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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ofJudge 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.
Alice Jones — Alice Pearl Jones (1905-1942) was the daughter of Wesley and Martha Taylor Jones. She married Calvin Swinson in Wilson in 1923.
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.
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.
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.