voting rights

Registered voters’ party affiliation challenged.

Tonight at Wilson County Public Library, Meredith College professor David McClennan and I spoke about voting rights and voter suppression, past and present. I focused on the campaigns of Dr. G.K. Butterfield Sr. for a seat on Wilson’s Board of Aldermen on the 1950s, but in my outline of the struggle leading up to his election I made reference to this sorry moment in Wilson’s voting rights history.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 June 1930.

In 1930, Democrats challenged the registrations of 39 African-American voters prior to a Democratic primary. Twenty-three of those challenged showed up at a hearing in which they were forced to answer questions about their political leanings and candidate choices. 

A committee of two Democrats and a Republican, all white, reclassified these voters as Independent, disqualifying them from the primary: 

These two were determined to have Republican sympathies, and therefore more properly registered as such:

  • Robert Haskins, an insurance agent who was lead plaintiff more than 40 years later in a lawsuit to abolish at-large voting for seats on the Wilson County Commission.
  • Ada Artis, nurse.

These 19 were allowed to keep their party affiliation: 

  • S.S. Boatright — Sidney S. Boatwright, barber.
  • John A. Barnes — in the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Barnes John A (c; Sarah) lab h 739 Lipscomb rd
  • Edgar Diggs, barber.
  • Woody Farmer, barber.
  • J.E. Kennedy — Rev. John E. Kennedy, A.M.E. Zion minister.
  • W.A. Mitchner — William A. Mitchner, physician.
  • L.A. Moore — Lee A. Moore, insurance agent.
  • J.W. Peacock — Junius W. Peacock, barber. 
  • Roscoe Williams — in the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Williams Roscoe (c; Mary) barber Oscar Williams h 1009 Queen
  • Nolly Zachary– Joe Knolly Zachary, barber.
  • Roderick Taylor, barber.
  • Boston Wellington — in the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wellington Boston (c; Victoria) barber Chas S Thomas h 111 S Carroll
  • Sophie Artis
  • Mabel Ellis, nurse.
  • Mamie Ford, teacher.
  • Martha Haskins — probably, in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 702 East Green, Addie Haskins, 50, cook and widow, and children Martha, 20, teacher, Addie D., 19, Gladis, 19, and Nathan, 32, tobacco factory cooper. 
  • Annie Leonard — perhaps: Annie Leonard died 13 September 1943 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 57 years old; was born in Macon, Georgia; worked as a nurse and midwife; lived at 512 Church Street; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. 
  • Mildred Taylor
  • Ethel Hines (by proxy, her husband Bill Hines)

You’re invited: “Overcoming Barriers to Voting: Past to Present.”

Join us September 8 at Wilson County Public Library’s Main Branch for my talk about Dr. George K. Butterfield Sr.’s historic election to Wilson’s Board of Alderman in the 1950s. The lecture is part of a series of events leading up to National Voter Registration Day on 20 September 2022. 

W.H. Barnes is called for jury duty.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 August 1935.

In 1935, William H. Barnes‘ selection for jury duty made the news after county commissioners determined that “negroes were to be included in the jury lists of the County.” 


In the 1880 census of Sauls Crossroads, Wayne County: farmer Samuel Barnes, 37; wife Jane, 34; and children Robert, 14, Frances, 11, Ora, 9, Bettey, 6, William, 2, and Annie, 1.

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: widower William H. Barnes, 33, farmer.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer W.H. Barnes, 52; wife Minnie, 46; and children Dida, 23, Johnie, 21, and Willie V., 19.

In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer W.H. Barnes, 62; wife Minnie, 54; children Dottie, 35, Verona, 30, and Jane, 10; and grandson John Lee, 3.

William H. Barnes died 10 November 1944 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 October 1877 in Wayne County to Samuel Barnes of Wayne County and Jane [maiden name unknown] of Georgia; was the widower of Minnie Barnes; was engaged in farming; and was buried at Turner Swamp, Wayne County. Dedie Barnes Reid was informant.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Dr. Yancey’s defeat.

A recent post revealed pharmacist D’Arcey C. Yancey‘s April 1947 declaration of candidacy for a seat on Wilson’s Board of Aldermen, today’s equivalent of City Council. I had not been aware of Yancey’s political career, and his campaign is not covered in Charles McKinney’s Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina.

The Daily Times made sure, of course, to highlight Yancey’s race, but otherwise made no comment about his extraordinary bid for elected office.

Wilson Daily Times, 4 April 1947.

The campaign season was only weeks long, and the Times wasted little ink covering it. May 6 saw a record turnout at the polls, and the Daily Times announced the results the next day. Yancey had been badly defeated, garnering only 75 votes to incumbent Ed W. Davis’ 348.

My thanks to Matthew Langston for following up on the initial post. 

White supremacy made permanent.

On 2 August 1900, in the wake of the Wilmington Massacre, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment that effectively disenfranchised its African-American voting population. This disenfranchisement was the point, not a by-product. For more than a year prior to the vote, politicians and press across the state made that point clear in speeches and editorials, including this one that the Wilson Daily Times ran 123 years ago today.

