graduation

Graduation exercises at Saint Alphonsus.

Closing exercises at Saint Alphonsus Catholic School were elaborate affairs, with a decorated setting, orations, singing, and band performances.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 May 1947.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 June 1948.

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When Saint Alphonsus closed in 1968, the diocese rented its Carroll Street building to the African-American collective Concerned Parents of Wilson, which opened a kindergarten in the space. I graduated in Kiddie Kollege of Knowledge’s second class, and our graduation continued the ornate legacy of Saint Alphonsus.

I’m at right, marching out with my Bachelor of Rhymes degree. 

Wilson Academy holds graduation exercises.

Wilson Advance, 18 June 1880.

Wilson Academy, a private school, educated the first generation of free African-American children in Wilson. Among its graduates were Samuel H. Vick and his siblings; Daniel C. Suggs and his siblings; Braswell R. Winstead; John H. Clark, Augustus S. Clark, and their siblings; Rev. Edward C. Simms;

A.M.E. Zion minister Joseph C. Price was an early principal of Wilson Academy. Edward Moore served as principal from 1879 to 1881.

Neither the school’s precise location or its establishing body are known. It was graded school, however, and students who wished to go beyond eighth grade had to leave Wilson to attend high school. Many attended the preparatory divisions of colleges like Biddle University, Livingstone College, Shaw University, Howard University, or, quite popularly, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

Wilson Academy seems to have closed around the time Wilson established a public graded school in the early 1890s.

Closing exercises of the Colored Graded School.

Wilson Mirror, 9 May 1888.

Twenty-five year-old Samuel H. Vick had been teacher and principal at the Colored Graded School since shortly after his graduation from Lincoln University. A year after this graduation, he was appointed by President William H. Harrison to his first stint as Wilson postmaster, a highly sought-after political patronage position. Vick hired his old friend Braswell R. Winstead, with whom he had attended high school and college and taught at the Graded School, as assistant postmaster. Teacher A. Wilson Jones was married to Vick’s sister Nettie Vick Jones — and murdered her in 1897. Annie Washington was about 18 years old when this article was published. She and Samuel Vick married almost exactly four years later.

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.

Studio shots, no. 46: Dardens and friends.

Lizzie Darden commemorating her high school graduation with Roderick Taylor (standing), her brother Camillus L. Darden (seated), and a friend (seated in Picture-Taking George W. Barnes‘ chair), circa 1903.

Photograph courtesy of N.J. and C. Darden, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine (1978).

Class of ’28.

In 1928, Wilson Colored High School was led by principal William H.A. Howard and teachers F. Meredith (math), J.E. Amos (home economics), J.F. Anderson (science), C.F. Hunt (English), and B.M. Davis (history and French).

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  • Jennie Moring Parker Kerbo, prophet (1909-2006, daughter of Charles and Maggie Hedgepeth Parker)
  • Herman Bess, valedictorian (possibly, son of William and Ada Best)
  • Ada Elizabeth Harris Reid Sharpe, treasurer (1908-2010, daughter of Leander and Lucy Brooks Harris)
  • Esther Lue Purdie, president (1907-??, daughter of Street P. and Lenora Bethea Purdie)
  • Walter Jefferson Giles, vice president (1909-2001, son of George W. and Lucettie Sutton Giles)
  • Vivian Elizabeth Peacock Smith, secretary (1909-1999, daughter of Levi H. and Hannah Pyatt Peacock)
  • Odelle Whitehead Barnes, salutatorian (1912-2011, daughter of J. Henry and Victoria Ennis Whitehead)
  • Mattie Smith, poet
  • Henderson Jesse Cooke, orator (1910-1971, son of Jerry and Clara Godette Cooke)
  • Catherine W. Whitehead Bynum, giftarian (1910-1999, daughter of J. Henry and Victoria Ennis Whitehead)
  • Maggie M. Ricks, alphabet (1909-??, probably, daughter of Ed and Nannie Gaston Ricks)
  • Beatrice Taylor Barnes, pianist (1912-1995, daughter of Russell B. and Viola Gaither Taylor)
  • Mary Street, historian
  • Cora Miller Washington Artis, class soloist (1909-??, daughter of George W. and Cora Miller Washington)
  • Ruby Speight, critic
  • Isaac Artis
  • Sarah Virginia Thomas Bryant (1909-1992, daughter of Charles and Sarah Best Thomas)
  • Pearl Foreman
  • Cora Bell Exum Lane, class will (1908-1984, daughter of Frank and Mamie Johnson Exum)
  • Clara Battle (1908-??, daughter of Joseph and Gertrude Battle)
  • Martha Bedford Savage Lucas (1907-1965, daughter of Frank and Serena Woodard Savage)
  • Naomi Scott Edwards (1910-??, daughter of Charles and Susie Ann Jones Edwards)

