This remarkable framed portrait depicts Rev. Daniels as a young preacher, circa late 1920s or early 1930s. [In my years of searching for and collecting early 20th-century African-American photographic portraits, I have never seen one like this. I fervently hope that this one is safe somewhere with the Daniels family.]
Below, Rev. Daniels’ house at 908 Wainwright Avenue. Just visible behind it, at left, is the building that housed her Golden Rule kindergarten. It has been demolished. Rev. Daniels’ house is now empty and boarded up, and the boxwood hedge, ornamental tree, and small front garden have been ripped out.
The view from Rev. Daniels’ porch toward a line of endways (“shotgun”) houses on the south end of Vick Street. The houses were originally on South East Street. In the early 1970s, when Wiggins Street was eliminated for the extension of Hines Street across newly built Renfro Bridge, East was cut off from Hines by a barricade, and the continuation of Vick across Hines was slightly rerouted. Only three of the endways remain — on the Hines end of the block. All have been renovated within the last twenty or so years.
Dr. Judy Wellington Rashid shares this excerpt, adapted for Black Wide-Awake, from her My Neighborhood Legacy Series: A Salute to the Educational Leadership of Rev. Hattie Louvenia Owens Daniels, Founder and Director of the Golden Rule Kindergarten 1944-1972 Wilson, NC.” Though it recalls a period after BWA’s focus, it offers a close look at the warm, rich experience that would have been familiar to children who attended Golden Rule earlier.
Dr. Rashid’s parents, Levi and Cora Greene Wellington, lived on Manchester Street from 1946 to 1978. Between 1957 and 1966, she and two of her siblings attended Rev. Hattie Daniels‘ Golden Rule Kindergarten at 908 Wainwright Street, just a block from their home.
Each morning, a family member dropped the children off at the front door of the house. As they entered the living room, Rev. Daniels and her daughter Deborah Ruth Daniels, greeted each child by name with a warm and welcoming “Good morning!” Once all the children had arrived, they stood together and responded in song — “Good morning to you!, Good morning to you!, We’re all in our places, with bright shiny faces, and how do you do? How do you do?” The Danielses asked each child how they were doing and if they had eaten breakfast. If they had not eaten at home, they were fed at no charge. The children then lined up as a group and marched out the back door to the school, a long building located to the left rear of the backyard. The remaining yard was the playground. Everything they learned was recited in song and rhyme — the alphabet, numbers, sight words, etc. Rev. Daniels rang a big hand bell to begin their daily recitations of the lessons they learned, to get their attention, or to signal a change in activity.
Throughout the school day, children formed a neat line for everything, including forays into the public. They marched everywhere, always staying in a neat line and looking straight ahead. Golden Rule’s children took field trips to sing on a local radio program, to the county fair, and the Wilson Christmas parade. Each year, they walked from the school to downtown Wilson to sing Christmas carols on the county courthouse steps. Rev. Daniels led the line of students while her daughter walked behind. Rev. Daniels’ students were known to have manners.
Judy Wellington Rashid graduated from Wilson’s R.L. Fike High School in 1970, completed college, and became a teacher. During her first few years teaching, she began to reflect on the invaluable academic lessons, respect for education, and order and discipline she received at the Golden Rule kindergarten. Shortly becoming a principal in 1977, she visited Rev. Daniels in her home. The old school building was still standing but not usable. Dr. Rashid went to thank Rev. Daniels for the great foundation that she had provided her in kindergarten. She also wanted to know if Rev. Daniels still had a book that she had used to teach her students, and indeed she did.
Rev. Hattie Daniels with a copy of Lillian Moore’s A Child’s First Picture Dictionary, first published in 1948.
On a 2004 visit to Wilson, Dr. Rashid noticed Deborah Daniels and another woman sitting on the porch of 908 Wainwright. Daniels recognized her, and they shared laughter over seeing each other again after so many years. Lillian Francis Lucas introduced herself and said she moved from Wiggins Street to the house next door to 908 Wainwright “when the highway came through.” She said she had come over to clean house and “wait on” Rev. Daniels. She remembered that “there were 60 students at the school at one time or the other,” aged three to five years. She also remembered that the school day would start around 5 or 6 A.M. and last until 5 or 6 P.M.
Rev. Daniels’ Wainwright Street home at left, a rental property she owned at middle, and the church she pastored at right.
Deborah Daniels’ chimed in: “my mother housed, clothed, fed, and took care of me from Elvie School, Catholic School, Sallie Barbour School, to Darden High School”. Dr. Rashid closes: “May God forever bless the educational legacy of Rev. Hattie Daniels and her daughter Deborah Ruth Daniels.”
Golden Rule kindergarten in 1964. The Wilson Daily Times printed the photo, submitted by James Boyette, in its 9 July 2002 edition.
November is Black Catholic History Month. Accordingly, I offer these images of a 1949 kindergarten graduation celebration at Saint Alphonsus Catholic School captured by Wilson’s preeminent 20th century photographers Charles Raines and Guy Cox. Do you recognize any of the children?
Many thanks to John Teel for sharing these images from the Raines & Cox collection of photographs at the North Carolina State Archives. They are catalogued as PhC_196_CW_1211H _StAlphonsusGraduation1 through 10.
Gratitude to Safiya Bandele for identifying the children in photos 5 and 8.
Rev. Hattie Daniels‘ legacy continues. She began teaching neighborhood children “the Golden Rule” in the mid-1940s. Nearly 75 years later, the Daycare Center bearing her name yet educates East Wilson’s children.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 207 Reid Street, owned and valued at $1600, Cleverland Daniels, 33, light plant fireman, and wife Hattie, 29, both born in Georgia; niece Christine Owens, 8, and nephew Filman Owens, 4.
in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Cleveland Daniel, 40, fireman at city plant; wife Hattie, 38, saleswoman; and father-in-law Mack Owens, 60, farm laborer. All were born in Georgia.
Per her death certificate, Hattie Owens Daniels died 25 April 1979; was born 4 July 1900 in Chester, Georgia, to Mack Owens and Mary Gardner; was a widow; resided at 908 Wainwright Avenue, Wilson; and was a minister and kindergarten teacher. Daughter Deborah Daniels was informant.
Hattie Daniels’ Golden Rule Kindergarten, 1970. Photo courtesy of Ernie Haskins (first row in chairs, far right.)