My daughter and I recently visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. It is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the victims of racial terror and lynching.
The struggle of enslaved African Americans to get access to books, and most particularly the Bible, and the efforts of slaveholders to keep them from doing so, is one of the central themes in the history of American slavery.
Whenever I visit Plymouth, N.C., a small town near where I grew up, the first thing I think of is the massacre of African Americans that happened there on April 20, 1864.
While doing research on her family’s history, Yvette Porter Moore discovered that her ancestors had organized a chapter of the Sons and Daughters of North Carolina in Worcester, Mass., in the fall of 1888.
The second time that the Sons and Daughters of North Carolina made national headlines was the 1st of December, 1898, when they gathered at Association Hall in Brooklyn, N.Y., to protest the Wilmington, N.C., massacre and coup d’etat of 1898.
The first time that the Sons and Daughters of North Carolina attracted national attention was a winter night in Brooklyn, New York, in 1897. Composed of African American migrants who had left North Carolina, the group was holding a memorial service in honor of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
I recently re-visited Dr. Frenise A. Logan's groundbreaking article on the Exodusters because I wanted to understand better why black insurgents had burned down the Hackney carriage factory in Rocky Mount, N.C., in February of 1890.
Today I want to look at the story of Puerto Rican construction workers that helped to build Fort Bragg at the end of WW1. Theirs is a little-known tale of war, colonialism and migration, and it is one set against the background of the country's last deadly pandemic, the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918-19.
Today I want to talk about slavery, convict labor and the construction of the old Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C. I was first led to do this historical research many years ago, when I was documenting a hunger strike at the prison in its last days. It is not something one forgets easily.
Late one night in 1862, a slave waterman named Dempsey Hill slipped into the customs house in Beaufort, N.C., removed copies of the latest nautical charts and buried them in the local cemetery-- the one people now call the Old Burying Ground.
This essay originated in discussions with Dr. Makini Chisolm-Straker and Katherine Chon on the history of human trafficking in the American South-- and especially in eastern North Carolina.
A project called Last Seen—Finding Family after Slavery has been documenting the efforts of African Americans to find their families and other loved ones after the American Civil War. Most of the documents that the project has collected and put on-line are newspaper notices like this one about a family in Perquimans County, in northeastern … Continue reading “I Desire to find my Children”
In the 1870s and ‘80s, a group of ex-slaves called the Wilmington Jubilee Singers traveled throughout Great Britain, giving concerts in which they sang hymns and spirituals in a close harmony style, either a cappella or accompanied only by a pianist.
Finally, I want to look at a silk lace and linen shawl. By itself I don't suppose it's anything rare or valuable. But in this case it's special because of who owned it: one of greatest freedom fighters in American history, Harriet Tubman.
John H. Scott was a free African American saddle and harness maker in Fayetteville, N.C. until 1856, when he left the town and settled in Oberlin, Ohio. Two years later, he became famous for taking up arms and liberating a fugitive slave that federal marshals had captured in Oberlin and were planning on returning to slavery.
A painting called "The Hunted Slaves" is another of the treasures at the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC, that speaks to North Carolina's coastal history. Done in Liverpool, England, in 1862, Richard Ansdell's oil painting depicts a pair of fugitive slaves defending themselves against a slave catcher's dogs in the Great Dismal Swamp....
As I look through the historical collections at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, I also found another important artifact from eastern North Carolina: a postcard, dated ca. 1910, of a convict labor camp in Laurinburg, N.C.
Allen Parker’s Recollections of Slavery Times is one of the most important historical accounts of slavery and antebellum life on the North Carolina coast. Today, as we approach its 125th anniversary, I want to talk about Parker, Recollections and a special group of students that I taught when I was a visiting professor at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.
This is a single story from the life of a woman named Chloe that was held in slavery at Indian Ridge in Currituck County, N.C., in the first half of the 1800s. It is only one brief moment in her life, but it is the only one that history has recorded. The passage, though brief, says a great deal about her and about the lives of other enslaved women on the North Carolina coast.
The most exciting historical source I found in coastal Maine this week was an old tintype portrait of an African American man named John H. Nichols who escaped from slavery on the North Carolina coast and settled in Lewiston, Maine, after the Civil War. In a 1921 issue of the Lewiston Journal Illustrated Magazine, I also found the life story of John H. Nichols....
Last winter I visited the New Hanover County Public Library in Wilmington, N.C., to see a rare and extraordinary group of historical manuscripts: a collection of four inscriptions written by Omar ibn Said, an enslaved Muslim scholar, teacher and trader from West Africa. He wrote them while he was being held captive on the North Carolina coast two centuries ago.
I recently found this map in an old book called The Williams History: Tracing the Descendants in America of Robert Williams, of Ruthin, North Wales, who Settled in Carteret County, North Carolina, in 1763. The map describes a largely forgotten group of Quaker settlements that flourished on the North Carolina coast more than 200 years ago.
“One of the first things that I remember was my Pappy waking me up in the middle of the night, dressing me in the dark, all the time telling me to keep quiet. One of the twins hollered some and Pappy put his hand over its mouth to keep it quiet.
Wilmington, North Carolina, ca. 1858. A 12-year-old boy named William runs toward a camp of men, women and children that had fled slavery. "I had heard it told so often at my father's fireside that I knew almost directly where they were."
On January 24, 1801, Susan Johnson's diary describes a visit to a Methodist church in Wilmington, N.C., that was a strange new experience for her: enslaved Africans and African Americans made up the large majority of the congregation. In addition, she may have been sitting near a young boy who would grow up and become one of the most important voices for freedom and justice in American history.