Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute

In case you missed it.

Last week’s Zoom talk about Mary C. Euell and the Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute may be one of my most enjoyable to date. I never tire of sharing Mary Euell’s story, and this occasion was made extra-memorable by the presence in the audience of descendants or relatives of sisters S. Roberta and Grace Battle, who were two of teachers who resigned with Euell; of Samuel H. Vick, who spearheaded the establishment of the alternative school; and of Sarah Hines, another resigning teacher, and her husband Walter S. Hines, a businessman who served on the Industrial School’s board. After my presentation, there was a freewheeling question-and-answer session that touched on a broad range of East Wilson matters and ended only because the library staff had to go on home.

My thanks, as always, to Wilson County Public Library, for its support of local history and commitment to amplifying the stories of Wilson’s African-American community. (See this month’s exhibit near the circulation desk prepared by Adult Services Librarian Naija Speight.) Special thanks to Local History and Genealogy Librarian Tammy Medlin and Assistant Director/Adult Services Manager Amanda Gardner. 

Filling in the gaps.

Last week in Wilson.

My thanks to Wilson County Historical Association, Wilson County Tourism Development Authority, Drew C. Wilson of Wilson Times (where you can read the accompanying article), Reginald Speight of Congressman G.K. Butterfield Jr.‘s office, and local elected officials and members of the public who took time to show interest and support.

Dedication of historical markers.

At last, the official dedications of four historical markers installed in Wilson in 2020-21.

——

“Colored Citizens” published a note to mark the end of the second year of the Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute. Wilson Daily Times, 1 June 1920.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The 103rd anniversary of the school boycott.

Today marks the 103rd 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 teachers.

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.

we-tender-our-resignation-and-east-wilson-followed

the-heroic-teachers-of-principal-reids-school

a-continuation-of-the-bad-feelings

what-happened-when-white-perverts-threatened-to-slap-colored-school-teachers

604-606-east-vance-street

mary-euell-and-dr-du-bois

minutes-of-the-school-board

attack-on-prof-j-d-reid

lucas-delivers-retribution

lynching-going-on-and-there-are-men-trying-to-stand-in-with-the-white-folks

photos-of-the-colored-graded-and-independent-schools

new-school-open

the-program

a-big-occasion-in-the-history-of-the-race-in-this-city

Photos of the Colored Graded and Independent Schools.

Circa 1992, the C.H. Darden High School Alumni Association published a pamphlet featuring a short memoir of the school’s long-time principal Edward M. Barnes (1905-2002). Among other things, Mr. Barnes spoke of the school boycott that led to the opening of Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute. Accompanying the text are these remarkable images.

First, another group photograph of the Colored Graded School’s teachers. Eleven teachers walked off the job to protest the superintendent’s assault on Mary C. Euell. Presumably, these are the eleven.

“The Staff of Wilson Graded School c. 1918. Ms. Uzell, the teacher whom the Superintendent slapped. Back Row: 3rd from right.” [The teacher’s name, in fact, was Euell.]

Second, a group photograph of students standing in front of the familiar bay windows and entry door of the Colored Graded School on Stantonsburg Street. The school’s highest grade level was eighth, and this may have been a group of graduating students.

“Our only public school was emptied of all the students” “The Colored Graded School”

Third, and most astonishingly, a photograph of the two-story building that housed Wilson Normal and Industrial School, also known as the Independent School, its lawn and balconies brimming with students and, it appears, parents.

“The Independent School was housed in one of Mr. Sam Vick’s houses on E. Vance Street.”

I am trying to track down the originals of these photographs to share with you. As I have testified repeatedly, the school boycott and creation of the W.N.I.A. were the most revolutionary collective strikes against white supremacy (and, to use a thoroughly modern term: misogynoir) in the history of Wilson County.

In the meantime, here’s W.N.I.A. on East Vance Street in the 1922 Sanborn map of Wilson. The shotgun (endway) house at 602 is clearly visible above.

The school building was still standing in 1964, as shown in this close-up of an aerial image of part of Wilson.

However, by time the city was next photographed in 1971, the Independent School building had been demolished.

This apartment building occupies the site today.

Aerial photos courtesy of Wilson County Technology Services Department; photo of 604-606 East Vance Street by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020.

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/

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

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

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

New school open.

More details from the opening of the Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute, also known as the Independent School, which opened after African-American students boycotted Wilson public schools.

Screen Shot 2020-03-08 at 10.04.06 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 12 November 1918.

Episcopal priest Robert N. Perry and Baptist minister Fred M. Davis were placed at the school’s head. (As principal and vice principal?) Samuel H. Vick was appointed chairman of the board of directors and Dr. William H. Phillips, secretary. The school was incorporated, and $2400 raised for its operation. The school was to have a high school department (which the Colored Graded School did not.) And most surprisingly, the school building, on Vance Street near Pender, had been the old (white) Methodist church and had been moved several blocks across the tracks to the site.