Colored Graded School

Mary Euell and Dr. Du Bois.

To my astonished delight, historian David Cecelski cited to my recent post on Mary C. Euell and the school boycott — and shouted out Black Wide-Awake — today.  In a piece dedicated to Glenda Gilmore on the occasion of her retirement, Cecelski describes a letter from Euell to W.E.B. Du Bois he found among Du Bois’ papers, collected at and digitized by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Researching the letter’s context led him to Black Wide-Awake,  and he penned a warm and gracious thanks for my research.

Euell wrote the letter from her home at 135 Pender Street on 22 April 1918, not two weeks after leading  her colleagues in a walkout. She made reference to Du Bois’ letter of the 18th and promised to send “full details of [her] trouble here in Wilson,” including newspaper clippings and photographs. Though no follow-up correspondence from Euell is found in the collection, there is a newspaper clipping sent April 12 by Dr. A.M. Rivera, a dentist and N.A.A.C.P. leader from Greensboro, North Carolina. (Coincidentally, Dr. Rivera’s office was in the Suggs Building.)

Greensboro Daily News, 12 April 1918.

(The collection also contains a brief letter from Mrs. O.N. Freeman [Willie Hendley Freeman] referring to an enclosed a 7 August 1920 Wilson Daily Times article and noting “this might interest you or be of some value to some one as I know your sentiments by reading the Crisis.” I have not been able to locate the article in online databases and do not know whether it related to the on-going boycott.)

“The colored people say they will not stand for it”: the 100th anniversary of the Wilson school boycott.

Today marks the 100th 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 is largely forgotten in Wilson, and its heroes go unsung. In their honor, today, and every April 9 henceforth, 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.

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2016/01/07/we-tender-our-resignation-and-east-wilson-followed/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2018/03/30/the-heroic-teachers-of-principal-reids-school/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2016/12/10/a-continuation-of-the-bad-feelings/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2017/04/02/what-happened-when-white-perverts-threatened-to-slap-colored-school-teachers/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2018/02/11/604-606-east-vance-street/

The (heroic) teachers of Principal Reid’s school.

This astounding photograph depicts the teachers on staff at the Colored Graded School around 1918, when school superintendent Charles L. Coon slapped Mary C. Euell after principal J.D. Reid complained that she was insubordinate. Euell, who pressed charges against Coon and led a boycott of the public school, is seated second from left.

Information about the teachers is elusive. Only one, S. Roberta Battle, was a native of Wilson. Georgia native Georgia Burke spent about a decade in Wilson, and Virginia native Mary Jennings at least four years. The remaining women are not found in local census records or directories.

  • G.M. Burks — Georgia Mae Burke. Georgia Burke boarded with Roberta Battle’s family during her time in Wilson. In 1921, she and Mary Euell were nearly involved in a second slapping incident in Wilson. In 1928, she moved to New York City to commence an acting career.
  • L.B. Wayland
  • M.L. Garrett
  • S.R. Battle — Sallie Roberta Battle Johnson.
  • S.D. Wiseman
  • M.A. Davis
  • M.C. Euell
  • M.M. Jennings — Mary M. Jennings. Virginia-born Mary Jennings, 28, private school teacher boarded with the family of Hardy Tate at 208 Pender at the time of the 1920 census. In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C. city directory, she was described as the principal of Wilson Normal School, which was probably the independent school founded by black parents and businessmen in the wake of the boycott. In the 1922 city directory, she is listed as a teacher at the Wilson Normal School and resided at 307 [formerly 208] Pender.
  • J.B. Pride

Photograph courtesy of Congressman G.K. Butterfield Jr., D-NC, a Wilson native. Thank you!

Commencement.

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In 1921, Wilson Colored Graded School educated students through the eighth grade. The wide range of students’ ages reflects the difficulty of regular school attendance, in an era of untreatable childhood illness and other family challenges.