As was their principal, the Colored High School’s teachers seem to have been short-term Wilson residents:

  • F. Meredith — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, duplicate entries (though the names differ slightly): Wm. J.F. Meredith, school teacher, 624 East Green; James Meredith, school teacher, Wilson High School, 624 East Green. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Edwin W. Fisher, 56, district manager insurance company; wife Daisey V., 52; daughter Susie A., 21; and lodgers James F. Anderson, 26, Indiana-born school teacher, and William Meredith, 25, Tennessee-born school teacher.
  • J.E. Amos — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, Jane E. Amos, teacher, Wilson High School, 111 Pender. In the 1930 city directory, Jane E. Amos, teacher, Wilson High School, 919 Atlantic. However, in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 919 East Nash, brickmason James Russell, 42; wife Julia, 42; and daughter Annie, 7, plus lodger James E. Amos, 41, South Carolina-born school teacher. This is surely Jane E. Amos.
  • J.T. Anderson — see James F. Anderson at F. Meredith, above.
  • B.M. Davis — in the 1928 Wilson City directory, Bessie M. Davis, teacher, Wilson High School, 908 East Nash. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 913 East Green Street, teachers Ruth A. Brown, 23, of Nevada; Annie Wilson, 25, of North Carolina; Lucile Wynn, 22, of Virginia; and Bessie Davis, 28, of Washington, D.C.
  • C.F. Hunt — in the 1928 Wilson City directory, Cornelia F. Hunt, teacher, Wilson High School, 1009 East Nash. In the 1930 city directory, Cornelia F. Hunt, teacher, Wilson High School, 910 East Green. This is likely the Cornelia Frances Hunt born in 1907 in Granville County, North Carolina.

Photograph courtesy of Darden Alumni Center, Wilson.

Class of ’44.

From the Darden Alumni Center, a graduation photo of the 1944 class:

  • Adelaide Lee Barnes Brown (1924-1983, daughter of Leonard and Adelaide White Barnes)
  • Dicy Cora Lee Becton (1924-??, daughter of Zanger and Louisa Broadhurst Becton)
  • David Renaldo Blue (1924-1964, son of Joseph and Lula McNeill Blue)
  • Frank Junius Brake (1925-2009, son of Willie and Elizabeth Smith Brake)
  • Virginia Branch
  • Grace LaNelle Coley Hansen (1926-??, daughter of David and Cora Speight Coley)
  • Eunice Delores Cooke Fleming (1926-1992, daughter of Jerry and Clara Godette Cooke)
  • Dora E. Dickerson (1924, daughter of Fred and Almeta Edmundson Dickerson)
  • Inez Dickerson Bell (1926, daughter of Fred and Almeta Edmundson Dickerson)
  • Pauline Elizabeth Farmer Jones White (1925-2016, daughter of Paul and Cora Rountree Farmer)
  • Ernestine Elizabeth Floyd Goode (1925-1988, daughter of Ambrose and Mattie Moye Floyd)
  • Marjorie Foster Moore (1926-??)
  • Charles Eugene Freeman (1926-1960, son of Julius Jr. and Pattie Hagans Freeman)
  • Lula Mae Holiday Hill (1924-??, daughter of Wesley and Rosa Brown Holiday)
  • DeVeria Ann Jackson Turner Wing (1924-??, daughter of Benjamin and Annie Lee Farmer Jackson)
  • Classie Lillie Jones Jarman (1925-1993, daughter of Wash and Jessie Norfleet Staton)
  • Elbernice Jones
  • Annie Doris Joyner Kornegay Best (1925-??, daughter of Eddie and Annie Pearl Wynn Joyner)
  • Almeta Latham Farmer (1925-2017, daughter of James and Marzella Jones Latham)
  • Susie Gray Moody James (1925-1957, daughter of Charlie and Martha Jones Moody)
  • Hattie E. Morris
  • Emma Lee Moye (1925-1960, daughter of Fred and Fannie Bone Moye)
  • Margaret McNeil (1925-1976)
  • William Margolus Reid (1923-2001, son of Willie and Mary Galley Reid)
  • Olivia Deborah Roberson (1927-1990, daughter of Albert and Lela Worsley Roberson)
  • Coach Vernon Rogers (1925-1997, son of Millard and Maggie Williams Rogers)
  • Annie Doris Rountree Williams (1925-??, Wiley and Mary Barnes Rountree)
  • Erastus Speight
  • Hubert Odell Speight (1922-2009, son of Gray Edmundson and Christine Speight)
  • Mary Lou Spivey (1926-??, daughter of Henry and Mary Spivey)
  • Dorothy Elinor Stokes Whitehead (1925-2001, daughter of James and Viola Reese Stokes)
  • Clara B. Taylor (1924-??, daughter of Willie and Eva Taylor)
  • Mary Joyce Taylor Stokes Crisp (1926-2008, daughter of Roderick and Mary J. Pender Taylor)
  • Allen Williams
  • Argie Williams Boykin (1925-1974)
  • Callie Mae Williams Rountree
  • Augustine Wynn

