Foster

Rev. R.A.G. Foster through the years.

Marianne Foster generously shared these photos of her father, Rev. Richard A.G. Foster, who served as pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church in the late 1930s and made strident calls for equal rights and social justice from his Pender Street pulpit.

In the pulpit at Varrick A.M.E. Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut, 1940s.

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New Haven, Connecticut.

Oakland, California, 1958.

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Oakland, California, 1968.

An abundance of good grazing.

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Wilson Daily Times, 27 July 1944.

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  • Henry Armstrong — in the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Armstrong, 52; wife Minnie, 42; and children Mary, 19, Fred, 18, Rosa, 16, Clarence, 14, Nathan, 11, Daniel, 9, Louise, 8, David, 6, and Henry, 3.
  • Sugar Hill section — There is a Sugar Hill neighborhood on the western outskirts of the town of Simms and a Sugar Hill Road that runs just east of and parallel to Interstate 95 near the Nash County line. Neither is in Toisnot township. Henry Armstrong’s family’s land was east of Elm City near Edgecombe County. Can anyone pinpoint the location of Armstrong’s Sugar Hill? [Update, 7/28/2020: Jack Cherry identified Sugar Hill as a community along East Langley Road between Town Creek and Temperance Hall United Methodist Church (which is just across the line in Edgecombe County.) His great-grandfather operated a small general store and gas station at the heart of the community and lent his name to Cherry Chapel Baptist Church.]

Google Street View of the old Cherry’s Store.

Rev. Foster, strong race man.

Among the many pastors who passed through Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church on their way to prominence, Rev. Richard A.G. Foster ranks among the most accomplished. An early and vocal proponent of equal rights, Rev. Foster spent an impactful couple of years in Wilson, as seen here and here and here and here.

In April 1951, Color magazine called Rev. Foster “The Most Powerful Negro in New Haven” in an in-depth article that credited the “strong race man and … public-spirited citizen” with “doing more for race relations in New Haven than any other person.”

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“In New Haven, Conn., the folk will all tell any visitor that Rev. Richard A.G Foster is the most powerful Negro in town. Rev. Foster is not a rich man, but he’s a man who knows how to get things down. A strong race man and a public-spirited citizen, he is credited with doing more for race relations in New Haven than any other person.

Operates Like One-Man F.E.P.C.

“Within two years Rev. Foster secured more than 2700 jobs for Negroes in the city, and he has been directly responsible for getting Negroes jobs in many factories and plants which previously refused to hire colored help. He demanded more money for domestic workers such as cooks, maids, butlers, and chauffeurs and got it! Foster helped raise theirs salaries more than 100 per cent. As a result of his efforts, Negroes are employed in the city’s welfare department as investigators and stenographers. He gave New Haven its first Negro city court clerk, and got several Negroes jobs in the police department.

Helped Levi Jackson Play At Yale U.

“The powerful pastor of Varick Memorial Church for eleven years molded public opinion in favor Levi Jackson’s acceptance to play football at Yale University. Rev. Foster served on the Board of Aldermen from 1943 to 1950, during which time he sponsored and engineered the passage of the F.E.P.C. bill. Always fighting hard for the rights of minorities, the New Haven minister saw to it that public workers employed in his district included Negroes — and as a result, the district is now the cleanest and has the best lighting.”

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He is now fighting to obtain appointments for Negroes to various important local and state commissions, and he feels that a member of his race should serve as assistant to the states attorney. Appointed by the late Governor James L. McConaughey, Foster is the only Negro on the Rent Control Board for the New Haven district.

Twenty-Five Years of Church Leadership

It was Bishop W.J. Walls who recognized Rev. Foster’s excellent qualities of leadership eleven years ago, and appointed him to Varick Memorial Church. Now celebrating his 25th year in the ministry, and his eleventh at the New Haven church, Foster has built up an enviable  record. When he first came to Varick Memorial his weekly salary was a mere $35, and the church membership was only 37, although the enrollment listed 227 members. Today the church has over 1100 members, and his salary has increased proportionately. He is, at present, directing a $25,000 mortgage fund for his church.

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Rev. Foster attended school at Livingston College, chief educational institution of A.M.E. Zion, Hood Theological Seminary, and did graduate work at Syracuse University.

[The caption under the top photo on this page: “‘Most of our people,’ said Rev. Foster, ‘have religion that is only mouth-deep. What we need is religion that reaches the center of the spirit and whole of the being.’ ….”]

Many thanks to Rev. Foster’s daughter Marianne Foster for sharing this article.

