When Saint Alphonsus closed in 1968, the diocese rented its Carroll Street building to the African-American collective Concerned Parents of Wilson, which opened a kindergarten in the space. I graduated in Kiddie Kollege of Knowledge’s second class, and our graduation continued the ornate legacy of Saint Alphonsus.
I’m at right, marching out with my Bachelor of Rhymes degree.
Hughes wrote about his “little trip down South” on his regular column in the Chicago Defender. He praised the Wilson County Negro Library, its librarian, and the itinerary she devised for him. Hughes was especially charmed by the “tiny youngsters” of Saint Alphonsus, who performed his poem “Freedom’s Plow” in its entirety. (Take a peek at Freedom’s Plow if you don’t know it. Not only does it tackle weighty subjects, it is long. I add my applause for the Saint Alphonsus scholars!)
Chicago Defender, 26 February 1946.
The final stanza of “Freedom’s Plow,” which brings a word for our time:
A long time ago, An enslaved people heading toward freedom Made up a song: Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On! The plow plowed a new furrow Across the field of history. Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped. From that seed a tree grew, is growing, will ever grow. That tree is for everybody, For all America, for all the world. May its branches spread and shelter grow Until all races and all peoples know its shade. KEEP YOUR HAND ON THE PLOW! HOLD ON!
If you know anyone who attended Saint Alphonsus in 1949 and remembers Langton Hughes’ visit, please let me know!
November is Black Catholic History Month. Accordingly, I offer these images of a 1949 kindergarten graduation celebration at Saint Alphonsus Catholic School captured by Wilson’s preeminent 20th century photographers Charles Raines and Guy Cox. Do you recognize any of the children?
Many thanks to John Teel for sharing these images from the Raines & Cox collection of photographs at the North Carolina State Archives. They are catalogued as PhC_196_CW_1211H _StAlphonsusGraduation1 through 10.
Gratitude to Safiya Bandele for identifying the children in photos 5 and 8.
Many thanks to John Teel for sharing these images from the Raines & Cox collection of photographs at the North Carolina State Archives. They are catalogued as PhC_196_CW_104H_StAlphonseSchool1, PhC_196_CW_104H_StAlphonseSchool2 and PhC_196_CW_104H_StAlphonseSchool3.