North Carolina, Politics, Rights

He will rise up some day and come again.

Today marks the 115th anniversary of George H. White’s Phoenix speech, delivered as the North Carolina representative bade farewell to Congress. The full text of the speech is available here, but here are his final ringing and prophetic words:

“This, Mr. Chairman, is perhaps the negroes’ temporary farewell to the American Congress; but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised, and bleeding, but God-fearing people, faithful, industrious, loyal people — rising people, full of potential force.

“Mr. Chairman, in the trial of Lord Bacon, when the court disturbed the counsel for the defendant, Sir Walter Raleigh raised himself up to his full height and, addressing the court, said:

“Sir, I am pleading for the life of a human being.

“The only apology that I have to make for the earnestness with which I have spoken is that I am pleading for the life, the liberty, the future happiness, and manhood suffrage for one-eighth of the entire population of the United States.”

My kinsmen Henry E. Hagans and William S. Hagans, brothers, served as secretaries to White during his terms in Washington.

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Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Rights

No damages.

More times than I might have imagined, see here and here and here and here and here, members of my extended family have figured in litigation that made its way to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Here’s another such case:

William Hooks v. William T. Perkins, 44 NC 21 (1852).

In 1845, the Wayne County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions bound brothers Rufus Artis and Thomas Artis to William Hooks to serve as apprentices until age 21. At the time of their indentures, Rufus’ age was reported as 7 and Thomas’ as 18. In 1849, after the court determined that Thomas was, in fact, only 15 when apprenticed, a judge ordered his indenture amended to correct his true age. Hooks, apparently, never got around to it.  Meanwhile, William Perkins hired Thomas. Deprived of the young man’s labor, Hooks attempted to enforce the court order, and Perkins took up Thomas’ cause.  Arguing that Thomas was bound to serve him until his true age of 21 — regardless of the age listed on his indenture — Hooks sued Perkins for damages for the period from November 1848 to February 1849 during which Perkins would not turn Thomas over.  The state Supreme Court held that Hooks should have amended Thomas’ indenture to reflect his actual age at the time it expired, per the court order.  Having failed to do so, Hooks was not Thomas’ master when Perkins hired him and was not entitled to damages.

Notwithstanding the court’s findings, Rufus, 11, and Thomas Artis, 20, were listed in the household of farmer William Hooks, along with another apprentice, W.H. Hagins, 15, in the 1850 census of North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County. (William Perkins does not appear in the county’s census at all.)  Worse, by 1860, Rufus Artis had lost ground, as the census of Nahunta, Wayne County, lists him as a 17 year-old — rather than the 21 or 22 year-old he actually was — in Hooks’ household, along with Polly Hagans, 15, and Ezekiel Hagans, 13.  In other words, what Hooks could not get out of Thomas Artis, he appears to have extracted from his younger brother.

Rufus Artis eluded the census taker in 1870, but he was around. On Christmas Eve 1874, he married Harriet Farmer in Wayne County. The family appears in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County: Rufus Artis, 46, wife Harriet, 30, and daughters Hannah, 13, and Pennina, 9. The family lived very near a cluster of three other sets of extended Artis families descended from Vicey Artis, Celia Artis, and Vincent Artis, none of whom were not known to have been related. (Or, at least, not closely so.) In the 1900 census of Nahunta, Rufus and Harriet, their children grown and gone, shared their home with Harriet’s mother, 73 year-old Chanie Farmer. Daughter Pennina had married Curry Thompson, son of Edie Thompson, on 11 October 1893 in Wayne County. They had two daughters, Harriet (1895) and Appie (1896). On 10 January 1917, Harriet Thompson married John Henry Artis, born 1896 to Richard Artis and Susannah Yelverton Artis. Richard, of course, was the son of Solomon Williams and Vicey Artis, and the brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis.

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Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents, Politics, Rights

So that we may know their strength.

In 1868, Francis E. Shober was elected as a Democrat to the Forty-first United States Congress from North Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District. However, the election was contested by his Republican opponent, Nathaniel Boyden, who accused Democrats of placing ballot boxes at the polls that were not clearly marked; of intimidating and threatening Republican voters; and circulating a race-baiting forged document –  purporting to come from the chairman of the National Republican Executive Committee – designed to discourage freedmen from voting for Boyden: If we can elect Grant we will not need the negro vote again, and we can assure you our next Congress will inaugurate a system of colonization that will remove the negro from your midst. … By all means, get the negroes to register and enroll, so that we may know their strength.

House and Senate reports are the designated class of publications by which congressional committees formally report and make recommendations to the Senate or House concerning, among other things, their investigative or oversight activities.  These reports are publicly distributed as part of the official U.S. Serial Set record of each Congress. Documents related to Boyden v. Shober appear in the 41st Congressional Serial Set. Among several others, Ransom Miller gave testimony in the matter in Salisbury, North Carolina:

Ransom Miller testimony

In April 1870, the House of Representatives investing the matter eported that although there was probably some minor intimidation and fraud, there was not enough to change the results of the election. Shober was seated and re-elected in 1870.

