The City of Wilson commenced its annual Tobacco Festival parades in 1936. These appalling images were shot in July 1939 as the parade advanced up Nash Street. This is what passed for fun in Wilson as weeds shot toward the sky in Vick Cemetery.
A giant mammy.
The Junior King and Queen in a palanquin carried by shirtless black men. This mini-float, sponsored by the Lions Club, took a second-place prize.
Another Lions Club’s parade entry. White boys dressed as big game hunters lead bare-chested, barefooted black boys whose features have been exaggerated with white paint. They are dressed as “natives” and wear clown hats. (The top photo was taken after the parade at the Charles L. Coon High School athletic field. The bottom was shot as the boys approached Tarboro Street.) As described in the 18 July 1939 edition of the Wilson Daily Times, “the Frank Buck motif got in the parade again with an alligator in a cage and ‘Bring ’em back alive‘ painted on it.'”
My thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for sharing these photos, which were likely taken for the Wilson Chamber of Commerce.
The Tobacco Festival parade was an annual event for about a decade beginning in the late 1930s. This 1939 photograph depicts an African-American man on an ox-drawn cart towing(?) a Model T labeled “TAXI.” The shot was taken just west of the intersection of East Nash and Goldsboro Streets, in front of what was then the Branch Banking & Trust building. A number of African-American spectators can be seen at the curb.
The Daily Times printed these photographs without captions. What was the occasion of the parade?
Per an article on a previous page, Hagenback-Wallace — one of the largest circuses “in the land” — was scheduled to perform two shows in Wilson that day. “Great hulking elephants and prancing ponies, stately white ring horses and gaily striped zebras, towering giraffes and snobbish, little llamas, dappled draft horse teams of eight and ten, and double files of supercilious camels — these were the units of the colorful procession … that thrilled hundreds of Wilson circus fans this morning as the three long trains of the big show unloaded on the Norfolk and Southern sidings at Tarboro street and moved to the lot at the Old Ball Park.”
A closer look at the bottom image reveals that parade routes were among the few public spaces in which integration was acceptable in the 1930s.
Photographer Charles Raines stood mid-100 block of East Nash Street with his back to the Wilson County courthouse. The occasion of the parade is unknown, and the best guess for the date of the picture is circa 1940. At center-frame, an African-American girl leans from a window above Bissette’s Drug Store. The driver appears to driving a mule-drawn wagon. Does anyone recognize him?