For decades, men (and the rare women) who apprenticed free children of color in North Carolina were required to teach them to read and do basic math. However, in the crackdown on free colored people that followed the Nat Turner Rebellion, this mandate was first ignored and then done away with altogether. It is not a surprise then that census records generally report that my great-great-great-great-uncle James Henry Henderson was illiterate.
James H. Henderson (1838-1920).
What of his children though? Was he able to send them to school long enough to gain at least the rudiments of literacy? His first five children were daughters. I have not found Mary Ella, Elizabeth or Nancy Henderson in census records as adults, but Amelia Henderson Braswell‘s entries indicate that she could neither read nor write. The evidence is mixed for James’ “outside” daughter Carrie M. Faison Solice, whose mother was Keziah “Kizzie” Faison. The 1900 and 1930 censuses say no, she could not; the 1910 and 1920 say yes, she could. As for James’ sons and youngest daughter and some of their offspring, here’s what I’ve found:
Elias Lewis Henderson (1880-1953) was James and Frances Sauls Henderson’s oldest son. He was a farmer and founder of Saint Mark Church of Christ, near Fremont, Wayne County. I am fairly certain that he could read, but have found no sample of his handwriting.
David John Henderson (1901-1960) was E.L. and Ella Moore Henderson’s oldest son.
Their second son was James Henry Henderson (1906-1947).
And Ira Junior Henderson (1911-1984) was their third.
Jazell Westly Henderson (1924-2004) was Elias’ son with his second wife, Sarah Edmundson Henderson.
James Ira Henderson (1881-1946) was James and Frances Henderson’s second son. He signed his World War I draft card with an X.
Here’s the signature of Ira’s son, William Henry Henderson (1902-1974).
James’ son Lewis Henderson (1885-1932) was named after his uncle, my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson (1836-1912).
Lewis had ten daughters and one son, James Ivory Henderson (1922-1986).
Georgetta Henderson Elliot (1889-1972), called Etta, was James and Frances Henderson’s youngest daughter. This signature appears on her daughter Mackie Bee‘s marriage license, but there is a possibility that it was inscribed by the officiating minister, rather than Etta herself.