Chamber of Commerce

Winners of the cotton contest.

The calendar in this photograph dates it to January 1949. It depicts ten men — four African-American — standing in what appears to be the lobby or a wide hallway of an office building. One man is accepting a document, perhaps a check, from another. I don’t have any other context for the image and don’t know the identity of any of the men.

[Update, 25 May 2023: John Hackney provided the essential clue — the man at far right is his grandfather Tom Bridgers. With that information, I was able to find an article in the 8 January 1949 issue of the Daily Times. At the Wilson Chamber of Commerce’s farm aware program, on behalf of Kiwanis Club, Bridgers presented awards to winners in the “cotton contest” — W.P. Proctor of Stantonsburg; John Farmer, Rufus Brewer, and Charlie Batts of Elm City; Tom Morris, E.G. Lindsey, Hardy Hooks, Henry Trevathan, James Faison, and Joe Hester of Wilson. The photo above, taken by a Chamber photographer, did not run with the article. I’ve amended the title of this post.]

Photo courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

“Facts” about Wilson.

In 1934, Wilson Chamber of Commerce published this promotional guide extolling the virtues of Wilson County. 

The introduction to the town sets the perspective.

Wilson had a population of more than 12,000 in 1934, of whom about 40% were African-American. They were of little interest  to the Chamber of Commerce, however, and were not among the target audience for Facts About Wilson.

“The Mercy Hospital for colored people only was reorganized as a community basis in 1928. It is controlled by a board of trustees. All physicians of the town and county, both white and colored, are eligible for membership on the staff. This hospital is used by Wilson, Pitt, and Green[e]Counties, as it is the only hospital in three counties for colored people.”

There’s a lot to digest in the pages above, but it all boils down to the values in the columns for “white” and “colored.” For example, the ten white school buildings were valued at $800,131, and the 23 colored schools (more because so many were one- or two-rooms) at $48,592.

“The negroes of Wilson maintain separate churches, and the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian congregations are especially large, active and well organized. Six smaller negro churches here also serve this race in Wilson.”

The list of white organizations ran one full page into a second. Only two Black groups — the Odd Fellows and Masons — made the brochure’s cut, however.

Hat tip to Brooke Bissette Farmer for sharing this find, which is digitized here and held in the Rare Book Collection Archives of East Carolina University’s Joyner Library.