  • Dr. F.S. Hargrave Frank S. Hargrave.
  • Artelia Barnes Leo Artelia Barnes (1906-1962) was a daughter of John M. and Annie Darden Barnes. She married Emanuel D. Jones in 1929 and later a Davis. A retired music teacher, she died in Houston, Texas, in 1982.
  • Thelma Barnes — Thelma Barnes (1907-2005) was Artelia Barnes’ sister. She married Walter G. Byers and worked as a music teacher.
  • Bessie Speight — Bessie Speight was the daughter of Jake and Rebecca Speight.
  • Marie Thomas — Marie Thomas (1905-??) was the daughter of Charles and Sarah Best Thomas.
  • Thelma Reid — Thelma R. Reid (1908-1999) was the daughter of Judge D. and Eleanor Frederick Reid. A Shaw University graduate, she married Matthew J. Whitehead, Johnson C. Smith ’30, on 21 April 1935, and the family eventually settled in Washington, D.C., where she taught and her husband served as a college administrator.
  • Mattie Baker — Mattie F. Baker (1905-??) was the daughter of William and Lula Baker.
  • Susan Peacock — Susan M. Peacock (1904-1992) was the daughter of Levi H. and Hannah Lee Pike Peacock. She married Abraham H. Prince of Charlotte in Wilson on 4 October 1930. Per her obituary, the Shaw University graduate and retired teacher  died in Burlington, North Carolina.
  • John Spell — John Stephen Spell Jr. (1904-??) was the son of John S. and Mattie Spell.
  • Nancy Dupree — Nancy Dupree (1904-1969) was the daughter of Wiley and Victoria Woodard Dupree. She married Ed Nicholson in 1926 and worked as a teacher.
  • Louise Cherry — South Carolina-born Louise D. Cherry (1906-1993) was the daughter of Ervin Cherry and Clara Cherry Thomas. She married Benjamin Sherrod, a Wilson native, in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1941. Cherry, like several of her classmates became a teacher.
  • Irene Washington — Irene Washington (1903-??) was the daughter of George W. and Cora Miller Washington. She married Macon Lucas in Wilson in 1926.
  • Cora Bryant
  • Alice Jones — Alice Pearl Jones (1905-1942) was the daughter of Wesley and Martha Taylor Jones. She married Calvin Swinson in Wilson in 1923.
  • William Morgan
  • Ruby Peacock — Ruby Peacock (1906-1975) was also a daughter of Levi and Hannah Peacock. She married Clarence Sherrod. The retired teacher died in Wilson in 1975.
  • Della Mae Whitehead — Della Mae Whitehead (1908-1997) was the daughter of John Henry and Victoria Ennis Whitehead.
  • Irene Baker
  • George Harris
  • Vernon Harris
  • Rebecca Kittrell — Rebecca Kittrell (1904-??) was the daughter of Solomon and Lettie Roberts Kittrell. She first married a Williams, then married Elton Thomas, son of Charlie and Sarah Best Thomas, in 1947 in Wilson.

Digitized at www.digitalnc.org.

Roll of honor.

The single surviving edition of the Wilson Blade, an African-American newspaper, reported this “Roll of honor of the colored graded school for the month ending Nov. 13th, 1897.”

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Wilson Blade, 20 November 1897.

