Volume 16, Number 7
The buildings are gone and almost forgotten with only a few photographs left to keep alive the remarkable story of Wake Forest native Allen Young and his school, the Wake Forest Normal and Industrial School on Spring and other nearby streets.
Allen Young, born in 1875, was the oldest child of freed slaves Ailey Fowler Young and Henry Young. The Young family tradition says he was born in the small saddlebag house on North White Street now called the Ailey Young house because she purchased it in 1895 for $105.
Henry Young was a farmer and Allen along with his younger siblings worked in the fields. Allen Young also worked for several Wake Forest College faculty members including Professors W.R. Cullom, J.H. Gulley, J.L. Lake, G.W. Paschal, W.L. Poteat and B.F. Sledd. They gave him private education lessons which enabled him to attend the Henderson Institute in Kittrell and then Shaw University in Raleigh.
After graduating with a teaching certificate, he taught in a public school in Wyatt, one of the original stations on the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad located between Forestville and the Neuse River. He married Louzania Jones of Franklin County about 1896 and they had eight children, three of whom died young. Allen and Louzania established a dry-cleaning business in their Wake Forest home that catered to the faculty and students at the college.
In 1905 Allen, along with Nathaniel Mitchell, founded the Spring Street Presbyterian Church, which was torn down in 2014 and is now the site of three Habitat houses. The last congregation members, three elderly women, had moved their membership to Wake Forest Presbyterian long before the building was razed.
Also in 1905 a group of Negro leaders met in Young’s home and organized the Presbyterian Mission School for Colored Boys and Girls, which opened in the fall of 1905 in a corner of a empty bed springs factory on nearby White Street. Young was the principal and only teacher for the first year. Thirty students, some of whom boarded in neighborhood homes, attended. Financial assistance came from the church, into whose sanctuary the new school moved, as well as from white friends in and around Wake Forest, out-of-state philanthropists, and from the Freedman’s Board of the Presbyterian Church.
Students were required to work two hours per day to prepare meals and to keep the school in operation. Boys received practical farming instruction (Young’s daughters Ailey Mae and Maude said their father called it “mule-ology.”) and manual training; girls learned housekeeping, sewing and cooking. Students raised and canned vegetables that were sold in a store Young built on Spring Street. A bakery was added to the store later that was stocked with rolls and bread by the second Mrs. Young, a good baker. (Louzania died in 1910 and he later married Geneva Trice of Chapel Hill, also a graduate of Shaw University. She died in 1934.)
The first Sanborn Map of Wake Forest, the 1915 one, shows an already well-developed East End, with blocks of one- and two-story frame houses with front porches along Spring, Cemetery (now North Taylor), North White and Church (now Juniper) streets. An inset on Sheet 3 shows the area around Spring, Cemetery and Fort streets containing the Spring Street Presbyterian Church, the Normal and Industrial School, and the Allen Young residence. The church stands at the northwest corner of Spring and Cemetery streets. The two-story school building with porches on two sides, classrooms for sixth to eleventh grades in the first story and a girls’ dormitory in the upper story, stood west of the church. Two smaller buildings associated with the school stood on the campus, which stretched across a street to the rear of what was then called Fort Street, later Thomas Street and is now East Pine Avenue. All of these buildings have been demolished.
By 1926 the Sanborn Map shows that the church had been demolished and a new church constructed across the street on the south side of Spring Street. In place of the original church, a one-story primary classroom building for first to sixth grades had been constructed.
A 1940 plat shows the personal and school property belonging to Allen Young on both sides of Spring Street and along Cemetery and Thomas streets. That property consisted of the main high school building, the primary building, a laundry building, a tennis court and dwelling on Thomas Street, an unfinished brick school building and two dwellings on the south side of Spring Street as well as the Young family residence, which was a large two-story house with a wrap-around veranda, and a store to the west of that house. (The residence stood at 335 Spring Street until some time after his death when his daughters Ailey and Maude tore it down and built a small brick house. The overgrown store was pulled down in the early 1970s.)
During the school’s heyday in the 1920s and 1930s over 300 students attended the school, instructed by about a dozen faculty members. In 1930 most of the teachers lived in Young’s large home. Listed as teachers in the 1930 Census were his wife, Geneva, his sister Eva Belle Vause, his children Arthur, Ailey Mae and James, and three unrelated teachers, Lacie Smith, Gertrude E. Carter and Wilhelmina Feaster. Six of Young’s younger children were still in the household: Maude E., George H., Robert T., Kathryn, Benjamin L., and Thomas L.
