In this day and age of instantaneous adolescence, abbreviated attention spans, digital romance, and smartphones, we might want to tuck away some things from the old favorites category. These things prove their age with patina that people still love now as much as they did many years ago. These favorites are institutions, businesses, social organization among others, that have persisted over time since we go to them time and again because they continually satisfy our needs, or just because they takes us back in time. Here are a few of our oldest favorite things.
1. E.E. Ward Moving & Storage Co.
In a sense, John T. Ward started his moving business in the 1840s—by transporting slaves, according to one writer. Four decades later, in 1881, with a team of horses, a wagon and two helpers, John and his son, William, officially established the Ward Transfer Line, a moving business in Columbus, OH. Eight years later, another Ward son, Edgar Earl, took control of the company, renaming it E.E. Ward Transfer and Storage Company. In 1921, the company finally stopped using horses and turned to motorized equipment.
The company is no longer under the control of the Ward family. In 2001, Eldon Ward, the last Ward family member to own the business, sold it to Brian Brooks and Otto Beatty III. The company, which employs up to 50 people at peak moving times of the year, provides moving and storage services for households and businesses, including international and corporate relocations. Today, the 130-year-old company is recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce as one of the oldest black-owned business in the nation.
Memphis-based radio station WDIA is the first in America that was programmed by blacks for blacks, providing a large swath of the area’s population not only with entertainment, but a means of empowerment that was rare during the Jim Crow era. The station was founded in 1947—at the time, blacks weren’t even on the air for the so-called Negro comedy show, “Amos and Andy,” which used white actors.
In the early 1940s, WDIA was a white station. It was failing miserably as a broadcaster of country, classical and pop music. In a bold move, the owners asked Nat D. Williams, a nationally syndicated columnist, to host a WDIA show, “Tan Town Jamboree.” The show debuted on Oct. 25, 1948 and became a hit. By the fall of 1949, WDIA’s programming and public face was 100 percent black. Although its ownership remained white, the radio station’s offices were integrated. In 1954, WDIA enlarged its reach with a license to broadcast at 50,000 watts, along with a move to 1070 on the dial. As a result, WDIA’s signal reached into the Mississippi Delta and claimed a huge listenership of one of every 10 African-Americans. The station was sold by its original owners in 1957.
3. Eatonville, FL
America’s first black incorporated town, Eatonville, is the subject of writer Zora Neale Hurston’s classical novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The town occupies a place unlike any other in American folklore and black history.
Just six miles from Orlando, FL, Eatonville was named after Union Army Captain Josiah C. Eaton, and was the first town where land could be legally sold to blacks by whites. On Aug 15, 1887, 29 black men met in town hall and voted to incorporate the town—27 of them signed the incorporation papers.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 population estimates, Eatonville had a population of 2, 368, of which, 89.8 percent was African-American.
4. Cheyney University
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is considered the oldest institution of higher learning for blacks in the U.S. It was founded in Philadelphia in 1837 as the African Institute by Quaker philanthropist Richard Humphreys. But it was renamed weeks later as the Institute for Colored Youth. The school eventually moved to Cheyney farm, 25 miles from Philadelphia and was renamed Cheyney Training School for Teachers. It took its current name in 1983.
Cheyney offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines and a master’s in education. The university’s most famous alumni include the late CBS News correspondent Ed Bradley, Robert Bogle–publisher of the Philadelphia Tribune (the oldest black newspaper in the nation), and Craig T. Welburn, president and CEO of Welburn Management, a restaurant management outfit serving 15 million customers per year.
5. Old Time Religion
Black churches have been a source of spiritual comfort and inspiration for centuries. There’s some debate, however, as to which black church or congregation is the nation’s oldest. There are several churches, which are still thriving, that vie for the title. One of those includes First Baptist Church in Petersburg, VA, which began in Prince George County when black known as the “New Lights” gathered for worship. In 1774, Rev. John Michaels united the members of “New Lights” to form a regular Baptist Church, which was then known as the first African Baptist Church.
However, First African Baptist Church of Savannah, GA claims to have the first black Baptist congregation also. Its history as a congregation dates from 1773, when Baptists licensed a slave named George Leile to preach to other slaves on plantations in Georgia and South Carolina. One of those who were influenced by Leile’s preaching was Andrew Bryan. After Leile migrated to Jamaica in the early 1780s, Bryan took over and led the First African Baptist Church to official recognition with 67 members on Jan. 20, 1788. His congregation built a structure in 1794, calling it the Bryan Street African Baptist Church. By the early 1800s, the congregation renamed itself First African Baptist Church.
In 1787, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, among others, left Philadelphia’s St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church after suffering racial discrimination, including having to sit apart from white worshippers. They established the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1793, naming Allen as pastor. Allen eventually sued for the right of his church to exist independently of white Methodists, and won. He then formed the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME Church) in 1816.