Education, Maternal Kin, Other Documents, Virginia

To get up a school in the county.

On 19 August 1868, Thomas Leahey, Assistant Sub Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands (better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau), took pen in hand:

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Leahey’s brief letter suggests deep familiarity with Joseph R. Holmes, my great-great-grandfather Jasper Holmes‘ brother. He is telling Holmes that he has moved his office from Farmville to Charlotte Court House and wants Holmes to notify his “people” — the community he represented — where they can find Leahey. Leahey’s invitation to meet at any time implies previous visits, though to date I’ve found no evidence of them in Freedmen’s Bureau records. Leahey’s inquires “whether there is a School for colored Children at Keysville, and if there is not what are the prospects of getting up one.”

Just three days later, in a clear hand and with fairly sound grammar speaking to years of practiced literacy — though he was only three years out of slavery — Holmes replied. He advised that a small for-pay school operated in the Keysville area and expressed pleasure at Leahey’s interest in education. He apologized for not having been to see Leahey sooner — “I have been so busey” — and mentioned that he was headed to Richmond the following day. (Who was “Lut. Grayham” A lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s First Military District?) If “life last,” he promised, he would see Leahey on the next court day.

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Apparently, Holmes and Leahey did meet, then and perhaps on other occasions. The next bit of correspondence found between them is dated 24 November 1868, when Leahey sent Holmes a voucher for school rent. Whether this is the private school Holmes referred to in his August letter or a school established by the Freedmen’s Bureau is not clear. Leahey asks that “Mrs. Jenkins” sign the rent voucher as well as triplicate leases for the school. (I haven’t found copies of either to date.)

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Who was Mrs. Jenkins? Below is a short stretch of the 1870 census of Walton township, Charlotte County, Virginia. It shows part of Joseph Holmes’ former neighborhood, just west of the town of Keysville. “Former,” because Holmes had been shot dead on the steps of Charlotte Court House in May 1869, as detailed here. There are his children, Payton, Louisa and Joseph Holmes, living with the family of Wat and Nancy Carter, whom I believe to be Holmes’ mother and stepfather. Two households away is 30 year-old presumed widow Lucy Jenkins, white, “teaching school.” Jenkins, born in Virginia, was no Yankee schoolmarm; I’m searching for more about her. Her commitment to the little school at Keysville, even after Holmes’ assassination, evinces some mettle.

1880 Lucy Jenkins

Records from “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” database with images, www.familysearch.org, citing microfilm publication M1913, National Archives and Records Administration.

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Education, Maternal Kin, Virginia

Pirate pride.

My uncle sent this text:

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Hampton University‘s women’s soccer team played its first match ever Friday evening. My niece scored the first and only goal. A New Jersey high school soccer phenom, she’s elected to run track in college. When she got to campus though, she walked onto the fledgling team. And immediately upped their game.

I don’t know how many fans cheered on the Pirates Friday. They’re new. They played a ways off campus. Classes haven’t even started yet. I do know, however, that there was a contingent of at least seven beaming and screaming and high-fiving — my father, my mother, my aunt, my uncles, my sister and my brother-in-law. They’d all have been super-proud of Sydney anyway, but those last six? They’re Hampton graduates. All five of my grandparents’ children went to Hampton. And my grandparents themselves? They met while students on campus. As did my sister and her husband. (Sydney’s dad and his twin are graduates.) My grandfather’s sister went to Hampton. So did her granddaughter. And two of my first cousins. And that’s just on my mother’s side. My father’s sister and her daughter have Hampton degrees, too. And more cousins, besides.

So forgive us if our chests are still puffed. I didn’t even go to the school, and I’m delirious with pride. This fourth-generation Hamptonian is not only carrying on a family legacy, but is making her own mark. And I’ve no doubt that she’ll tally equal success in the classroom.

Before my grandmother passed in February 2010 at age 101, she was the oldest living Hampton graduate. If only she could have been in the stands Friday.

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My grandmother on Hampton’s campus, circa 1928.

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Education, Migration, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Back to school.

