Georgia Burke was not, of course, a “girl.” She was close to 50 years old in 1944. Burke was one of eleven African-American teachers who resigned to protest the slapping of teacher Mary C. Euell by school superintendent Charles L. Coon and the disrespect shown them by Colored Graded School principalJ.D. Reid. With the others, Burke resumed teaching at the privately funded Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute, the institution referred to above as Wilson Training School for Negroes. For more about Burke, see here and here, and about the Normal and Industrial school, see here. For more about the talented Hartford C. Bess, see here.
Fresh off serving thirty days on a chain gang for being homeless, 16 year-old Odie Williams showed up in court on larceny charges in his dandy finest — knee pants, black silk stockings, white slippers with rubber bottoms (sneakers?) — received his one-year sentence … and escaped.
Beyond his clothes, Williams’ description is poetic — “slick and neat,” white teeth, “medium dark ginger cake complexion,” and “mouth shaped like the rim of a jug” (whatever that may be.) I don’t know if he was ever caught. I sincerely hope he wasn’t.
In the 1910 census of Minish township, Jackson township, Georgia: farmer Ed Craddock, 32; wife Elizabeth, 27; and children Fred, 8, Besy, 6, Rosalee, 4, May L., 2, and Patt, 10 months.
In the 1920 census of Harrisburg township, Jackson County, Georgia: farmer Edward Craddock, 42; wife Eltha E., 38; and children Frederick, 18, Bessie, 16, Rosa L., 14, Mary L,, 12, Patrick, 10, Ruby, 8, John A. and Allie, 6, Christine, 3, and Eddie, 1.
John McKoy, 27, of Red Springs, married Rosa Craddock, 18, of Red Springs, on 18 December 1923 in Hoke County, North Carolina.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John McCoy, 29, guano company laborer; wife Rosa, 25, laundress; and children James, 5, Dorris, 3, and Pearl Mae, 1; and sister Sarah, 31. Rosa reported that she was born in Georgia.
In the 1940 census of Faison township, Duplin County: farmer John McKoy, 40; wife Rosie, 36; and children James, 15, Dorothy, 13, Pearlie Mae, 12, Sarah Lee, 11; Horlina, 8; Bettie and Barbara, 6, Geraldine, 2, and B.C., 2 months.
Rosa Craddock McCoy died 29 November 2012 in Middlesex, Nash County.
On 16 November 1917, Robert Brown, 22, married Mahalia Pool, 19, in Wilson County.
In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Robert Brown, 37; wife Hallie, 31; and children Arthur, 15, Charlie, 4, and Lucille, 1.
In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Robert Brown, 34; wife Hallie, 23; and children Arthur, 5, Frank, 14, Lucille, 11, Robert Jr., 9, Joseph, 8, Valentine, 5, Paul, 2, and Phillip A., 9 months.
In the 1940 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Robert Brown, 50; wife Mahalie, 41; and children Robert Jr., 20, Joseph, 18, Valentine, 15, Paul, 13, Phillip, 11, and George Deal, 8.
Robert Brown died 11 September 1975 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 January 1893 in Georgia to Mae Ella Williams; was married to Mahalia Poole Brown; lived at 1901 Lipscomb Road; and had been a farmer.
In November 1938, Isaac Isler filed suit in county court against three police officers for false arrest and injuries sustained during a beating in his home. As set forth in the Daily Times on the 12th, Isler’s suit alleged that the officers had entered unannounced and, when he asked for their warrant, began pistol-whipping and beating him with the black jacks, seriously injuring his eye.
On 26 April 1939, the Daily Times detailed the testimony at trial. Dr. T.N. Blackshear testified that Isaac Isler’s eye trouble was caused by red pepper concealed in a handkerchief that Isler rubbed in his eye during his examination. Jailer S.G. Gunter testified that on 3 June 1938, when Isler was jailed, he had not complained of injury, and Gunter had seen no blood on him. Detective Philemon Ray Hartis swore that he had entered the house in search of boys wanted for attacking another Negro. “I fell on the ground and I saw Isler’s wife coming toward me with an iron poker, and his son with a lawn mower handle. And I took out my black jack and lightly tapped him over the head so I could get up.” Chief of Police Clyde Preston Hocutt testified that he had taken the poker from Isler’s wife, and the boy with the lawn mower handle had thrown it down and run away. He denied touching Hocutt. When Isler took the stand, he testified that the three officers had come to his house “looking for some boys or my sons.” He said he was not sure which man had beaten him and only recognized them by their voices. Isler was totally blind “except for a little shade of light.” He had lost the vision of his right eye in World War I and most in his left eye since the beating. Isler’s wife Vivie Isler testified that the police were looking for boys who allegedly beat a man and stole his mule, and Officer L.C. Cooper had beaten her husband with the butt of his gun and Hocutt, with his fist. Isler’s son R.D. Isler, who was one of the boys sought, testified similarly to his parents. Dr. Joe Carr testified that he did not recall treating Isler for head wounds, but hospital records show he was treated for head lacerations.
