May 2024 – Page 3 – Black Wide-Awake (2024)

Washington Tribune, 29 January 1929.

Dr. Walter T. Darden, son of Charles H. and Dinah Scarborough Darden, served as acting director of Tuskegee Institute’s John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital during the absence of its regular director, who was at Johns Hopkins Hospital with Tuskegee Institute principal Dr. Robert R. Moton.

Slaveowners needing additional labor sometimes looked beyond the borders of Wilson County for supply. J.J. Williams, J.W. Davis, William M. Gay, and T.C. Davis agreed to pay J. Dent $675 for twelve months’ hire, beginning on or before 1 January 1861, of enslaved men Gilbert, Plyant, and Seneca. The men were to receive the “usual amount clothing” provided to hired slaves and were to be returned to Dent in Louisburg, Franklin County, the following Christmas Day 1861, barring “unavoidable accident.”

May 2024 – Page 3 – Black Wide-Awake (3)

Why was Franklin County the go-to spot to pick up extra labor? To what work did these groups of white Wilson County men set the men they leased?


  • J. Dent
  • J.J. Williams
  • J.W. Davis — in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, Wilson, J[oseph] W. Davis is listed with two 14 year-old enslaved girls. Davis was a merchant.
  • W.M. Gay — in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson township, Wilson County, William M. Gay is listed with ten enslaved people of his own, as well as 11 people held in trust for an unnamed minor. Gay is listed in the federal census that year as a merchant with a $16,000 personal estate, largely comprised of enslaved people. Sixteen year-old B.J. Tyson, who lived in his houshold, claimed $12,000 in personal property and likely was the minor noted above.
  • T.C. Davis — in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, Wilson, Thomas C. Davis is listed with four enslaved people, the oldest a 23 year-old man. The census schedule discloses that Davis was the county clerk of court, and his household included a 6 year-old free girl of color, Sarah Locus.

Slave Hire-1861, Records of Slaves and Free People of Color, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Winston-Salem Journal, 3 April 1927.

In April 1927, J.D. Reid, Samuel H. Vick, and Isaac A. Shade, officers of Commercial Bank, filed a certificate of incorporation for Wilson Commercial Realty Company. The company was in business at least two years earlier, when it commissioned a plat map of a bloc of buildings it owned in the 400 block of East Nash Street, immediately east of the tracks. It likely collapsed two and a half years later when Commercial Bank failed and the bottom dropped out of the American stock market.

I’m not podcasting, but if I were, Hot Corner,, would be a model.

May 2024 – Page 3 – Black Wide-Awake (6)

Hot Corner is the historic commercial hub of Athens, Georgia’s African-American community. Much like the 500 block of Wilson’s East Nash Street, Hot Corner once buzzed day and night with Black-owned shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Over the span of six episodes, hosts Broderick Flanigan and Aleck Stephens explore Athens’ racial dividing lines and “what Black communities have built in the spaces between.” Find Hot Corner wherever you listen to podcasts.

Wilson Times, 12 May 1911.

As noted here, when Rev. Fred M. Davis, long-time pastor of First and other black Missionary Baptist churches, wasn’t in the pulpit, he ran a business selling and hanging wallpaper.

Been meaning to come? You’ve got another chance!

In this series, which will post on occasional Wednesdays, I populate the landscape of Wilson County with imaginary “historic markers” commemorating people, places, and events significant to African-American history or culture.

We been here.


8-acre public African-American cemetery est. 1913. Cared for by families with scant city funding. Allowed to decline; closed in 1950s. After denying ownership for decades, city removed headstones and graded land circa 1995; installed single monument. Utility poles placed in 1997. In 2022, ground-penetrating radar disclosed 4224+ graves. Reconsecrated by community 5 August 2023.

Fresh off his successful decades-long campaign to strip African-Americans of basic rights in his home state of North Carolina, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels delivered the commencement speech at Howard University’s 1916 graduation. No doubt without irony, Daniels spoke of “progress made by the colored race.”

Who received his juris doctor degree that day? Glenn S. McBrayer, who passed the North Carolina bar the following spring and hung his attorney shingle in Wilson around 1920. He hit the ground running, hosting the first annual convention of the Negro State Bar Association and getting elected that organization’s corresponding secretary in December 1921. McBrayer practiced in Wilson through 1929.

The Washington Herald, 8 June 1916.

May 2024 – Page 3 – Black Wide-Awake (2024)


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