  • Annie Thomas
  • Edie Corey
  • Mary Darden
  • Carneva Blount — daughter of Marcus and Annie Bryant Smith Blount. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widower Mark Blount, 38, a cook, and his children Coneva, 10, Dotsey, 9, and Theodore W., 6, were lodgers in the household of George Faggin.
  • Naomi Blount
  • Mamie Towe
  • Maggie Simmons
  • Loretta Best — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: carpenter Crocket Best, 64; wife Carline, 62; daughter Mary, 23; and granddaughters Elizabeth, 2, and Loretta, 8.
  • Annie Peacock — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widowed cook Rosetta Peacock, 47, and children Lillie, 18, Carrie, 12, Charlie, 12, Annie, 7, and granddaughters Addie, 6, and Julia M., 5 months.
  • Bernice Farmer — daughter of Gray and Argent Blount Farmer. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: nurse Argent R. Farmer, 46, and daughters Clara, 23, a seamstress, Rosa, 15, Roberta, 14, Gladys, 11, Bernice, 10, and Katie, 8.
  • Vasti Taylor
  • Earnest Freeman — son of Julius and Eliza Daniels Freeman. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: 56 year-old carpenter Julius Freeman, wife Eliza, 46, and children Elizabeth, 19, Nestus, 17, Junius, 11, Ernest, 9, Tom, 6, Daniel, 4, and Ruth, 4 months.
  • George Gaston — son of John A. and Sattena Barnes Gaston. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber John Gaston, 44, wife Satina, 30, and children Theodore, 13, Cicero, 10, George, 8, and Caroline, 2 months.
  • Sylvester Purrington — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cook James Purrington, 35; wife Edmonia, 30; and children Sylvester, 8, Hester, 2, and Viola, 1. Sylvester Purrington registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 22 July 1895 in Wilson County; resided at 809 Roberson Street, Wilson; and worked as a laborer for a furniture company.
  • S.M. Barbour — Sallie M. Barbour.
  • Cicero Gaston — son of John A. and Sattena Barnes Gaston.
  • Willie Clark — son of Rhoden and Sarah Clark. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: mechanic Roden Clark, 60; wife Sarrah, 50; and children Mittie, 30, Catherine, 19, Alethia, 17, Walter, 16, Bettie, 15, Cary, 13, and Willie, 11.
  • Hattie Davis
  • Ernest Moore — son of Lee A. and Louisa Moore. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: merchant Lee Moore, 36, wife Louisa, 32, and son Ernest, 12.
  • Viola Barnes — daughter of Dave and Pattie Battle Barnes. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hotel porter Dave Barnes, 40; wife Della; and children Walter, 20, William, 15, Lucy, 13, Dave, 5, and Viola, 11. [Walter and William were in fact Walter and William Hines, Della Hines Barnes’ sons and Dave’s stepsons.]
  • Gladis Farmer — daughter of Gray and Argent Blount Farmer.
  • Allie Barnes
  • Mary Battle — daughter of Allen and Annie Battle. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Allen Battle, 50; wife Annie, 39; and children Mallon,22, Anner, 16, Mariah, 13, Mary, 11, Edward, 8, James, 6, George, 4, and Maggie, 1.
  • Nannie Taylor — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: laundry woman Sonora Taylor, 34, and children Nannie, 13, Isah, 10, and Smith, 6.
  • Virginia Dawson — daughter of Alexander D. and Lucy Hill Dawson.
  • Lucy Holland — Lucy Holland, 21, married Frank Battle, 21, in Wilson on 26 April 1911. Rev. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Henry H. Blow, Ada Knight and Joe Baker.
  • Lillie Boykin — daughter of John and Dicy Boykin. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: house mover John Boykin, 30; wife Dicy, 44, a cook; and children Sallie, 19, cook, James, 18, Dotia, 16, Susia, 13, Lillie, 10, and Eliza, 7.
  • Annie Purrington
  • Granville Towe — son of Granville H. and Maggie Corprew Towe. 
  • Geneva Simms — on 27 November 1907, Jos. Daniel, 22, married Jeneva Simms, 20, in Wilson.
  • Ida B. Rountree
  • Annie Best
  • Bessie Simms — on 31 October 1905, Clarence McCullers, 21, son of Jerry McCullers, married Bessie Simms, 19, daughter of Lee and Mary Simms, in Wilson.  A.M.E. Zion minister N.D. King performed the ceremony in the presence of Rosa Rountree, Barton Griffin and Will Bullock.
  • Mary L. Barnes
  • George Winstead — son of Braswell R. and Ada Winstead. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: assistant postmaster Braswell Winstead, 39, wife Ada, 25, and children Arnold, 13, George, 12, Rolland, 11, and Christine, 8.
  • Ambrose Towe — son of Granville H. and Maggie Corprew Towe.
  • Susie Boykin — daughter of John and Dicy Boykin. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: house mover John Boykin, 30; wife Dicy, 44, a cook; and children Sallie, 19, cook, James, 18, Dotia, 16, Susia, 13, Lillie, 10, and Eliza, 7.
