teacher

Teachers, 1890.

From the chapter concerning Wilson County in the 1890 edition of Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory:

The obituary of Priscilla Tillery, school teacher.

Wilson Daily Times, 28 March 1929.

——

In the 1900 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County: farmer Ben Tillery, 60; wife Charity, 55; and children James, 26, Jacob, 23, Prissilla, 18, William, 16, George, 14, and Claud, 12.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Wilbanks and Elm City Road, odd jobs laborer Benjamin Tilery, 70; wife Chary, 68; and children Pricilla, 33, and Claudius, 21, farm laborer.

Pricilla Tillery died 13 March 1929 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, he was 52 years old; single; born in Edgecombe County to Ben Tillery of Halifax County and Cherry Williams of Wilson County; buried in Elm City. Jane Ruffin, Elm City was informant.

I have not identified the school at which Priscilla Tillery worked.

John H. Skinner, pastor, educator and journalist.

SKINNER, JOHN HENRY — Clergyman — b. Sept. 13, 1867, Wilson, N.C.; s. A. and Mary (Barnes) Skinner; educ St. Augustine Normal Sch., Raleigh, N.C.; A.B. State Normal Sch., Fayetteville, N.C., 1881; A.B. Tuskegee Institute, Ala., 1922; D.D. Baptist Coll., 1922; A.M. Am. Correspondence Coll., South Daniel, N.Y., 1896; m. J.H. Lane, Dec. 30, 1895 (deceased 1902); four children, Lena, b. Nov. 11, 1896; Lillie May, b. Oct. 5, 1897; Claude, b. Sept. 10, 1898; Flossie Pearl, b. Nov. 11, 1899; second marriage, Nelissa Peterson (deceased); one child, Mary V., b. 1910; third marriage, Mrs. Florence Dew; taught, Pub. Sch. Wilson County, for four years; established The Fremont Enterprise; taught in Wayne County, N.C., for fourteen years; taught in Green[e] County, N.C., for eighteen years; founded the Baptist College, Kenly, N.C., 1920; President of same, 1920-present; Associate Editor, City Paper, Kenly, N.C., 1926-present; Principal, Graded Schools, Kenly, N.C., 1926-present; General Moderator of two conferences for the sixth term, mem A.F. & A.M. Knights of Pythias; Pol. Republican; Relig. F.W. Baptist; Address, Kenly, N.C.

He began teaching when fourteen years of age and has been a teacher since 1881. He managed a newspaper in Freemont, N.C., for two years, teaching at the same time in Wayne County, holding then a First Grade Certificate. Was Dean of teachers in Greene County for ten years, resigning to found the Baptist College, of which he has been President since 1920.

The Baptist College began its work in 1909 in Fremont, N.C., and later was moved to Kenly, N.C. It held two months’ sessions each summer until 1920 when under the supervision of Rev. Skinner it began its eight months’ sessions.

The purpose of the school is to train young men and women in the elements of an English education, to prepare them for teaching and provide a Theological course. There are a number of buildings and a dormitory for boys and girls.

Joseph J. Boris, ed., Who’s Who in Colored America, vol. 1 (1927).

——

Teachers and students of the Original Free Will Baptist School, also known as Skinner’s College, circa 1923. John H. Skinner is at far right. Skinner was also principal of Kenly Colored Graded School, a Rosenwald school. Photo courtesy of Johnston County Heritage Center.

In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Aaron Skinner, 37, carpenter; wife Mary, 25; and son John, 9; domestic servant Esther Barnes, 21; and Willie Battle, 2.

J.H. Skinner, 24, of Wayne County, son of Aaron and Mary Skinner of Virginia, married J.A. Lane, 23, of Wayne County, daughter of Amos and Penny Lane, on 30 December 1885 in Nahunta township, Wayne County.

In the 1900 census of Fremont, Wayne County, N.C.: school teacher John H. Skinner, 37; wife Jackan, 36; and children Adie L., 12, Lillie M., 10, Claud, 8, and Clasie, 4.

