Buckeye Hunt Club, Williamsburg area, Va., circa 1950s. Back row, standing: Carl Linn, Josh Palmer, [unidentified], James Tabb, [unidentified]. Front row, kneeling: [unidentified], [unidentified], [unidentified], James Jackson, [unidentified], Warner Palmer, [unidentified], Lewis Palmer. Photo by Albert W. Durant.


          Participation in local organizations, ranging from hunt clubs to the NAACP, added meaning and purpose to the lives of Williamsburg’s African American residents. The organizations provided a much needed social outlet in a small town with a lack of facilities for leisure activities. Clubs and associations also bonded groups of individuals together to fundraise for various important causes or to build skills and strength of character. Many rendered valuable benevolent acts to members of the community in need.

         Organizations with an outdoor focus gave African American men and boys a chance to sharpen their camping, hunting, and survival skills and to build camaraderie. Among the several hunt clubs that existed in the Williamsburg area, the Buckeye Club brought African American men together to hone their tactics in hunting for fowl and venison.  Young men also had an outlet for outdoor adventure.  Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, emphasized a non-discriminatory creed but separate, segregated African American troops emerged in the South. Local African American churches sponsored troops that provided opportunities for camping, community service, and leadership development.[1]



Boy Scout Troop 70, Zion Baptist Church, Newport News, Va., circa 1950s. Photo by Albert W. Durant.




Local members of the Just Us Club, one of the oldest continuous clubs for African American women in the United States. Back row, left to right: [Evangeline Parker Moore or Bessie Parker Ashby], [Georgia Johnson or Louise "Billie" Hudson Orange], Gwendolyn Skinner, Bertha Dandridge Casselle, Louise Pierce Webb, Christine Wallace Pierce. Front row, left to right: Mildred Smith Webb,  Inelle Slade Halcomb, Estelle Wallace, Elsie Johnson Wallace, Eliza Smith Hamm, Grace Radcliffe. Photo by Albert W. Durant, circa late 1940s-1950s, in the Williamsburg, Va., area.


           For African American women, Williamsburg area women’s circles and clubs offered an avenue for influencing their community beyond the home. Church missionary groups addressed local, national, and international needs for food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. The Just Us Club, one of the oldest continuous clubs for African American women in the United States, focused upon civics and participation in community issues. The Williamsburg branch consisted of members from York and James City Counties, with a large percentage coming from Grove. Professional organizations, such as the local Beautician’s Association, brought together women with similar trade skills to learn new techniques, advocate for their businesses, and encourage young people in training.



The Beautician's Association, Williamsburg, Va., circa late 1940s-1950s. Center, seated: Bertie Herndon. Photo by Albert W. Durant at Bertie's Beauty Salon and School, Lightfoot, Va.




Members of the NAACP, York-James City-Williamsburg Branch, of Grafton, Va., at Mount Gilead Baptist Church, 1949.  Back row standing, left to right: Rev. Milton Banks, [unidentified], Rev. Frank Segar, [unidentified], Mr. Edlow, Rev. Samuel L. Massie, Lieutenant Palmer Sr., [unidentified]. Middle row seated, left to right: Dotcary Love Rice, Beulah Johnson Wallace or Beulah Wallace Taylor, [unidentified], Ella Mae Judkins. Front row, seated, left to right: McKinley T. Whiting, Charles Edward Brown (Branch President), Bessie Jackson. Photo by Albert W. Durant.

          The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909, provided local residents with an opportunity to advance civil rights concerns.  Both men and women in the community attended meetings held at churches and other venues.


[1] Roger Chesley, “The ‘other’ Boy Scout milestone that deserves affirmation,” Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.), 11 August 2010, accessed 21 April 2014, http://hamptonroads.com/2010/08/other-boy-scout-milestone-deserves-affirmation.