Wilson's 'Colored Notes'
In the 1920's, few African American writers were writing columns in white newspapers in the south. The Portsmouth Star, the popular newspaper of the city of Portsmouth , Virginia , discovered a writer by the name of Jeffrey T. Wilson. In the early twentieth century, both Blacks and Whites followed daily events in Portsmouth through the eyes of Jeffrey Wilson, who wrote the column, “Colored Notes” for the Portsmouth Star newspaper.
The “Colored Notes” was a small column located after the comics at the bottom of the “Want Ads” section of the newspaper that provided daily news for the Black community of Portsmouth . This section was introduced in an effort to attract a black readership who, prior to this, did not purchase the Portsmouth Star in great numbers. The information published by Jeffrey T. Wilson kept the black community informed and also aware of activities that were going on within the community, such as news of black churches, anniversaries, social events, visitors to Portsmouth, weddings, funerals and deaths. He would also make commentary on local, state, and national events and political ideas.
The mainstream American media during this time not only largely excluded black opinions, but also reflected and reinforced widely held racist assumptions and stereotypes. Wilson chose his words and shaped the topics of his column not simply with black readers in mind, but to awaken the consciences of white readers as well. One could argue that he used words to attack American racism while stimulating, educating, and promoting the rich heritage and culture among Blacks in Portsmouth . The information that one finds within the “Colored Notes” is considered a valuable contribution to the general public because it documents the significance of the history, events, achievements, and many contributions of Portsmouth 's black community.
There are several things that must be examined when thoroughly discussing the history of “Colored Notes”. First, and most obviously, one needs to be familiar with Jeffrey Wilson, the writer of the “Colored Notes”. The narrative of his life and his various experiences provides immense insight on how he perceived life and how he wrote about it. Second, the Portsmouth Star , the newspaper in which the “Colored Notes” was published in under Wilson from 1924 to 1929, must be discussed. (1)In this, one will find the motivations of the publisher of the paper, Norman R. Hamilton, to have a section of the paper devoted for Black news and why Jeffrey Wilson was chosen in particular to write the column. Discussing some of the main topics covered in the “Colored Notes” would be the next analysis. There were a wide variety of themes covered within the black and white lines of the “Colored Notes” which are interesting, thought provoking, controversial, and even informative. By reading and examining the content of the “Colored Notes”, one develops a sense of the times and the culture of Portsmouth 's black community during the 1920's. Reading the notes themselves can be a task, but discovering and unlocking the history within the notes makes flipping the pages and turning the microfilm machine worth it. Discover and enjoy the narrative and the legacy that is Jeffrey Wilson and his acclaimed “Colored Notes”.
“Ye Scribe”, as Jeffrey Wilson would refer to himself in his column “Colored Notes”, was a man among men in his era.(2) Jeffrey Wilson was born into slavery in Portsmouth , Virginia on May 10, 1843 to Robert Wilson and Mary Taylor. As a black man during this era, he was forbidden from learning how to read or write, but it is suspected that he may have learned these skills from his slave mistress, Mrs. Margaret Grice, or by the Freedman's School for former slaves by the Missionary Society at the Emanuel A.M.E. church. Wilson makes mention to his former slave mistress, Margaret Grice, and master, George Grice in his May 5, 1926 edition of the “Colored Notes”. He states that:
“We recall 60 years ago or more one of the grandest white women in Virginia , or we would might say in the U.S. – we will go still further and say the world – was a mother to me (this scribe). She now lies buried in Cedar Grove cemetery, and we honor her memory. There was a tie that bound us to them and them to us. We loved her and we believe she had a tender feeling for our mother's children, and why? The same one who nursed us once cared for her in childhood. We refer to Mrs. Margaret N. Grice, the first wife of Major G.W. Grice. And he too comes in for a share as he was a kindly gentleman and protected this slave boy when the boy could not protect himself and never whipped hi, though God knows we did bad enough to be whipped humanely. All honor to the two.”(3)
By reading this passage, one can see that Wilson had a fond relationship with the Grices. He talks about the high regard that he had for the couple and briefly mentions how the relationship with the Grices actually started with his mother and Mrs. Grice during Mrs. Grice's childhood.
