North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

It is a glory to her.

My father’s mother told me:

And so Mama was working at the factory, and I used to go up there and look at her. And so that’s when I first cut my hair. I went there, and the lady was asking Mama at the table where she worked to, and she didn’t say nothing to me, and she said, “Unh, who is that child with all of that long hair?” And she took one of my plaits and held it up. I had it in three plaits. I’ll never forget it. I had one down here used to come here. Yeah, it come down to below the shoulder. Like I plait it up, and it be from there. Two plaits here and then this one down across. And I always put that one behind my ear. ‘Cause I didn’t like it parted in the middle. Seem like it just wasn’t right in the middle. So I asked Mama ‘bout cutting my hair, could I cut my hair. ‘Cause everybody: “How come you don’t cut your hair? ‘Cause you’d look pretty in a bob.” I don’t know. I just wasn’t half combing it. And it was nappy. Like I’d go to try to comb it, and knots would be in there. And then I’d get mad with it. Then I’d take the scissors and clip that little piece off.   And then all that other part would come off. And so I wondered, “Mama, could – ” “It’s your head. It’s your hair. I don’t care if you cut it off.” And so one day, a fellow stayed up there on Vick Street was a barber downtown, a colored fellow, Charlie Barnes or whatever his name is. So he passed there one day, and I asked him, “Would you cut my hair for me?” And he said, “Yeah.” Said, “You come on down to the shop.” And I said, “Where is the shop?” And he went on and tried to tell me, and then he stopped there one day, and he told me, he said, “You say you want to get your hair cut?” He said, “You got too pretty a hair to cut.” And I said, “Yeah, but I can’t half comb it.”   He said, “Well, anytime you want to come on down there, I’ll cut it for you, if it’s all right with your mama. You ask your mama?” I said, “Yeah, she allowed me to cut it.” So sho ‘nough, I went around there one Saturday morning, went down there. And so, he turned around and cut off my plaits on both sides ‘cause I had two plaits there. He cut them off, and then he put some kind of stuff on it and then somehow fluffed it all up. Awww, I thought I was something. I reckon I was ‘bout 12, 13 years old. After then I cut it off in a boyish bob.

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With the boyish bob.

She also said:

I got a plait of [Hattie’s] hair and a plait of my mama’s, Bessie’s hair, and then mine. I was looking at that the other day, and I looked at it, and I said, “Huh, it was that long?” Rudy, Rudy Farmer took that picture. ‘Cause I – He saw my hair. I was standing there with my housecoat on. I still got that thing now. And, “Goodness! I didn’t know your hair was that long!” We were staying on Reid Street. And he said, “I’d sure like to have a picture of that.” And I said, “Well, you got a Kodak?” And he said, “Yeah! You’d let me take a picture?” I said, “Yeah.” And so he went home and got it and took a picture of it. I was standing up in one and sitting down in one.

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The standing up picture.

Those plaits of my grandmother were kept in a small soft green valise with all her photographs. We visited her in Philadelphia every summer, and usually one of the first orders of business was to “see the hair.” They captivate me no less now than they did then. Perhaps even more, now that I know exactly what I’m seeing.

My grandmother’s plait, an astonishingly heavy rope measuring a full thirty inches, is essentially one of the braids shown above. Tired of the headaches brought on by carrying that weight, she cut it at the nape of her neck about 1957. It is coffee-brown with silver strands, bound at one end, as are the others, with thread.

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Hair piled high, early 1950s.

There are actually two plaits from my grandmother’s mother Bessie Lee Henderson (1891-1911), most likely cut just before or at her death at age 19. The longer measures just over two feet; they are a lustrous deep brown, a shade lighter than her daughter’s and smoother to the touch.

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Bessie Henderson a la Gibson Girl.

Hattie Mae Jacobs (1895-1908) was Bessie’s first cousin, daughter of Sarah Henderson Jacobs and an unknown white man. Hattie died at age 13, and her slender, blondish-brown braid was likely cut on her deathbed, too.

The last plait is something of a mystery, but I am fairly certain that it belonged to another Henderson who died in her teens — Bessie’s mother Loudie (1874-1893), my great-great-grandmother. The tradition, then, may have started when her mother Margaret wove a narrow braid and clipped as it a memento of her youngest daughter’s short life. It measures 25″ and is dark brown with a hint of auburn.

