Education, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

State Colored Normal School student.

I stumbled upon this catalog last night as I was researching for afamwilsonnc.com. As I scanned the list of students, I was stunned to see W.S. Hagans of Fremont, Wayne County. This is William S. Hagans, son of Napoleon and Appie Ward Hagans, and first cousin to my great-great-grandmother Louvicey Artis Aldridge (1865-1927.) William graduated from Howard University’s preparatory division in 1889 and went on to obtain bachelor’s and a law degree from Howard. Apparently, however, he spent at least a year of high school in Fayetteville, a little closer to home. A few months ago, I would have immediately picked up the phone to share this new information with my cousin Bill, William’s grandson. Bill is gone though, so I’ll just have to imagine his warm laugh and exclamations of surprise.

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Catalogue found here.

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Agriculture, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Emancipation Day.

Gboro Daily Argus 12 31 1905 Emancipation Day

Goldsboro Daily Argus, 31 December 1905.

For decades, on January 1, African-American communities formally celebrated the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1905, under the leadership, in part, of William S. Hagans and Mack D. Coley, the “Educational, Agricultural and Industrial mass meeting” of Wayne County’s “colored citizens” issued an eight-point pledge:

(1) to be respectable;

(2) to endorse state policy to give all children, regardless of color, an education;

(3) to urge school attendance;

(4) to encourage teachers not only to teach, but to pay home visits and preach every manner of virtue and home improvement;

(5) to disapprove of shiftlessness;

(6) to condemn crime and encourage law-abiding conduct;

(7) to suggest that farmers carry insurance and to educate them; and

(8) to become more united as a race, to organize to buy land, and to help one another retire mortgages.

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Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Politics

Pre-election street fracas?

A “pre-election fracas”? What happened? And why did eight of black Goldsboro’s leading lights — including my great-great-great-uncle Matthew W. Aldridge and cousin William S. Hagans — feel compelled to take to the newspaper, hat in hand?

Goldsboro_Daily_Argus_11_18_1896_letter_re_fracas_Hagans_Aldridge

Goldsboro Daily Argus, 18 November 1896.

I didn’t find anything in the Goldsboro papers to which I have access, but two weeks before this letter was published, newspapers across the country ran a sensational story about Negroes “taking control” of Goldsboro after a “clash with whites.” The alleged cause? “An incendiary speech” made by none other than John Frank Baker, “a colored Republican of Dudley,” and husband of Mary Ann Aldridge Baker.

Independence_KS_Daily_Reporter_11_4_1896_Frank_Baker_clash

Independence Daily Reporter (Kansas), 4 November 1896.

Four months later, Frank Baker was assassinated, shot dead as he went about his work in a Dudley grocery.

Were Matthew Aldridge and William Hagans and their peers moved to pour oil on the waters because they feared the fallout from Baker’s outspokenness? (I have yet to find anything that touches on what he actually said.) Their letter is frustratingly vague about the events that gave rise to a “race riot” in Goldsboro, speaking only of the aftermath of a recent election. The message is difficult to digest, greased as it is with deferential supplications to the “better class of our white citizens” and anxious apologies for the “slight ripple upon the formally [sic] smooth surface” of race relations in Wayne County. Reading from a 21st century vantage point, it is easy to dismiss this letter as Uncle Tommery. There is an undoubted and substantial element of self-preservation and middle-class conservatism at work here, but their fear was surely real and well-placed.

