This house is among the earliest on prestigious Oaklawn Avenue, built sometime around 1917 for J. Henry Warren, a barber and civic leader, and his wife Lula, daughter of noted AME Zion Bishop Thomas Henry Lomax.
Soon after graduating from what is now Johnson C. Smith University in 1894, J. Henry Warren helped chose the school colors of gold and navy blue. He opened a barber shop for white clients in the heart of downtown and by 1920 the Charlotte News recognized him as one of the “leaders in public life among the [N]egro population of Charlotte.” Warren served on many civic committees: raising funds to expand Good Samaritan Hospital; urging black men to volunteer for World War I military duty; asking Charlotte to create a public park for African Americans. His passion was the creation of Sunday Schools; in an era when public schooling was scarce, especially for low-income African Americans, church-related schooling often provided not only faith training but also practical skills. In 1923 Warren served as president of a national convention of Sunday School activists held in Cleveland, Ohio, under auspices of the AME Zion denomination.
Warren and his wife Lula evidently lost the house in the Great Depression. Subsequent occupants during the 1930s were Rev. Benjamin Swain, Presiding Elder of AME Zion’s Charlotte District, then Rev. William A. Blackwell, Editor of the Star of Zion, the denomination’s national newspaper.
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