commencement

The program.

The Times published the full program of commencement exercises for Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute’s first graduating class. The composition of the school’s board of directors reveals the depth of investment by East Wilson’s elite. (Even veterinarian E.L. Reid, whose brother J.D. Reid lit the match that started the public school boycott conflagration.)

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Wilson Times, 28 May 1919.

  • Harry C. Eldridge and J. Bassett Willard published Arcticania, or Columbia’s Trip to the North Pole, an Operetta in Two Acts, a “juvenile fairy spectable,” in 1916. Eldridge and Elizabeth F. Guptill published Midsummer Eve, a Musical Fairy Play for Children in 1920.
  • S.H. Vick — Samuel H. Vick, former teacher, former postmaster, real estate developer.
  • W.S. Hines — Walter S. Hines, barber.
  • W.H. Phillips — William H. Phillips, dentist.
  • N.J. Tate — Noah J. Tate, barber.
  • C.L. Darden — Camillus L. Darden, undertaker and business owner.
  • W.A. Mitchner — William A. Mitchner, physician.
  • J.W. Rogers — John W. Rogers, businessman.
  • D.C. Yancy — Darcy C. Yancey, pharmacist.
  • M.H. Wilson — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 126 Pender Street, Virginia-born house contractor Mansfield H. Wilson, 60; son Samuel H., 20; and sister-in-law Lucy Richards, 40.
  • L.A. Moore — Lee A. Moore, merchant and insurance agent.
  • William Hines — barber and real estate developer.
  • E.L. Reid — Elijah L. Reid, veterinarian.
  • A.L.E. Weeks — Alfred L.E. Weeks, Baptist minister.
  • R.R. Forman — Organist, pianist and composer Allie Waling Forman (1855-1937) registered her work under the name Mrs. R.R. Forman.
  • Frederic Boscovitz composed the duet “Bella Napoli” in 1900.
  • Rogenia Barnes — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street,
  • Lillian Wilson
  • Boisey Barnes — Boisey O. Barnes, half-brother of Walter and William Hines.
  • Lester Mitchell
  • Willard Crawford
  • Addie Davis — Addie Davis Butterfield, daughter of Baptist minister Fred M. Davis Sr.
  • Jos. Rosemond Johnson — James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) composed “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” as a poem in 1900, and his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) set it to music in 1905. In 1919, the year of the Industrial School graduation, the NAACP dubbed the song the “Negro National Anthem.”
  • R.N. Perry — Robert N. Perry, Episcopal priest.

 

A big occasion in the history of the race in this city.

I was astonished to realize that this article memorializes the first commencement exercises at the Independent School — here called by its full and official name, the Wilson  Normal and Industrial Institute. As chronicled here and here and here, a coalition of African-American parents and religious and civic leaders founded the Independent School (also known as the Industrial School) in the wake of an assault on a black teacher by the white school superintendent.

I have not been able to identify Judge William Harrison of Chicago, who delivered to the new school’s graduates a remarkably unprogressive message that seemingly flew in the face of the stand for civil rights the community had resolutely made just a year earlier. The Times reporter made no mention of the school’s genesis, preferring to focus at length on Harrison’s message of admiration for the white man’s guidance and fine example.

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Wilson Daily Times, 31 May 1919.

  • Judge William Harrison
  • Prof. S.H. Vick — Samuel H. Vick furnished a building on Vance Street to house the new school.
  • Rev. A.L.E. Weeks — Alfred L.E. Weeks was a member of the Colored Ministerial Union committee appointed to address the community’s concerns to the school board.
  • Joseph S. Jackson — Joseph S. Jackson Jr.
  • Boisy Barnes — Boisey O. Barnes.
  • Lester Mitchell — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, Annie Mitchell, 70, her children Sallie, 46, Eddie, 44, Albert, 42, Eva, 36, and Floyd, 34, plus niece Sevreane, 18, and nephew Lester, 15.
  • Willard Crawford — probably, Daniel Willard Crawford who died 16 October 1964 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 January 1900 in Wilson County to Daniel Crawford and Annie Whitted; was never married; and worked as a carpenter. Walter H. Whitted was informant.
  • Addie Davis — Addie Davis Butterfield.
  • Rev. R.N. Perry — Episcopal priest Robert N. Perry was also on the Ministerial Union’s committee.
  • Lillian Wilson — perhaps, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: livery stable groom William Wilson, 51; wife Sarah, 48, and daughters Elen, 23, and Lillian, 21, both tobacco factory workers.

Commencement.

commencement

2

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.

Thirty-sixth annual commencement: “Do not lose faith.”

Robert Russa Moton assumed the helm as president of Tuskegee Institute after Booker T. Washington‘s death. The first commencement over which Moton presided took place on 26 May 1917. Among the candidates for diplomas and certificates presented by Emmett Scott were Daniel Elijah Freeman (1896-1972) of Wilson, son of Julius and Eliza Daniels Freeman, and Benjamin Amos Harris (1894-1955) of Stantonsburg, son of Edward and Bettie Daniels Harris. Daniel and Benjamin were first cousins once removed (Bettie Daniels’ mother Millicent Daniels Daniels was Eliza Daniels Freeman’s sister) and were encouraged to attend Tuskegee by Daniel’s older brothers, O. Nestus Freeman, Julius F. Freeman Jr. and Ernest Freeman.

NYA 6 7 1917 Tuskegee

New York Age, 7 June 1917.