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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Crossing the Tracks an Oral History of East and West Wilson

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Oliver Nestus Freeman Roundhouse Museum in East Wilson

I am pleased to announce that the Wilson County Local History and Genealogy room is collaborating with Barton College on an oral history project about East and West Wilson.  The director of Barton College’s Hackney Library, George Loveland, describes the project:

Crossing the Tracks: An Oral History of East and West Wilson is a partnership between the Round House Museum, Barton College’s History Department, and Hackney Library. In the spring of 2013, Barton College students began interviewing Wilson residents about social, cultural, political, and economic relations between residents of East and West Wilson, and how these have changed over the past sixty to seventy years.

Students involved in the project will use our local history resources as references for the written portion of the project.  This week a student perused our Wilson high school yearbook collection for participants in the project (he found some).  I also helped him pin down the date (1969-1970) for the extension of Hines Street into East Wilson.  The extension impacted many houses in the area including houses lived in by project participants.

Check out information about the project and listen to recorded interviews at this link

Racial Violence in North Carolina

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Tomorrow at five in the assembly room I am hosting two JD candidates from Northeastern Law School in Boston, MA.  They are giving a presentation of their findings on the 1940’s era murders of 3 African American men in Wilson, NC.  Their work is a part of Northeastern Law School’s ongoing Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, a program that tries to shed light on Jim Crow era murders of African Americans in the South who were killed due to racial violence but no one was convicted of the crime.   They contacted me a couple of weeks ago to see if I could help them find family members of people in involved in the murder trial of Otis Newsome, a WWII vet and funeral director who was killed in cold blood in 1948 while trying to buy a bottle of brake fluid.  I was able to find and interview the son of the prosecutor who was able to give the law candidates access to his father’s files on the case.  It should be a very interesting presentation and I am honored to be a part of it.