On Christmas Day 1904, J.H. Skinner, 41, married Ida Artice, 25, in Greene County, N.C.

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County, N.C.: public school teacher John H. Skinner, 49; wife Ida, 38; and children Lillie, 20, Claudie, 17, and Flosey, 14.

On 7 September 1913, J.H. Skinner, 45, of Johnston County, married Melisa Peterson, 20, of Johnston County, in Beulah township, Johnston County.

On 17 May 1919, Richard Swinson applied for a marriage license in Greene County for J.H. Skinner, 51, of Greene County, and Rosa L. Ellison, 27, of Greene County, daughter of Harvey and Laura Ellison. The license was not returned.

In the 1930 census of Beulah township Johnston County, N.C.: on Matthew Donal Street, widower John H. Skinner, 60, teacher at Brower(?) School.

On 10 May 1930, J.H. Skinner, 60, of Kenly, son of Adam and Mary Skinner, married Elizabeth Williams, 45, of Kenly, daughter of Dock and Mary Parker, in Kenly, Johnston County, N.C.

J.H. Skinner died 16 November 1937 in Kenly, Beulah township, Johnston County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1851 in Wilson to Aaron Skinner and Mary Barnes; was married to Elizabeth Williams Skinner; and worked as a teacher and minister.

I have not been able to find more about Skinner’s Fremont Enterprise or City Paper. Excerpts from columns Skinner contributed to the Kenly Observer in 1926 are quoted in Research Report: Tools for Assessing the Significance and Integrity of North Carolina’s Rosenwald Schools and Comprehensive Investigation of Rosenwald Schools In Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Wayne and Wilson Counties (2007) and will be examined in detail in another post, as will a former student’s memories of the school published in the Kenly News in 1985.

T. Johnson and D. Barbour, Images of America: Johnston County (1997); hat tip to J. Robert Boykin III for the lead.

 

Fayetteville State alumnae honored.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 August 2005.

“The chancellor of Fayetteville State University, T.J. Bryan, came to town Aug. 5 to honor as trailblazers eight women who graduated from the school in the 1940s, when it was known as Fayetteville State Teachers College.”

The honorees:

  • Amanda Mitchell Cameron, ’48

Class salutatorian, Frederick Douglass High School, Elm City; retired from teaching in 1987; member of two alumni boards and prolific fundraiser for FSU with husband; member of National Educators Association and NAACP; church clerk, William Chapel Baptist Church.

  • Josephine Farmer Edwards, ’45

Graduate of Nash County Training School; Master of Education, Pennsylvania State University; 38-year teaching career in Wilson and Nash Counties; owner and operator of Edwards Funeral Home; taught at Wilson Technical Community Center; member, Wilson County Commissioner; NAACP Life Member; member, Ladies Auxiliary, American Legion Post 17; member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Links, Inc.

Graduate of Coulter Memorial Academy, Cheraw, S.C.; Bachelor’s in Elementary Education; played  on two-time state champion basketball team at FSU; taught and coached at Charles H. Darden High School and C.L. Coon Junior High School; elder, Calvary Presbyterian Church; member, Ladies Auxiliary, American Legion Post 17.

Graduate of Williston High School, Wilmington, N.C.; Bachelor’s in Elementary Education; Master of Education, Pennsylvania State University; taught at Sallie Barbour, Elvie Street and Wells Elementary School; also taught at Wilson Technical Community Center and ADAPT outreach center; member, Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church; recipient, Distinguished Service Award, Wilson Human Relations Commission; volunteers at Wilson Crisis Center and other organizations; board, Freeman Round House Museum; member, Book and Garden Club, NAACP, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Ladies Auxiliary of American Legion Post 17.

Graduate of Wilson Colored High School [Darden High School]; completed two-year program at State Teachers College Fayetteville and later bachelor’s in education; master’s degree in early childhood education, Columbia University; taught at one-room school in Nash County in 1930s and ’40s, then Vick and Hearne Elementary Schools; member, Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church; member, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

  • Alice Marie Shaw Stevens, ’46

Grew up in western Wilson County; attended Rocky Branch School; graduate of Richard B. Harrison High School in Johnston County at age 15; graduated FSU with honors; master’s degree in education, N.C. State A.&T. University; started teaching in two and three-room schools, then Springfield and Lee Woodard Schools; member of Rocky Branch United Church of Christ since age 10; member, Order of Eastern Star.

