Jim Crow

Segregation Chronicles.

Okay, Wide-Awake. I need testimony.

I’m starting a side project (working name: Segregation Chronicles) that will document the physical legacy of racial injustice in Wilson County. I was born in the waning days of legal segregation, and I haven’t lived here in almost 40 years, but I can reel off two dozen-plus sites that stand as mute testimony to trauma that continues to haunt us. I know y’all know more than I do, though, so I’m asking for your help. (Or your mama’s. Or your granddaddy’s.)

At which restaurants did we have to go around back for food? (Like Parker’s.) What theatres had separate entrances and black balconies? (Like the Drake.) What businesses had partitions in their sitting rooms — or whole separate sitting areas? (Like the train station.) Who wouldn’t let you eat at the lunch counter? Who had a colored water fountain (other than the county courthouse)? Where did the Klan rally? Where were German POWs allowed to rest, but your father was told to get his black ass up? Where was the black liquor house that had to pay off a white cop to sell white people liquor after midnight?

Please post here. Or email me at blackwideawake@gmail.com. Or let me know if you’d rather call. All responses from any source, black or white, appreciated. Thank you, and stay tuned. (Especially if you want to know what this photograph shows.)

UPDATE: Check out Segregation Chronicles here, blackwideawake.tumblr.com.

Dr. Ward challenged Jim Crow.

Indiana History Blog published Nicole Poletika’s detailed look at Dr. Joseph H. Ward‘s role in challenging segregation as the head of Tuskegee, Alabama’s Veterans Hospital No. 91 in the 1920s and ’30s.

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Dr. Ward is on the front row, center (next to the nurse) in this 1933 photograph of Veterans Hospital staff.  Photo courtesy of VA History Highlights, “First African American Hospital Director in VA History,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For more on Dr. Ward, who was born in Wilson about 1869, see here and here and here and here and here.

[Sidenote: Dr. Ward was not born to “impoverished parents” per the article, though it is possible that he himself gave this gloss on his early life. Rather, his father was Napoleon Hagans, a prosperous freeborn farmer in nearby Wayne County, and his mother was Mittie Ward, a young freedwoman whose family moved into town after Emancipation from the plantation of Dr. David G.W. Ward near Stantonsburg.]

Hat tip to Zella Palmer for pointing me to this article. She is Dr. Ward’s great-granddaughter, and they are my cousins.

Protests Jim-Crow; jailed.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 5 February 1938.

WILSON, N.C., Feb. 3 — Sidney Ingram of this city, was nabbed by Federal Agents Friday after writing protest letters to the Presidents of  the Norfolk, Southern and Seaboard Airline railways over Jim Crow treatment while traveling.

He told operatives he bought a ticket from Wilson to Bailey, was told to get on Greenville train, then put off mile from Wilson station. His letters signed “David Ingram.” Not threatening but asked aid in getting “just calls” from railroad. Ingram was released after investigation.

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Two years later, Sidney Ingram was counted in the 1940 census among the “inmates” housed at the notorious Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum for Negroes.

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1940 census, Fork township, Wayne County, North Carolina.

He spent the remainder of his life institutionalized and died at the state hospital in 1954. His death certificate notes that he was a New Jersey native, that he was married, that his usual residence was Wilson County, and that he had been at the asylum for 15 years, three months and 16 days. He died of bladder cancer and “insanity,” and his body was sent “to Chapel Hill to be used by Anatomical Board.”

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Thus passed one of Wilson’s earliest civil rights activists.

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If you are interested in the world of the Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum, please read Susan Burch and Hannah Joyner’s Unspeakable, the story of Junius Wilson (1908-2001), a deaf African-American man who spent 76 years there, including six in the criminal ward, though he had never been declared insane by a medical professional or found guilty of any criminal charge.