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Wilson County will add four new historical markers this year, all commemorating heroes within the black community.
One of the markers will celebration Operation Dixie, a 1946 effort largely dominated by black female tobacco workers who sought unionization and improved working conditions.
“They led a walk-out, and this was particularly significant because they were minority women leading this walkout, and it really started a movement,” Perry Morrison, representing the Wilson County Historical Association, told members of the Wilson tourism board Tuesday. “The Civil Rights Movement in the ’50s was built on the foundation of this movement in terms of organizing, contacting people and training folks.”
The state unveiled a historical marker in Rocky Mount in 2011.
The local 259-T chapter of the Tobacco Workers International Union formed in Wilson in 1946.
Other markers to be unveiled in Wilson this year include one for the Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute, Dr. Frank S. Hargrave and Charles H. Darden.
“Normally we do three markers a year, but one was held over from last year,” Morrison said. “They are very significant parts of our history, and it will be exciting to commemorate them.”
Also at the meeting, board chairman Dennis Johnson updated members on the marketing campaign results for November and December. In November, the tourism authority spent $4,100 to generate 128,000 online impressions and 2,200 clicks, while in December, $3,000 was spent to garner 48,000 impressions and 2,900 clicks. Through the authority’s marketing company, $1,000 was spent to re-target N.C. Whirligig Festival festival attendees and generate 102,000 impressions online.
Johnson, who is the general manager of the Comfort Suites, said hotel occupancy is around 75%, which is above Raleigh’s rates. Hotel operators said expansions at area industries and construction projects has helped supply steady occupancy.
Sandra Homes, executive director of the Wilson Visitors Center, said she and marketing, events and sports coordinator Drew Barker will visit inmates who man the 800-Visit-NC tourism line. The duo plan to take some barbecue and a video of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park to educate the women who answer roughly 30,000 calls a year about tourism across the state.
“Years ago, I had the privilege of going to the women’s prison and talking about state tourism sites with them. You get the best questions from those ladies because they deal with this so many hours a day,” said Rob Boyette, a tourism board member and chairman of the Wilson County Commission. “They get questions all day from the public and they ask questions from those who give these presentations, so they can give the right answers.”