First, the text of the Suffrage Amendment: 

Then, a breezy — and nakedly racist — explanation of the amendment’s purpose and impact. The literal bottom line: “The white people are determined to make white supremacy permanent in North Carolina.”

Wilson Daily Times, 10 April 1899.

Local heroes Josephus Daniels and Charles B. Aycock were central figures in North Carolina’s white supremacist campaign and the physical and political violence it engendered. The Suffrage Amendment, whose passage was as much their legacy as anyone’s, long outlived both of them, standing until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The obituary of Robert D. Haskins, voting rights warrior.

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the passing of Robert D. Haskins, the named plaintiff in a landmark 1982 civil rights lawsuit filed against Wilson County over its at-large system for electing county commissioner.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 October 1986.

Attorneys G.K. Butterfield Jr. (now a U.S. Congressman) and Milton “Toby” Fitch Jr. (now a North Carolina State Senator) with Robert D. Haskins. In the early 1980s, on behalf of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, photographer Jim Peppler documented Black Wilson County citizens’ efforts to secure representation on the county’s Board of County Commissioners. The series of photographs are housed at Alabama Department of Archives and History


In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Haskins, 37, insurance agent; wife Gertrude, 28; and children Mandy, 14; Elizabeth, 12; Estelle, 10; Robert, 7; Lossie, 5; Laurence, 4, and Thomas, 11.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Haskins, 44, insurance agent; wife Gertrude, 39; and children Mandy, 22, private family cook; Elizabeth, 20; Estell, 18; Robert, 17; Lossie, 14; Larence, 12, and Tommie, 11.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Haskins, 55, drug company salesman; wife Gertrude, 48; and children Mandy, 36; Elizabeth, 33, cook; Estelle, 29, beauty shop cleaner; Robert D. Jr., 29, hotel kitchen worker; Lossie, 24, N.Y.A. stenographer; and Thomas, 20, barbershop shoeblack; plus granddaughter Delores Haskins, 15, and lodger Henry Whitehead, 21.

In 1940, Robert Douglas Haskins registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 1 June 1913 in Wilson; lived at 1300 Atlantic Street, Wilson; his contact was father Robert Haskins; and he worked for Robert Haskins as a salesman.

Hat tip to LaMonique Hamilton for the link to these photos.

This is why.

Karole Turner Campbell shared this photograph of her maternal grandparents, Wesley and Martha Taylor Jones, sitting on the stoop of their Stantonsburg Street house in Wilson. In 1954, when she was nine years old, Turner Campbell spent the summer with them. It was her first “sleep-away camp,” and her grandfather Wesley gave her a job. She was to help her grandmother Martha, then 64 years old, learn to read so she could register to vote for the first time in her life. This was the Jim Crow era, and North Carolina still imposed literacy tests and poll taxes to disenfranchise its Black citizens. Martha Taylor had achieved only a third grade education when she had to leave school and go to work. Writes Turner Campbell, “I CANNOT EXPLAIN HOW THAT EXPERIENCE TOUCHED, MOVED AND INSPIRED ME! Nine years old, and I helped teach my grandma to read and vote. This is one reason I became an educator. This is why I ALWAYS vote.” 


I woke up this morning disappointed and apprehensive and angry. But, ever inspired by those whose shoulders I stand on, resolute. 

Many thanks to Karole Turner Campbell and to the many political pioneers of Wilson County’s Jones family.

Iredell County Chronicles, no. 2.

Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart (1861-1924).

Me: How did she work that? How did Harriet get to be the first black woman to vote [in Statesville, North Carolina]?

Margaret Colvert Allen, my maternal grandmother: Well, because her husband [Thomas Alonzo Hart] was a lawyer.

Me: Right.

Grandma: He was a, whatchacall – a real estate lawyer. And he taught her how to read and write and do everything after he married her. Or while he was marrying her. Or something. And when time came for women to vote, she was the first black – he carried her down to the polls, and she was the first black woman to vote. And then at that time, you know, they gave you a quiz.

Me: Right. Right. Right. For black people to vote. Yeah. ‘Cause did your parents – well, did your father [Lon W. Colvert] vote?

Lon Walker Colvert (1875-1930).

Grandma: Oh, yeah. Papa voted. He voted. And the people in my home, Lisa, fought in the streets. It was dange – I mean, we could not go outside the house on election night. The people — “Who’d you vote for?” “I’m a Democrat.” “I’m a Republican.” Pam-a-lam-a-lam! [Swings fists, and I break into laughter.] People acted like they were crazy! Papa didn’t allow us out the house. “You better be getting on home!” ‘Cause they were terrible.

Me: And now you got to drag people out to vote. And then you hear people going: “I’m not gon vote now. What’s the point? I blah-blah-blah.”

Grandma: Yeah. When I came here [Newport News, Virginia] you had to pay poll tax.

Me: Yeah.

Grandma: It wasn’t a whole lot, but it was ridiculous.

Me: Yep.

[Harriet Hart was my great-great-grandmother. My grandmother cast her last ballot for Barack Obama in 2008 — at age 100.]


Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.