Martha Miller’s Kindergarten School (1930s – 1950)

Behind the scene of the Alexandria Gazette story published 3 May 2018 on “Martha Miller’s Kindergarten School” (1930s – 1950).

I was encouraged by Mrs. Martha Napper-Miller’s former students to share their fond memories of Mrs. Miller.

When I started researching Mrs. Miller last year, only one person I talked to knew that Mrs. Miller was married. Mr. James E. Henson was one of Mrs. Miller’s students and she was also his babysitter. Mr. Henson shared with me that he stayed with Mrs. Miller during the week and his mother picked him up on the weekend. He remembers Mr. Miller being a quiet man.

Thelma Lucas stated, “Martha Miller taught me and all my siblings.”

Besides the three people I mentioned in the article, others shared their stories of their private Kindergarten School:

Mrs. Bernice Lee stated that her kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Alma Pinn-Murray who had her school around the same time as Mrs. Miller. Mrs. Murray was also a public school teacher.

Dwaine E. Terrell remembered his kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Mary Howard-Penn.

Also Deborah Ford-Nelson and Rosie Ford remembered going to Mrs. Mary Howard-Penn’s Kindergarten School. Rosie stated, “She taught me how to read and much more.” Rosie has been friends with Mrs. Penn’s daughter, Sandra, since they have been four-years-old. Also to note that Mrs. Mary Howard-Penn had several siblings who were teachers in the Alexandria Public School system in the 1950s through 1980s.

Gail Arrington-Jones’ kindergarten teachers were Mrs. Ethel Nelson and Mrs. Mary Burgess. Gail stated, “We honored Mrs. Nelson in 2015 for her operation of the Kindergarten School in 2015.” It is noted that Mrs. Nelson still lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

In the newspaper article, I stated that Mrs. Miller had two other teacher aides, Saretta Norton and Christine Butler. Christine was Mrs. Miller’s niece. Thank you Becky Mays for confirming that information.

Becky also stated, “Ms. Christine Butler held her kindergarten classes in my Mom’s house on Princess Street. It was awesome.” After the death of Mrs.

Martha Napper-Miller’s
Death Certificate

Miller in 1952, Christine continued to teach. She moved the School from Oronoco Street to Princess Street.

Mrs. Martha was multi-talented. Not only did she have her Kindergarten School, she was a dressmaker and a laundress. Her husband, Pierce S. Miller migrated from North Carolina to Alexandria where he met and married Mrs. Martha. Many of her close relatives are deceased. They were:

Cora Marshall Napper (mother): 1856 – 1922
Samuel Napper (father): 1853 – 1930
William Napper (brother): 1888 – 1913
Richard Russell Napper (brother): 1890 – 1928
Anna B. Woodlawn David (adopted daughter): 1914 – 1975
Frederick David (son-in-law): 1907 – 1983
Christine Butler (niece): 1935 – 1986

Over and over again, the African Americans of Alexandria historically proved that they did everything possible to improve their lives. Education was a priority for their children. Education was so important that many African American mothers left their children with their teachers for the whole week while they worked, so that their children can get a good education. That in itself is remarkable!

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Alexandria World War I African American Veterans

Behind the scene of the Alexandria Gazette story on “Alexandria World War I African American Veterans dated April 19, 2018.

About a month ago, I inquired about information on Alexandria African American World War I Veterans. Amy Bertsch responded to my request and sent me an article on African American World War I Veterans in Alexandria. Thanks Amy!

With the names of these veterans, I was able to research them. For the Alexandria Gazette’s newspaper, I focused on three of the 52 veterans that were drafted. Out of these three veterans, two of them had children: Private Ulysses Garnett Bell and Private Courtney Hauls.