310 North Reid Street.

The one hundred-nineteenth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this house is: “ca. 1930; 1 story; Thomas Foster house; bungalow with hip roof and engaged porch; Foster was janitor at Wilson post office.”

In the 1925, 1928 and 1930 Wilson city directories, Thomas and Olivia Foster are listed at 310 North Reid.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: owned and valued at $3000, Tom Foster, 45, post office janitor, and wife Oliva, 43.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: owned and valued at $3000, John T. Foster, 60, post office janitor; wife Olivia, 59; and her brother Claude Artist, 53, odd jobs.

In 1940, Du Bissette Best registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 26 January 1922 in Wilson; lived at 308 North Reid; his contact was Tom Foster, 310 North Reid; and he worked for W.G. Taylor, Taylor’s Barber Shop, 106 South Tarboro.

Tom Foster died 17 October 1956 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 April 1883 in Wayne County to John Thomas Foster and Louise Thompson; was married to Olivia Foster; worked as an elevator laborer; and resided at 310 North Reid.

Olivia Foster died 15 November 1956 at her home at 310 North Reid. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 October 1886 in Wayne County to Jesse Artis and Lucinda Hobbs; was a widow. Informant was Ada Rowe, 1006 Atlantic Street, Wilson.

Tom and Olivia Foster had mortgaged their home early in 1955 and, the spring after their deaths, the loan went into default. Trustee Wade A. Gardner posted this notice of sale in the local newspaper. Among the details: the Fosters had purchased the lot, part of the Rountree Tract, from Levi H. and Hannah Peacock in 1916.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 May 1957.

Around the same time, Tom Foster’s executor advertised a sale of the contents of the house, which offers an interesting glimpse at the typical furnishings of a working-class household in mid-century East Wilson.

Wilson Daily Times, 8 June 1957.

Claude Artis died 16 January 1960 at his home at 310 North Reid Street. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 January 1890 in Wayne County to Jesse Artis and Lucinda Hobbs; was never married; and worked as a laborer. Ada Rowe, 310 North Reid, was informant. (Claude Artis was Olivia Artis Foster’s brother. Did he buy the house, or did he pay rent to whomever purchased it?)

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2019.

All invited to the farm family picnic.

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Wilson Daily Times, 21 June 1947.

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  • C.W. Foster — Carter W. Foster.
  • Helen T. Wade — In the 1947 North Carolina Manual, published by the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office, Helen T. Wade is listed as the colored home demonstration agent for Wilson County. Wade married Charles E. Branford in 1950.
  • Frederick Douglass High School was Elm City’s African-American high school from 1939 until the end of segregation in Wilson County schools in 1969.

A little paint does not help a situation like that.

Richard A.G. Foster made the most of his brief time as pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church, as chronicled here and here. In the letter to the editor below, he called to task Wilson County Commissioners for failing to heed the pleas of African-American residents for adequate schooling, including serious repairs for the Stantonsburg Street School (also known as Sallie Barbour School).

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Wilson Daily Times, 3 August 1938.

Nurse Allen, faithful and thoughtful, dies.

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Wilson Daily Times, 7 June 1937.

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Allen James eating house 217 S Goldsboro h 112 Ashe and Allen Rachel cook h 112 Ashe

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Allen James B (c; Rachel) restr 217 Goldsboro h 900 Atlanta

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 900 Atlantic Street, rented for $20/month, cafe proprietor Jim Allen, 45; wife Rachel, 32, private family nurse; children Elouise, 10, and Fred, 8; and lodgers Floyd Baker, 26, laborer; Gertrude Kannary, 27, cook; and Katherine, 10, Dortha, 7, and Elouise Baker, 1.

Per her death certificate, Rachel Allen died 5 June 1937 at Mercy Hospital. She was 40 years old; was married to James Allen; was born in Dunn, North Carolina, to Edward Armstrong and Cornelius [sic] Armstrong; worked as a midwife and practical nurse; and resided at 405 East Green Street. Maggie Armstrong of Durham was informant.

 

 

Negro curb market.

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Wilson Daily Times, 17 June 1942.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 August 1942.

Foster buys butcher supplies.

In April 1898, Grant T. Foster entered into a contract to purchase on credit $85 worth of equipment from Cincinnati Butchers’ Supply Company. To secure the purchase, he gave the company a mortgage on his business. On 23 June 1898, having been paid in full, Cincinnati Butchers released Foster from the mortgage. Their notice to the Register of Deeds was pasted into the deed volume, so the details of the transaction are obscured, but a reference to a cooler measuring 4 feet by six feet by nine feet is visible.

This note was placed in the deed book as well.

An advertisement touting Foster’s meat market can be found here.

Deed book 46, page 523, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.