Alice’s Ordinary People

Next month the Wilson County Public Library is showing an exceptional film on an “ordinary” person and their struggle for human rights during the Civil Rights Movement. Here is more from the website:

Alice’s life story reads like a history of the movement. Early on she fought the “Willis Wagons.” The second class structures were built to relieve overcrowding in those Chicago schools which served the African American community. Their very existence perpetuated segregation.

In 1966, Dr. King came to Chicago. Alice and her husband James Tregay, marched with him, often at great personal risk. It was at this time that Dr. King joined the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and the Reverend James Bevel to form Operation Breadbasket. Breadbasket fought racism on many fronts, but its main task was jobs for African Americans, particularly from those businesses drawing profits from the African American community.

Under the leadership of Reverend Jackson, the months that Alice and her “ordinary people” spent picketing led to real change. But it was through her Political Education class, that Alice had her most significant impact. Over a four year period, thousands were trained to work in independent political campaigns. This new force was integral to the re-election of Ralph Metcalf to Congress (this time as an independent democrat), to the election of Harold Washington, mayor, and to making Barack Obama, our first African American President.

Alice’s contribution is unique in American history, and an hour program can only tell so much. It is my hope that one day a book will also be written on this important subject.

– Craig Dudnick

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Stagecoach Mary: the Black Cowgirl

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America’s Old West was undoubtedly a Wild West before an ex-slave named Mary Fields arrived in 1885 at a small railroad town in present-day Montana. Yet she certainly made things more interesting. One schoolgirl wrote an essay saying: “she drinks whiskey, and she swears, and she is a republican, which makes her a low, foul creature.”

Source: Stagecoach Mary: the Black Cowgirl

London’s Primitive Baptist Church in Ruins

london-church-1 london-church-2 london-church-3Last week, a patron showed me some photographs that she took of a crumbling London’s Primitive Baptist Church on London Church Road.  The Church, built in about 1895, was moved to this site from Herring Avenue in 1992 to preserve the structure. All has not gone as planned and after a tree fell through the church sometime after 2013, it has been left as a ruin.  The patron that brought me the photos had been trying to get Preservation Wilson to renovate the structure, but they said that it was the landowner’s responsibility.  The church was deeded to the owners of American Museum of Music but after one of them died, the other was unable to take care of the important historic building.  For more on the church, see this post in Black Wide-Awake.

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London’s Primitive Baptist Church in better days.

Say Their Names: Reclaiming Wilson’s Slave Past

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Join us next month 2/7/2017 @ 7 pm in the WCPL assembly room for Lisa Henderson’s presentation: Say Their Names: Reclaiming Wilson’s Slave Past. If it is anything like her past presentations, it will be stellar.

Photo Albums of Henry Battle

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Unknown woman in Atlantic City, NJ.  Raines & Cox Studio Photo Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC.

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Henry Battle in Italy? Raines & Cox Studio Photo Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC.

Raines and Cox Studio got its start in Wilson, NC in 1947 and went about documenting Wilson’s history, culture and people up until the 2000’s.  Guy Cox died a couple of years ago and his vast collection of mostly photographs and negatives were donated to the State Archives of North Carolina. I recently requested that they digitize the collection and the first fruits of this request are now on their Flickr page!  Hopefully with more to come soon.

The images are from two albums from the 1940’s owned by probable Wilsonian, Henry Battle. The images and the metadata suggest that he was a US Army soldier during the occupation of Italy? (my guess, they suggest eastern Europe).  The other album is from a trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

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According to the 1940 census there was a Henry Battle (b. 1920) living in Rocky Mount, NC.