Here’s the New York Times’ coverage of Ku Klux Klan vs. First Presbyterian of Elm City.
Who knew that “negro wedding” was a whole subgenre of blackface?
… Me either.
But it was, and quite popular in Wilson County as late as the 1940s.
In 1927, Mrs. R.H. Llewellyn, clever and entertaining, entertained the Rotary Club with a negro wedding and a negro sermon.
Wilson Daily Times, 14 December 1927.
In 1938, Stantonsburg High School’s senior class’ evening of “good clean fun and amusement” included a negro wedding.
Wilson Daily Times, 11 March 1938.
In 1941, Saratoga High School’s Beta Club presented a negro wedding whose finale was a stirring “Dark Town Strutter’s Ball.”
Wilson Daily Times, 26 February 1941.
Participants did not need to make up their own mockeries. Titles of negro wedding plays include “Henpeck at the Hitching Post,” “My Wild Days are Over,” and “The Coontown Wedding.” Characters in Mary Bonham’s “The Kink in Kizzie’s Wedding: A Mock Negro Wedding,” published in 1921, include Lizzie Straight, Pinky Black, Sunshine Franklin, Necessary Dolittle, George Washington Goot, and Uncle Remus. The opening lines: “CAPT. COTTON — ‘Bein’ as Ise de Knight ob de Hoss-shoe, an’ while we’s waitin’ fo’ de bridal paih, we will practice de riding’ gaits.’ ALL GROOMSMEN — ‘Thank-u-doo, obleeged-to-you!’ (They salute the Captain.)” Charming.
Okay, Wide-Awake. I need testimony.
I’m starting a side project (working name: Segregation Chronicles) that will document the physical legacy of racial injustice in Wilson County. I was born in the waning days of legal segregation, and I haven’t lived here in almost 40 years, but I can reel off two dozen-plus sites that stand as mute testimony to trauma that continues to haunt us. I know y’all know more than I do, though, so I’m asking for your help. (Or your mama’s. Or your granddaddy’s.)
At which restaurants did we have to go around back for food? (Like Parker’s.) What theatres had separate entrances and black balconies? (Like the Drake.) What businesses had partitions in their sitting rooms — or whole separate sitting areas? (Like the train station.) Who wouldn’t let you eat at the lunch counter? Who had a colored water fountain (other than the county courthouse)? Where did the Klan rally? Where were German POWs allowed to rest, but your father was told to get his black ass up? Where was the black liquor house that had to pay off a white cop to sell white people liquor after midnight?
Please post here. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or let me know if you’d rather call. All responses from any source, black or white, appreciated. Thank you, and stay tuned. (Especially if you want to know what this photograph shows.)
UPDATE: Check out Segregation Chronicles here, blackwideawake.tumblr.com.