Saint Alphonsus Catholic School

“Freedom’s Plow” and the “apt little boys and girls” of Saint Alphonsus.

Last year’s Black History Month surprise was the discovery that Langston Hughes spoke at Darden High School on 10 February 1949. This year’s comes courtesy of a North Carolina State University grad student, who tipped me to Hughes’ other audience that day — the children of Saint Alphonsus Catholic School.

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!

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A Christmas party at Saint Alphonsus School.

On 22 December 1946, Raines and Cox arrived at Saint Alphonsus Catholic School to photograph the children’s Christmas party.

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The boy kneeling at far left is Carl W. Hines Jr. Two other kneeling boys, including the one at far right in the double-breasted jacket, may be sons of Ruel and Louisa Jones Bullock. Can you identify other children in this photo?

Again, many thanks to John Teel for sharing this image from the Raines & Cox collection of photographs at the North Carolina State Archives. It is catalogued as PhC_196_CW_218H_StAlphonseHolidayParty.

Saint Alphonsus graduates.

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?

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Daniel McClain.

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Joyce Ellis.

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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.

Play with all your might.

On 12 May 1946, Charles Raines and/or Guy Cox visited Saint Alphonsus Catholic School to take these priceless photos of young pupils. Can you identify any of the children?

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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.