Charles S. Darden’s groundbreaking legal work against segregation.

In 2018, the City of Los Angeles nominated the Cordary Family Residence and Pacific Ready-Cut Cottage at 1828 South Gramercy Place, Los Angeles, California, for historic-cultural monument designation. 

Page 13 of the nomination form contains this arresting statement: “Until recently the case of Benjamin Jones and Fanny Guatier, Plaintiffs v. Berlin Realty Company, a corporation, Defendant, has been an obscure footnote to history. But observers are now not just rediscovering the case itself, but also reminding us that the legal arguments against racial covenants used by Plaintiffs’ attorney Charles S. Darden in this case — and adopted by the Los Angeles Superior Court judge in ruling favorably for the Plaintiffs — preceded and foresaw what became the notable winning argument of later precedent-setting “Sugar Hill” case that took place in Los Angeles in 1945.” That case, involving actors Hattie McDaniel and Louise Beavers‘ fight against racially restrictive covenants, is credited with being the first to cite the 14th Amendment as justification for overturning such covenants. That recognition, however, more properly belongs to Jones and Gautier — and the arguing attorney, Wilson’s own Charles S. Darden — which has been overlooked because it did not rise to California’s Court of Appeals. Read more about Darden’s innovative arguments below.

Employee of the Robinson minstrel show.

In 1940, 29 year-old Langstard Miller registered for the Word War II draft in Wilson County. A native of Saint Louis, Missouri, Miller listed his address as 700 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson, the home of his friend Betsy Freeman. [Was this actually his permanent address or just a mailing address?] Miller listed his employer as Dr. C.S. Robinson Minstrel Show, based on Wilmington, North Carolina.

I have found very little on Miller and nothing else to link him to Wilson. However, on 11 July 1932, Gurnie Langstard Miller, 25, son of Joe Miller and Mattie Langstard, married Annie Amelia Evans, 21, daughter of John Evans and Ida Ash, on 11 July 1932 in Northampton County, Virginia.

Betsy Freeman was not living at 700 Stantonsburg Street when the census enumerator arrived in 1940. Rather, the censustaker found City of Wilson laborer George Freeman, 56; wife Effie, 45, tobacco factory laborer; son James, 26, tobacco factory laborer; and grandchildren Edward, 13, and Doris Evans, 11. The latter were the children of Bessie [sic] Freeman and James Evans, whom she had married in Wilson on 23 June 1925. [Was Betsy/Bessie Freeman also a minstrel show employee?]

Robinson’s Silver Minstrels were a white-owned tent show that featured African-American performers. The “Repertoire-Tent Shows” section of the 21 November 1942 issue of The Billboard magazine featured this short piece:

A few months later, in the 27 February 1943 Billboard, Robinson’s Silver Minstrels advertised for “colored performers and musicians, girl musicians OK; trumpets, saxophones, piano player, chorus girls, novelty acts.” The company promised the “highest salaries on road today” and a “long, sure season.” “All performers who have worked for me in past, write” to the show’s Clinton, N.C., address.

Teachers, 1890.

From the chapter concerning Wilson County in the 1890 edition of Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory:

Iredell County Chronicles, no. 4.

“Finding Statesville’s Nurse Daisy”

“I was contacted recently by someone at the library at UNC Chapel Hill concerning a question they had received from Joyce Busenbark of Statesville. Busenbark had discovered a 1935 patient discharge paper from the old Davis Hospital on West End Avenue. The names of the patient had been blacked out, meaning it had been discarded at some point, but she noticed something curious. Under the heading of ‘Discharged’ were the words ‘To Daisy’s.’ Not knowing what Daisy’s meant, she had contacted the library at UNC. When I first heard that a patient had been discharged to Daisy’s I drew a blank as well. Was some smart aleck saying this person had died and was now ‘pushing up daisies’?

“One clue was the fact that the patient was listed as ‘colored.’ After some research, I discovered that the patient had actually been discharged to the care and home of Daisy Conner Robinson. Daisy’s husband, Thomas Robinson, was deceased and she was known locally in Statesville by her maiden name of Daisy Conner. In the 1930 Statesville City Directory, she is shown living at 249 Garfield St., right at the Green Street intersection. The entry for 249 also says ‘Colored Branch Davis Hospital’ and below the listing for Davis Hospital is another entry that reads, ‘Davis Hospital, colored branch, 249 Garfield, Daisy Robinson nurse.’ Some of the older members of the black community in Statesville explained what was going on.

“Davis Hospital was opened in December 1925. Please note that I am referring to the old Davis Hospital, 709 W. End Ave., in 1930, and not the modern one on Old Mocksville Road. During those early years, Davis Hospital treated black patients in what locals called the ‘basement,’ separate from the white patients. Black patients were not allowed to stay overnight in the hospital and if they were seriously ill or injured and needed to be hospitalized, they were discharged to Daisy’s home on Garfield.

