Soup Houses & Charity

ENFIELD, N.C., 1930. Another letter in the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst also got my attention for its look at eastern North Carolina life in the throes of the Great Depression.

Dr. Michael E. Dubisette. From his 1929 application for U.S. citizenship. Image from Lisa Y. Henderson's blog Black Wide-Awake.

Dr. Michael E. Dubisette. From his 1929 application for U.S. citizenship. Image from Lisa Y. Henderson’s blog Black Wide-Awake.

In a letter to Dr. Du Bois dated 9 February 1930, pioneering black educator Thomas S. Inborden (founder of the Bricks School in Whitakers) requested his help in getting a local black physician and his wife relocated to New York City.

The physician’s name was Michael E. Dubisette. Originally from Granada in the West Indies, Dr. Dubisette had attended college at St. Augustines and Shaw and studied medicine at Howard.

After practicing in Wilson briefly, Dr. Dubisette and his wife relocated to Enfield, a small town in Halifax County, not far from the Bricks School. He established a medical practice and became a valuable part of the community.

After the stock market crash in 1929, however, he could no longer make a living in Enfield.

Inborden explained why:

            “Economic conditions in this particular community are as bad as one can imagine. The farmers have outdone themselves in producing crops for which they can get no adequate price for their physical sustenance: hundreds of merchants have gone out of business, banks all over this section have failed and all industry has been very greatly hampered in their activities.”            

The local people’s need for a black physician was great, but even a physician had to earn a living. Inborden knew that he did not have to tell Du Bois more for him to appreciate Dr. Dubisette’s dilemma.

He wrote only, “Many of the smaller towns have organized soup houses. Others are soliciting charity on the quiet.” He begged Dr. Du Bois to help the Dubisettes find a new home in New York City.

* * *

Special thanks to– 

Once again I want to thank Lisa Y. Henderson and her extraordinary blog Black Wide-Awake, which examines African American history and genealogy in Wilson, N.C. Through documents collected in Black Wide-Awake, I learned that the Dubisettes did move to New York City, but that Dr. Dubisette eventually returned to North Carolina and established a medical practice in Goldsboro, N.C. His obituary indicates that he practiced medicine in Goldsboro for 25 years and “directed much of his interest toward helping the underprivileged.” 

2 thoughts on “Soup Houses & Charity

  1. It intrigues me that Wilson had more black doctors in the first quarter of the 20th century than it did when I was growing up there in the 1970s, but such, I suppose, is the nature of segregation. Thanks for supplying this detail in Dubissette’s story and for the link to my blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Another appeal to Du Bois. | Black Wide-Awake

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