Historical Reflections on African American Tarboro


The State Library of NC had an extra copy of Historical Reflections on African American Tarboro by the late C. Rudolph Knight and the donated it to our library.  The place has been so bled dry of funds that they couldn’t afford to mail it to us so I picked it up while doing some research there recently.  The book has a lot of information about the families and history of the  African American community in and around Tarboro and we are happy to have the book just in time for Black History Month.

Also, I recently received a list of NC, KIA Vietnam Veterans who do not have picture on the Virtual Vietnam Veterans Wall of Faces and one of the soldiers was from Princeville, NC, which is just across the Tar river from Tarboro.  His name was Pvt. Bobby Ray Wilkins.  The book, Historical Reflections on African American Tarboro, has a section on a Wilkins family in the area but I didn’t see Pvt. Wilkin’s name.  If anyone who reads this has any knowledge of where an image of Pvt. Wilkins might be, please let me know.

Colony Theater

colony theater image

Colony Theater in Wilson sometime after it closed in 1983

Colony theater ticket

Not long ago I had a post on the Drake grindhouse theater in Wilson, NC, which was originally the Carolina theater.  Well there was another Carolina Theater and according to the internets, the old Carolina theater became Drake theater when this one opened in  at 129 S. Goldsboro St. on 23 November 1939.  Then in 1960, the “new” Carolina theater became the Colony theater.

Recently, one of my colleagues found a ticket from the Colony theater in a donated book.  I’m not sure what year the ticket was issued but it was to a Flintstones movie, A Man Called Flintstone, that originally opened in 1966.  However, for some reason I doubt it was a first run movie at the time of the ticket, so the ticket could have been issued sometime between 1966 and the theater’s closing in 1983.  The theater is now demolished and is a parking lot.

Check out this site, DocSouth, and their superb digital exhibit on NC movie theaters, Going to the Show, for the original architectural plans of the theater and a bit more history.


Reference CinemaTreasures.org

Wilson Veteran and Casualty of the Vietnam War now gets his Image on the Virtual Wall of Faces

Pvt Walter Harris

Pvt. Walter Harris

Harris obit1 Harris obit2

Last week I was contacted by a representative from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund who was looking for information and especially a picture of Wilson native, Pvt. Walter Harris.  Pvt. Harris was killed in 1966 by small arms fire during the Vietnam War.  Luckily, I was able to find his obituary in the Wilson Daily Times, which included a photograph.  Although the photo had a couple of smudges on it, I cleaned it up in Photoshop.

Pvt. Harris was a born in Nash County and graduated from Springfield High School in Wilson County and is now buried at Resthaven Cemetery in Wilson, NC

The photo and a bio of Pvt. Harris will be included in the Virtual Wall of Faces, joining another Wilson County soldier that I helped find information on, Marvin Bullock, who was killed in Vietnam in 1968.


The History of Black Business in Eastern North Carolina

This was sent to me from Barton College:

“The History of Black Business in Eastern NC ”  

featuring Laurel Sneed

Thursday, January 28, 6-7:30 p.m.

Barton College, Hackney Library

Wilson, NC


Join us for an evening with history educator, researcher, and media producer Laurel Sneed for a lecture and discussion of the African-American business tradition during the era of slavery and in the decades afterward. After viewing video clips of an interview with historian Dr. Juliet E.K. Walker, author of The History of Black Business in America, Ms. Sneed will briefly discuss black business activity in Eastern NC during and after slavery and will review three outstanding examples of the 19th century African–American business tradition in our state: Lunsford Lane, an enslaved tobacconist from Raleigh; Thomas Day, a free black furniture maker from Milton; and John Merrick, a brick mason, barber shop owner and co-founder of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. Merrick was born into slavery in Clinton and after Emancipation he moved to Durham where he became a highly successful business man. Early twentieth century photographs of the thriving business district on East Nash Street will be on display, courtesy of the Freeman Round House Museum of African American History. There will be time for questions, comments, discussion, and sharing of memories.


Join us for an evening with educator, researcher, and media producer/film-maker Laurel Sneed for a lecture and discussion on the history of black-owned businesses in eastern North Carolina, with a focus on Wilson. Ms. Sneed’s presentation will include her own original research, and video clips of an interview with historian Dr. Juliet E.K. Walker, author of The History of Black Business in America. Early twentieth century photographs of the thriving business district on East Nash Street will be on display, courtesy of the Freeman Round House Museum of African American History. There will be ample time for questions, comments, discussion, and sharing of memories.


Co-sponsors so far include: the Barton College Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Minority Student Association, the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum, the Wilson Chamber of Commerce, the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church/ Living the Word, Barton College School of Business, Larry and Carroll Gaissert, and Hackney Library. It includes a catered reception, and is open to the public.


Laurel Sneed is an educator, researcher,  and media producer/film-maker based in Durham, North Carolina. In 1995 she led the research effort that discovered Thomas Day’s origins and parentage  in southern Virginia. Since then she has produced  a broad range of materials and media on Thomas Day, as well as on other African American historical topics. In addition, she has been director of the Crafting Freedom teacher workshops which have brought over 400 teachers to North Carolina to study black artisans, entrepreneurs and abolitionists who contributed to the making of North Carolina and our country. Sneed makes presentations throughout the United States  on Thomas Day and a broad variety of subjects mostly related to American history and improving the teaching of it.

107 Year Old ex-Slave Marries 75 Year Old Woman

107 manThis is my most sensational headline for a blog post I’ve ever had.  But I found this astounding article in the April 22, 1949 edition of the Wilson Daily Times while looking for an obituary.  William Henry Pellan had lived more history than found within the pages of most history books.   He recounts that he was a slave in Washington County, NC and was sold three times for $700, $850 and $1,000 respectfully.  He also remembers Sherman’s March and had worked on Mississippi steamboats, worked as a farmhand, a fireman on railroads, in a sawmill and as a preacher.

Also the funniest/ meta-saddest part was when he complains that the price for a marriage license went up from $3 to $5 and says “I never paid more than $3 for a woman in my life, and this is my fourth one.”

107 man2