Graduate of Darden High School; education degree from FSU; married career soldier; worked with Wilson Board of Elections; volunteers with Opportunities Industrialization Center.

  • Artelya Whitley Williams, ’49

Graduate of Mary Potter School in Oxford, N.C., and beauty school in New Jersey; bachelor’s degree from FSU and master’s degree from New York University; served in U.S. Army and Air Force; taught at Lucama Elementary and Spaulding and Spring Hope schools in Nash County.

County teachers retire.

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Wilson Daily Times, 27 June 1962.

In the 1900 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Dennis Tabron, 51; wife Harrett, 49; and children Cephus, 18, Theodorie, 16, Anna D., 13, and Arena H., 7.

In the 1910 census of Ferrells township, Nash County: farmer Dennis T. Tabron, 66; wife Harret, 50; and daughters Anna D., 18, and Irena, 15.

Barney Reid, 27, of Wilson, son of Jessie and Sallie Reid, married Elnora Taborn, 21, of Nash County, daughter of Denis and Harrit Tayborn, on 28 May 1912 in Wilson.

Barney Reid registered for the World War I draft in 1918 in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 13 April 1885; lived at 300 Vick Street, Wilson; worked as a mechanic for Boyd-Robertson Construction in Newport News, Virginia; and was married to Anna D. Reid.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 300 Vick Street, building carpenter Barney Reid, 43; wife Anna, 39; children Earl, 4, Piccola, 13, and Fitzhugh, 9; and in-laws Harriot, 69, and John Tayborn, 80.

Anna Dora Reid Hall died 20 April 1969 in Kinston, Lenoir County.

  • Cora Sherrod Barnes

In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Jack Sherard, 56; wife Cassy; and children Ida, 27, Benjamin, 25, Dalas, 20, Exum, 16, Arthur, 15, and Cora, 11.

Columbus Ward, 26, of Greene County, son of Pearson and Cherry Ward, married Cora Sherrod, 18, of Wayne County, daughter of Jack Sherrod, on 17 April 1907 in Stantonsburg, Wilson County.

In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Cassie Sherrod, 75; grandchildren Zenobia, 25, Doris, 7, and Jeraldine, 6; and daughter Cora Powell, 30, public school teacher, divorced.

John M. Barnes died 27 April 1958 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1870 in Wayne County to Charles and Rebecca Pope Barnes; lived at 500 East Green; worked as a brickmason; was married to Cora Sherrod Barnes [daughter of Jack and Cassie Sherrod]; and was buried at Rest Haven. Thelma Byers was informant.

Cora Sherrod Barnes died 12 June 1972 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 13 December 1888 to Jack and Cassie Sherrod; was a widow; and was a retired teacher. Ralph Sherrod was informant.

Hall of Famer Annie Cooke Dickens.

On the occasion of her induction into the Shaw University Athletic Hall of Fame, Annie Cooke Dickens shared memories of her school days in Wilson and beyond.

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  • Dickens credited John M. “Bing” Miller, her high school basketball coach, and Marian Miller, the girls’ basketball chaperone, as her “foundation.”
  • Dickens played guard on Shaw’s women’s basketball team from 1938 to 1942.
  • The basketball team played games in Banner Warehouse, and Marian Miller brought a small oil heater to warm the space.
  • For road games, the team road in a truck with a bench strapped to the body. They played most games on dirt courts.

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Wilson Daily Times, 14 December 1993.