Atlanta has begun its new school year, and my Facebook timeline feed is dotted with pictures of beaming children. Just about a hundred years ago, my grandmothers started school for the first time. I have no photos of my father’s mother at that age, but she spoke to me of her anxious first days at an elementary school in New York City. She’d gone there with her great-aunt and adoptive mother, Sarah Henderson Jacobs, who occasionally traveled North for short stints of domestic work:

The first day I ever went to school, Frances [Aldridge Newsome, her paternal aunt] took me and her son Edward to school. And the building – I don’t remember what the building looked like inside – but I know we went in, and they had little benches, at least it was built around in the room. And you could stand there by it and mark on your paper if you wanted to or whatever. I didn’t see no seats in there. You sit on the same thing you were writing on.   It’s in that, it seem like, from what I remember, it was down in the basement. You had to go down there, and the benches was all the way ‘round the room. And the teacher’s desk — and she had a desk in there. And the children sat on the desk, or you stand there by it, or kneel down if you want to mark on it. First grade, you ain’t know nothing ‘bout no writing no how. And I went in, and I just looked. I just, I didn’t do nothing. I just sit there on top of the desk. And I was crying. I went back to Frances’ house, and then after they come picked us up, I said, well, “Frances, I want to go home.” Go where Mama was. So Frances said, “We’ll go tomorrow.” I said, “How come we can’t go today?”   She said, “Well, it’s too far to go now.” I said, “Well, can you call her?” And she said, “I don’t know the phone number, and I don’t know the name it’s in.” And so that kind of threw me; I finally went on to bed. But anyway before long they all took me back over to Brooklyn.

My mother’s mother also spoke of her early school days:

I never shall forget, we went to Golar’s school when there was a flu epidemic at home, and the schools were closed for months, you know. I don’t know how or why they closed them like that, but anyway, they were closed. And the county schools were open. And Papa used to take us down there to [her sister] Golar’s school. She had a school down there below Belmont. It wasn’t called Belmont. What’s the other one called? She had a little school in Williams Grove. And taught me so much more than them city schools. Girl, I’m telling you, I was in second grade, I never shall forget, she taught me how to crochet. She taught me how to crochet. She taught me how to do divisions. She taught me how to do fractions.

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Margaret Colvert Allen, seated far right, third row. Circa 1915, Statesville.

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Margaret C. Allen, second from right, second row from top. Her sister Launie Mae Colvert Jones, at left, first row of middle section. Circa 1916, Statesville.

Interviews of Hattie Henderson Ricks and Margaret Colvert Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

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Education, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Signature Saturday, no. 6: James Henry’s Hendersons.

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.

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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.

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David John Henderson (1901-1960) was E.L. and Ella Moore Henderson’s oldest son.

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Their second son was James Henry Henderson (1906-1947).

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And Ira Junior Henderson (1911-1984) was their third.

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Jazell Westly Henderson (1924-2004) was Elias’ son with his second wife, Sarah Edmundson Henderson.

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James Ira Henderson (1881-1946) was James and Frances Henderson’s second son. He signed his World War I draft card with an X.

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Here’s the signature of Ira’s son, William Henry Henderson (1902-1974).

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James’ son Lewis Henderson (1885-1932) was named after his uncle, my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson (1836-1912).

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Lewis had ten daughters and one son, James Ivory Henderson (1922-1986).

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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.

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Georgetta Henderson 001 Text

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Education, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Signature Saturday, no. 4: Harriet Hart’s men.

Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart was not an educated woman. She did not lack for ambition, though, and made sure that both her sons received schooling.

The bold, instantly recognizable signature of Lon W. Colvert (1876-1930), on a marriage license:

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The somewhat shakier signature of his half-brother Harvey Golar Tomlin (1894-1961):

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Her last husband, Thomas Lonzo Hart (1866-1929), may have been trained as a lawyer, and his business acumen was recognized throughout his community. He had the practiced hand of a literate man and, in fact, taught Harriet how to read and write:

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Education, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Football squad.

From the 1949 yearbook of Johnson C. Smith University, the Bull:

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At the end of the sixth row, my grandmother’s first cousin Army-veteran-turned-scholar Eugene Stockton Jr., son of Eugene and Ida Mae Colvert Stockton.

From the university’s 1956 yearbook, another gridiron star:

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On the top row, my mother’s first cousin, No. 20, Hayden Bently “Benny” Renwick, son of Lewis C. and Louise Colvert Renwick.