  • Arthur Darden — son of Charles H. and Diana Scarborough Darden. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: wheelwright Charles Darden, 44, wife Dianna, 40, and children Annie, 21, Comilous, 15, Lizzie, 13, Arthor, 12, Artelia, 10, Russell, 5, and Walter, 4.
  • Ometa Purrington 
  • Mattie Battle
  • Armena Barnes — daughter of Short W. and Frances Barnes. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: day laborer Short W., 38, wife Frances, 40, and daughters Armena, 13, and Mary M., 6, plus cousin Eliza, 19. Armena V. Barnes died 10 July 1907 and is buried in the Masonic cemetery.
  • Rowlland Winstead — son of Braswell R. and Ada Winstead. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: assistant postmaster Braswell Winstead, 39, wife Ada, 25, and children Arnold, 13, George, 12, Rolland, 11, and Christine, 8. Rolland Tyson Winstead registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 16 June 1889 in Wilson; resided at 603 Green Street, Wilson; and worked as a barber for John Bradsher, Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
  • Clarence Crawford — son of Daniel A. and Annie D. Crawford. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Daniel A. Crawford, 44, A.P. Co. employee; wife Annie D., 34; and children James L., 13, Clarence A., 9, William C., 8, Mable L., 6, Mena, 4, Julius L., 3, and Ulyses G., 1. Clarence Allen Crawford registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 23 September 1891 in Durham, North Carolina; resided at 617 Green Street, Wilson; and worked as a bricklayer for Wilkins Brothers, Wilson.
  • Theodore Gaston — son of John A. and Sattena Barnes Gaston.
  • G.H. Towe — Granville Harrison Towe.
  • Glace Battle — daughter of Parker and Ella Lea Burston Battle. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: moulder Parker Battle, 45, wife Ella L., 38, children Mamie P., 19, James A., 17, Sallie R., 14, Sudie E., 12, and John T., 9, plus mother-in-law Roberta A. Outlaw, 49.
  • Minnie Harris — the daughter of Arch and Rosa Woodard Harris. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Arch Harris, 53; wife Rosa, 45; and children James, 22, Arch, 20, Mary Jane, 18, Nancy, 16, Lucy, 12, Minnie, 11, Maggie, 8, Jessie, 6, and Annie, 3.
  • Charlie Battle — son of Charles and Leah Hargrove Battle. In 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith Charley Battle, 50, a widower; son Charley, 10; and Menerver Edwards, 58, a hired washwoman.
  • Arnold Winstead — son of Braswell R. and Ada Winstead. Arnold Winstead registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 31 August 1886 in Wilson; resided at 545 East Nash Street, Wilson; and worked as a bricklayer for William Glisson, Wilson.
  • Dorsey Battle — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco stemmer Naomie Farmer, 32, and two boarders Dorsey Battle, 21, a cook, and his wife Laura, 20.
  • Mamie Battle — daughter of Parker and Ella Lea Burston Battle.
  • Hattie Best — daughter of Orren and Hancy Best. On 31 December 1902, Willie Barnes, 22, son of Willis and Cherry Barnes, married Hattie Best, 21, daughter of Orange and Hancy Best, at Orren Best’s residence in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister N.D. King performed the ceremony in the presence of Charles B. Gay, John H. Lewis, and Orren Best.
  • Rosa Parker — daughter of Allison and Mary Hilliard Parker. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: teamster Allison Parker, 44; wife Mary, 32; and children Thomas, 19, Rosa, 17, Etta, 15, Carter, 13, and Oscar, 5.
  • Etta Parker — daughter of Allison and Mary Hilliard Parker.
  • Carter Parker — son of Allison and Mary Hilliard Parker.
  • Ada G. Battle — daughter of Charles and Leah Hargrove Battle. In the 1900 census, Ada G. Battle, 24, is a listed as a teacher at Scotia Seminary in Concord, Cabarrus County, North Carolina.
  • Donie Battle — daughter of Charles and Leah Hargrove Battle.
  • Lena Harris — probably, in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: doctor Frank Hargrave, 32, wife Bessie, 23, and boarder Lena Harris, 26, insurance bookkeeper.
  • Henry Bynum
  • Camillus Darden — son of Charles H. and Diana Scarborough Darden. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: wheelwright Charles Darden, 44, wife Dianna, 40, and children Annie, 21, Comilous, 15, Lizzie, 13, Arthor, 12, Artelia, 10, Russell, 5, and Walter, 4.
  • Lizzie Darden — daughter of Charles H. and Diana Scarborough Darden. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: wheelwright Charles Darden, 44, wife Dianna, 40, and children Annie, 21, Comilous, 15, Lizzie, 13, Arthor, 12, Artelia, 10, Russell, 5, and Walter, 4.
  • Ida Armstrong
  • S.A. Smith — Simeon A. Smith.