Wilson never received a formal education, but one can assume that he learned skills by way of the experiences he encountered in his life. Wilson refers to one of his many experiences in the Virginia Guard in the Aug 25, 1925 edition of the “Colored Notes”. He states that:
“This day 46 years ago, a militia company – the Virginia Guard – of this city commanded by Capt. James E. Manning left for Philadelphia . While there they were the guest of the “Gray Invincibles”, a crack militia company of the city commanded by the Capt. Oscar Jones. The white and colored citizens of Philadelphia alike gave the boys a hearty welcome”.(4)
Wilson goes on to say:
Two of the many interesting things about Jeffrey Wilson is the number of wives and children that he had. Prior to current research, it was known that Jeffrey Wilson had four wives, but documentation could not be produced to support this claim. Upon further research, the documentation to the lure of his four marriages became a supported fact. According to records provided by the researcher from investigating court records, Wilson 's first wife was Imogene Langley. They were married on January 5, 1870 in Portsmouth . Wilson was 26 years old and Langley was 21 years old.(6)His second wife was Laura Frances Butt. They were married April 5, 1892 Lincolnville, Norfolk County , Virginia (which was considered Portsmouth ). Wilson was 48 years old and Butt was 34 years old.(7) Wilson 's third wife was Annie Jones. They were married June 6, 1901 in Portsmouth Virginia according to the marriage license.(8) Wilson was 58 years old and Jones was 45 years old. Wilson 's fourth wife was Blanche Blake. They were married October 31, 1911 at Wilson 's beloved Emmanuel A.M.E.(9) Wilson was 68 years old and Blake was 32 years old. An astonishing fact that one notices about Wilson and his marriages is that his wives later in life seem to be further apart in regards to age. Even more astonishing than the age factor is that he outlived every single one of his wives. Wilson and Imogene [Langley] (his first wife), had four sons: Jeffrey T. Wilson, Jr., Joseph Dewitt Wilson, Allen Dewitt Wilson, and Frank Langley Wilson.(10) The children Blanche [Blake] (the fourth wife) and Jeffrey Wilson had together were Wendell, Mary , Virginia , Clyde , Lorraine , and Blanche.(11)
Wilson was very well known among the black community in Portsmouth . He was a faithful and devoted member of his church, Emanuel A.M.E. Church . He would reference Emanuel A.M.E. Church in nearly every column. It is also known that Wilson held the position of bailiff in the United States Court at Norfolk.(12)Another interesting fact about Wilson is that he would walk everywhere. This fact alone is not interesting in and of itself because many people Black and White walked were they had to go. Wilson would walk in the street because he claimed that it was easier on his feet than the sidewalk.(13) Being so well known among Blacks and Whites in Portsmouth due to his experiences and age of 81 by the year 1924, probably made him if nothing else, a good resource of local history and a man respected throughout the city. The question that comes to discussion after going through Wilson 's background is: why was he chosen to write the “Colored Notes”. To explore an answer to this question, one needs to become familiar with the two entities: the Portsmouth Star and its publisher, Norman R. Hamilton.