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Education

Old heads.

The earliest family members to pledge the Divine Nine:

Joseph H. Ward — Kappa Alpha Psi (Kappa Alpha Nu), graduate chapter, Indianapolis, 1913.

Oscar Randall — Alpha Phi Alpha, Tau chapter, University of Illinois, circa 1919.

Arnetta Randall — Zeta Phi Beta, Alpha chapter, Howard University, circa 1923.

Charles C. Coley — Kappa Alpha Psi, Beta chapter, Howard University, circa 1928.

William N. Hagans — Omega Psi Phi, Alpha chapter, Howard University, Spring 1930.

Mable Williams — Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha chapter, Howard University, circa 1931.

Irvin L. McCaine — Alpha Phi Alpha, Beta chapter, Howard University, circa 1932.

J. Thomas Aldridge — Phi Beta Sigma.

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Education, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Cousin Mable meets Marian Anderson.

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I found this image in the digital Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection of the University of North Carolina-Asheville’s Ramsey Library. Taken in 1945, the photograph is entitled “Marian Anderson visits Stephens-Lee,” a high school in Asheville. Anderson was in town to give a recital at the City Auditorium. She is, of course, standing at middle, facing the camera squarely. Others on the front row, left to right, were Mable McCaine, teacher (in light-colored dress); an unidentified woman; Vernon Cowan, teacher; Frank Toliver, principal; J.D. Carr, editor of Carolina Times; and Isabell Jones, a music teacher at Allen High School.

Mable Williams McCaine was born 23 November 1912 in Goldsboro, North Carolina, to Clarence J. Williams and Daisy Aldridge Williams. Her maternal grandparents were Matthew W. and Fannie Kennedy Aldridge. The Williamses relocated to Asheville before 1920. Mable married Irvin L. McCaine, and the couple lived in Asheville with their two young sons in the 1940s.

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Education, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Bison.

I’ve been striking gold with the Randalls. A number of Howard University’s yearbooks have been digitized, and searches of random years yielded these Randall collegians, as well as a cousin descended through their grandmother Fannie‘s brother Matthew: Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 8.13.44 PM

Arnetta L. Randall, Class of 1925.

Arnetta was the second daughter and seventh child of George and Fannie Aldridge Randall. (Oscar and Fred Randall were among her brothers.) A teacher and lifelong resident of the District, she never married.

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Mable Margaret Williams, Class of 1933.

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Irvin LeFetus McCaine, Class of 1934.

Irvin L. McCaine married Mable Margaret Williams, daughter of Clarence J. and Daisy B. Aldridge Williams of Goldsboro and later Asheville, North Carolina. Mable’s maternal grandparents were Matthew W. and Fannie Kennedy Aldridge. Here’s Cousin Irvin in high school (Class of 1929), courtesy of an Oakland High School memorial website:

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Frederick Russell Randall, Class of 1942.

Son of Fred R. and Lucille Stewart Randall, Frederick Randall also attended medical school at Howard and briefly practiced at the hospital there before moving to New York City. (Ada Randall Reeves was his sister.)

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The Crisis, December 1962.

Ten or 15 years ago, I received an email message from a professional genealogist in New York who had been hired to research Dr. Frederick Randall’s family. Through her I learned what had become of my great-great-grandfather’s youngest sister Frances Aldridge Locust — Cousin Frederick’s grandmother — whom I’d lost track of after her marriage. She and her husband had changed their surname to Randall, it turns out, and moved to Washington DC. The genealogist and I exchanged information over the course of several emails and letters, and I spoke with Cousin Frederick by phone — among other things, about his interaction with his cousin, and my great-grandfather J. Thomas Aldridge — but I never got the opportunity to meet him. I Googled his name tonight and found this:

RANDALL–Frederick R., MD. 91. Former Surgeon and Professor of Surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. He had compassion for his patients; and wisdom for his students. A devoted husband and loving father, he leaves Elizabeth [W. Glover], his wife of over 68 years and his sons, Derek and John. A bereaved family is consoled by cherished memories. What be it worth the life of a man, but that which he himself has given to it? This strong man gave much. Published in The New York Times on Apr. 6, 2014.
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