historical marker

Historical markers installed.

The pandemic has iced plans for formal unveilings, but Wilson County Historical Association carried through with the installation of four markers commemorating Black people, places, and events who left outsized impressions in Wilson’s history. Please look for the four — Dr. Frank S. HargraveCharles H. Darden, Operation Dixie, and the Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute — in East Wilson as part of your Black History Month activities.

I’m honored to have been asked to collaborate with W.C.H.A. on the selection of subjects for the 2020 markers, and I appreciate the Association’s commitment to telling the stories of all of Wilson.

Three cheers for Grant Goings.

“Wilson City Manager Grant Goings explained to council members Thursday night how the city became involved in removing Josephus Daniels’ historical marker earlier that day.

“Goings said he ordered the marker removed after the Daniels family settled the issue for him earlier in the week. Daniels’ relatives removed his Raleigh statute, citing his indefensible positions on race. Goings said the Cox-Corbett Historical Association and the Wilson County Historical Association had disagreements about Daniels’ history. One wanted it removed; the other did not. No compromise could be reached, and the debate regarding the marker lingered until Thursday when Goings made the decision.

“’Wilson is fortunate to have two historical societies,’ Goings said in a Friday statement to The Wilson Times. ‘In this case, there was respectable disagreement between the two about the history of Josephus Daniels. The family’s statement cleared that confusion, and the right thing to do was remove the marker as soon as possible.’”

Goings’ unilateral decision was absolutely the right thing to do, but took some backbone in Wilson. I recognize and honor his resolute matter-of-factness in getting this job done.

For the complete Wilson Times article re Goings’ decision, see here.

Wilson’s own.

This historical marker stands in the same block as the Wilson County Courthouse. It honors Josephus Daniels, who was everything listed on this innocuous plaque. And quite a bit more. After cutting his teeth at the casually racist Wilson Advance, in 1894 Daniels acquired a controlling interest in the Raleigh News & Observer and turned the paper into a blaring trumpet for white supremacy. From his bully pulpit, Daniels lobbied for the passage in 1900 of laws disenfranchising most African-Americans, a move that effectively excised them from political power until deep into the Civil Rights era. And in 2006, the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission‘s final report noted that Daniels’ involvement in the overthrow of the elected city government of Wilmington, North Carolina, by whipping white supremacists to a froth via The News and Observer‘s editorials and cartoons, was so significant that some consider him the “precipitator of the riot.” Nonetheless, Daniels is deemed worthy of prominent honor, and his marker elides his role in the oppression of a third of North Carolina’s population — and nearly half that of his home county.

On 11 January 2018, the Cox-Corbett Historical Society, Wilson County Historical Association, and other groups will sponsor a community viewing of “Wilmington on Fire,” a documentary film about the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, an event cited as the only instance in United States history of the organized seizure and overthrow of a democratically elected municipal government.  The showing is scheduled for 6:30 P.M. at the Edna Boykin Cultural Center in downtown Wilson. For a fuller understanding of Josephus Daniels’ shady legacy, please consider attending.

A good day.

Yesterday, I attended the dedication by Wilson County Historical Association of an historical marker commemorating the establishment of Wilson Hospital and Tubercular Home, later known as Mercy Hospital. For much of the 20th century, Mercy was the only hospital open to African Americans in northeastern North Carolina. I was born there in its final months of operation.

A little later, I made a presentation about this blog to Association members at the group’s annual meeting.

It was a good day.

Shouts out to Perry Morrison of W.C.H.A. for spearheading the effort to establish the marker, and to Barbara Blackston and Wilson Community Improvement Association for their excellent stewardship of this building.

[John Mack Barnes, who lived next door, built this hospital as well as Saint John A.M.E. Zion and other fine brick buildings in Wilson. He was partial to this dark red brick and white marble cornerstone combination. See here.]