segregation

Calvin Level School.

The eighth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Calvin Level School

Calvin Level School was not a Rosenwald school; it was originally a school for white students called Cabin Level. When small white schools consolidated after the construction of Black Creek School, the school building was turned over to educate black children. In 1951, students in Calvin Level’s district began attending the newly built Springfield School.

Location: A 1936 state road map of Wilson County shows a school (labeled “Scotts”) located on present-day Scott Church Road, south of Wiggins Mill Road, the approximate location of Calvin Level School as described by former student Thelma Braswell Forbes.

However, per sale advertised in the Wilson Daily Times for several weeks in the fall of 1951: “CALVIN LEVEL COLORED SCHOOL, in Cross Roads Township, containing one acre more or less, and more particularly described follows: BEGINNING at a lightwood stake in the edge of the Quaker Road, running with said road 70 yards to a pine stump, corner of Jessie Aycock’s land, thence in an Easterly direction with said Aycock line to a lightwood stake in Thomas Woodard’s line, thence with said Woodard’s line 70 yards to a church lot called Cabbin Level, thence nearly West with said church lot to the beginning. Being the identical land described in a deed recorded in Book 17, at page 519, Wilson County Registry.”

Description: Per The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24, “Calvins” School was a one-room school seated on one acre.

Known faculty: Teachers Anna D. Reid Hall, Mazie Wells, Mamie B. Ford, Dorothy Grissom Parker, Josephine Edwards.

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Wilson Daily Times, 15 November 1946.

Brooks School.

The seventh in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Brooks School

Brooks School dates prior to 1881, making it the earliest documented rural African-American school in Wilson County. Brooks was not a Rosenwald school. It was consolidated with other small schools in 1951, and its students then attended Speight High School.

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Wilson Advance, 11 February 1881.

Dr. Alexander G. Brooks had been a wealthy slaveowner and may have donated the land upon which the school was built.

Location: Per a 1936 state road map of Wilson County, the approximate location was just east of Black Creek on present-day Woodbridge Road, in the vicinity of Bunches Church.

Description: Per The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24, Brooks School was a one-room school seated on one acre.

A February 1951 report on Wilson County schools found: “The Brooks Colored … building is in ‘fair condition’ and has only two teachers for seven grades ….” Wilson Daily Times, 16 February 1951.

Known faculty: Principal Alice B. Mitchell; teacher Nora Allen Mitchell Jones.

Pender School.

The sixth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Pender School

Pender School was originally built to educate white children. After school consolidation 1917-1924, the building was turned over for use by black children. Pender was not a Rosenwald school. After 1939, students in Pender district attended Frederick Douglass High School in Elm City.

Location: Per Deed Book 443, page 237, on 17 October 1951, the Board of Education of Wilson County sold the Board of Trustees of the Elm City Graded Schools several parcels: “Lot No. 3: BEGINS at a lightwood stake, in the Bain Edwards line near a small Branch; thence South with said line to a stake 70 yards, cornering; thence East 35 yards to a stake, cornering; thence North 70 yards to a stake, cornering; thence West 35 yards to the beginning, containing 1/2 acre; and being the identical property conveyed to the School Committee of Gardners Township and their successors in office by deed from Edwin Pender, et al., dated April 2, 1877 and duly recorded in Book 19, at page 496 Wilson County Registry; and being known as Pender’s Colored School lot.”

Per a 1936 state road map of Wilson County, the approximate location was on what is now Rosebud Church Road opposite its intersection with Redmon Road. An 8 September 2001 Daily Times article about Rosenwald schools quotes a former student as saying the Pender school building was still standing, but it has since been demolished.

Description: Per The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24, Pender School was a one-room school seated on one acre.

Known faculty: none.

Turner School.

The fifth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Turner School

Turner School was originally built to educate white children. After school consolidation 1917-1924, the building was turned over for use by black children. In 1939, children in Turner district began attending the newly built Frederick Douglass High School in Elm City.

Location: The 29 September 1953, the Wilson Daily Times reported this land transfer: “Board of Education of Wilson County to the Board of Trustees of Elm City Graded Schools, lot beginning at I.T. Luper’s corner in the center of the Town Creek-Rocky Mount road [now Town Creek Road] known as the Turner School lot and lot beginning at the northwest corner of a church lot in the road leading from W.L. Matthews’ store to Gardners store.”

Description: Per The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24, Turner School was a one-room school seated on one acre. The report included this photo of Turner School.

Known faculty: none.

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Wilson Daily Times, 4 October 1939.

Barnes School.

The fourth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Barnes School

[Please note that there appear to have been two “colored” Barnes Schools in the early 20th century, one under the jurisdiction of Wilson city schools, and one near Stantonsburg (perhaps affiliated with Barnes Church) under in the county school system. The post concerns the former.]

Barnes School was erected with Rosenwald funds in 1920.

Location: “3 1/2 miles west of Wilson on the Municipal Airport Road.”