The Portsmouth Star was established by Paul C. Trugien in 1894. It was considered the premiere paper of the city of Portsmouth until its merger with the Virginian-Pilot and the Ledger-Dispatch in March of 1955. Norman R. Hamilton was the publisher of the Star while Wilson was the writer of the “Colored Notes”. Hamilton began his newspaper career in 1895 as a reporter at the Norfolk Public Ledger . He became publisher of the Star in 1917, and seven years (in 1924) later acquired control of the paper.(14) White newspaper publishers of the era realized that the black press' readership was steady increasing because they offered black news, by Black people, for Black people. Many theories could be conjured up regarding the how and why Jeffrey Wilson came to write the “Colored Notes”. By careful and thoughtful investigation of the basic facts; such as the demand for increased readership, from either the black and/or white community, and the fact that the new publisher of the paper in 1924 presumably wanted to enhance the paper by offering a column about black news in a white paper, appears to be major motivations to have a column about black news to attract black readership. With all of those things in mind, that still leaves the question of why Wilson . One could assume that Wilson and Hamilton may have crossed paths in Norfolk , while Wilson was working as a bailiff in the courts and Hamilton as a reporter from 1895 to 1914. Since Wilson was well known and respected in the black community in Portsmouth , Hamilton probably approached Wilson with the idea of writing the column and Wilson accepted. Still, one fundamental question must be answered before exploring the notes themselves. The question at this point is why Hamilton picked a man with such advance age. One must remember that the setting of these events is Tidewater, Virginia during the 1920's. The modern day civil rights movement was over thirty years away and affirmative action not even in the thought process or practice of American society on a significant level. Hamilton most likely chose Wilson because he was aware of the respect and status that Wilson had within the black community in Portsmouth and he probably felt no real threat about the views and opinions that Wilson expressed. One would think that a man of 81 years of age would have a different perspective and school of thought compared to the blunt writers of the black press. Who would think that an old man would be more than just an instrument to pass along information about the next church meeting or social event? If this indeed was the idea of Hamilton when offering Wilson the opportunity to write the “Colored Notes”, he achieved that goal. Wilson would talk about church meeting, community news, and social events. He even endorsed the paper briefly in the opening of his column. In the August 25, 1924 edition of the notes, such an example is provided. Wilson wrote:
Some would argue that Wilson included such an endorsement to appease Hamilton and his vision of an increased readership for the paper. Yet, the dynamic that counterbalances the suggested motivations of Hamilton is that Wilson created a dimension of news, education, and information through the “Colored Notes” that reached out and educated the community, provided commentary of various issues and attacked injustices.
Several different topics where discussed in Wilson 's “Colored Notes”. Wilson dealt with themes from local history to politics; church news to social happenings; local controversial issues to commentary to Blacks and Whites alike, and even added some personal information and other interesting observations. The “Colored Notes” encompassed a wide variety of subject matter, and that fact made the notes appealing to all that read the notes.
Wilson , being an octogenarian when writing the “Colored Notes”, had a wealth of historical information to his disposal. Some of the historical notes that he mentions in his column are experiences that he himself had gone threw; such as the historical note of him being a lieutenant in the Virginia militia mentioned earlier. The following are excerpts demonstrated his usage of incorporating bits of Portsmouth history into his columns to education the community.
The first excerpt is taken from the August 28, 1924 edition of the column. He mentions that there was once a colored man in the city of Portsmouth who owned slaves. Many people do not associate slave master and black man in the same context, but Wilson educates the public to such a fact.
The next historical excerpt from November 1, 1925 tells a very brief history of Wilson 's beloved Emanuel A.M.E. church. In the passage, one would note that he refers to the congregation of the church as the “old folks”. He states that:
“Sixty eight years ago the first colored church dedicated by negroes was the North Street African church, now Emanuel. Rev. George M Baines was the “old folks” beloved pastor. We will celebrate it today and during the week.” (17)
Having lived through the Civil War period, Wilson took the opportunity in the June 4, 1926 edition of the “Colored Notes” to mention to abolition of slavery. He states that:
“Sixty two years ago, this month the Congress of the United States resolved to abolish slavery. But they had the Confederates to reckon with. Some bloody battles took place, and many slaves and their advocates went down in it, but as the world knows that the cause of abolition won out”. (18)
In regards to politics, Wilson had no problem expressing himself through the notes. In the first excerpt dealing with Wilson and the discussion on politics within the “Colored Notes”, we find that Wilson is trying to inform the Black community to think long and had about supporting “the party of Lincoln and Emancipation” while simultaneously informing Whites that the black community notices the lack of regard for the black community nationally. He states that:
In the next excerpt from August 15, 1925 , Wilson tells the reader that he himself flirted with political office.
During the 1920's nationally, the country was going through the prohibition period. Wilson discussed nation news and events as well. One political issue to Wilson was prohibition and his fight to stop modifications of the prohibition act. Wilson is quite adamant about his opinion and his desire for the black community to vote against modification of prohibition in the March 12, 1926 “Colored Notes”.
