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.
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.