“Daisy was a black nurse who was born Dec. 4, 1892, in Catawba County. She cared for the black patients from the mid-’20s until the early ’40s. The unknown patient had received an appendectomy in 1935 and the discharge paper said ‘Going to Daisy’s tonight.’

“Daisy’s address at 249 Garfield placed her close to Dr. Robert S. Holliday at 241 Garfield. Holliday was a black physician in Statesville and could have helped with the patients under Daisy’s care. Holliday’s wife was Mary Charlton Holliday who was over the black schools in Iredell County from 1915 to 1956.

“Daisy died on Jan. 6, 1947, at age 54, from tuberculosis probably caught from a patient she cared for. Her funeral was held at First Baptist Church on Green Street. She is listed as being buried in the ‘colored cemetery,’ now known as the Green Street Cemetery, but there appears to be no headstone. The house is gone now and we have been unable to find a photograph of either Daisy or the house. Her daughter, Pheonia R. Smith, lived at 528 Falls St., with her husband, John R. Smith, until her death on June 11, 1965.”

Joel Reese, Statesville Recorder & Landmark, 11 March 2014.


In the 1930 census of Statesville, Iredell County: at 249 Garfield Street, rented for $20/month, widow Daisy Robinson, 39, hospital annex nurse; son Samuel Robinson, 19, grocery store delivery boy; cousin Henriettie Abernethy, 13; roomers Horace Locket, 21, motor company machinist, and widow Louise Sherrill, 45; grandson Lonnie Bernard, 5; and roomer Isabella Knox, 17, maid.

In the 1940 census of Statesville, Iredell County: at 249 Garfield Street, rented for $12/month, widow Daisy Robinson, 39, private hospital nurse; widow Janie Connor, 70, mother-in-law; grandson Lonnie Smith, 15; and nephew Odel Abernethy, 18.

Daisy Robinson died 6 January 1947 on Garfield Street, Statesville. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 December 1894 in Catawba County, North Carolina, to W.N. Connor and Janie Abernathy; was the widow of Thomas Robinson; and worked as a nurse.

Odd jobs, no. 2.

The occupation and industry columns in federal population schedules sometimes yield unusual results, even in an era in which most African-Americans in Wilson worked as farm laborers, tobacco factory hands, or domestic workers.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County, 48 year-old Deal Tillman gave his occupation as: 

Tillman spent much of his life in Randolph County and only lived a few years in Wilson.

In the 1910 census of Trinity township, Randolph County, N.C.: Sandy T. Tillman, 75; wife Tempa, 78; daughter Adaline, 50; granddaughter Ella, 24; great-grandchildren Roy, 6, and Mary, 2; and grandson Dealie, 20, farm laborer.

In 1917, Dealie Tillman registered for the World War II draft in Randolph County, N.C. Per his registration card, he was born 12 July 1892 in Trinity, N.C.; resided in Trinity; worked as “keeper of kennel” for Dr. P.P. Satterwhite, Trinity; had a wife and two children; and “claims right leg stiff from fracture; thumb on left hand disabled.” [Dr. Preston P. Satterwhite was a Kentucky-born retired surgeon and art collector with homes in Palm Beach and New York City. His marriage to Florence Brokaw Martin, widow of a Standard Oil executive (and herself an heiress) allowed him to retire from the practice of medicine early. I have found no record of Satterwhite’s maintenance of a residence (or kennels) in North Carolina, but, per the Asheboro Courier, Florence Satterwhite’s brother, socialite W. Gould Brokaw, owned an estate with a kennel, called Fairview, near Trinity The kennel was just one of many in the county catering to well-heeled Northerners game for hunting.]

Asheboro Courier, 7 January 1915.

In the 1920 census of Trinity township, Randolph County: Deal Tillman, 28, manager of dog kennels; wife Effie, 25; and children Albert, 7, Ruth, 5, and Mary, 2.

In the 1930 census of Blue Springs township, Hoke County, N.C.: Deal Tilman, 41, dog trainer at kennels; wife Julia, 39; daughters Alberta, 17, and Ruth, 15; and others.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: at 314 New Bern Street, rented at $10/month, Deal Tillman, 49, dog trainer in private practice; wife Julia B., 48, cook at training school; and grandchildren John, 13, and Bertha Smith, 11.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillman, Deal (c; Julia; 2) porter h 204 Powell

Deal Tilghman died 29 December 1941 at his home at 204 Powell Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 July 1892 in High Point, N.C.; was married to Julia Tilghman; and worked as a laborer. He was buried in Rest Haven cemetery.