“We cast a ballot at the Star office Thursday a. m. against any modification of the prohibition act. We don't favor dotting an “I” or crossing a “t”. It is doing good. Let the advocates of its modification howl as they will. It is in the constitution. Let it stay there. Never fear for the money it costs. That will come all right. Many of us have children and they must be schooled. Come advocates of the liquor claim that the enforcement of the prohibition will hurt schools. --- All hosh! This scribe has two sweet little motherless girls, and they are dear to his heart, but if they are to be educated at the price of liquor, we would rather see them grow up in ignorance. We would sit up half the night in the home teaching them the best of our limited ability rather than trained at a fearful cost, i.e. legalizing liquor. Parents are running a great risk if they neglect this opportunity of going to the Star office and registering their solemn protest”. (21)
The next political excerpt that will be examined is Wilson 's commentary on a state visit to the United States from the President of Haiti. Excerpts from June 18, 1926 and June 22, 1926 respectively will show Wilson 's opinion on this issue. On June 18, he states that:
“The president of Haiti is a guest of the nation at Washington . Is he colored or white? We know that Haitians are a mixed breed of Negroes and mulattoes. Now what is the president – a compromise? It is a 50-50 gang there anyway, and for peace sake there may be a compromise”. (22)
In the June 22 column, Wilson continues to write about the Haitian president's visit. Wilson states the fact that the people of Washington are hypocrites because they welcome a foreign Black man with higher regard than an American Black man. Cynically, he mentions that “consistency thou are a jewel”. He states that:
“The president of Haiti is in this country. He was received in Washington with great pomp and ceremony. Official Washington fell over each other in giving him honor, yet he is only a brown skin negro – nothing more. O consistency thou are a jewel”. (23)
The “Colored Notes” were filled with church news and information. Wilson documented schedules of worship services, upcoming announcements and events of churches; especially of his beloved Emanuel A.M.E., and funerals. Wilson , in the following passage, informs the community about a meeting held at Emanuel A.M.E. church on November 23, 1924 . Being a prominent member of the church, he was privy to an assortment of information within the church. He states that:
Wilson also relayed messages to the black community about various church announcements and events through the “Colored Notes” The following two passages gives an example of such in practice. The first passage informs about the schedule of church service at Emanuel church.
“Services at Emanuel A.M.E. church next Lord's Day will be as follows: Class meetings at 7 a.m. ; Sunday school at 9; preaching at 11 a.m. , by the pastor; reading into full connection at 8 p.m. service.” (25)
Church events were also an important part of the culture and heritage of Portsmouth 's Black community. From concerts to picnics, Wilson wrote about as many as he could. In the following passage, Wilson gives the reader an example of such by referencing to the Ebenezer Baptist Picnic in his July 24, 1924 edition of the notes. He also makes a biblical reference, which is commonplace within his “Colored Notes”.
“The picnic of Ebenezer Baptist Church , Rev. M.N. Newsome, pastor, was a telling success. The weather was ideal and that always adds in the pleasure of excursions. Another feature that was even more beautiful than all was the good behavior on the part of everybody. Manners and good behavior have and always will have a high place in the estimation of the good and just of every generation. Order is the first law of heaven, and we can have that heavenly spirit on earth when order is thoroughly upheld”.(26)
Along with joyful events such as the picnic, Wilson also recorded poignant events such as deaths and funerals. One example of such was from the January 22, 1926 edition of the notes. Wilson references Mrs. Mary Young, who was a member of Emanuel church as Wilson himself was.
“The funeral of Mrs. Mary R. Young was held yesterday from Emmanuel A.M.E. church of which she was a member for 54 years. Her pastor, Rev. Dr. J.A. Young, officiated and paid a high tribute to her Christian life and moral worth”. (27)
In the January 25, 1926 edition of the notes, Wilson tells of the death of Southall Bass Jr. The Bass family was well known throughout the city. Mr. Southall Bass graduated from pharmacy school in Raleigh , North Carolina , owned and operated a business with his brother, Dr. E.J. Bass, and eventually opened his own business in Norfolk . Numerous other relating topics regarding church events were constantly mentioned in the “Colored Notes”. It is important to note that church and religion played a major role in his life. When reading his diary from 1913, Wilson would always begin a passage with a religious verse or biblical remark. This may explain why church dominated much of the content of the “Colored Notes”.
The church news advertised by Wilson in the “Colored Notes” complimented his discussions and references to social events as well. As with the church culture, social events and community news within the Portsmouth 's Black community were also important to Wilson , thus naturally mentioned is his column. Dramatic plays, pageants, black business, visits by various people from out of the region, and the travel plans of persons leaving for a few days, were just a handful of topics discussed in the social section of the notes.
