Bringing local racial groups together


Neil Snarr - Contributing columnist



In 1964 the Wilmington Home and Garden Club was founded with the express purpose of bringing black and white women of Wilmington together. (This club should not be confused with the Wilmington Garden Club.)

H&GC was founded by Louise Griffiths and Connie Hamilton. The notice of their first meeting appeared in the Wilmington News Journal as June 15, 1964.

The ad read: “The first meeting of a new women’s organization, expected to be called the Wilmington Home and Garden Club, will be held at the Second Baptist Church Tuesday at 8 p.m. This is interracial and is open to everyone.”

Two days later in the WNJ it was reported that the first meeting was held at the Second Baptist Church with 18 women present and several others sending regrets. Two temporary officers were named, Mrs. Howard Hamilton, president, and Mrs. Eddie Nevels, secretary.

When asked what the women wanted to discuss at the meetings, the response was, “household problems.” They found they were all vitally interested in studying consumer protection as well as household management, interior decorating, and landscaping with a definite interest in how to condition the soil.

After this initial meeting, the group was invited to the home of Mrs. Harry Johnson whose husband was a professor at Wilmington College. He was asked to speak to them on preparation of the soil for planting.

Over the next 15 years or so a wide variety of topics were covered as well as celebrations observed.

Many of the following programs included speakers as well and demonstrations. Some examples of the meetings over the next 15 years included the following activities: rug hooking, flower arranging and furniture finishing. Several talks were given on trips to other countries including India, Guatemala, and Malaysia as well as talks by experts on jazz and birding.

The group had a close relationship to Wilmington College as there were about 15 faculty wives in the group and the wife of the college’s president, Henrietta Reed. There were also three international students who were asked to share stories of their countries.

Unique meetings included a Valentine’s party and a Christmas celebration. A rare meeting was a bridal shower for one of the members of the group. Another unusual meeting was a musical program by a faculty member’s wife who sings opera.

What justifies an article of this nature during Black History Month? All one has to do is remember that racial segregation in Wilmington was strong into the 1950s.

Restaurants were closed to blacks, seating was racially designated at the Murphy Theatre, and Midland School — the segregated grade school built in 1884 — was only desegregated in 1952. Interestingly, the high school was always integrated.

Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any persons who were active members of this group, so I relied on my own recollections, which are limited. One thing I do remember is that this was during the period when the Nike Base was active and military families lived locally, and some were Black.

Wives of the Black service men were invited to this group and some were active participants.

Neil Snarr is Professor Emeritus at Wilmington College.

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Neil Snarr

Contributing columnist