American children!

Mitchell School.

The second in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Mitchell School

Mitchell School was built, probably in the early 1920s, near Dunn’s Crossroads on land donated by James Gray Mitchell. It was not a Rosenwald school.

The front, shot from the western end of the building.

Location: Astonishingly, this school is still standing and is remarkably intact. It is hidden in a nearly impenetrable grove of pine and sweetgum saplings in a residential stretch of Lake Wilson Road.

Description: I could not observe the building head-on or from all sides. Its windows and doors are boarded up, but its hipped tin roof is solid, as is the observable siding. It appears to be a two-room school with a central door under a gable. There are two windows in the easternmost room, and a bank of windows on the southern facade.

A February 1951 report on Wilson County schools found: “The jury expressed the opinion that more instructors are needed to tutor pupils at Mitchell school …. Mitchell, a one-teacher school with an enrollment of 41 pupils, needs replacement of window panes and a grate in the stove, the group said.” Wilson Daily Times, 16 February 1951.

Banks of windows on the south-facing side.

The siding, weathered but in surprisingly good shape.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 January 1940.

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  • James Gray Mitchell

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Wilson Sharp, 52, and wife Cherry, 45; Jerry Bynum, 6; farmer James Mitchel, 47, wife Rosa, 33, and son James G. Mitchel, 11.

On 24 December 1889, James Mitchell and Amanda Edwards, both 20, applied for a marriage license in Nash County, North Carolina.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer James G. Mitchel, 31; wife Armanda, 30; and children Chister [Kester], 9, Regenia, 8, Henretta, 6, William R., 4, and Dewey, 2; and mother Rose, 50.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer James G. Mitchell, 38; mother Rosa, 58; and children Kester R., 18, Cynthia, 14, Robert L., 12, Jimmie D., 10, and Lelia B., 8.

Jimmie Dee Mitchell registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born in 1898; lived on R.F.D. #4, Elm City; and worked as a farm laborer for Jas. Grey Mitchell.

James Mitchell Jr. died 19 May 1953 in Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 May 1869 in Wilson to James Mitchell Sr. and Rosa Parker; was a farmer; Informant was Robert L. Mitchell, Elm City. He was buried at William’s Chapel cemetery, Saratoga [sic; Elm City].

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020. Many thanks to Agnes Green for pinpointing the school’s location.

Segregation Chronicles.

Okay, Wide-Awake. I need testimony.

I’m starting a side project (working name: Segregation Chronicles) that will document the physical legacy of racial injustice in Wilson County. I was born in the waning days of legal segregation, and I haven’t lived here in almost 40 years, but I can reel off two dozen-plus sites that stand as mute testimony to trauma that continues to haunt us. I know y’all know more than I do, though, so I’m asking for your help. (Or your mama’s. Or your granddaddy’s.)

At which restaurants did we have to go around back for food? (Like Parker’s.) What theatres had separate entrances and black balconies? (Like the Drake.) What businesses had partitions in their sitting rooms — or whole separate sitting areas? (Like the train station.) Who wouldn’t let you eat at the lunch counter? Who had a colored water fountain (other than the county courthouse)? Where did the Klan rally? Where were German POWs allowed to rest, but your father was told to get his black ass up? Where was the black liquor house that had to pay off a white cop to sell white people liquor after midnight?

Please post here. Or email me at blackwideawake@gmail.com. Or let me know if you’d rather call. All responses from any source, black or white, appreciated. Thank you, and stay tuned. (Especially if you want to know what this photograph shows.)

UPDATE: Check out Segregation Chronicles here, blackwideawake.tumblr.com.