Colored Graded School

Commencement.

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.

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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
  • 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.

We tender our resignation. (And East Wilson follows.)

COLORED PEOPLE INDIGNANT.

Eleven Colored Teachers Resign from the Colored Graded School Alleging Discourteous Treatment on the part of Principal Reid and that Mr. Coon Slapped One of Them.

This afternoon a delegation of colored teachers from the Wilson colored school, six in number of eleven that have resigned with Rev. Weeks, pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church, colored, and Rev. H.B. Taylor, pastor of the Presbyterian church colored, with a petition addressed to the Board of Education of Wilson County and setting forth therein the reasons for their resignations as teachers from the school.

It seems that the trouble originated when Mr. Coon slapped one of the teachers as she alleged in the face when she was called into his room at the instance of Reid to be reprimanded for a disagreement regarding the opening of the school on Easter Monday, April the first, when the new daylight law went effect.

The teacher alleges that on that particular morning the teachers endeavored to open school on the new time and Principal Reid was late.

When the janitor called him he answered let the teachers and the children wait.  School was opened on the old time, and this teacher alleges that she dismissed her pupils when they finished their work at the regular hour at 2:25.  She further says that Reid asked her whether she was dismissing school on the old time or the new time and she replied: “I am dismissing on the new time, since these children have been here since 7:30 in the morning.”

She alleges that Reid replied that is your fault, and preferred charges against her to Mr. Coon, and Mr. Coon sent for her to come to his office in the Fidelity building at five o’clock which she did.  She alleges the slapping took place then.

The resolutions follow:

Wilson, N.C., April 9, 1918.

To the Board of Education of Wilson County, Superintendent of Schools of Wilson County, and Principal of the Colored Graded School of Wilson; and to All Whom It May Concern:

On account of the discourteous treatment of Prof. J.D. Reid, the principal of the Wilson Colored Graded School, to us as teachers under his direction, and on account of the terrible ordeal through which one of us, a teacher in the above stated school had to go on account of the unchristian and unmanly procedure of the principal, J.D. Reid; which aforestated ordeal if told would cause every man who respects pure womanhood to look upon the above-stated principle, J.D. Reid, as the worst specimen of manhood possible to find.

And further on account of the incompetency and untruthfulness of the above mentioned principal, J.D. Reid, which we are prepared to prove, and which he attempts to hide from the superintendent, Board of Education, and the public in general by a high handed, ironclad and abusive rule over those who serve under him;

We, the undersigned teachers of the Wilson Colored Graded School who have tried in every way to help him, but in return have only been treated as a chain-gang crew under criminal offense, have lost respect for the above mentioned principal, J.D. Reid, and tender our resignation.

Done at the Wilson Colored Graded School, this 9th day of April, 1918.

Miss M.C. Euell, Miss J.B Pride, Miss M.L. Garrett, Miss S.R. Battle, Miss G.M. Battle, Miss G.M. Burks, Miss L.B. Davis, Miss M.M. Jennings, Miss S.D. Wiseman

Since that time two other teachers who live here in town have sent in their resignations, namely: Mrs. Walter Hines and Miss Elba Vick.

Both the Colored Ministerial Union and the Negro Business League have appointed a special committee to take up the matter with the graded school board.

Committee from the Ministerial Union: Revs. H.B. Taylor, president; A. Bynum, Chas. T. Jones, Robert N. Perry and A.L.E. Weeks.

Committee from the Business League: S.H. Vick, chairman; B.R. Winstead, Walter S. Hines, Rev. H.B. Taylor, and Robert N. Perry.

The committee of the Ministerial Union communicated with the Graded School Board on yesterday and is expecting a reply in the very near future.  — Wilson Daily Times, 11 Apr 1918.

——

The Board’s reply – that Coon and Reid were blameless – was not surprising.  The response of Wilson’s black community, however, was.  Following their teachers, parents pulled their children out of the public graded school and established a private alternative in a building owned by S.H. Vick.  Financed with 25¢ a week tuition payments and elaborate student musical performances, the Independent School operated for nearly ten years.