Formerly principal of the Wilson graded school.

hood609

REV. CHARLES H. SMITH, B.D.

Charles H. Smith was born in Jones County, near New Berne, N. C., in 1853, and is the son of Thomas and Harriet Smith. At an early age he entered the Northern school at New Berne, remaining there till he obtained a normal education, and then attended St. Augustine College, Raleigh, N. C., for three years. He occupied the position of principal of the Wilson graded school, giving entire satisfaction, until, becoming desirous of entering the ministry, he was ordained deacon by Bishop J. W. Hood at Salisbury in November, 1877, and given charge of Snow Hill Circuit. Here he so rapidly increased the membership that Bishop Hood divided the work, making two circuits. In 1880 he was ordained an elder at Tarboro, N. C. When he entered upon his duties as pastor of the Whiteville Circuit he found the Methodists and Baptists worshiping in the same church edifice, and at once set to work and built a beautiful church for Zion. A strong man was needed at Henderson, the Baptists being about to absorb the Methodists. Elder Smith entered his field, published a pamphlet on the proper mode of baptism, which obtained a general circulation, and soon became master of the situation. Henderson is now one of the strongholds of Zion in the North Carolina Conference.

In 1887 Rev. Smith was appointed pastor of St. Peter’s Church at New Berne and grandly entertained the General Conference at that church in 1888. A large debt on the church was canceled during his pastorate. While at New Berne he married the accomplished Miss Mamie Stanley, a teacher in the graded school of that city. Mrs. Smith makes a model minister’s wife. While a member of the North Carolina Conference Rev. Smith won the first prize in gold for the largest collection of General Fund. He was a member of the General Conferences of 1884, 1888, and 1892. He was transferred to the West Alabama Conference, where he erected a fine parsonage at Jefferson and relieved the church of debt. At Selma, Ala., he saved the church, which was about to be sold, and greatly reduced its debt. He is a strong temperance advocate, is generous and sympathetic, and an able scholar and theologian.

Establishing a graded school.

From “The Graded School Bill: An Act to Establish a Graded School in Wilson township, Wilson County,” as published in the Wilson Advance. The North Carolina legislature ratified the bill on 27 February 1883.

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Wilson Advance, 23 March 1883.

  • E.C. Simms. Edward Cicero Simms was a teacher. In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: school teacher Edward C. Simms, 23, wife Nicy, 26, and son Edward, 7 months. By 1891, the Simms family had moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where Edward is listed in the city directory. By 1897, Edward was an ordained A.M.E. Zion minister, as shown in this 9 May 1897 edition of the Norfolk Virginian:

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  • G.A. Farmer. Probably, Gray Farmer, a carpenter and constable.
  • Peter Rountree was a shoemaker.
  • Charles Battle was a blacksmith.
  • Jerry Washington. Jeremiah Washington was a blacksmith. His daughter Annie Maria married Samuel H. Vick.
  • C.M. Jones
  • Daniel Vick, carpenter, farmer and politician, was the father of Samuel H. Vick.
  • Samuel Williams was a baker, then grocer. In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: baker Samuel Williams, 30, with carpenter Daniel Vick, 25, wife Fanny, 24, and children Samuel, 8, Earnest, 3, Netta M., 5, and Violet Drake, 52. On 24 September 1870, Samuel Williams, parents unknown, married Ann Scarbro, daughter of Jack and Zaly Adams, in Wilson. In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Samuel Williams, 38, wife Ann, 47, and daughter Anna, 9. In the 1900 census, grocer Samuel Williams, 58, with lodgers William Jackson, 36, and William Allen, 25, both tobacco graders.
  • C.H. Darden. Charles H. Darden was a blacksmith and, later, undertaker. In 1938, Wilson’s high school for African-American children would be named for Darden.

News of the colored graded school.

WM 7 22 1891

Wilson Mirror, 22 July 1891.

WA 9 14 1893

Wilson Advance, 14 September 1893.

WDT 5 28 1897

Wilson Daily Times, 28 May 1897.

  • Frank O. Blount — in the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: gristmill worker Daniel Vick, 38, wife Fannie, 35, and children Samuel, 16, Nettie, 14, Earnest Linwood, 12, Henry, 10, and James O.F., 8, plus Frank O. Blount, 20, and Marcus W. Blount, 26. Though the Blounts were described as boarders, they were in fact Fannie Blount Vick’s brothers. Three years later, Frank and his cousin Samuel H. Vick (as well as neighbor Daniel Cato Suggs) were recorded in the junior class at Lincoln University in Chester, Pennsylvania. Frank Blount left Wilson before 1895. In that year, he is listed in the city directory of Washington, D.C., working as a porter and living at 463 Washington N.W. In 1900, he is found in the census of Saint Louis, Missouri, newly a widower, boarding at 2627 Papin Street and working as a janitor. Ten years later, he had gotten on with the post office and was living at 3030 Laclede with his second wife Mamie L. and her four sons, George P., 26, Cortello, 21, Robert M., 19, and Harrison Dove, 10. In the 1920 census, Frank and Mamie Blount are recorded at 3010 Laclede. Mamie Dove Blount died in 1930 in Chicago, but I have not yet found Frank’s death certificate.