Through his “Colored Notes”, Wilson wrote about many of the social events. Though he could not make every event, it is evident by the critiques of the events that he did attend, such as the Ebenezer church picnic, that he graced his presence at a number of functions around town. One example of an event that Wilson attended who be a production of “Sampson and Delilah” held at Zion Baptist Church . Within the critiques of the play, Wilson states that “out friend Carney doubtless did his best in choosing his cast, but the artists were not up to the individuality” and that “they (referring to the characters of the play) didn't get into the spirit of the characters they portrayed”. (28) Not everyone enjoyed Wilson 's critique of the play, as he makes that fact known in his column two day later on September 26, 1925 . Wilson writes that:
“We are criticized for out criticism of “Samson and Delilah”, which we expect but go on, we can stand it. We have been criticized before, and there are no marks of violence on us”.
Travel was one way the black community of the city stayed connected with loved ones in other places. In the following passage from the July 5, 1926 column of the “Colored Notes”, Wilson informs the community of the visit of Mrs. Sarah A. Kemp.
Wilson even mentions the travel plans of one of his own sons, Frank Wilson in the February 23, 1926 of the notes.
In the next passage from September 25, 1924 , Wilson shows talks about the streets in the Lincolnville section of the city and the business of Jordan Bass being closed. When addressing the issue of the streets, Wilson is actually sending a message to the city that the streets of Lincolnville needed to be repaired. In reference to the Bass business, it is interpreted that Wilson uses the Bass business example as a message to the Black community to support the business of the community or they will be forced to close. He is blunt yet articulate in this passage, as he is in all of his columns. Wilson notes that:
The social events and community news section also included concerns that Portsmouth Blacks had about services provided by the city. A classic example of such was written by Wilson in the June 8, 1926 edition of the “Colored Notes”. Wilson expresses in the piece that he wants the issue dealt with accordingly. He writes that:
“Some of our people are complaining because the ferry people are neglecting the colored section in painting up, while they are doing painting. The writer hadn't noticed the omission, but since our attention had been called to it, we begin to take notice, and we hope the authorities will give us equal accommodations as to neatness, etc. It is bad enough to have to run across automobiles and horses and the like”. (33)
An issue that Wilson discussed throughout the 1926 “Colored Notes” as it pertains to not only Blacks in Portsmouth , but to the entire citizenry of the city was multi-city consolidation. The consolidation of Portsmouth , Norfolk , and South Norfolk would create one huge city which would carry the name of Norfolk . This was a widely debated issue for Portsmouth at the time. Wilson was adamantly against consolidation of the cities. The following passages will provide the reader a sense of how Wilson felt on the issue.
January 24, 1926
“They want to make one city of these two. And for what? They made one of New York City and Brooklyn , but we fail to see any good accomplished. Brooklyn is yet the same though it is called “ Brooklyn Borough”. Norfolk took in Berkley but it is still Berkley . People will contend for identity. We can have a group of cities here and be well off or a big city – called Norfolk --- and be no better off. Parts of all of these three “big villages” are not looked after as they ought to be and then to cast the burden on one municipality is preposterous”. (34)
July 8, 1926 :
“The consolidation of Portsmouth , Norfolk , and South Norfolk is again being agitated, i.e. making one city of the three. We don't see what good it will do. One thing we do see if accomplished and that is a lot of white folks losing their jobs, and the city will be too big for one man to manage. And then way goes our city managership as well as councilmen. It will take some time to accomplish it, but no doubt it will come. It is not our (referring to the Black community) funeral however”. (35)
July 14, 1926 :
“We wonder if consolidation would beautify that part of our city north of North Street and the north end of Washington street – the marsh, weeds, unsightly shacks, etc. If so, go ahead. We are among the oldest cities, or “villages” in the state, and now in this 20 th century, there are cities grown up within 45 years that excel us in many particulars. And now instead of beautifying the old town, they want to wipe it off the map and tie it on to the tail of Norfolk 's kite. We hope our rulers will consider well before they enter into such a suicidal pact”. (36)
July 15, 1926
“One time and may be so another time, we are in harmony with the state executive, Governor Byrd, i.e. we don't see how our old city will be benefited by tying on to the tail of Norfolk's kite satisfying her ambition”. (37)
By reading these excerpts from Wilson , consolidation was by his account a “suicidal pact” with the surrounding municipalities that he was not in favor of. Although many members of the community were in favor of consolidation, Wilson used his “Colored Notes” to bring to the attention of all those who read the column that it would not be good for the identity, economy, or political structure of Portsmouth and that such a multi-city merger would only stagnate progress and cause an imbalance of power and resources; not enhance it, as those in favor of consolidation would argue.
