The 105th anniversary of the school boycott.

Today marks the 105th anniversary of the resignation of 11 African-American teachers in Wilson, North Carolina, in rebuke of their “high-handed” black principal and the white school superintendent who slapped one of them. In their wake, black parents pulled their children out of the public school en masse and established a private alternative in a building owned by a prominent black businessman.  Financed with 25¢-a-week tuition payments and elaborate student musical performances, the Independent School operated for nearly ten years. The school boycott, sparked by African-American women standing at the very intersection of perceived powerless in the Jim Crow South, was an astonishing act of prolonged resistance that unified Wilson’s black toilers and strivers.

The school boycott has been largely forgotten in Wilson, and its heroes have gone unsung. In their honor, today, and every April 9, I publish links to these Black Wide-Awake posts chronicling the walk-out and its aftermath. Please read and share and speak the names of Mary C. Euell and the revolutionary teachers of the Colored Graded School.



The teachers.













And here, my Zoom lecture, “Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute: A Community Response to Injustice,” delivered in February 2022.

Former Darden High teacher killed in accident in Elizabeth City.

Wilson Daily Times, 4 November 1949.

Floreta Walson Allen died 3 November 1949 in rural Pasquotank County, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born 17 May 1908 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Stacy J. Walson and Ruby A. Trowell; was married; was employed as a teacher. She was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Lesly J. Walson was informant.

Though she was said to have lived and taught in Wilson for ten years, I have not found record of her in the city.

Epps’ two cents.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 October 1933.

As far as I am able to tell, Charles Montgomery Epps never lived in Wilson, but he had a whole lot to say about Black Wilson’s education affairs. A former school principal in Tarboro and Greenville, North Carolina, Epps was the first outsider on the scene in the wake of school superintendent Charles L. Coon’s slap of African-American teacher Mary C. Euell. Black Wilsonians promptly sent him packing

Here, Epps lambastes Fletcher F. Pierce, a “young man of Wilson,” for criticizing the Executive Secretary of the North Carolina Negro Teachers Association in a letter published in the Greensboro Daily News. I have not been able to find Pierce’s letter. Epps’ admonishment is par for his course, though — lots of cautions to African-Americans not to stir up anything or risk disturbing “the beautiful relations existing between both races.”

Teachers assigned to Negro schools.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 August 1949.

Just before the school year began, the Daily Times published the names of African-American teachers at Wilson County’s Black county schools — Williamson High School, Williamson Elementary, Rocky Branch, Jones Hill, New Vester, Sims, Farmers, Howards, Holdens, Saratoga, Bynums, Wilbanks, Yelverton, Stantonsburg, Evansdale, Ruffin, Lofton, Minshew, Brooks, Lucama, and Calvin Level

Georgia Burke is a Broadway star.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 May 1944.

Georgia Burke was not, of course, a “girl.” She was close to 50 years old in 1944. Burke was one of eleven African-American teachers who resigned to protest the slapping of  teacher Mary C. Euell by school superintendent Charles L. Coon and the disrespect shown them by Colored Graded School principal J.D. Reid. With the others, Burke resumed teaching at the privately funded Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute, the institution referred to above as Wilson Training School for Negroes. For more about Burke, see here and here, and about the Normal and Industrial school, see here. For more about the talented Hartford C. Bess, see here.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The obituary of Mamie Battle Ford, teacher.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 November 1946.


Earnestine Ford died 10 November 1916 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was five months old; was born in Wilson to Curtis Ford of Dillon County, S.C., and Mamie Battle of Wayne County, N.C. Curtis Ford, 605 East Green Street, was informant.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Clarcy Williams, 50; roomer Curtis Ford, 37, house carpenter; nephew [sic] Mamie Ford, 24; and roomer Lias L., 4, and Quincey B. Ford, 2. [Mamie Battle Ford was the daughter of Clarissa Williams’ half-brother Richard Battle.]

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 407 Carroll, rented for $12/month, Curtis Ford, 52; sons Quincey, 20, and Harvey G., 19; wife Mayme, 42; son-in-law Liston Sellers, 22; daughter Leah, 22; and granddaughter Yvette Sellers, 2.

In 1940, Quincey Ford registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 23 October 1918 in Wilson; lived at 910 East Green Street; his contact was mother Mamye Ford; and he was employed by E.B. Pittman, 509 East Nash Street.

In 1942, Harvey Gray Ford registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 8 January 1921 in Wilson; lived at 910 East Green Street; his contact was mother Mamie Ford; and he was unemployed. His card is marked: “Dead Cancelled Feb. 19, 1943.”

Harvey Gray Ford died 4 June 1942 in Falling Creek township, Lenoir County, North Carolina, “drowned no boat involved.” He was born 8 January 1921 in Wilson, N.C., to Curtis Ford of Dillon, S.C., and Mamie Battle of Wayne County, N.C.; was a student; and was single. Mamie Ford, 910 East Green Street, was informant.

Mamie Battle Ford died 14 November 1946 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, she was born 29 November 1892 in Wayne County to Richard Battle and Leah [Coley] Battle; was married to Curtis Ford; was engaged in teaching; and was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery.

Quincy Ford died 2 December 1965 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 October 1918 in North Carolina to Curtis Ford and Mamie Battle Ford; lived at 2037 Master Street, Philadelphia; was a machine operator; and was married to Helen Ford.

The majority of the children are picking cotton.

Wilson Advance, 15 October 1891.

School calendars aligned with the rhythms of the agricultural calendar. Even so, children picking cotton missed the beginning of school in October. (Just as children at my high school who worked in tobacco nearly one hundred years later sometimes did not report until after Labor Day.)


In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Enos Thompson, 41; wife Hillon, 41; and children John, 17, Margaret, 16, Lucy, 6, Pet, 4, and Ennis, 3.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: garden laborer Ennis Thompson, 72; wife Helen, 65; and daughter Lucy, 35, laundress.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 144 East, Lucy Thompson, 40, and father Ennice Thompson, 81, widower.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 200 Pender, renting [likely a room] at $2/month, Lucy Thompson, 65.

Lucy A. Thompson died 24 July 1946 at her home at 310 Singletary Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 71 years old; was born in Wilson County to Ennis Thompson of Greene County, N.C., and Hellen A. Ruffin of Louisburg, N.C.; worked as a teacher; and was buried in Rountree cemetery.

  • Victoria Battle


Studio shots, no. 186: Alice H. Jones.

Sixth-grade teacher Alice H. Jones (1892-1957). The Trojan yearbook, C.H Darden High School, 1949.


Lucy Frances Jones died 18 February 1930 at Guilford College, Greensboro, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born 19 October 1914 in Wilson, N.C., to J. Robert Jones of Virginia and Alice H. Albright of Davidson County, N.C.; was a school girl; and was buried in Raleigh’s Cross Roads, Guilford County.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 808 East Vance, owned and valued at $2000, widow Rosa Foster, 42, public school teacher; her children Carter, 16, Daily Times newsboy, and Naomi, 14; and roomers Alice Jones, 36, and Mamie Key, 20, public school teachers.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Alice H. Jones, 46, public school teacher, and son James R. Jones, Jr., 23, office building janitor. 

In 1940, James Robert Jones Jr. registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was born 2 January 1917 in Wilson; lived at 808 East Vance Street; his contact was his mother Alice Helena Jones; and he worked for Ernest C. Lucas, Lucama, N.C.

Alice Jones died 29 October 1957 at Duke Hospital, Durham, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was 65 years old; was born in Lexington, N.C., to John Albright and Alice Adams; was the widow of James R. Jones; lived at 122 Pender Street; and was a retired schoolteacher. Robert Jones was informant.