  • “Extremely poor family” seems an exaggeration, as Dickens’ father was a railroad clerk, and the family owned a two-story house across from Darden High School.
  • Dickens was a cheerleader for three years and was crowned Miss Shaw as a junior and senior.
  • She was a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and several student organizations.
  • Dickens’ first teaching position was at Yelverton School near Saratoga, then Lofton School, where she was principal. These schools had no electricity, running water, or indoor toilets. She also taught in Greensboro and at Speight School.
  • She worked in school administration for 21 years before retiring.
  • Her husband James Dickens was a teacher at Fike High School. Both retired in 1983.
  • She engaged in volunteer work after retirement.

Women’s basketball team, Shaw University Journal (1939).

——

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Hadley Street, railroad mail clerk Jerry L. Cook, 43; wife Clara, 39, teacher; children Henderson, 20, Edwin D., 18, Clara G., 14, Georgia E., 12, Annie, 8, Jerry L., 6, and Eunice D., 4; sister Georgia E. Wyche, 48, teacher; and nieces Kathaline Wyche, 7, and Reba Whittington, 19.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 916 East Green Street, railway clerk J.L. Cook, 54, born Wake County; wife Clara, 48, born Craven County; children Henderson J., 30, Clara, 24, Annie, 18, Jerry, 16, and Eunice, 14; and cousin Ella Godette, 18. Henderson and young Clara were born in New Bern; the remaining children in Wilson.

The 102nd anniversary of the school boycott.

Today marks the 102nd 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 is largely forgotten in Wilson, and its heroes go 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.

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2016/01/07/we-tender-our-resignation-and-east-wilson-followed/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2018/03/30/the-heroic-teachers-of-principal-reids-school/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2016/12/10/a-continuation-of-the-bad-feelings/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2017/04/02/what-happened-when-white-perverts-threatened-to-slap-colored-school-teachers/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2018/02/11/604-606-east-vance-street/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2018/04/17/mary-euell-and-dr-du-bois/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2019/11/01/minutes-of-the-school-board/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2019/10/27/attack-on-prof-j-d-reid/

https://afamwilsonnc.com/2019/07/30/lynching-going-o…-the-white-folks/

Minutes of the school board.

The Wilson County Public Library’s Local History Collection contains a bound transcription of the Minutes of the Wilson Graded School 1881-1887, 1891-1902, compiled by school superintendent Charles L. Coon. Here, with annotations in brackets, are extracts from those minutes.

——

July 14th 1891

The Board met in the offices of F.A. Woodard.

The first order of business was the election of teachers. The following was selected with the salary of each (for colored school). P.O. [F.O.] Blount salary $30.00, Prof. Winstead $25.00, Levi Peacock $25.00, Addie Battle $20.00, Lucy Thompson 20.00

——

Sept 29th 1891

The Board met in office of F.A. Woodard.

The object of the meeting was to hear complaints against some of the Col teachers in Col Graded School viz Levi Peacock and Ida Thompson.

Several Col men were present & urge their dismissal.

The Board discussed the matter & decided unanimous that the charges were not sufficient cause for removal. Nothing further appearing the Board adjourned.

[There are no further clues to the complaints lodged or the reasons “several colored men” urged the dismissals of Levi H. Peacock and Ida Thompson.]

——

Dec. 30th 1891

The Board met in the office of Dr. Albert Anderson.

The first business was the resignation of F.O. Blount, principal of Col. School. On motion resignation was accepted.

B.R. Winstead was elected principal to fill the unexpired term of F.O. Blount.

Annie Washington was elected as teacher in col school to commence on Jany 6th 1892 at $20.00 per month if qualified for the position after examination by supt. Foust. No other business the board adjourned.

——

May 9th 1892

The Board met in office of F.A. Woodard, President.

The first order in business was the election of Supt. & Teachers for the white & colored schools.

Teachers for col. school

B.R. Winstead Principal $30.00, L.H. Peacock $25.00, Annie Washington Vick $25.00, Annie Blake $20.00, Sudie Harris $20.00

——

May 30th 1896

The Board in office at Branch & Co.’s bank, with Gen. Hackney ch’m in chair.