Whole families of children attended the school. Lanis Merritt Fowler, who still lives nearby, and five of her siblings grew up on a farm east of Wake Forest and attended the school in the primary grades in the 1930s. Students from outside Wake Forest were able to attend because the school operated the county’s first school bus for Negro students. Boarding students came from several nearby states because there were so few schools, particularly high schools, for Negro students.
The school had strong ties to the college. Wake Forest College faculty and students often conducted chapel services and assisted in the athletic programs.
The high school department was the first for Negroes in Wake Forest and one of the first in Wake County. It was certainly the largest and the longest in operation during Jim Crow segregation. Young’s school and the Rev. James T. Latta’s school in the Oberlin community on the west side of Raleigh are the two known best. Latta’s school operated in the early 1900s but apparently had a low enrollment. In fact, the Latta school’s actual accomplishments are problematic and rest only on a book of memoirs written by Latta in 1903.
Allen’s sister and five of his children taught at the school at one time or other before moving on to other careers. Two other children also had careers in education. His sister Eva Belle taught in the high school from at least 1920 to 1930. Son Arthur Allen (1897-1955) was a teacher, musician and composer. Daughter Maude Elizabeth (1891-about 1980) was a librarian in Raleigh’s Richard B. Harrison Public Library from 1941 to 1968. Daughter Ailey Mae (1903-1992) was a public school teacher who, after she retired, became the first Negro and second woman elected to the Wake Forest Town Board in 1971. In 1976 she received the town’s Citizen of the Year Award during her second term and the town’s second park is named for her. Son James Terrence (1906-1945) taught biology and music at his father’s school until his early death.
Arthur and James organized a music department and directed a choral group, a band and a touring musical drama troupe, all of which performed in numerous places in North Carolina and in states as far away as Connecticut. Son George Henry (b. 1913) was employed 42 years as a teacher and principal at Lumberton Junior High School and later served on the Lumberton School Board. Son Robert Trice (b. 1915) taught in the Raleigh public school system and was its last attendance counselor before merger into the larger Wake County system. Daughter Kathryn Lucille (b. 1917) was a professor of childhood education at Shaw University and was married to Raleigh realtor James A. Shepard.
Allen’s remaining children followed other paths. Lewis Albert (1898-1917) died while in college. Sons Benjamin Lloyd (b. 1919) and Thomas Leon (b. 1920) went into government service after college. Benjamin Young and his wife, Eliza Crews, lived in Washington, D.C., for 50 years. Son Hubert served in World War I and then worked as a custodian at Wake Forest College.
In 1926 the first public school for African Americans was constructed in Wake Forest, causing enrollment at Young’s school to drop because of the competition from this free public school. The Wake Forest Graded School, a seven-teacher public primary school for black children, was built at the junction of Cedar and Franklin streets on a 3.98-acre parcel purchased from the William G. Simmons estate. A grant from the Rosenwald Fund aided in its construction. In 1939, assisted by Public Works Administration funds, the Wake Forest Colored High School was built beside the primary school and the complex was renamed for W.E.B. DuBois. Because of falling enrollment, Young discontinued his high school in the early 1940s and gradually phased out the earlier grades, leaving only a kindergarten in operation for the school’s final year of 1956-1957.
Allen Young was always a community leader. He participated in annual Emancipation Day observances in the area. His school was frequently used for meeting such as sessions of the Rural Progressive Uplift organization. As early as the 1930s he was engaged in successful efforts to correct local abuses in voter registration requirements for Negroes and spearheaded drives for increased Negro registration and voting. In 1920 he was a delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention in Chicago. He later changed his affiliation to Democrat. He led local efforts for community betterment, including street improvements and increased recreational opportunities in the black community of Wake Forest. He was an avid tennis player, an Odd Fellow, and a member and elder in the Spring Street Presbyterian Church.
Young’s health failed in the last years of his life and he died at home at 81 in 1957. He is buried in the cemetery at Taylor and Walnut streets. By 1978 only one of the school buildings survived; now all are gone. Because all traces of the school buildings have disappeared, and because the DuBois School still stands, the memory of Allen Young and the school he operated for over 50 years has grown faint in Wake Forest.
(This biography is largely taken from Elizabeth Reid Murray’s entry about Allen Young in the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 6, pages 295-296.)