Within the lines of his column, Jeffrey Wilson included commentary on things going on within the Black community. Some of the commentary was geared to both Blacks and Whites. In the following excerpt from the September 3, 1925 edition of the “Colored Notes, Jeffrey Wilson explains to the community that his column is not to be used as free advertising space. Even though Wilson did reference various businesses and events through his column, he wanted to make sure that people did not confuse the “Colored Notes” as free advertising space.
“We tell our people time and again that this column is not a free advertising medium. We are glad to have news. You should discriminate. You pay for ads. News we are thankful for. Our editor is very charitable and considerate. We must not impose on his good nature. Don't be surprised to receive a bill for you ads, which you term news. A hint to the wise should be all that is necessary”. (38)
In the next passage of the notes from September 12, 1924 , Wilson gives his commentary of how Blacks in Portsmouth should frequent the businesses owned and operated by their neighbors. Blacks would catch the ferry to Norfolk to buy goods if they did not go to the stores in Portsmouth .
Wilson always had a way of articulating his opinion in a way that would bring attention to any issue he mentioned. One example of a well articulated commentary by Wilson comes from the March 23, 1926 column of the notes in which he raises the issue of there being no Y.M.C.A. for Blacks in Portsmouth . He goes on in the notes to say that Blacks should have and are deserving of such an institution. Wilson states that:
“It is strange, yes passing strange that there are no Y.M.C.A. for our group in Portsmouth . Several attempts have been made at various times and each time it failed. There should be one, and a worthy one; worthy of the name --- not a ranche for loafing boys to play checkers, etc. but pastimes that will be the means of adorning their future lives”. (40)
As Wilson would question the status quo of why Blacks did not have equal facilities among other injustices, he also praised the authorities (referencing to the city) for things that they did do. In the October 30, 1925 edition of the notes, Wilson thanks the authorities for paving sidewalks in Lincolnville.
“We are very thankful to note that our authorities will pave the sidewalks on Green Street west side from North Street to the hospital entrance gate. We ask now that they consider Carroll Street , the entire length and then take in Stonewall and Caledonia streets”. (41)
Through his commentary, he expressed his views and opinions on activities within the Black community and injustices that he felt were occurring and should be rectified (i.e. the issue of establishing a Y.M.C.A. for Blacks in Portsmouth ). Again, the “Colored Notes” provided Wilson the opportunity for the Black community's plight to be heard.
When examining Jeffrey Wilson's “Colored Notes”, one finds comments about daily occurrences and interesting stories between his black and white lines. Wilson would often comment on the weather. An example of such comes from his February 9, 1926 edition of the “Colored Notes”.
Two articles in particular brought great interest and amusement to the researcher. Both of the articles deal with odd couple marriages with respect to age. Wilson himself found it commonplace to marry many wives, four to be exact, with varying age ranges. Even in today's society, marriages that entail considerable age differences it is nothing out of the ordinary. When thinking of such a marriage, one thinks that the man is the senior in the relationship. Wilson shows the reader in such an instance that “there are two sides to every coin”. In the first passage from the September 9, 1925 column of the notes, Wilson gives us the classic older man, younger woman marriage announcement.
“An old man of 75 years that will marry a widow of 30 with a three months' old babe has the nerve of a government mule. We extend to the happy bride our sympathies. The old patriarch is a farmer and doubtless he has more money than brains”. (43)
In the passage from the June 12, 1926 column of the notes, Wilson gives the reader quite a different and unorthodox marriage announcement, even by modern standards. He references to a woman 72 years old marrying a boy of 19 years old. He states that:
“What will they (boys who marry older women) do with a wrinkly old granny? They soon will tire of her and go into the divorce court, but we hope the old lady will meet with better luck”.