 

Class of ’48.

From the Darden Alumni Center:

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First row: Elizabeth C. Edwards (1929-??, daughter of Rosa L. Edwards); Lenore McCoy; Annie Doris Battle; Merline Hussey Brooks; Trumiller Beatrice Wimberly; Henrietta Hines McIntosh (1927-??, daughter of Charlie and Eva Hines); Doris Vivian Smith; Pauline Lorine Coley Ellis (1928-??, daughter of Alonzo and Pauline McQueen Coley); Christine Margaret Snow.

Second row: James Douglass George (1926-??, son of Walter D. and Eunice George); Helen Grey Woodard Travis (1931-1999, John and Emilie Woodard); Doris Simms; Jean Orlmiller Gilchrist (daughter of Cannon and Ruth Norfleet Gilchrist); Mamie Ruth Ellis (1930-??, Oscar and Mamie Bynum Ellis); Daisy Hilda Winstead Hinnant Brooks (1928-1979, daughter of Sam and Mattie Pope Winstead); Mary Magdalene Knight Lathan (1930-2012), daughter of Johnnie and Gertrude Thomas Knight); Grace Emily Hodges Dunlap (1930-2008, daughter of Nathaniel and Bessie Sutton Hodges); Mary Frances Diggs Hargis (1930-1971, daughter of Edgar and Mary Grant Diggs); Agnes Marie Hoskins (1929-??, daughter of Lonnie and Gertrude Simms Hoskins); Ozie Lee Pender Hobbs (1928-2010, daughter of Albert and Mary Pender); Winford Lee Morgan (1931-2000, son of James and Addie Fisher Morgan).

Third row: Charles Seville Plater (1929, son of Simon T. and Ruth Jones Plater); Commillus Woodard (1928-1994, son of James and Geneva Powell Woodard); Charles Edward Hines (1929-??, son of Wesley and Lucy Ellis Hines); Freddy Blue (1927-??, son of Joe and Lula McNeal Blue); Willie Jones; James Melvin Barnes; William Taft Williams Jr.; Annie Miller Stokes (1930-??, daughter of James and Viola Reese Stokes).

Fourth row: Edwin Dawson; Wade Nicholas Lassiter (1928-??, son of Jesse C. and Lessie Dew Lassiter); Edward Kerphew Harris (1930-2007, son of Benjamin and Pauline Artis Harris); James Henry Spivey (1930-??, son of Henry and Mary Clarks Spivey); Beatrice Wendella McNeil Hines (1928-2007, daughter of Matthew and Ola Belle Jiggette McNeil); Jesse Adam Henderson (1929-2003, son of Hattie M. Henderson Ricks and Roderick Taylor Sr.); Ralph Cornell Gay (1928-1992, son of Albert and Annie Bell Jacobs Gay); James Nicholson Jr.; Leotis Reid (1926-2011, son of Oscar and Nora Artis Reid); Richard Lee Barnes; Walter Harold Canady; Nathaniel Webster Mewborn.

Darden High School’s Class of 1948 was the first to produce a yearbook. Here’s the senior section:

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