I have not found a report of the outcome of the trial, but I am fairly confident that the judgment was against Isler.
” … [Chief Privette’s] knowledge pretty much ended at the edge of “n*ggertown,” into which he rarely ventured. The job of following what was happening across the tracts fell mainly to Detective Ray Hartis. He was a concrete block of a man, five feet, eleven inches and 200 pounds, with a large head covered with bristly graying hair. He had thick eyebrows, cold gray eyes, red cheeks, and a large pickle of a nose lined with tiny red tributaries — marks of the hard drinker that he was. He was about forty, married but childless, a longtime cop who carried a .38 Smith and Wesson pistol on his hip, and a blackjack in his rear right pocket. …
“He was a loner with the harsh and unapproachable manner of a bitter and disappointed man, disdainful of and not well liked by his fellow cops.
” … we’d cruise back through town and across the Atlantic Coast Line tracks into the little colored business district, only two blocks long. Ray would slow the car down to a crawl, and as we went along, silence would fall over the little knots of black men laughing and talking on the street.
“One sultry night as we cruised the alleys, Ray suddenly stopped the car in front of a shotgun shack and got out.
” ‘Where you going, Ray?’ I asked.
” ‘I heard this son-of-a-bitch is a member of the N-Double-Fuckin’-A-C-P,’ he said. … Suddenly a gray-haired old black man appeared out of the back room rubbing his eyes and pulling on a pair of overalls over his bare shoulders.
” ‘Whatcha doin’, Mistuh Hottis? You got a search warrant?’ he said.
“Ray turned, his face all red, lunged at the black man and slapped him hard across the cheek. Down the old man went on his back to the floor, and Ray said, ‘That’s one side of my goddamned search warrant. You wanna see the other one?'”
In 1917, Isaac Isler Jr. registered for the World War I draft in Lenoir County, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 11 April 1890 in Georgia; lived in LaGrange, N.C.; farmed for A.T. Rouse of LaGrange; and was single.
On 19 December 1918, Isaac Isler, 28, of Lenoir, son of Isaac and Laura Isler, married Tildy Ann Exum, 18, of Lenoir, in Moseley Hall, Lenoir County, North Carolina.
In the 1920 census of Moseley Hall township, Lenoir County, North Carolina: farmer Isaac Isler, 30, and wife Matilda, 17.
Rufus Isler, aged 20 days, died 11 June 1931 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born in Wilson County to Isaac Isler of Atlanta, Georgia, and Matilda Exum of Wayne County, N.C., and resided at 803 Evans Street, Wilson.
On 11 February 1934, Isaac Isler, 42, son of Isaac Isler and Mollie [unknown], married Hellen Richardson, 28, daughter of Eddie James and Mary J. Abraham, in Wilson. Rev. C.B. Ham, “an ordane minister of the United Holey Church,” performed the ceremony in the presence of Joe James, Mary Abraham, and Jannie James.
Matilda Isler died 2 June 1936. Per her death certificate, she was 24 years old; was married to Isaac Isler; was born in Wayne County, N.C., to Henry Exum of Greene County, N.C., and Harriett Best of Wayne County; was engaged in farming; and was buried in a family cemetery in LaGrange, N.C. Her cause of death? “Probably puerperal sepsis. Saw her once with midwife — She was dying at that time — Baby 10 days old.”
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 510 Hadley Street, Isaac Isley, 46; wife Vivien, 29; and children Charlie, 20, Aron, 19, R.D., 16, Richard, 15, Moses, 10, and Herbert, 9. Isaac had no occupation listed.
On 25 November 1941, Charlie Cleveland Isler, 21, born in Lenoir County, N.C., to Iasiat Isler and Matilda Exon, residing in Norfolk, Virginia, married Naomi Ruth Sutton, 20, of Bertie County, in Norfolk.
In 1942, Aaron Isler registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 28 August 1921 in Wayne County; resided at 510 New Bern Street, Wilson; his contact was Isaac Isler of the same address; and he worked for N.M. Schaum, Acme Candy Company, 904 West Nash Street.
In 1942, Robert Isler registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 26 December 1924 in LaGrange, N.C.; resided at 510 New Bern Street, Wilson; his contact was Isaac Isler of the same address; and he was a student at Darden High School.
In 1942, Richard J. Isler registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 5 May 1925 in Wilson County.; resided at 510 New Bern Street, Wilson; his contact was Isaac Isler of the same address; and he was unemployed.
Isaac Isler died 19 February 1968 and was buried in Wilson’s Rest Haven cemetery.
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.)
In the 1880 census of Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia: at 518 West Broad, laborer Green Lovett, 28; wife Julia, 30; and children Almus, 5, Mary, 3, and Floyd, 1.
In the 1900 census of Chesapeake District, Elizabeth County, Virginia: at Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute, Almus A. Lovett, 25, student, born in Georgia.