It was stated that the object of the meeting was to elect the teachers of the Colored School. The election resulted as follows:

Principal of building S.A. Smith $30.00 per month

Teachers L.H. Peacock $25.00, G.H. Towe $25.00, Miss Ida Rountree $20.00, Mrs. S.H. Vick $20.00

[Though among the best-educated members of their community, African-American teachers struggled to make ends meet on their salaries. As shown in this 1899 notice of sheriff’s sale, several waited until their property was at risk to pay taxes — or lost it to public auction.]

——

Feb. 10th 97

The Board met in the office of Mr. A.B. Deans, Dr. Moore absent.

Mr. Oettinger moved that the position of Primary Teacher in the Colored School, held by Mrs. S.H. Vick, be declared vacant, owing to her physical inability to fill the place the remainder of the spring. Carried.

Mr. Oettinger moved that Mrs. R.C. Melton be employed to fill out the unexpired term. Carried.

The Committee appointed to arrange for the rental of an additional home for the Colored School, reported that they had investigated the matter & decided not to rent for this spring.

[“Physical inability” appears to have been a euphemism for Annie Washington Vick’s pregnancy with son Daniel, born in 1897.

The crowded conditions of Wilson’s only public school for black children had become acute by 1897, when the school board considered, but rejected, a suggestion to rent a house as an overflow classroom.]

——

Mar 13th, 97

School Board met in office of Mr. A.B. Deans, Mr. Oettinger, Dr. Anderson & Mr. Wootten absent.

Prof. Smith, Prin. of Col. Sch., made a statement as to his understanding of the conditions upon which he took the sch. census of the col. race last year.

After discussion, Dr. Moore moved to reconsider the motion made at a previous meeting, to deduct $16.22 from am’t p’d Prof. Smith for his work) from the last month’s salary, & to deduct only $6.22 thus paying him $10.00 for his services. Carried.

[Each year, a school board representative conducted a survey of school-aged children in its district to determine the need for teachers at each grade level. Occasionally, as noted elsewhere in the minutes, the board would scrap an upper grade for want of students. The root of Simeon Smith’s pay question is not clear.]

——

Feb. 18th, 1898

School Board met in the office of Mr. J. Oettinger, Mr. A.B. Deans absent.

Supt stated that he had called the meeting to consider the crowded condition of affairs at the colored school, and to make arrangements for securing more room.

It was agreed to build at once, a two room addition, 24×50 ft. and place sufficient piazza space for the entire building.

Mr. Oettinger moved that Mr. W.P. Wootten, Dr. C.E. Moore and the Supt. be appointed a committee to have building put up at once. Carried.

[The board finally moved to address the crowding, authorized the building to two new classrooms and a porch.]

——

Mar. 2nd, 98

Called meeting of School Board at office of Mr. A.B. Deans. All present.

Supt. was ordered to purchase desks necessary to properly seat the new building at colored school.

Building comm. reported new building about ready for use.

[It’s hard to imagine that the rooms were thrown up in less than two weeks, but if they were, this seems a testament to poor quality.

——

Aug. 31, 98.

Board met at call of Supt. to elect a teacher for 5th & 6th Grades, Colored School. All present.

Supt. reported that he had held an examination on the 29th inst. at which all applicants were examined.

Mrs. A.V.C. Hunt had stood the best examination, and was duly elected to fill the vacancy at salary of $20.00 per month.

….

[Two months after her hire as a teacher, erstwhile grocer Annie V.C. Hunt was embroiled in a conflict that led to the shooting death of her husband James Hunt in 1900.]

——

Sept. 27, 00.

Board met in extra session, at office of W.P. Wootten. All present except Mr. Oettinger.

Sec’y stated that meeting had been called at request of S.A. Smith, Prin. Col. School, for the purpose of investigating the charges against him, as per rumors being circulated regarding his character by Chas. Barbour.

Chas. Barbour, being called, stated that he had no charges to make against Smith, that he merely wanted Board to discharge his wife, Sallie Barbour, from her position as teacher in Col. School. She had not requested to be allowed to  resign, but he desired her discharged. He gave no valid reason for his wish. Supt. stated that he had no complaints to make against Mrs. Barbour.