Julia Tilman died 19 December 1945 in Raeford, Hoke County, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 July 1891 in Red Springs, N.C. to Archa and Nerva Melvin; was the widow of Deal Tilman; and was a teacher. Bertha Smith, Raeford, was informant.

Where we worked, 1922 — S.

City directories offer fine-grained looks at a city’s residents at short intervals. The 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., directory reveals the types of work available to African-Americans during the booming tobacco era. This post is the fourteenth in an alphabetical series listing all “colored” directory entries for whom an occupation was listed. The address is the resident’s home, unless a business address is noted.

  • Sams, Hattie, tobacco worker, 907 Mercer
  • Sams, Lucinda, tobacco worker, 907 Mercer
  • Sanctious, John, laborer, 210 Finch
  • Sanders, Branch, laborer, 916 Washington Av
  • Sanders, Daniel, laborer, 916 Washington Av
  • Sanders, Luther, porter, Gilmer’s Inc, 307 Pender
  • Sanders, Mark, porter, The Mayflower, 916 Washington Av
  • Sanders, Maryland, domestic, 127 Narroway
  • Sanders, Richard, laborer, 916 Washington Av
  • Saunders, Ashley, laborer, 211 Finch
  • Saunders, Cora, cook, 206 Sunshine Alley
  • Saunders, Lena, laundress, 211 Finch
  • Savage, Anna, cook, 400 Stantonsburg Rd
  • Scarboro, James, painter, 913 E Vance
  • Scott, John, farmer, 1110 Woodard Av
  • Selby, James, tobacco workers, 311 Hackney
  • Sellers, James, bricklayer, 700 E Vance
  • Sellers, William, carpenter, 700 E Vance
  • Shadd, Sue, cook, 300 Broad
  • Shade, Isaiah [Isaac] A., proprietor Shade’s Pharmacy, 524 E Nash
  • Shade’s Pharmacy, 525 E Nash, I.A. Shade, proprietor
  • Sharp, Katie, laundress, 916 Robinson [Roberson]
  • Sharp, Minnie, domestic, 716 E Green
  • Sharp, Wiley, tobacco worker, 716 E Green
  • Shaw, Ella, teacher, 308 Hackney
  • Shoulder, Burrell, ice puller, 295 W Gold
  • Simmons, Olivia, cook, 513 Railroad
  • Simmons, Rosa, tobacco worker, 513 Railroad
  • Simms, Alonzo, laborer, 509 Stantonsburg Rd
  • Simms, Mack, laborer, 1004 Robinson [Roberson]
  • Simms, Mary, tobacco worker, 509 Stantonsburg Rd
  • Simms, William, laborer, 1105 E Nash
  • Simms, Zelpha, laundress, 1007 Robinson [Roberson]
  • Simon, Jack, laborer, 406 N Pine
  • Simpson, Fannie, cook, 603 E Nash
  • Sims, Carey, freight hand, 408 E Walnut
  • Sims, Frances, tobacco worker, 106 Manchester
  • Sims, George, laborer, 200 Manchester
  • Sims, Wiley, laborer, 507 S Mercer
  • Singletary, Mary, cook,  605 W Nash
  • Singletary, Samuel, tobacco worker, 510 Church
  • Singletary, Walter, porter, 605 W Nash
  • Small, James, barber W.S. Hines, 307 Elba
  • Smith, Adeline, laundress, 1008 Woodard Av
  • Smith, Alice, domestic, rear 408 Whitley
  • Smith, Andrew, laborer, 613 Wiggins
  • Smith, Annie, domestic, 209 Manchester
  • Smith, Augustus, fireman, 605 Darden Alley
  • Smith, Benjamin, tobacco worker, 525 Smith
  • Smith, Caroline, domestic, 914 Robinson [Roberson]
  • Smith, Delia, tobacco worker, 504 E Walnut
  • Smith, Della, domestic, 408 S Bruton
  • Smith, Edward, laborer, 408 N Pine
  • Smith, Ella, laundress, 313 Pender
  • Smith, Ethel, domestic, 502 Grace
  • Smith, Kate, domestic, 808 Mercer
  • Smith, Lena, tobacco worker, 613 Wiggins
  • Smith, Lonnie, tobacco worker, 413 S Goldsboro
  • Smith, Lucy, tobacco worker, 203 S Railroad
  • Smith, Mack, laborer, 521 S Lodge
  • Smith, Mamie, tobacco worker, 910 E Nash
  • Smith, Mary, cook, 311 S Goldsboro
  • Smith, Mary, domestic, 110 Ashe
  • Smith, Mary J., laundress, 410 E Hines
  • Smith, Millard, carpenter, 504 E Walnut
  • Smith, Mittie, domestic, 507 Hadly
  • Smith, N.B., Rev., pastor Seventh Day Adventist Church 532 E Nash
  • Smith, Nancy, cook, 217 Broad
  • Smith, Owen L.W., Rev., 200 Pender
  • Smith, Sandy, bricklayer, 417 S Goldsboro 
  • Solomon, Julian, presser, 111 N Pettigrew
  • Sowers, William, porter, 217 Stantonsburg Rd
  • Speight, Junius, laborer, 511 Stantonsburg Rd
  • Speight, Rebecca, domestic, 700 E Green
  • Spell, John S., carpenter, 204 Pender
  • Spells, Nancy, cook, 508 S Lodge
  • Spicer, Lila, domestic, 809 E Nash
  • Spikes, Edgar, factory hand, 213 E Spruce
  • Staffet, John, tobacco worker, 811 Robertson [Roberson]
  • Stallion, Georgia, cook, 518 Banks
  • Stanback, H.S., cashier, The Commercial Bank of Wilson, 600 E Green
  • Stantonsburg Street Public School, Stantonsburg Rd, E.J. Hayes principal
  • Staton, Ida, domestic, 702 Suggs
  • Staton, Josie, tobacco worker, 812 Robinson [Roberson]
  • Staton, Mollie, laundress, 703 Suggs
  • Steadman, Elvina, domestic, 212 S Vick
  • Steadman, John J., tobacco worker, 212 S Vick
  • Steadman, Necie, laundress, 212 S Vick
  • Stephens, James, factory hand, 510 S Goldsboro
  • Strickland, Jesse, proprietor Strickland Cafe, 504 S Lodge
  • Strong, Lyman D., barber, 505 Viola
  • Studaway, Wyatt, grocer 112 1/2 Manchester, 112 Manchester
  • Suggs, Alexander, laborer, 409 Stantonsburg Rd
  • Surles, Rosa, laundress, 211 Stantonsburg Rd
  • Sutton, George, student, 304 E Walnut
  • Sutton, James, laborer, 805 Stantonsburg Rd
  • Sutton, May, tobacco worker, 304 E Walnut