Adapted in part from http://ncpedia.org/biography/shober-francis-edwin

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Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Oral History, Politics, Rights

When time came for women to vote.

In which my grandmother schools me on her grandmother and voting:

NICHOLSON -- Harriet Nicholson 1

Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart (1861-1926)

Me: How did she work that? How did Harriet get to be the first black woman to vote?

Grandma: Well, because her husband [T. Alonzo Hart] was a lawyer.

Me: Right.

Grandma: He was a, whatchacall – a real estate lawyer. And he taught her how to read and write and do everything after he married her. Or while he was marrying her. Or something. And when time came for women to vote, she was the first black – he carried her down to the polls, and she was the first black woman to vote. And then at that time, you know, they gave you a quiz.

Me: Right. Right. Right. For black people to vote. Yeah. ‘Cause did your parents – well, did your father vote?

Grandma: Oh, yeah. Papa voted. He voted. And the people in my home, Lisa, fought in the streets [Statesville, North Carolina]. It was dange – I mean, we could not go outside the house on election night. The people — “Who’d you vote for?” “I’m a Democrat.” “I’m a Republican.” Pam-a-lam-a-lam! [Swings fists, and I break into laughter.] People acted like they were crazy! Papa didn’t allow us out the house. “You better be getting on home!” ‘Cause they were terrible.

Me: And now you got to drag people out to vote. And then you hear people going: “I’m not gon vote now. What’s the point? I blah-blah-blah.”

Grandma: Yeah. When I came here [Newport News, Virginia] you had to pay poll tax.

Me: Yeah.

Grandma: It wasn’t a whole lot, but it was ridiculous.

Me: Yep.

[My grandmother cast her last ballot — at age 100 — for Barack Obama in 2008.]

——

Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

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Free People of Color, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Politics, Rights

Enlighten me; or how to obtain just dues.

In 1899, North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment that created new literacy and property restrictions on voting, but exempted those whose ancestors had the right to vote before the Civil War. The intent and impact of the amendment was to prevent generally poor and often illiterate African-Americans from voting, without disfranchising poor and illiterate whites:

Public Laws of North Carolina, 1899, chapter 218.

(Sec. 4.) Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the constitution in the English language and before he shall be entitled to vote he shall have paid on or before the first day of March of the year in which he proposes to vote his poll tax as prescribed by law for the previous year. Poll taxes shall be a lien only on assessed property and no process shall issue to enforce the collection of the same except against assessed property.

(Sec. 5.) No male person who was on January one, eighteen hundred and sixty-seven, or at any time prior thereto entitled to vote under the laws of any states in the United States wherein he then resided, and no lineal descendant of any such person, shall be denied the right to register and vote at any election in this state by reason of his failure to possess the educational qualification prescribed in section four of this article….

In 1902 — 112 years ago today — my great-great-grandfather John W. Aldridge, a steadfast if low-key supporter of local Republican politics, took pen in hand for a tight-jawed letter to the editor of a newspaper in the state capital:

Morning_Post_Raleigh_10_15_1902_JW_Aldridge_Voting_Rights

Raleigh Morning Post, 15 October 1902.

——

The following “colored” men were among those who registered to vote in Wayne County in 1902.  In accordance with Section 5, each was required to name the ancestor who “grandfathered” him in. Despite his very public protest, and his brothers’ successful registrations, John W. Aldridge’s name does not appear:

Joseph Aldridge, 36, Brogden, Robert Aldridge.

M.W. Aldridge, 45, Goldsboro, Robert Aldridge.

Robert Aldridge, 33, Brogden, Robert Aldridge.

Marshall Carter, 42, Brogden, Mike Carter. [Marshall Carter’s son Milford married John W. Aldridge’s daughter, Beulah.]

Williby Carter, 22, Brogden, Mike Carter. [Williby was Beulah Aldridge Carter‘s brother-in-law.]

H.E. Hagans, 34, Goldsboro, Napoleon Hagans. [Napoleon and Henry Hagans were the half-brother and nephew, respectively, of Frances Seaberry Artis, wife of Adam T. Artis.]

W.S. Hagans, 31, Nahunta, Dr. Ward. [William was another son of Napoleon. “Dr. Ward” was his white grandfather.]

John H. Jacob, 52, Brogden, Jesse Jacob.  [Jesse and John Jacobs were the father and brother of Jesse A. Jacobs Jr., who married Sarah Henderson.]

Wiley Mozingo, 76, Goldsboro, Christopher Mozingo. [Wiley Mozingo’s daughter Patience Mozingo married Noah Artis, son of Adam T. Artis. His granddaughter Ora B. Mozingo married John W. Aldridge’s son, John J. Aldridge.]

 

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