By examining the “Colored Notes” by Jeffrey Wilson and the many themes and topics covered within the column, a basic understanding of Black life and opinion during the 1920's is evident. Blacks were interested in church and community news, various announcements of social and cultural events, local and national politics, and miscellaneous comments on interesting topics such as odd couple marriages, comments on weather, or the appeal to support of Black businesses in Portsmouth . Two very important facts should be noted when examining the “Colored Notes” and the era of Virginia and the South during the mid 1920's. The first point is community communication. The “Colored Notes” was a vehicle used by Wilson to express clearly the opinions, culture, and daily happenings of Portsmouth 's Black community, while educating the general population of the city of what Black life was like within the city. By reading news from their own community provided by the “Colored Notes”, Blacks gained a real sense of how Blacks were being treated, perceived by Whites, and by each other. The notes also added commentary to spark the interest of the reader and attention to serious issues that they faced. The second point of fact is the language, tone, and substance of these “Colored Notes” collectively. Yes, occasionally Wilson would start off his column by given a few advertising statements about how the Portsmouth Star was such a great newspaper and how Blacks needed to read it more, but if one looks closely at the substance of the notes, Wilson commented on issues affecting the Black community without extreme censorship from the publisher of the paper. Hamilton, the publisher of the Portsmouth Star, was not going to allow column to become the militant voice of Portsmouth 's Black community, but Wilson did write on issues he felt strongly about and that he felt needed to be brought to the attention of the public. A Black man that wanted to stay alive in the newspaper business at a White newspaper could not speak on an issue as passionately as the Black journalist at black newspapers such as the Journal and Guide or the Richmond Planet , even if the views were exactly alike. By no means did Wilson restrain his commentary, as evident in reading his columns, but he was a bit more methodical and astute on the wording he used.
Local, state, and national topics of interest were discussed by Wilson in the “Colored Notes” series. One thing that was found to be interesting was the advertisements around the “Colored Notes” themselves. There would be ads for institutions of higher education such as the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary; and social ads from various organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan (K.K.K.).
On June 27, 1929 , Jeffrey Wilson was struck by a motor truck at the corner of Green and Grace Streets while returning to his home on Carroll Street , after attending class meeting services at Emanuel A.M.E. Church . The motor vehicle was driven by Jasper Deans, a young colored man of good reputation and generally known as a careful driver. (44)Wilson died on August 22, 1929 as a result of the injuries he faced because of the accident. It was first thought he had a chance to recover, notwithstanding his advanced years, but as time went on he grew worse and finally lost consciousness. (45) In the article that ran in the Portsmouth Star on August 25, 1929 , the newspaper states that:
“ Wilson wrote quite oddly, but said many things of interest in his daily notes appearing in The Star. His advanced years and the singular position he held in the life of Portsmouth permitted his to say many things that others might not have been able to say nor that the public itself would probably have countenanced from others. But there was only one Jeffrey T. Wilson”. (46)
Jeffrey Thomas Wilson Sr. will always be looked at and admired as a man of distinction in Portsmouth great history. To think that a Black man of his age could offer so much history, experience, education, and opinion to Blacks and Whites alike, and do it well is a testament to the intestinal fortitude and love of the community in which his was a member of. Though not formally educated by modern standards, he commanded the respect of all those whom he encountered and distinguished himself as a productive member of the Portsmouth community. As the originator of the “Colored Notes”, he transformed how Black news was covered in the Portsmouth Star prior to 1924 by providing the black news for black people. The history of Blacks in Portsmouth 's during the mid to late 1920's can be discovered by reading the “Colored Notes”.
(1) The Portsmouth Star was established by Paul C. Trugien in 1894. W.B. Wilder was associated with him from 1896 to 1897. Trugien became the managing editor of the paper when the Portsmouth Star Printing & Publishing Co. was formed in 1899. The paper was edited by A.N. Griggs from 1907 to 1926, and by Norman Hamilton from 1926 to 1955. On April 3, 1955 was the final date that the Portsmouth Star was published after being brought out by Norfolk Newspapers
(22) Ibid., 18 June 1926 . Louis Borno was the President of Haiti and Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States during the official state visit between Haiti and the United States that took place in the summer of 1926.