Odd jobs, no. 1.

The occupation and industry columns in federal population schedules sometimes yield unusual results, even in an era in which most African-Americans in Wilson worked as farm laborers, tobacco factory hands, or domestic workers.

In the 1930 census, 22 year-old Alfonso Ward gave his occupation as:

I have not been able to find any additional information on Ward’s career as a roadshow comedian, though he likely played chitlin’ circuit venues.


In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 122 East Street, laborer John Ward, 28; wife Addie, 27; and children Alfonsa, 13, Edgar, 8, Oritta, 5, Thelma, 2 months, and Jos[illegible], 3. 

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 112 East Street, rented at $12/month, widow Addie Ward, 37, and children Alfonso, 22, Edgear, 17, Othena, 16, Jasper, 14, and Thelma, 10. 

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ward Alfonso (c) hlpr r 112 East

In 1940, Alfonso Ward registered for the World War II draft in Kings County, New York. Per his draft card, he was born 1 May 1908 in Wilson, N.C.; lived at 3040 B 7th Street, [Brooklyn], Kings County; his contact was friend Flossie Barrington, 614 Ocean View Avenue; and he worked for Louis Super, 419 B[righton] B[each] Avenue, Kings County. Ward’s address was amended to 413 Bri[ghton] Beach Ave. on 15 February 1943. [Per his signature, Ward spelled his first name “Alfonza.”]

O.N. Freeman’s handiwork.

O. Nestus Freeman‘s stonework was not limited to houses. Below, a mailbox stand he created for his good friend John W. Woodard, who lived west of Wilson on Tartts Mill Road.

The handcarved inscription reads
: J.W. Woodard, R.F.D. No 4, Box 33, Wilson N.C. Nov. 12, 1935

Photo courtesy of J.W. Woodard’s grandson Daryl M. Woodard. Thank you!

She Changed the World: Ruth Whitehead Whaley.

Last week, Wayne County Public Library presented Part II of “Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History,” Wayne County’s contribution to She Changed the World: North Carolina Woman Breaking Barriers, an initiative by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to celebrate the achievements of North Carolina women and explore the diversity of their experiences and impact on our history. Part II focuses on Goldsboro native Ruth Whitehead Whaley, the first African-American woman admitted to the North Carolina bar.

My thanks to Local History librarians Marty Tschetter and Paul Saylors for inviting me to contribute remarks on the influence Ms. Whaley has had on my mission in Black Wide-Awake and the importance of stories like hers.

Goldsboro News-Argus, 30 May 1932.

[Sidenote: Judge Frank A. Daniels was the older brother of Josephus Daniels, newspaper editor and racist demagogue. Both grew up in Wilson.]