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June 13, 2017


Bill Mullins

Per the _Philadelphia Inquirer_ of Jun 7 1882, Wilson spoke at the graduation ceremonies. The article says "James W. Wilson, [of] Africa, "A Voice from Africa" "

The _Philadelphia Times_ of that date says "Addresses were made by . . . James W. Wilson, a native African of the Congo tribe," and later says that the degree of bachelor of arts was conferred upon him.

Wilson NC _Wilson Mirror_ 23 Jul 1890:
"There will be an enjoyable entertainment in Mamona Hall on Thursday night by the Kittrell Institute Concert Company. These colored people possess fine musical talent, and never fail to give an enjoyable entertainment. Prof. J. W. Wilson, of Cape Mount, Africa, will appear in his famous "Laughing Song," and "Pleasure of Boarding." He will also tell you something funny relative to African habits and customs."

Raleigh NC _State Chronicle_ 24 Aug 1890:
"The Kittrell Institute Concert Company, with Mr. J. W. Wilson, a native of Africa and one of the most interesting and pleasing signers now upon the stage, will appear at Metropolitan Hall, Monday night . . . Let Raleigh turn out and hear these singers, especially Mr. Wilson, whose productions remind one of those great kings of the laughable, Sol. Smith Russell and Tony Pastor."

Ads in the Raleigh _Gazette_ of Aug 1897 list him as the Choral Master on the faculty of the Kittrell Institute.

Reginald H Pitts

As promised, here are the results of my first whip through available records on J. W. Wilson (references supplied a little later)--


Born—March 2, 1861 (some sources say 1863) in the village of Talah, in Cape Mount County, Republic of Liberia, West Africa.

Listed in 1880 Federal Census for Lower Oxford Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania (Chester County Enumeration District 60, Sheet 9, Line 32)

Graduated Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) 1882, B. A.; 1888, M.A., S. T. B.

Married—October 22, 1890, Franklinton, North Carolina to Mary Ann Lettson (Littson, Lettsom). Children:

a. James Newton Wilson, b. August 2, 1891, Franklinton, N. C.; B.A. Biddle University (now Johnson C. Smith University), 1909; D. D.S., Howard University School of Dentistry 1914; served in World War I; practiced dentistry in Richmond, Va. 1918; postal clerk, U. S. Postal Service, Brooklyn, N. Y. after 1925; married (2) Rosetta Anthony March 16, 1933, Brooklyn, New York; d. August 16, 1950, Brooklyn, New York.

b. Anna Louisa Wilson, b. July 30, 1897, Franklinton, N. C.; married Roy C. Wells, September 28, 1919, Hickman County, Tennessee; d. March 25, 1920, Nashville, Tennessee.

Ordained Minister in Presbyterian Church April 1897

In January 1898, was a member of the faculty of Kittrell Institute (later College) in Vance County, N.C.

Family (wife and kids) Listed in 1900 Federal Census for town of Franklinton, Franklin County, North Carolina (Franklin County Enumeration District 41, Sheet 7-B, Lines 92-94.

Listed in 1920 Federal Census for Town of Suffolk, Nansemond County, Virginia (Nansemond County Enumeration District 223, Sheet 14-B, Line 96).Occupation: high school teacher.

Listed in 1930 Federal Census for Town of Suffolk, Nansemond County, Virginia (Nansemond County Enumeration District 119-4, Sheet 3-A, Line 2)—teacher at Suffolk Normal Training School, 173 Tines Street, Suffolk, Va.

Died—November 20, 1940, Suffolk, Virginia. Buried Rosemont Cemetery, Suffolk.

There's a lot more that needs to be searched out, but this will give an idea of how he spent his time afterwards. For the record, Kittrell College had a team, but I don't know if he coached it. More later! Reg Pitts

Gary Ashwill

Reginald, great! I am sure there's a lot more to find out about Wilson, and I look forward to hearing what you come up with.

Reginald H Pitts

Good afternoon! Thanks for the good work on J. W. Wilson. I'm a fellow alumnus of Lincoln University (Monte Irvin went here, too) and I think I can get the rest of the information needed to tell the rest of James Wilson's story in about a week or so. Hope to talk to you soon. Thanks again!

Gary Ashwill

I'm quite confident that "J. H. Wilson" and "James W. Wilson" are the same person, as Lincoln University didn't have that many students, and the story of "Jim Wilson" of the Lord Baltimores, Lincoln U., and Liberia matches the story of James W. Wilson perfectly. There's also reason to believe that the list of NCL players printed in The Sporting Life sometimes got the names a little wrong--"Hugh S. Cummings," for example, another of the Lincoln U. students, was really Harry S. Cummings. Also, along with Cummings & Wilson the other two Lincoln U. ballplayers mentioned in the Philadelphia Times article can be identified in the Lincoln U. catalogues, as John Paynter & William J. Curr[e]y.

John Thorn

Amazing research. Best I've seen in some time.

Doug S

This is a fascinating work of historical sleuthing. How confident are you that J H Wilson and James W. Wilson are the same person? A great blog.

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