Author Archives: Ashley

Archives Exhibit Supports DNCR Initiative: “She Changed the World: North Carolina Women Breaking Barriers”

[This blog post was written by Donna E. Kelly, Head of Special Collections.]

The State Archives of North Carolina has put together a display of 10 archival documents and other items relating to women’s suffrage, including the original copy of the Nineteenth Amendment sent to North Carolina for ratification in June of 1919. Usually housed in the vault, this document (along with anti-suffrage and pro-suffrage propaganda, hand-held fans, facsimiles of legislation and political cartoons, and a suffragist’s sash) will be traveling around the state from August 22, 2019 through November of 2020.

Political cartoon from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives of North Carolina.

The exhibit, titled “An Absolute Moral Certainty”: The Woman Suffrage Movement in North Carolina, consists of three panels: “Early Efforts Supporting Suffrage for Women,” “Post-War Opposition to Suffrage for Women,” and “Suffrage for All Women.” The title of the exhibit comes from a quote out of Gov. Thomas W. Bickett’s address to the joint session of the General Assembly on August 13, 1920, in which he urges legislators to ratify the amendment.

This display is part of a 15-month long DNCR commemoration of women gaining the right to vote. Titled, “She Changed the World: North Carolina Women Breaking Barriers,” it highlights the accomplishments of women across the centuries. A kickoff event at the State Capitol is planned for Saturday, September 7, 2019. For more information visit

In addition to the traveling exhibit, the State Archives is also conducting an oral history project to interview 100 women from across the state who have made significant contributions in areas like government/politics, education, STEM, culture, athletics, activism, or entrepreneurship. For more information about how to get involved visit

Additional resources pertaining to women’s suffrage are found in the North Carolina Digital Collections, a collaborative project between the State Library and the State Archives. To view those resources, visit

“An Absolute Moral Certainty”: The Woman Suffrage Movement in North Carolina

The National Woman Suffrage Association, founded by Susan B. Anthony, began pressuring Congress in the 1870s to amend the Constitution to guarantee women’s right to vote. Even though that effort failed, several states and territories granted suffrage through their state constitutions. North Carolina’s chapter of the Equal Suffrage Association, formed in 1894, had the same goal. The first attempt to grant women suffrage in North Carolina came in February of 1897 when J. L. Hyatt, a Republican from Yancey County, introduced a bill in the state senate. Legislators referred it to the Committee on Insane Asylums because Hyatt chaired that committee. The bill, which never made it out of committee, was eventually tabled and no action was taken.

At the turn of the twentieth century, activity to promote women’s suffrage subsided until 1913. Among others, Gertrude Weil (1879–1971) of Goldsboro helped establish local chapters of the Equal Suffrage Association. She served as president and fought tirelessly for ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. She went on to serve as president of the League of Women Voters and lived to see the amendment finally ratified in her home state on May 6, 1971, only a few weeks before her death on May 30, 1971.

An undated picture of Gertrude Weil from the Gertrude Weil Papers, PC.1488.50, State Archives.

Pro-suffrage efforts by the Equal Suffrage Association included lobbying legislators, writing letters to state leaders, and distributing printed media (circulars, broadsides, and pamphlets) to support the cause. Long before e-mail, mass-produced form letters targeted certain audiences. Hundreds of letters were mailed to prominent residents of the state asking them to encourage their local representatives to support the amendment. Suffragists also wore sashes for rallies, parades, and street speaking.

The Equal Suffrage Association was not equal in the true sense of the word. It excluded African Americans, who began to assert their own political rights through churches, clubs, and suffrage societies. Women of color, like Charlotte Hawkins Brown, traveled extensively around the state promoting women’s suffrage and racial equality. She advanced education among her community and was a strong advocate of voter registration for all races of women.

A ca. 1910s image of Charlotte Hawkins Brown provided by North Carolina State Historic Sites.

Despite the concerted effort of suffragists, the 1915 legislature did not support the amendment, either as a state or federal constitutional amendment. The main opponents were white legislators from those counties with a sizeable African American population. They feared that people of color would be allowed to vote again, after decades of disenfranchisement. Using white supremacist tactics, some handbills warned Southern men to avoid even associating with women who were asking for equal suffrage, because giving women the right to vote would unleash “another period of reconstruction horror.”

