While in Wilson recently, I visited Eyes on Main Street Photography Festival‘s pop-up Children’s Gallery to view images shot by local children under the tutelage of EOMS’ fantastic staff. As ever, I was stunned by the beauty and lyricism these novice photographers captured in communities that some might think of as “gritty.” Each image was labeled with the name of its photographer, and I was arrested by this one: LONDYN WOODARD.
Wilson County is a place in which natives can still be readily identified by their surnames. Black or white, except for the ubiquitous Barneses, you can even make a good guess at the part of the county from which a family’s deep roots spring. Farmer, Ellis, Armstrong, Joyner, Bynum, Boykin, Rountree, Dew, all “Wilson names” — as is Woodard.
Most African-American Woodards in Wilson County descend from ancestors formerly enslaved by one of several white Woodard farmers who lived in the eastern half of the county. The most prominent African-American Woodard of the nineteenth century, whose name is memorialized in a 150 year-old church, was Primitive Baptist elder London Woodard. I don’t know if Londyn Woodard the young photographer is a descendant of London Woodard the preacher, but I smiled to see that his name, in variant, lives on in Black Wide-Awake.