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“This building can be torn down and the lumber salvaged to be used for other purposes. This building is located in one of the best farming sections in eastern North Carolina and only a 10 minute ride from the center of the city.” Wilson Daily Times, 26 March 1951.

A 1925 soil map of Wilson County shows a school on what is now Airport Boulevard near a branch of Hominy Swamp and the present-day YMCA pool. This accords with the recollection of D.W. Saulter, whose grandfather purchased a school building on Airport Boulevard and converted it into a residence. She reports that the building has been demolished.

In May 1942, an article in the Wilson Daily Times announced locations for sugar ration registration, including “Barnes school, all colored people in Wilson Township west of Wilson living within Wilson township.”

Description: From Research Report:Tools for Assessing the Significance and Integrity North Carolina’s Rosenwald Schools and Comprehensive Investigation of Rosenwald Schools in Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Wayne and Wilson Counties, “[Superintendent Charles L.] Coon notes that a five-room Barnes school, valued with its land at $9,300, was erected in 1920 in the city of Wilson …. Further, the school that the [Rosenwald] Fund supported was a three-teacher type that cost $6,000, with $700 in Fund support, $1,000 in public funds, and a whopping $4,300 contribution from the black community.”

D.W. Saulter recalls that the building was faced with windows and had a central inset front door.

Known faculty: principal Ruth Jones Palmer; teachers Dora GodwinCora Farmer, and Margaret L. Morrison.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 April 1935.

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Wilson Daily Times, 18 December 1946.

The public schools of Wilson County, part 2.

In 1924, the Wilson County Board of Education published Superintendent Charles L. Coon’s report The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24. I went looking for a copy today and found one in Google Books.

On pages 19-21, Coon’s report contains a table of the value of colored school property in 1924.

In Wilson township, there were five schools: twelve-room Old School (the Colored Graded School), ten-room New School (Wilson Colored High School, later Darden High School), five-room Barnes, one-room Lanes, and Lovers (which I have never heard of.) Lovers School had “no house,” which meant its pupils met in a church or some other building

In Toisnot township: five-room Elm City School and Penders, Turners, and Pages, all one room.

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In Cross Roads township, three-room Lucama and one-room Powells and Calvins [Calvin Level]. In Gardners township, one-room Holdens, Wilbanks and Bynums Schools and unhoused Whitley School.

In Old Fields township, Sims School (“no house”) and two-room schools Jones Hill and New Vester Schools. In Springhill township, one-room Williamson and three-room Rocky Branch and Kirbys Schools. In Taylors township, unhoused Farmers School, one-room Howards School, and three-room Mitchell School.

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In Black Creek township, there were four one-room schools, Ruffins, Ferrells, Brooks and Minshew. In Stantonsburg township, neither Evansdale nor Stantonsburg Schools had a dedicated building. In Saratoga township, Saratoga School had one room, but Yelverton and Bethel Schools had none.

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Lane School.

The third in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Lane School

Lane School was one of two known schools for African-American children outside town limits (but inside Wilson township) that were administered by town of Wilson’s public school system. The date of construction is not known, but white children attended school there until school consolidation circa 1920.

Location: In May 1942, an article in the Wilson Daily Times announced locations for sugar ration registration, including “Lane school, all colored people living within Wilson Township but east of Wilson.”

Seven years later, Wilson City Schools offered Lane Colored School for sale. The metes and bounds are somewhat difficult to decipher: “Beginning at a small water-oak on the North side of the public cart path leading from H.B. Lane’s to A.P. Moore’s (said pathway leading from Moyton and Stantonsburg roads) thence in a Northerly direction, at right angles to said public cart path, eighty yards to a stake, cornering, thence in a Westerly direction parallel with said public cart path sixty-one and one-fourth yards to a stake, cornering, thence in a Southern direction eighty yards to a stake in said public cart path, thence in an Easterly direction along with said public cart path sixty-one and one-fourths yards to the beginning.”

I’d thought “the cart path” was one that ran between what are now Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Stantonsburg Road. However, Will Corbett of Wilson County’s GIS Office steered me in the right direction by locating the general area in which H.B. Lane and A.P. Moore’s properties were adjacent or nearly so. This area is just above what is now Wedgewood Gold Club. (And about a mile due south of the neighborhood in which I grew up.)

A 1925 soil map indicates a church or school on one of a maze of dirt paths meandering between what are now Old Stantonsburg Road and N.C. Highway 58. This is likely Lane School. There are few houses in the area now, and except for a single road leading in from 58, the paths are gone.

A 1937 aerial map shows the land and its use more clearly. Most of the paths shown in 1925 had been plowed up by then, though some are visible through the trees. I have encircled a cluster of buildings that appears to approximate the location of Lane School.

Here, per Google Maps, is my best approximation of the area today. A section of Wedgewood’s golf course is visible at lower right:

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 September 1949.

Description: one-room school.

Known faculty: teachers Blanche ThomasClara R. Cooke.

