Thursday, October 8, 2009
Coleman: teacher, writer, collector
By SUE WATSON
Florence Wilkins Coleman taught school for 38 years, beginning her career as a high school graduate in one-room school houses in Marshall County.
She retired from teaching at Henry School in Byhalia, and since 2001 she has published three books that consist of a collection of her own writing - poetry, essays and music - revival songs and tidbits of history.
At 86, Coleman said she has finished her book writing. At the center of her life as a teacher, has been music, according to Angelee Coleman Grider, Coleman’s daughter who has formed her own publishing company after teaching English and journalism to grades nine-12 for a number of years.
Music has been Florence Coleman’s driver.
“She sees life like a song,” Grider said. “She says, ‘you come here and everybody is singing to you; you go to church and everybody is singing to you; you go to Heaven and everybody’s singing to you.’ ”
“Black Treasures in Mississippi” was recently revised and published in hardback (M.O.R.E. Publishers, P.O. Box 38285, Spanish Lake, MO 63138). “Black Treasures” was first copyrighted in 2001 and the second edition contains the best of the old revival songs, historical tidbits taken from news clippings, and short stories, poems and speeches written by Coleman - the black treasures.
“Black Treasures” contains some of the old church histories, history of the Ida B. Wells Barnett Museum, and history of Mississippi Industrial College, where Coleman graduated from high school and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Coleman taught at Bainesville School, that was located at the intersection of Cayce Road and Cox Road. She later taught at Benton School at Cayce and at McComb School at Victoria and finished her estimated 38-year teaching career at Henry Junior High School.
The one-room school houses oftentimes doubled as a church until a church was built, or a church doubled as a school until a school house was built, Grider said.
For example, Mt. Pisgah started out as a church and was used as a school until the Bainesville schoolhouse was built.
Over the years, Coleman collected a lot of information.
“Once I started my publishing company and pulled it all together, we published three books,” said Grider.
“Black Treasures” was published twice and the second book, “A Music Book,” published in 2005, covers music theory, basic piano, music definitions, notes and a test for classroom use. “Greener Pastures” was copyrighted in 1935 and was revised and published in 2007.
Some revival songs included in “Black Treasures In Mississippi” are “God Told The Poor Widow To Go Cook All She Had,” “Every Year Carries a Number - Somebody's Gone,” “Paul And Silas Bound In Jail - All Night Long,” and “Walk With Me, Lord, Walk With Me.”
Coleman wrote lyrics to several songs included in the book: “Carry Me Back To Ole Mississippi,” “Leaving Ole Buddy,” a song about her father whose nickname was Buddy, and “Leaving Mississippi.”
“Greener Pastures” is a collection of recipes, bits of history, a collection of church quotes (sayings heard in church) and poetry written by various family members.
“Black Treasures In Mississippi” and “Greener Pastures” are available at Lighthouse Christian Books on Highway 7 South beside the Movie Gallery or can be purchased online at www.bakerandtaylor.com.
Coleman also taught about 30 years in Sunday School and was superintendent and served as president of the Missionary Society at Mt. Pisgah.
She is the daughter of the late Aaron and Ora Wilkins of Marshall County, parents of eight children. Her brothers and sisters include the late Rev. Aaron Wilkins Jr. Rev. Cleveland Wilkins, the late Geme Wilkins (Memphis LG&W), the late Herman Wilkins (farmer), the late Mary Kizer (housewife), the late Della Wadsworth Phillips (teacher at Henry School), and Ada Wilkins who died as a child.
Coleman married the late George Willie Coleman Sr. who worked for a casket company, and they birthed two children, Angelee Coleman Grider and Dr. Rev. George Willie Coleman Jr. of Oakland, Tennessee, and pastor at Cleaves Memorial CME.
Coleman is a grandmother of three and has one great-grandchild.
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