Records show that Bruce Brown rarely used his first two initials, B.K. What was the source of his unusual name?
Born into slavery in Prince Edward County, Virginia, in 1841, Blanche Kelso Bruce, known as B.K. Bruce, was the first African-American to serve a full term in the United States Senate, representing Mississippi from 1875 to 1881. He died in 1898.
[Sidenote: B.K. Bruce Brown was not alone. My cousin Blancher K. Aldridge was born in nearby Fremont, Wayne County, in about 1893. Bekay Thompson was born in Wilson County in 1930.]
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.
Wilson Advance, 7 May 1891.
In 1891, the Advance and the Tarboro Southerner ran a contest for longest name. In this round, the Advance proffered that of an eight year-old girl living on James Woodard’s large farm — Nina Ann Elizabeth Sarah Eliza Jane Monora Carrie Mabel Virginia Bethella Woodard.
Perhaps: on 3 June 1917, Nina Woodard, 30, of Saratoga, daughter of Louis Brooks and Sue Woodard, married Adam Carter, 21, of Saratoga, son of Stephen and Hattie Carter. H.H. Sanders, Missionary Baptist minister performed the ceremony at “the church in Saratoga” in the presence of Ernest May and Jessie Darden of Saratoga and William Pierce of Wilson.
Wilson Advance, 17 March 1892.
Possibly, in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: living on Green Street, servant Kate Knight, 24, and daughter Sarah, 4.