THE ACTORS

  • J.D. Reid — Judge James Daniel Reid (1872-) was the son of Washington and Penninah Reid.
  • M.C. Euell — Mary C. Euell was not a native of Wilson County and, not surprisingly, apparently did not remain in the city long after this incident. I am continuing to search for more about her.  — LYH
  • J.B. Pride
  • M.L. Garrett
  • S.R. Battle — Sallie Roberta Battle Johnson (1884-1958) was a daughter of Parker and Ella Battle. She later worked as business manager of Mercy Hospital.
  • G.M. Battle — Glace (or Grace) Battle (circa 1890-1972) was another daughter of Parker and Ella Battle. She later married Timothy Black.
  • Georgia M. Burke
  • L.B. Davis
  • M.M. Jennings — Virginia-born teacher Mary Jennings, 28, boarded with the family of Hardy Tate at 208 Pender at the time of the 1920 census.
  • S.D. Wiseman
  • Mrs. Walter Hines — Sarah Elizabeth Dortch (1879-1967) married Walter S. Hines (1879-1941) in 1907 in Boston, Massachusetts. Born in Goldsboro, Wayne County, she was the daughter of Ralph Whitmore Dortch and Mary Burnett Dortch.
  • Elba Vick — Elba Vick, born 1893, was a daughter of Samuel and Annie Washington Vick. She married Carlos C. Valle in Wilson on 12 June 1922. (And also in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County, on 20 December 1921. Carlos was reportedly living in Durham County, and his parents Celedonio and Leticia Valle lived in New York.) In the 1930 census of Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee: Puerto Rico-born lodge secretary Carlos C. Valle, 37, wife Elba, 33, and children Melba G., 6, and Carlos Jr., 4.
  • Halley B. Taylor
  • A. Bynum
  • Charles T. Jones  — Barber and minister, Rev. Charles Thomas Jones was born in Hertford County in 1878 to Henry and Susan Copeland Jones. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County, at 667 Nash Street: minister Charlie Jones, 41; wife Gertrude, 39; children Ruth, 61, Charlie, Jr., 14, Elwood, 12, Louise, 10, and Sudie, 4; and mother-in-law Louisa Johnson, 65. He died in Wilson in 1963.
  • Robert N. Perry — Rev. Robert Nathaniel Perry was a priest at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church.
  • A.L.E. Weeks
  • Samuel H. Vick
  • B.R. Winstead — A teacher turned barber, Braswell R. Winstead (circa 1860-1926) was the son of Riley Robins and Malissa Winstead of Wilson County. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Braswell Winstead, 60, wife Ada E., and daughter Ethel L., 13, at 300 Pender Street.
  • Walter S. Hines
  • Mary Robertson
  • Celia Norwood — Celia Anna Norwood (1879-1944), daughter of Edward Hill and Henrietta Cherry, was a native of Washington, North Carolina. She died in Wilson.
  • Olivia Peacock — Born about 1895, Olivia Peacock was the daughter of Levi H. and Hannah Peacock. She later married Eugene Norman.
  • Sophia Dawson — Born about 1890 to Alexander D. and Lucy Hill Dawson, Sophia Dawson married Wayne County native Jesse Artis, son of Jesse and Lucinda Hobbs Artis.
  • Delzell Whitted — Helen Delzelle Beckwith Whitted (1888-1976) was the wife of Walter C. Whitted.
  • Lavinia Woodard — Lavinia Ethel Grey Woodard (1891-1921) was the daughter of Ruffin and Lucy Simms Woodard.
  • Eva Speight — Eva Janet Speight (1899-1944), native of Greene County, later married David H. Coley.
  • Hattie Jackson
  • Rose Butler
  • Clarissa Williams
  • Mrs. J.D. Reid — J.D. Reid married Eleanor P. Frederick on 17 October 1899 in Warsaw, Duplin County, North Carolina. By 1925, despite the disapproval of the community, she was principal of the Wilson Colored Graded School, later known as the Sallie Barbour School.