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Catalogue for Lincoln University for 1882-83 (1883).

  • Braswell Winstead — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: assistant postmaster Braswell Winstead, 39, wife Ada, 25, and children Arnold, 13, George, 12, Rolland, 11, and Christine, 8.
  • Levi Peacock — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: postmaster Levi Peacock, 30, wife Hannah, 28, a schoolteacher, and children Olivia, 5, Hannah, 3, and Levi, 2, plus mother Susan Pyett, 50.
  • Ada Battle and Charles Battle — Ada G. Battle and Charles Tecumseh Battle were children of Charles and Leah Hargrove Battle. Ada, born about 18, never married.
  • Lucy Thompson — Per her death certificate, Lucy A. Thompson was born about 1875 in Wilson County to Ennis and Helen A. Ruffin Thompson. She was unmarried, a teacher, and died 24 July 1946.
  • _____ Melton — probably Leavy J. Melton.
  • Sallie Barber — Per her death certificate, Sallie Minnie Blake Barbour was born about 1871 in Wake County to Essex and Clara Hodge Blake. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson township, Wilson County: mechanic Charlie Barber, 47; wife Sallie, 40, teacher; and sons Luther, 21, John, 17, James, 17, and Herbert, 15, plus two roomers. The colored graded school was renamed in her honor in the late 1930s. She died in 1942.

Who was S.A. Smith?

Lawyer?

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This surprising entry appears in the 1896 edition of Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory. It is by far the earliest reference to an African-American lawyer in the town of Wilson. In an article in the 27 June 1894 of the Wilson Mirror concerning a meeting of the county’s Republicans to elect delegates to the Second Congressional District Convention. John Renfrow chaired the meeting, W.H. Vick was elected secretary pro tem, B.R. Winstead was elected chairman, and S.A. Smith, secretary. Delegates were Winstead and Gray Newsome.

The same year that the city directory named Smith as a lawyer, the Wilson Times announced his selection as principal of the Colored Graded School, replacing his political ally Winstead.

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Wilson Times, 29 May 1896.

A year later, on 27 May 1897, the widowed Mary Jane Bass Taylor married Sandy Henderson. Missionary Baptist Minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at Saint John A.M.E. Zion church, and the official witnesses were S.A. Smith, Charles H. Darden and Wyatt Studaway.

Smith also edited the first, and perhaps only, African-American newspaper published in Wilson, the Blade. One known edition, from 20 November 1897, survives. Under “Church Directory,” Smith is named as a superintendent of Saint John A.M.E. Zion.

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In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: iron foundry worker Samuel Smith, 28, his wife Anna, 19, and brother Simeon, 23, school teacher.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: school teacher Simeon A. Smith, born 1849; his wife Minnie E., born 1865, also a teacher; and their son [sic] Georgie, 3, all natives of North Carolina. The family was listed in close proximity to Wyatt Studaway, John Gaston, and Sandy Henderson, and probably lived on Manchester Street. They left Wilson soon after.

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Walsh’s Winston-Salem City Directory for 1904-05.

By 1904, Smith had been appointed principal of Winston-Salem’s Colored Graded School, and his wife Minnie had also secured a position. The school on Depot Street was described as “the largest and most important public school for African-Americans in the state.”

In the 1910 census of Winston-Salem, Forsyth County: at 518 Seventh Street, Simeon A. Smith, 49, wife Minnie E., 45, and daughter Georgie V. Smith, 13. Simeon was described as a professor at a graded school, and Minnie as teacher.

Minnie E. Smith died 16 September 1933 in Winston-Salem at the age of 56. Her occupation was school teacher, and she was described as a widow. The birthplaces of her parents, Will and Amie Joyner, is described only as “N.C.,” but the surname suggests Wilson County. Daughter Georgie V. Reid was informant.

I have not found Simeon Smith in early censuses, university records, marriage records or death records.