Charles L. Coon, Progressive Educator and Human Rights Advocate


Charles L. Coon with Wilson, NC school children circa 1913

Last Friday the library was given a highy significant gift of education related photographs of Wilson during the early 20th century as well as monographs and documents pertaining to the emminent progressive thinker and educator Charles L. Coon (1868-1927).  Charles L. Coon was a man before his time in his advocation of child labor laws and fight for equal education for African Americans.  He was derided by the Raleigh News and Observer of the era but was much loved by many of the citizens of Wilson and the hundreds of school children that he taught and fought for in his positions as superintendant of Salisbury, NC schools, African American normal schools and Wilson County, NC schools.  He also served as president of Wilson Welfare League, secretary of the North Carolina Child Labor Committee and directly involved in starting and the funding of the Negro Tuberculosis Sanitorium in Wilson, NC.  Unfortunately he didn’t live to see the defeat of the mill owner lobby with the passing of the child labor laws in 1938 or the dismantling of the Jim Crow South in the 1960’s but he is remembered as an early fighter for human rights in the American South.