Third-Year Trade School Students, Catalogue of Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute, Hampton, Virginia 1902-1903.
Lovette appears in Savannah city directories between 1904 and 1913 at various addresses and working as blacksmith, post office carrier, and driver. [Which begs the question of which years he taught in Greensboro.]
On 6 July 1908, Almus A. Lovett and Letitia H. Jones, both 33, were married in Savannah, Georgia.
Almus Ashton Lovette registered for the World War I draft in Wilson on 12 September 1918. Per his registration card, he resided at 415 Stantonsburg Street; was born 8 April 1876; worked as a horseshoer for G.T. Purvis, 212 Tarboro Street; and his nearest relative was Letitia H. Lovette.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Almus Lovett, 42, blacksmith in shop, and wife Letitia, 43, seamstress.
In the 1930 Wilson city directory: Lovett Almus A (c) (Letitia H) horseshoer Stallings & Riley h 301 N. Vick.
Almus Ashton Lovett died 5 November 1938 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 7 April 1877 in Sylvania, Georgia to Green Lovett; resided at 301 North Vick Street; was married to Letitia Lovett; and worked as a blacksmith at a repair ship. Letitia Lovett was informant.
Letitia Lovette Fisher died 1 November 1969 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 January 1876 in Georgia to Franklin Jones and an unknown mother; had worked as a teacher and seamstress; resided at 301 North Vick; and was married to Edwin D. Fisher, who served as informant.
In the 1930 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farm laborer Taylor Young, 50, and wife Everlina, 28.
In the 1940 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Taylor Young, 58, wife Everleen, 30; daughter Agnes Young, 27; and lodger Freddy Wilson, 15.
Taylor O. Young died 29 October 1949. Per his death certificate, he resided on Route 1, Wilson; was married to Evelyn Young; was born in April 1885 in Blackshear, Georgia, to Madison Young and an unknown mother; and worked as a farmer.
In the late summer of 1922, the New York Age‘s Wilson correspondent included this short snippet in her report of Black Wide-Awake’s social swirl:
New York Age, 9 September 1922.
The Battle sisters, teacher Georgia Burke and nurse Henrietta Colvert were neighbors as well as travel companions. In the 1920 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: at 330 South Spring Street, Henrietta Colvert is listed as a boarder in the household of widow Nannie Best, 61, and her extended family Frank, 30, Aaron, 21, Estelle, 19, and Harper Best, 65. Next door, at 332: widow Ella Battle, 52, and her children Grace [Glace], 27, teacher Roberta, 29, tobacco worker John, 25, and Olga Battle, 11, shared their home with boarders Georgia Burks, 25, a Georgia-born teacher, and chauffeur Theodore Speight, 17; and roomers William Phillips, 35, a dentist, and his wife Jewel, 23.
Burke taught in Wilson for at least ten years. In April 1918, she was one of eleven African-American teachers who resigned to protest the slapping of a black teacher by school superintendent Charles L. Coon and the disrespect shown them by Colored Graded School principal J.D. Reid. With the others, Burke resumed teaching at the privately funded Wilson Independent School. (More about this infamous and revolutionary incident soon.)
In 1928, while taking a summer course at Columbia, she sang a few songs while attending a rehearsal for “Blackbirds of 1928.” Hired for the choir, she took a year’s leave of absence from teaching. She never returned.
The Afro-American, 6 May 1944.
New York Age, 26 March 1949.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 March 1953.
“Georgia Burke, 107, Acted Character Roles.”
Georgia Burke, an actress who played character roles on Broadway from the 1920’s until her retirement in the 1960’s, died in the De Witt Nursing Home in Manhattan last Thursday. According to the records of the Actors Fund of America, she was 107 years old.
Miss Burke appeared on Broadway in “The Grass Harp,” “The Wisteria Trees,” “No Time for Comedy,” “Mamba’s Daughters,” “They Shall Not Die,” “Anna Lucasta,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Cabin in the Sky,” “Mandingo” and “Decision,” for which she won the Donaldson Award in 1944.
Born on Feb. 27, 1878, in La Grange, Ga., Miss Burke studied at Claflin University in Orangeburg, S. C., and taught fourth grade for six years.
In 1929, she came to New York to take a summer course at Columbia University. At the time a black choir was being assembled for ”Blackbirds” on Broadway. A friend persuaded her to audition. She sang ”St. Louis Blues” and was hired on the spot and she left teaching to pursue an acting career.
In addition, Miss Burke appeared on radio and television serials. For five years before and during World War II, she played the role of a nurse in ”When a Girl Marries.” There are no known survivors. A service, sponsored by the Actors Fund, will be held at noon tomorrow at the Walter B. Cooke Funeral Home, 1504 Third Avenue. — New York Times, 4 December 1985.
Georgia Burke in “Anna Lucasta,” New York Age, 28 February 1959.