Ulysses G. Bell’s WWI military card

Private Ulysses Garnett Bell was the son of Thornton Bell and Georgianna Brown. Thornton was born around 1840 and his wife, Georgianna was born around 1848. They married 17 September 1874 in Alexandria, Virginia. In 1880, they were living on West Street. Thornton was a laborer for the brickyard. He and his wife had the following children: Edward T. Bell, Mary A. Bell, William H. Bell, Robert Bell, Albert Bell, Silas Bell and Ulysses G. Bell. In 1900 Georgianna Bell was listed as a widow, she and her children were living at 1307 Queen Street. In 1910, Georgianna’s grandson, Charles Henry Bell lived in her household with his mother, Mary E. Bell. Georgianna’s son, Ulysses married Beatrice Brown on 9 March 1914. Beatrice died giving birth to their son, Edward Ulysses on May 6, 1915. Ulysses’ in-laws raised his son, Edward.

In 1917, Ulysses was drafted into World War I. Private Ulysses G. Bell died on 18 December 1945 in Washington, D.C. His son, Edward Ulysses Bell was a World War II Veteran. After serving in the military, he came back to Alexandria. Like his father, he worked for the Federal government at the General Accounting Office. He married Noreen Day and they had one daughter, Beatrice, who was named after Edward’s mother. Edward died on 12 May 2001 in Alexandria, Virginia. His daughter, Beatrice had four children. Two of her children are living today.

Private Courtney Hauls was the son of Cyrus and Sarah Harris Hauls (Halls). Cyrus was born around 1847. He fled his master’s plantation at the age of sixteen; he joined the Colored Troops. He served as Private Cyrus Buckner

Cyrus Hauls (Buckner)
Civil War Veteran

(Hauls) in Company D 118 regiment. The surname Bucker was his alias’ surname. After the Civil War, Cyrus met Sarah Harris. On 13 September 1871, Reverend Fields Cook of Third Baptist married Cyrus and Sarah. The Hauls had the following children: Molly Hauls, Cyrus Hauls, Emily Hauls and Courtney Hauls. By earlier 1900s, Cyrus, Sarah and their children moved to 1010 Wythe Street. Their son, Courtney, married Sarah Tasco in 1909. Courtney’s father, Cyrus died on 13 July 1912. He is buried at Thomas Mann Cemetery (Silver Leaf Association) which is now called the Alexandria African American Heritage Park. Prior to Courtney being drafted, he and his wife had several children. All of their children died but one daughter, Viola Hauls.

Courtney was drafted in 1917. When he returned to Alexandria, his mother and siblings started migrating to New Jersey. Courtney and his wife did not survive his absence during his military duties. His wife deserted him. In 1920, Courtney received his divorce from his wife, Lucy on the grounds of desertion and abandonment. Courtney decided to leave Alexandria first for New York City but later settled in New Jersey. He met his second wife, Viola H. Crawly in New York. They married on 4 November 1926. Courtney and his new wife migrated to New Jersey. Courtney’s daughter, Viola Hauls Brown, from his first marriage, migrated to Orange, New Jersey in the late 1930s. In June 1982, Courtney died in Burlington, New Jersey. Courtney had a son from his second marriage, Herbert Courtney Hauls, Sr. Herbert served in the United States Air Force as a Master Sargent in Korea and Vietnam. He was born in 1928 and he died in New Jersey on 23 February 2000. He is buried at Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery in New Jersey.

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Alexandria African Americans’ Emancipation Day

Behind the scene of the Alexandria Gazette story on “Alexandria African American’s Emancipation Day” – April 7, 1864, dated April 5, 2018.

One of the important figures in the fight for Virginia’s enslaved people was Francis H. Pierpont (Pierpoint). Pierpont was born in 1814 in Monongalia County, Virginia (now part of West Virginia). His

Governor Francis H. Pierpont

political career started around 1840 when he made speeches across western Virginia in behave of Whig presidential nominees. Pierpont was a pro-Union man. His activism won him leadership among other Unionist and antislavery activist.

In April 1861, Virginia voted to secede. This prompted the Unionist western delegations in Virginia to organize the First Wheeling Convention in May 1861. At this meeting, Pierpont promoted the idea of reorganization of the state government. By June 1861, Pierpont was unanimously elected governor of the Restored government of Virginia. Wheeling at that time was considered to be in Virginia. On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became a State and Wheeling became part of West Virginia.