THE COVERAGE

The shocking stance taken by Wilson’s black community reverberated throughout eastern North Carolina, compelling the principal of a colored graded school in Greenville to intervene. He was quickly pulled up short though, and the Wilmington Dispatch crowed over his discomfiture.

Wilmington Dispatch 4 23 1918 JD Reid

Wilmington Dispatch, 23 April 1918.

This was a serious matter indeed; Mary Euell pressed charges. On 30 April, 1918, the Wilson Daily Times printed an account of Charles L. Coon’s initial court appearance that was surprisingly detailed and sympathetic toward Euell. (A posture possibly motivated by Coon’s dismissive alleged comments about its editor, Gold.) In summary, Euell and her lawyer arrived before the magistrate only to find that Coon had come and gone, having obtained an earlier court date of which Euell was not notified. Euell’s counsel (who was he?) was granted permission to make an astonishing statement in which he declared that Euell was prosecuting Coon in order to make sure that the public was made aware of what had happened, to assert her rights to protection under the laws of the State of North Carolina, and because rumors were flying that she was a troublemaker who, among other things, had protested against riding in the “colored section” of a train.

Euell then made a statement to the press summarizing the facts of her encounter with Coon and Reid. In a nutshell: Reid called her a liar; she protested; Coon shouted, “Shut up, or I’ll slap you down;” Euell stood her ground and chastised Reid; Coon delivered a blow.

WDT_4_30_1918_Coon_chargedWilson Daily Times, 30 April 1918.

Within weeks, the story had spread from coast to coast. Cayton’s Weekly, published in Seattle, Washington (“[In the interest of equal rights and equal justice to all me for ‘all men up.’ A publication of general information, but in the main voicing the opinions of the Colored Citizens.”) printed this startling editorial:

Cayton's

Cayton’s Weekly, 4 May 1918.

The New York Age got wind of matters a week later, reporting excitedly that Reid had been hounded out of Wilson for his role in the affair:

NY_Age_5_11_1918_JD_Reid_run_out_of_town

New York Age, 11 May 1918.

Belatedly, the Age also published a brief bit about the warrant for Coon’s arrest, including a quotation from Coon himself:

NY_Age_5_18_1918_warrant_for_Coon

New York Age, 18 May 1918.

Ultimately, Coon plead guilty to simple assault and was fined one penny, plus costs. Despite the mass resignation and boycott in April by teachers, students and the black community at large, he and the Wilson public school administration soldiered on. In September, they announced a new staff for the colored graded school and appointed Clarissa Williams principal in J.D. Reid’s stead.

Wilson_Daily_Times_9_24_1918_C_Wms_Princ

Wilson Daily Times, 24 September 1918.

The New York Age came back with stronger reporting to cover the opening of the Industrial, or Independent, School, as it was called. Hattie Henderson Ricks, who was 7 years old in the spring of 1918, recalled: “First of the year I went to school, and [then] I didn’t go back no more to the Graded School. They opened the Wilson Training School on Vance Street, with that old long stairway up that old building down there — well, I went over there.”

NY_Age_11_23_1918_Open_Private_School_in_Wilson__N_C_

New York Age, 23 November 1918.

Two months later came a progress report on the “school started to protect womanhood” and a request for support:

NY_Age_1_18_1919_school

New York Age, 18 January 1919.

A year after Coon’s slap, the Age continued to report on the courageous stand taken by Wilson’s African-American community, noting that a fundraiser had exceeded its goals, and the school was “flourishing.”

NY_Age_4_5_1919_independent_school

New York Age, 15 April 1919.

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Postcard image of Wilson Colored Graded School, J. Robert Boykin III, Historic Wilson in Vintage Postcards (2003).

Oral interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.