Charges against Smith were dismissed, & Barbour was told that Board could not discharge his wife without cause.

[Shortly after this humiliating attempt by Charles Barbour to have his wife discharged from her teaching position, Sallie Barbour filed for divorce. Her petition cited a litany of abuses, including physical violence, and she sought custody of their sons.

——

Nov. 10, 00.

Called meeting of Board held in office of Drs. Moore & Anderson, Mr. Wootten and & Mr. Simms absent.

Sec’y stated that he had been enjoined by S.A. Woodard, Att’y for Chas. Barbour, against paying Mrs. Barbour any further salary.

Upon motion, the Sec’y was instructed to inform Mrs. Barbour that her salary was withheld till she obtained legal order, giving full authority to Board to pay her salary to her alone.

[Failing to get her fired, Barbour secured an injunction prohibiting the school board from paying his wife. The board determined to advise Sallie Barbour that her salary would be withheld until she got a court order making it payable to her alone.]

——

Feb. 2, /01

Meeting of the Board, all present. Sec’y stated that he received the resignation of Mrs. Hunt as teacher of 5th Grade, Col. School.

Resignation accepted to take effect at once.

Motion made that Clarrissy Williams be elected to fill the unexpired term of Mrs. Hunt. Carried.

[The board hired Clarissa Williams to fill the position vacated by Annie Hunt when she left Wilson. Williams would prove to be a loyal employee, declining to resign in the wake of the Coon-Euell slapping incident and serving briefly as colored school principal when J.D. Reid was forced out.]

——

Mar. 30, 1901.

At a called meeting of the Board, the Sec’y presented the resignation of G.H. Towe, as teacher of 3rd and 4th Grades, in Colored.

The resignation was accepted to take effect at once.

The Supt. reported the result of an examination he had held to fill this vacancy, and, upon motion, Cora Miller was elected to fill out the unexpired term of G.H. Towe.

[Five months later, Cora Miller married George Washington, brother of Annie Washington Vick.]

——

MINUTES OF BOARD SESSION OF 1901-1902.

[No date.]

Board met in the office of Dr. Moore, Mr. Simms absent.

The resignation of S.A. Smith as Principal of the Colored School was accepted, as he had been elected to a similar position in the Schools of Winston. To fill this vacancy the Board elected J.D. Reid, Wilson, N.C.

To fill the other vacancies in the Colored School, the Board elected Cora Miller, and Mrs. S.A. Smith, both of Wilson, N.C.

[Simeon Smith took a position at a large African-American graded school in Winston-Salem. His wife soon joined him there.]

——

  • F.O. Blount — Frank Oscar Blount.
  • Prof. Winstead/B.R. Winstead — Braswell R. Winstead.
  • Levi Peacock/L.H. Peacock — Levi H. Peacock.
  • Addie Battle
  • Lucy Thompson — Lucy A. Thompson died 24 July 1946 at her home at 310 Singletary Street. Per her death certificate, she was 71 years old; was born in Wilson County to Ennis Thompson of Greene County and Hellen A. Ruffin of Louisburg, N.C.; was single; and was a teacher. Virginia D. Humphrey was informant. Thompson was buried in Rountree cemetery.
  • Ida Thompson
  • Annie Washington/Annie Washington Vick/Mrs. S.H. Vick — Annie Washington Vick.
  • Annie Blake — Annie Blake Rodgers.
  • Sudie Harris
  • S.A. Smith — Simeon A. Smith.
  • Mrs. S.A. Smith — Minnie Joyner Smith.
  • G.H. Towe — Granville H. Towe.
  • Ida Rountree — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: carpenter Henry Rountree, 52; wife Emma, 55; and children Charley, 34, drayman, and Ida, 27, schoolteacher.
  • Mrs. R.C. Melton — Rebecca Canty Melton.
  • Mrs. A.V.C. Hunt — Annie V. Collins Hunt.
  • Clarrissy Williams — Clarissa Williams.
  • J.D. Reid — Judge James D. Reid.

Women are best.