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Update, 14 June 2020: I found a photograph of Lane School in Charles L. Coon’s report The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24!

My deepest thanks to Will Corbett.

Mitchell School.

The second in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Mitchell School

Mitchell School was built, probably in the early 1920s, near Dunn’s Crossroads on land donated by James Gray Mitchell. It was not a Rosenwald school.

The front, shot from the western end of the building.

Location: Astonishingly, this school is still standing and is remarkably intact. It is hidden in a nearly impenetrable grove of pine and sweetgum saplings in a residential stretch of Lake Wilson Road.

Description: I could not observe the building head-on or from all sides. Its windows and doors are boarded up, but its hipped tin roof is solid, as is the observable siding. It appears to be a two-room school with a central door under a gable. There are two windows in the easternmost room, and a bank of windows on the southern facade.

A February 1951 report on Wilson County schools found: “The jury expressed the opinion that more instructors are needed to tutor pupils at Mitchell school …. Mitchell, a one-teacher school with an enrollment of 41 pupils, needs replacement of window panes and a grate in the stove, the group said.” Wilson Daily Times, 16 February 1951.

Banks of windows on the south-facing side.

The siding, weathered but in surprisingly good shape.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 January 1940.

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  • James Gray Mitchell

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Wilson Sharp, 52, and wife Cherry, 45; Jerry Bynum, 6; farmer James Mitchel, 47, wife Rosa, 33, and son James G. Mitchel, 11.

On 24 December 1889, James Mitchell and Amanda Edwards, both 20, applied for a marriage license in Nash County, North Carolina.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer James G. Mitchel, 31; wife Armanda, 30; and children Chister [Kester], 9, Regenia, 8, Henretta, 6, William R., 4, and Dewey, 2; and mother Rose, 50.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer James G. Mitchell, 38; mother Rosa, 58; and children Kester R., 18, Cynthia, 14, Robert L., 12, Jimmie D., 10, and Lelia B., 8.

Jimmie Dee Mitchell registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born in 1898; lived on R.F.D. #4, Elm City; and worked as a farm laborer for Jas. Grey Mitchell.

James Mitchell Jr. died 19 May 1953 in Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 May 1869 in Wilson to James Mitchell Sr. and Rosa Parker; was a farmer; Informant was Robert L. Mitchell, Elm City. He was buried at William’s Chapel cemetery, Saratoga [sic; Elm City].

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020. Many thanks to Agnes Green for pinpointing the school’s location.

Segregation Chronicles.

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 blackwideawake@gmail.com. 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.

The colored brethren of Wilson Primitive Baptist Church.

In 1946, the Wilson Daily Times published an article by Hugh B. Johnston commemorating the history of Wilson Primitive Baptist Church. I’ve excerpted below the sections that mention the church’s African-American members.

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Wilson Primitive Baptist Church, Asheville Post Card Co., undated.

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“On April 24, 1920, the Church agreed to begin construction as soon as possible and to include a baptismal pool, memorial windows for a number of outstanding members, and a balcony for the convenience of remaining colored brethren.”

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“A gallery for colored members ran entirely around the second story of the [1859] church, excepting the end above the tall, broad pulpit.”

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At a conference held at the Tosneot Baptist Church on Sept. 23, 1865, “a proposition was made and agreed to that all colored members that had ‘left their owners before the proclamation of freedom was made, and gone to the Yankees should be dealt with and excluded if they could not give satisfaction of their disorder.’ … [N]one of the offending members appeared … [and when they failed to appear at a postponed date,] motion was made to expel them: on which motion servants Thomas Farmer and Redic Barnes were expelled from all rights of the church.”

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“As a result of the formation of London’s Primitive Baptist Church for the convenience of the colored membership who were being served outside of regular meetings by Elder London Woodard, a conference was held at the Tosneot church on May 21, 1870, and “the following resolution was adopted by unanimous consent of the members, white and colored, that in the future, as before, the white members of the church shall have the entire control of the discipline and government of the church as this place. [This understanding was entered into the minutes] so as in after days there could not be any misunderstanding between the white and colored members of this church.”

Wilson Daily Times, 19 November 1946.

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Some thoughts:

  • The balcony in the back of the 1920 church is visible starting at 1:29 of this Youtube video.
  • What African-Americans were members of Wilson Primitive Baptist as late as 1920? Do the church’s records exist?
  • I have been unable to identify specifically Thomas Farmer and Reddick Barnes, the members who audaciously took their freedom into their own hands.
  • “The formation of London’s Primitive Baptist Church for the convenience of the colored membership who were being served outside of regular meetings” by London Woodard sounds like more like a recognition of a new reality: Toisnot’s black members had left to worship among themselves under a charismatic black preacher. It’s not surprising that those who remained unanimously agreed that white people would control the church.

Wilson Primitive Baptist Church, 1859-1920. The gallery for black members ran along three interior walls. Marion Monk Moore Collection, Images of North Carolina, http://www.digitalnc.org.