National Day of Service

Lane Street Project: “Reclaiming Wilson’s history: Volunteers clean historic Black cemetery.”

Many thanks to Olivia Neeley and Wilson Times for this wonderful coverage of Lane Street Project’s Martin Luther King, Jr., National Day of Service clean-up event.

Wilson Times, 19 January 2021.


Lane Street Project: Clean-Up Kick-Off Day 1.

I’m just gon step out the way and let the folk who were there today testify:

  • Brittany Daniel

“A HUGE shoutout to everyone who came out today in the cold to support Lane Street Project!!!! We have accomplished so much in so little time! If you couldn’t come out today, please come out Monday 9-11 or 12-2!”

  • Jocelyn Drawhorn

“In case you needed a dose of good news for the weekend, please check out the work Lane Street Project is doing. Today has been a continuum of restoring and rediscovering the rich history of African Americans in the city of Wilson, NC. So many stories are just WAITING to be told! If you are interested in what is happening, join the group today to stay up to date on clean ups, restoration projects, and more! Thanks to the dedicated Lisa Y. Henderson, we ALL have a chance to uncover true black excellence.”

  • Jane Cooke Hawthorne

“So this is a long story, but I’m standing in the takeout line at Parkers BBQ in Wilson, N.C., so I’ll have time to tell it. Today I participated in the Lane Street Project, which is a new effort to clean, reclaim and repair 3 black cemeteries in Wilson. The first was a city-owned cemetery that was neglected until the city decided that they would raze, yes raze!!!, all the tombstones there and erect one large monument. There are estimated to be approximately 2000 black bodies in this cemetery. No names have been identified and the tombstones were destroyed. Makes me sick to think about.

“We worked instead in the Odd Fellows Cemetery which was once owned by a fraternal organization that disbanded, and this cemetery also fell into neglect. The cemetery is covered in thick wisteria vines and briars but some daffodils and other typical cemetery plantings endure. The headstones are buried under leaves and often broken. We worked to carefully clear these stones of brambles and vines and cleaned them with a soft brush and water. We then flagged them and took photos.

Samuel Vick, one of the wealthiest black land owners in possibly the state of N.C. of his time is buried here. Many streets in Wilson were named for his family members and Vick School was named for him. I found a grave for a man who fought in the Spanish American War and other beautiful stones for men and women.

“I was so impressed by the young people that I met who came out to work. Please go out there on Monday if you are from Wilson. They are working again on MLK Day. This effort is being spearheaded by Lisa Y. Henderson, who, among many other wonderful things, writes the blog Black Wide Awake. Her blog is a treasure trove of African American history. In addition, she has started the Facebook page, Lane Street Project, where you can find out all you need to know about this project.

“Why did I go today? 1) I love a great old cemetery, 2) I love being outside, 3) because my history is richer when I know ALL facets of the history of my hometown, and 4) and certainly not least, because black lives matter to me.

“There is much to be done. Help is needed.”

  • Castonoble Hooks

“I have read one should never put new wine in old skins because it may burst. Working today with people with energy and purpose has me now bursting at the seams. I am filled with new energy. Our ancestors are honored by our efforts. I am so impressed by what we can do when we put our minds to it. God blessed us with the right minds and bodies for the job. Thank you, men — our muscle proved true, but our queens held the day. Mind and muscle both you displayed. Your organization, coordination, and logistics skills on full display. You were today’s MVP. See you all Monday. I must also comment on the white sisters and brothers who came from out of town as well as those from Wilson, remarkable people one and all. It warms my heart what they did — reminds me of our shared humanity. May God bless you and keep you safe.”

  • Mahalia Witter-Merithew

“Out in these forgotten woods are the graves of hundreds of people, many of them lost in time. Today we went out to the woods to clear some vines and let some light in. If you want to help heal the visible fractures in our society, you have to try to find and understand the history of forgotten people. Anyone can help shine the light of truth into the darkest of situations. And if you want to help with the Lane Street Project, we will be out there again January 18th from 12-2pm.”


Day 2 of the clean-up is Monday, January 18, on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday National Day of Service. Wilson County Democratic Party and the Democratic Women of Wilson County are joining Lane Street Project to co-host the event. Sessions are 9:00-11:00 AM and noon-2:00 PM and, again, masks and social distancing are required. 

Photo collage courtesy of Brittany Daniel.