segregation

The waiting rooms.

As discussed here, the Atlantic Coast Line’s handsome passenger rail station was the point of departure for many African-Americans leaving Wilson during the Great Migration. Now an Amtrak stop, the station was restored and renovated in the late 1990s.

Here’s the station’s main waiting room today. Through a doorway, a sign marks a second room for baggage.

Into the 1960s, though, the baggage area was the train station’s “colored” waiting room.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, June and September 2021.

Enough to close the place.

An article about the results of hearings for businesses charged with liquor law violations contains an interesting tidbit. Effie Boswell, a white woman who ran a roadhouse “just off the Wilson-Lucama Highway,” i.e. today’s U.S. Highway 301, was ordered to reduce her hours and pay a five hundred dollar bond to keep her place open pending her next hearing. The order also provided that “there was to be no more mixed dancing of white and negro persons at the place,” an allegation the judge considered was alone sufficient to shut the place down.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 April 1939.

An earlier article reported that Boswell’s place, described as a grocery store and filling station, had been closed initially, but the judge had amended his order after legions of upstanding citizens vouched for her good character. Nevertheless, by May 1939, Boswell had agreed to shut her doors permanently, and the State dropped its prosecution.

  • Effie Boswell — Per her death certificate, Effie Lamm Boswell was born 21 January 1889 in Wilson County to Edwin and Zillah Bass Boswell. She died 13 September 1970. She was the widow of Jesse Boswell.

An explanation.

In January 1917, the Daily Times published an explanation cum apology to its white readers. The night before, its social column had led with announcement of a dance given by the Carnation Club at the Odd Fellows Hall. However, the Club was for “colored people” and the hall was “below the railroad.” (In other words, it was the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows’ hall, not the whites-only hall belonging to the  International Order of Odd Fellows Enterprise Lodge No. 44.) After making this clear, the paper claimed: “of course the notice should not have been placed in the social column for the reason that it was a paid notice and belongs in the advertising columns ….”

Of course. 

Wilson Daily Times, 5 January 1917.

I have not found anything further about the Carnation Club.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

No Negroes on the jitney.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 May 1920.

First, “jitney” — a vehicle providing inexpensive shared transportation over a set route. In this case, round-trip travel between Wilson and Goldsboro, some 25 miles south. Second, the jitney was integrated in 1920?

Now the story: an African-American passenger aboard the jitney “made himself  obnoxious” — which could have been anything from refusing to yield to seat to whistling loudly to … anything, short of actual criminal behavior, which would have been dealt with swiftly. White people threatened to boycott the service if they had to share space with “colored” people any longer. The jitney proprietor quickly acceded to their wishes and barred Black passengers. An unnamed “worthy colored man” of Wilson requested that the Daily Times post a notice of the change to “save [African-Americans] from worry,” i.e. humiliation, inconvenience, and dangerous annoyance. He himself had been denied passage when he attempted to board for a return from Goldsboro. To reassure any who questioned his motives, perhaps, the anonymous man asserted that he was not complaining of the jitney company’s action, that, in fact, he thought it just under the circumstances. 

[Note: Jim Crow, among other things, required a constant soft-shoe, relentless squaring, rapid-fire calculation, a perpetual mask. Consider this as you judge. — LYH]

Balcony entrance.

Carolina Theatre, perhaps circa its opening about 1930.

The Carolina (later Drake) Theatre was one of several theaters operating west of the tracks that either did not admit Black patrons or relegated them to the balcony until the mid-1960s. The balcony entrance is plainly visible at left.

Below, the old theatre in 2020.

Top photo courtesy of Steve Brown; original credit unknown. Bottom photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2020.

Frank Rountree plat map.

This 1923 plat map detailing part of Frank Rountree’s property shows, at left, the block now home to Wilson’s main United States post office and, right, the location of a Family Dollar store. 

The 1922 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson reveal more detail about Rountree’s property. The houses he owned in this block are marked with asterisks. Most were double-shotgun houses built as rentals for African-American tobacco factory workers. 

Rountree’s properties on the other side of Hines are again marked with asterisks below. The houses fronting the north side of Hines Street had white occupants, but the double-shotguns behind them on Sunshine Alley and along South Goldsboro had Black tenants. (West of the tracks, especially on the southern perimeter of downtown, segregation patterns were checkerboard, blocks by block.) See more about short-lived Sunshine Alley here.

Plat Book 1, page 268, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson; Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., 1922.

Lane Street Project: “There is no question … the city owns it.”

Thirty-one years ago this month, the City of Wilson acknowledged what a quick deed search could have told anyone — it owns Vick cemetery.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 February 1990.

The Cemetery Commission’s reaction, as reported here, was a long list of negatives focused on the expense of restoration and upkeep of Vick cemetery, with no comment recorded about duties owed (and neglected for decades) to the dead. 

(N.B.: The Cemetery Commission is not involved in the present upkeep of Vick Cemetery or the narrow strip at the front of Odd Fellows Cemetery. They are mowed, sprayed, etc., by the Public Works Department.)