Happy New Year, part 2!

My deep appreciation to all who supported Black Wide-Awake in 2022 through likes, comments, contributions, corrections, shout-outs, and shares. It was another tough year; this time because we lost my beloved father, my most immediate link to the world I chronicle here. I leaned heavily into the blog as a distraction at times, and as ever drew comfort and encouragement from the ancestors I met.

For more than 50 years, Wilson’s African-American community celebrated Emancipation Day on January 1st, the day the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863. People gathered to hear speeches, poetry and musical performances and to enjoy communal meals, celebrations that perhaps wiped away bitter memories of slavery-time hiring days.

In honor of all whose journey to freedom began 160 years ago today, Black Wide-Awake wishes you a happy New Year!


Some 2022 stats:

  785 posts

 209,498 views (an increase of 16% from 2021)

87,227 visitors (an increase of 15% and hailing from 142 countries and territories)


Top 5 most popular posts:

Registered nurses (posted 2018).

Studio shots, no. 90: Edna E. Gaston (2018).

Groom killed an hour after marriage.

William Barnes plantation (2017).

Strung from a tree and shot to death (2016).


Some of my faves (in no order):

Ed Mitchell’s barbeque.

Railroad section crew in Stantonsburg.

The 100 and 200 blocks of South Pender Street.

The murder of Brother Carey C. Hill.

Stone workers strike near Sims.

Peaceful Valley Lodge No. 272, Knights of Pythias.

The pitmasters of Dixie Inn.

Studio shot, no. 197: The Henderson-Taylor family.

Parker refuses to give up his seat on the bus.

Lane Street Project: seek and ye shall find.

Honored. Humbled.

The mystery of Julia Boyette Bailey’s grave.

Cancelled stamp in collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Lane Street Project: an anniversary.

Look what popped up in my Facebook Memories today:

I’ll confess it, y’all. My expectations were pretty low. I’d issued hopeful calls like this before and had ended up poking around by myself for a frigid hour or two. Maybe, though, something about that first pandemic year we’d just been through made this appeal just hit different.

A dozen people showed up. (Even from out of town.) And a newspaper reporter. And before you knew it, Sam Vick‘s headstone emerged from the soil like a benediction, and Lane Street Project moved from wishful thinking to purposeful action.

A year later, and Vick Cemetery is on its way to re-recognition as a public cemetery. Odd Fellows has backslid a bit toward wilderness, but you can actually get in it without a machete. Rountree — well, we’ll get there. 

Most importantly, a beautiful, organic, multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-generational coalition of Wilsonians and friends came together, bringing tools and time and energy to the reclamation of these sacred spaces. 

I’ve thanked you for this work, and I’ll thank you often and forever.

And in advance.

Lane Street Project Season 2 kicks off in January 2022 during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. If you or your church or your civic organization or your children or your co-workers or your cousins are looking for a way to be of service, a way to make a difference, please join us. Many hands make light work.

The why of Black Wide-Awake, no. 2.

Carolyn Maye, a generous contributor of photographs to Black Wide-Awake, made it to Imagination Station on closing day to see Say Their Names. The exhibit included among its displayed documents a copy of the obituary of her formerly enslaved great-great-grandmother, Jane Rountree Mobley.

She brought with her Skylar, the youngest of Jane Mobley’s great-great-great-great-granddaughters.

Thank you, Carolyn, for affirming the purpose of Black Wide-Awake. Your determination to get to Wilson, despite a pandemic, and to introduce Skylar to Jane Mobley, both humbles and inspires me. She will never believe, as so many of us have, that the lives of her ancestors passed unknown and unknowable.

Lane Street Project: three months in.

On 13 December 2020, I posted this:

Frankly, I didn’t expect much. I’d made similar appeals before and then spent hours tangled up in briers by myself. December 15, 2020, though, was different. Despite cold weather and Covid-19, a dozen people (and, critically, a newspaper reporter) came with pruners and rakes and surgical masks — and Lane Street Project stepped into its purpose. We’re still feeling our way to long-range plans, but short-term we’re exceeding my wildest dreams.

What Lane Street Project has done in three months:

  • Developed a fantastic core team of volunteers responsible for planning, promoting, supplying, and managing bimonthly clean-ups at Odd Fellows Cemetery, as well as strategizing about ways to encourage community engagement in the reclamation of these historic African-American spaces
  • Conducted two informal and five planned clean-ups at Odd Fellows Cemetery with a multi-ethnic, multi-generational crew of enthusiastic, hardworking volunteers
  • Built a tool bank for volunteer use during clean-ups
  • Recovered the gravesite of educator, businessman and community leader Samuel H. Vick; cleared the grave of Red Hot Hose Company chief Benjamin Mincey; and named and reclaimed the gravesites of 22 more individuals (bringing the total at Odd Fellows to 76), for which we maintain a detailed spreadsheet 
  • Developed relationships with established organizations doing similar work in African-American cemeteries across the Southeast 
  • Developed relationships with allies in local government, business, and the faith community, as well as individuals willing to invest time and talent to our efforts to preserve and protect the historic burial grounds of thousands of Wilson’s African-Americans
  • Begun to map the locations of graves at the site
  • Developed a plan for responsible defoliation of invasive plant species in Odd Fellows cemetery 

We’ve accomplished a lot in three months, but there is so much more to be done. Thanks so much to those who have supported us with gifts of labor, tools, coins, cheerleading, signal-boosting, and prayer. Please continue to do so! Follow us on Instagram at @lanestreetproject; join us on Facebook at Lane Street Project; reach out to us at In the coming months, we’ll be broadening our focus from clean-up to documentation and restoration, and we will need your help at every step. 

Photo of Corp. Willie Gay’s headstone courtesy of Drew C. Wilson.

Lane Street Project: a conversation (and a word.)

In conversation with Brittany Daniel about what the Lane Street Project is and what to expect at this weekend’s clean-up kick-off:

And, on the eve of the kick-off, a heartfelt shout-out to my Lane Street Project team, my boots on the ground. In less than a month, they’ve adopted this project as their own and are literally making my dreams for the LSP come true. This multigenerational crew is pouring into the project critical new perspectives and talents, and I’m so grateful to and for Joyah Bulluck, Portia Newman, Craig Barnes Jr., Brittany Daniel, Castonoble Hooks, LaMonique Hamilton, John Woodard, Charles Jones, and Raven Farmer. (Look at all those good “Wilson names” in the bunch!)