——

  • Clarence Dillard (1862-1933), Howard University Theology ’83, came to Goldsboro as a Presbyterian minister and was principal of the colored graded school during this period. He was active in Republican politics and was co-editor of a short-lived African-American newspaper in Goldsboro, The Voice. Goldsboro’s first African-American high school was named for him.
  • A. Sasser was likely Arnold Sasser (1866-1939), who was listed as an undertaker in the 1900 census of Goldsboro.
  • A.M. Smith, I can’t identify.
  • William S. Hagans (1869-1947), son of a prominent farmer, moved between Goldsboro and Washington, where he would soon serve as secretary to African-American United States Congressman George H. White.
  • B.G. Hogans was likely Benjamin H. Hogans (1865-1926), a teacher, a trustee of Saint James AME Zion Church and, later, a mail carrier. He was born in Orange County, North Carolina, and came to Goldsboro as a child. [Hogans’ niece Annie Irene Hogans married Daniel Simmons, first cousin of my great-grandmother Bessie Henderson.]
  • Matthew W. Aldridge (1857-1920) was a grocer and erstwhile teacher who was active in city politics as alderman and poll-holder in the heyday of the Black Second era.
  • William E. Highsmith (1851-1930) was a farmer.
  • Henry Williams, like Hogans, was a pallbearer at the funeral of William Hagans’ father Napoleon Hagans, conducted in part by Clarence Dillard just ten weeks before this letter was published. Beyond that, I have not been able to identify Williams.

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Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

A reunion.

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And with that introductory email began my fruitful and thoroughly enjoyable correspondence with B.H., my third cousin, twice removed. Our common ancestor was Levisa (or Eliza) Hagans Seaberry, mother of Napoleon Hagans (B.H.’s great-grandfather) and Frances Seaberry Artis (my great-great-great-grandmother). In the spring of 2010, B.H. and I entered into a mutually beneficial exchange of information about our shared family. I had little information about Napoleon beyond what I’d found in census records and deeds, I’d lost track of his sons Henry and William, and I was completely unaware of his son, the accomplished Dr. Joseph H. Ward. He cued me into William S. Hagans‘ post-migration life in Philadelphia, shared amazing photographs and documents, and lead me to “discover” Joseph Ward’s early years. In turn, I introduced B.H. to Wayne and Wilson Counties and the lives of the Haganses, Wards and Burnetts before they recreated themselves up North.

This past weekend, I traveled to Detroit for — astonishingly — the first time ever. Our primary purpose was to take in the city’s rich street art culture, but I added an item to the top of the agenda — meeting B.H. Friday night, he and his wife treated us to dinner at an old and storied restaurant near the city’s Eastern Market, and Levisa’s children came full circle.

me and Bill

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North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Signature Saturday, no. 5: Napoleon Hagans and family.

Napoleon Hagans, self-made man, could neither read nor write. His wife, Appie Ward Hagans, born into slavery, picked up the rudiments of an education at some point in her life and was able to scratch out a shaky signature, as shown in this 1888 deed. By time his sons were born, Napoleon had begun his ascent into Wayne County’s African-American elite, recognized by both blacks and whites as a savvy and successful cotton farmer. Thanks to his wealth, the children he reared, Henry and William Hagans, would lead lives very different from their father’s, starting with their educations at local schools and then Howard and Shaw Universities.Napoleon Hagans X Appie Hagans SigHenry E. Hagans spent much of his life as a teacher and principal, and his small, firm hand reflects his pedagogical life. He likely met his wife, Julia B. Morton of Danville, Virginia, at Howard. This sample of their signatures is on a deed dated 1899.
HE Hagans & Julia Hagans SigWilliam Hagans’ signature was bolder and more architectural than his brother’s, as shown on the 1916 deed below. Though not a teacher, his early career as secretary (read: assistant or even chief of staff, if there was additional staff) to United States Congressman George H. White and as businessman/farmer provided ample opportunity for him to display his conjoined signature. (William M. Artis, son of Adam T. and Frances Seaberry Artis, was William Hagans’ first cousin, and Hannah E. Forte Artis was the wife of William Artis’ brother, Walter S. Artis. William likely did not attend school beyond eighth grade, but his penmanship is lovely. Hannah, too, clearly benefitted from several years of schooling. I wish I knew more about late 19th century rural African-American schools in Wayne County.)
WS Hagans WM Artis Hannah Artis Sig

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