Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell gives lecture.

Add Mary Church Terrell to the surprising list of nationally prominent African-Americans with speaking engagements in Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 April 1925.

This notice of Terrell’s appearance is curious. “Half the proceeds for the benefit of the Kenan Street school”? The Kenan Street School, later known as Frederick A. Woodard School, was a white-only elementary school. Why would Terrell, an activist for civil rights and women’s causes (and, especially, their intersection), appear at such a benefit?

Wilson Daily Times, 15 April 1925.

A companion piece penned by J.D. Reid, principal of Wilson’s Colored Graded School, named a different beneficiary — the County Commencement of the Colored Schools, which were to be held at Banner Warehouse in downtown Wilson. “Prof. J.L. Cooke” — Jerry L. Cooke, who was not a professor at all, but a railway postal clerk — was in charge of the local entertainment, which included James Weldon Johnson’s poem “O Southland!” and a selection of Negro spirituals. The ever-popular Excelsior Band was also on the bill.

Terrell around the time she visited Wilson. Photo courtesy of “You Can’t Keep Her Out”: Mary┬áChurch Terrell’s Fight for Equality in America, http://www.americanfeminisms.org.

Clippings courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.