During the Civil War, the Restored Government of Virginia under Pierpont moved their Capitol from West Virginia to Alexandria, Virginia. After moving their Capitol to Alexandria, Pierpont advocated for free schools for freedmen and in 1864 voted to amend the State Constitutional aiming to abolish slavery. On April 7, 1864, the new Constitution was adopted at the Virginia Constitutional Convention abolishing slavery in Union control areas in Virginia. These areas included Northern and Eastern Virginia.

On December 16, 1864, Pierpont recommended that the marriages of former slaves and the children who resulted from them be legitimized by Virginia law. Also Pierpont recommended that a number of laws designed to transition the state to life without slavery. On February 27, 1866, Pierpont recommendation to legalize the marriages of former slaves and the children who resulted from them passed the Virginia General Assemble as the “Cohabitation Act.”

Since 1864, Alexandria African Americans celebrated their Emancipation with parades, conferences and banquets for fifty-years. The Emancipation ceremonies were held at several venues over the fifty-year span which included: Huffs Hall North West and Montgomery Street; Roberts Chapel (Roberts Memorial United Methodist Church); Third Baptist Church; Shiloh Baptist Church – speaker future Congressman John M. Langston; Lannon’s Opera House – speakers Congressman John M. Langston and Frederick Douglass, Jr.; Third Baptist Church; Alexandria’s Fair Grounds; and Odds Fellows.

For all the Descendants of former enslaved people in Alexandria, Virginia, Happy Emancipation Day!

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Rosa Harris-Jackson Armistead – First Female Preacher and Deaconess

Behind the scene of the Alexandria Gazette story on “The Life of Rosa Harris-Jackson Armistead,” dated March 15, 2018.

Judy Coles Bailey

About seven years ago, I was contacted by Terry Coles and his sister, Judy Coles-Bailey that their great-grandmother, Rosa Harris-Jackson Armistead was from Alexandria and they believed that she was connected to the Alexandria Freedmen Cemetery.

After researching Rosa Armistead, I confirmed that Rosa’s mother, Mary Nash-Harris buried a child at the Freedmen Cemetery, which will be discussed in an upcoming book on the Freedmen Cemetery.

Mary Nash-Harris and her children, Emma and Rosa migrated to Alexandria during the Civil War from Prince Williams County, Virginia. Mary Nash-Harris met Sandy Hodge in Alexandria and they got married. After a few years of marriage, they separated and late divorced. Mary’s daughter Emma Jean Harris married Daniel C. Richards in Alexandria. Emma and her husband moved to Philadelphia. Emma died in Philadelphia in 1957. On her death certificate, she was 99-years old; but, she was older than what the death certificate reported. Emma’s sister, Rosa married twice and Rosa died in Alexandria at the age of 97 in 1951. Her death certificate had her age as 79 but she was 97-years old.

Rosa had several children, one of her daughters was named after her, Rosa L. Armistead. Rosa married Jacob Lawrence, Sr., in New Jersey, they had a son named Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence, Jr.

Jr. Jacob became a famous painter. He received national acclaim for his paintings. His paintings continued to be in great demand today. Jacob Lawrence, Jr., was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His mother, Rosa Armistead-Lawrence migrated from Alexandria to Atlantic City where she met her future husband, Jacob Lawrence Sr. Rosa, her husband and young son migrated from Atlantic City to Philadelphia. The family probably lived with a relative while they were in Philadelphia, possibly Rosa’s aunt Emma Harris-Richards. While in Philadelphia, Rosa had two more children. Later, Rosa and her family migrated to New York. New York gave the family more opportunities in housing and education, the young Jacob Lawrence was able to pursue his education interest in the arts.

Jacob’s paintings have been showed all over the world. His paintings depicted the life of

African Americans as he saw it. His paintings have been transformed into postcards, greeting cards, reproduction of his art on canvases and wearable garments.

Today New York City claims Jacob Lawrence Jr., as their own, but his roots are in Alexandria where his great-grandmother, Mary Nash-Harris and her children fled Prince Williams, Virginia to Alexandria during the Civil War.

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