While director of the University of North Carolina Press, W. T. Couch also worked as a part-time official of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration, serving as assistant and associate director for North Carolina (1936-1937) and as director for the southern region (1938-1939). The Federal Writers’ Project Papers are housed at U.N.C.’s Southern Historical Collection and include Couch’s correspondence and life histories of about 1,200 individuals collected by F.W.P. members. At least two African-American residents of Wilson, Georgia Crockett Aiken and William Batts, were memorialized in this way. 

Folder 324 contains the transcript of the interview with Georgia Crockett Aiken, titled “Women are best.”

The first page is a key to the pseudonyms used in the transcript.

Georgia Aiken is mistakenly described as white. She lived at 120 Pender Street in Wilson. When her interview began, she was in her kitchen directing the work of two children who were cleaning the house. She was born in 1872 into a family of ten children, all of whom were dead except her. [The family had lived in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and Georgia’s brothers included Alexander and James Crockett.]

Georgia Aiken grew up near a school and, because both her parents were wage-earners, was able to attend through the ninth grade. She obtained a teaching certificate and started teaching in 1889 a one-room school “out in the country.” She made $25 a month for teaching seven grades and reminisced on the hardships — and reward — of serving the children of the community.

In 1908, Georgia Aiken arrived in Wilson. She started high school coursework [where? the Colored High School did not open until 1924] and received a big raise when she completed it. She taught for 48 years, all told.

She dated John Aiken for two years before they married. Aiken owned a prosperous livery stable, and the couple saved their money to build a house. When they bought the Pender Street lot, a widow lived with her children in a small house there. [A 1905 plat map shows John Aiken already owned a lot on Pender Street. Was it a different one?] John Aiken died before the house was completed [in 1914] and Georgia Aiken took over the business.

Though worried about finances, Georgia Aiken went ahead with plans to build. The livery business did well until “automobiles came in.” She sold the business at a loss and turned her attention to teaching and caring for her house.

The writer described Aiken’s kitchen in deep detail.

Her “cook stove … finished in blue porcelain” was probably much like this one, found in an on-line ad:

Aiken continued, speaking of training her helper, her standards for housekeeping and food preparation, and her preference for paying cash.

And then: “I might as well say that I voted in the last city elections and have voted ever since woman’s suffrage has come in, and I expect to as long as I can get to the polls. I would like to see some women run for some of the town offices. I think they’re just as capable as the men who set themselves up so high and mighty. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if women didn’t get more and more of the high positions in the near future. …”

And: churches and government are run by rings, and “if you don’t stand in well with these, you don’t stand a chance.”

“I believe the women do more in church work than men.”

Georgia Aiken took in boarders at her home on Pender Street and always tried to make her “guests feel at home.” “When times are good and business is stirring” — likely, she meant during tobacco market season — “I always have my house full.” In slow times, though, it was hard to meet expenses. Taxes were due and though she knew she would make the money to pay them in the fall, she hated to incur fees.

Aiken paid her helper in board and clothes only, though she wished she could pay wages. If she stayed long enough, Aiken would consider leaving her some interest in the property after her death, though her niece in New York might object. She lamented a long delay in repainting the exterior of the house, but had plans to do so.

The writer described the house’s rooms and furnishings, mentioning their wear and age. Aiken indicated her preference for “clean decent folks” as tenants. She had two baths in the house and hot water from the stove for both. She could not afford to install steam heat when the house was being built and rued the dustiness of coal.

“Helping anyone in need is being nice to anyone, and the one that helps me most during the few years that I’ve left in this life is the one I hope to remember with the most of what I leave when I’m called to the life to come.”

A summary:

Georgia Crockett Aikens died 17 August 1939 in Wilson, apparently just a few months after giving this interview. Per her death certificate, she was 67 years old, born in Wayne County to William Crockett and Rachel Powell, resided at 120 Pender Street in Wilson, and was married to John Aikens.

“Federal Writers’ Project Papers, 1936-1940, Collection No. 03709.” The Southern Historical Collection, Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.