I missed the cues, and at first could find no record of an African-American Russell Owings living in Wilson. But that was because Owings was not Black. He was instead a “faithful and courageous friend of [their] interest.” Owings, freshly graduated from Atlantic Christian [now Barton] College, was a white man who — much in the spirit of Rev. R.A.G. Foster’s outreach — crossed the color line to teach voice lessons and direct a choral group at Saint John A.M.E. Zion. He died in a car accident in late October 1938.
Marianne Foster generously shared these photos of her father, Rev. Richard A.G. Foster, who served as pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church in the late 1930s and made strident calls for equal rights and social justice from his Pender Street pulpit.
In the pulpit at Varrick A.M.E. Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut, 1940s.
On 12 February 1946, Leslie and Minnie Diggs Artis of Eureka, Wayne County, and the Trustees of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church reached an agreement to resolve uncertainty over the location of back boundary for property that each party owned on Smith and Church Streets.
Tarboro native John Campbell Dancy was a politician, journalist, and educator in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. For many years he was editor-in-chief of African Methodist Episcopal Zion church newspapers Star of Zion and Zion Quarterly. He served briefly as collector of customs in Wilmington, North Carolina, but was forced to leave the city in the Wilmington Massacre of 1898. Dancy moved to Washington, D.C., and served as the city’s Recorder of Deeds from 1901 to 1910. Dancy died in 1920; D.C. Suggs was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral.
Tennessee native Rev. John E. Kennedy was pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church from about 1925 to about 1930. (The family is not listed in the 1930 census of Wilson.) He had married Annie L. Moore, whose mother Serena Suggs Moore was a native of Wilson and a daughter of G. Washington and Esther Suggs.
This photograph was taken on the front steps of Saint John’s parsonage, next door to the church. The Kennedys’ youngest child, son James Reginald, was born in Wilson.
The Kennedy family in 1929 — Rev. John Kennedy, Annie Moore Kennedy, James R. Kennedy and Ruby E. Kennedy.
Rev. Dr. John E. Kennedy (1876-1944).
Annie Lucretia Moore Kennedy (1883-1942).
Rubye Eloise Kennedy (1917-1993).
James Reginald Kennedy (1925-1997).
The parsonage at 121 North Pender Street, Wilson. The shed-roof porch is unfortunate recent add-on.
Kennedy family photos courtesy of Ancestry.com user JamesKennedy621; photo of parsonage taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2019.
John Campbell Dancy, born enslaved in Tarboro, was a politician, journalist, and educator in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. For many years he was the editor of Star of Zion and Zion Quarterly, newspapers published by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church newspapers.