On 27 November 1889, the Wilson Mirror reprinted a Goldsboro Argus piece that described Williams and Herring as “railroad hirelings and speculators.” “However much the desire should be divided among our people — and by this we mean the white people — for the negro to exodus this country or remain, the solid, stubborn truth shall not be kept from the poor, deluded, half-informed negro, that this is his home, the climate of his nature; that our people are the most tolerant and generous in the world; and his best friends, and that, therefore, he should stay right here where his associations date back through the centuries; where his faults, and there are many (but who of us is without faults?) are borne with from custom; where his privileges as a free citizen are unquestioned and untrammeled, and where his destinies are linked by law with the whites, who, under a Democratic administration, have for twenty years paid 90 per cent. of his government and education, while he has furnished 90 per cent. of the crime and ignorance of the State.”
Best friends, indeed.
The 20 December 1889 issue of the Wilmington Messenger chimed in the mockery, noting that “Peg leg Williams and Silas Herring have not dissolved copartnership. Peg leg is now in [Goldsboro], and he and Silas are as active as bees in inducing the “coons” of this section to leave their homes of peace and plenty here, to go the far off miasmatic lands of the West, there to die like cattle with the black tongue.”
Robert “Peg-Leg” Williams is memorialized in 100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History, edited by Melvin I. Urofsky. Described as the most famous and successful of Southern “emigrant agents, Mississippi-born Williams, a Civil War veteran, assisted 16,000 African-Americans in leaving North Carolina in the wake of discriminatory labor laws passed in 1889.
*Kizzy Herring Herring, who applied for her husband’s Civil War pension from Lonoke County, Arkansas, was another who left Wayne County for the West. So, I suspect was Guy Lane, Jr., son of Guy and Sylvania Artis Lane, who decamped from Wayne County to Memphis, Tennessee, sometime between 1880 and 1900. Did he just not quite make it to Arkansas? Or did he double back to the city after deciding that Arkansas did not suit?