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The plaits — Bessie’s, Hattie’s, probably Loudie’s, my grandmother Hattie’s.

——

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With fiancé Jonah Ricks, not long before she cut her hair.

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Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001) at age 90. After years wearing it just below ear length, she let her hair grow out again in her final years.

 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.  

I Corinthians 11:15

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved. Bottom photo by Lisa Y. Henderson.

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North Carolina

Who was Lawyer Henderson?

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This is a snippet of the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County, North Carolina. It’s difficult to read, but there, on the third line, living in a house on South Mercer is 28 year-old Lawyer Henderson. When asked where he had been living five years earlier, Lawyer responded, “Dudley, Wayne County.”

…Dudley?

There was but a single rooted family of Hendersons in the Dudley area, all descended from my great-great-great-great-grandfather James Henderson. I have no knowledge of anyone named Lawyer, born about 1912, in the family. There is, however, a Lawyer Henderson, born about 1912, listed in the 1920 census of White Oak township, Onslow County, North Carolina. His parents were Cal and Rose Henderson. I do not recognize the family and suspect they are descended from people formerly enslaved by white Hendersons in Onslow.

For now then, it seems a coincidence that Lawyer Henderson lived briefly in Dudley and then in Wilson.

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North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Treasures.

I’m in D.C. for work this week, and I was able to steal away from my conference to spend a few hours with O.H.D., my grandmother’s first cousin. Cousin O. has lived in the District since 1940 and in her Capitol Hill row house since 1945. Our conversation was wide-ranging, but I, of course, drew out stories of our family’s history. Cousin O. spoke of my grandmother Hattie, of my grandfather, of her grandmother Louvicey Artis Aldridge (from whom she received her middle name), of her uncles Johnny and Zebedee Aldridge, of C.E. “Uncle Columb” Artis, of her aunts Lula and Frances Aldridge, of Uncle Fred Randall, of Alberta Artis Cooper, of C.C. Coley (in whose restaurants she occasionally filled in as cashier and in whose convertible she rode during Howard University homecoming parades), of Lucian and Susie Henderson, and of many others. She knows me well and had set aside a tiny treasure she’d recently uncovered — a postage stamp-sized photo of her first cousin, James Earl Aldridge. Cousin Earl, born the year before Cousin O., was the son of John and Ora Mozingo Aldridge. He passed away in 1975. As always, love and thanks, Cousin O.

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James E. Aldridge Sr. (1919-1975).

 

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Births Deaths Marriages, Migration, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Virginia

Cousin Dollie.

Said my grandmother:

The house where Dollie, Cousin Min’s sister, lived, well, they had gone to Goldsboro to live.  I think.  First they were living in Mount Olive, then Dudley.  She married Yancey Musgrave. He was a brown-skinned man. And Dollie used to visit, too.  She had asthma real bad.  And she used to come home and have to sit up.   You had to take a quilt and fold it up and put it up in the bed for her to sit up on.  ‘Cause she couldn’t lay down.  She couldn’t breathe. I don’t know what become of Dollie. Her and Cousin Min’s mama was Ann Elizabeth.  Mama Sarah’s sister.  They had a brother named Daniel.  Yeah.  Daniel.  Daniel, he lived, he come to Wilson and stayed with us a while, and then went back to Goldsboro.  Got married anyway and had a whole bunch of children.  And come up to …  I believe he come up to Baltimore.  And he had a whole lot of children.

I’ve written of Daniel Simmons and Minnie Simmons Budd here. With Annie C. “Dollie” Simmons Musgrave, they were the only children of Ann Elizabeth Henderson Simmons to live to adulthood. My grandmother’s “Mama” was their aunt Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver. Her mother Bessie was their first cousin.

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Annie C. “Dollie” Simmons Musgrave, perhaps in Norfolk.

Dollie Simmons Musgrave died in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1946 after a battle with cervical cancer. (She apparently had remarried to a Green — she and Yancey divorced? — but I do not know who, where or when. Her death certificate erroneously lists her mother as Annie Green, rather than Henderson.)

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Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

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