Part of a larger broadside entitled, “The Negro and the New Social Order,” this 1919 anti-suffrage handbill is from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

After World War I, on the heels of substantial wartime contributions by women, members of the Equal Suffrage Association felt confident that the North Carolina legislature would ratify the amendment. However, that did not happen, and legislators thwarted other attempts to allow women to vote in primaries or municipal elections.

On January 10, 1918, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate approved the Nineteenth Amendment. To become law, 36 out of 48 states needed to ratify it. North Carolina’s General Assembly received its copy of the amendment on June 12, 1919. By that time 35 states had ratified it, so only one more state needed to approve it. All eyes were on North Carolina at the national level.

This cartoon appeared on the back of a national pro-suffrage magazine. It uses the popular game “Love Me, Love Me Not?” to point out the North Carolina legislature’s indecision on the issue of women’s suffrage. From the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

Over the course of the next year, anti-suffrage groups sprang into action. Mary Hilliard Hinton (1869–1961) of Knightdale founded a state branch of the Southern League for the Rejection of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment (Southern Rejection League). Backed by legislators who wanted to retain their seats in the General Assembly and textile owners who opposed child labor restrictions, this group was very active, using the same strategies as the pro-suffrage organizations. The States’ Rights Defense League formed in opposition to the federal amendment, asserting that it would destroy southern womanhood and disturb the American home. It also claimed that men would have to assume household duties.

Anti-suffrage broadside, a portion of which is from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

Gov. Thomas W. Bickett called for a special session of the General Assembly to begin August 10, 1920 to vote on whether to ratify the amendment or not. At the start of the special session, 63 House members sent a Western Union Special telegram to the Tennessee General Assembly, dated August 11, 1920, urging them to reject the amendment. The telegram assured the legislators that North Carolina would not vote for women’s suffrage. It was a last-ditch effort to keep the Old North State from having to decide the fate of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.

Governor Bickett addressed the joint session of the General Assembly on August 13, 1920. He claimed that he personally opposed the amendment but realized the inevitability of its adoption. Therefore, he encouraged legislators to vote for it because ratification was “an absolute moral certainty” and “it would be the part of wisdom and of grace for North Carolina to ratify the amendment.”

After some debate, on August 17, 1920 the N.C. senate voted 25 to 23 to delay the matter until the 1921 session, on the grounds that they wanted enough time to discuss the matter with their constituents before voting. The bottom line was that they wanted to avoid making such a momentous and far-reaching decision. It became a moot point when Tennessee voted for ratification on August 18, 1920 and white women were granted the right to vote in the November 1920 election.

A few years later the Indian Citizenship Act asserted Native American women’s right to vote in 1924. African American women did not have a guaranteed right to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Even though North Carolina’s legislature (and many of its residents) did not support the Nineteenth Amendment initially, and women already possessed the right to vote and had been exercising it, the General Assembly finally ratified it, albeit symbolically, on May 6, 1971. There was no dissension and it passed both houses unanimously.

Grosgrain sash from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

Document Facsimiles Relating to Slave Research on Display at the State Archives of North Carolina

[This blog is written and illustrated by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist, Special Collections Section, of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

The Search Room exhibit case, August 2019, features examples of resources for researchers seeking information about enslaved ancestors. The title is “Evidence of African American Ancestors in Unlikely Places: Examples from Private Collections, Including Account Books, at the State Archives of North Carolina.”

Photo of the exhibit case in the Search Room with facsimile documents on display.
Search Room exhibit case.
Photo of an African American woman sitting in a chair with her hair up in a bun. she is wearing a checkered shirt and a long, dark colored skirt.
Emma Jones Allen, emancipated from slavery. Allen, Carter, Gwynn Family Collection, PC.2154.V.12

Researching enslaved ancestors can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating process. One must work backwards from the known to the unknown, often turning up more questions than answers. However, private manuscript collections, including account books, sometimes provide crucial information about names, locales, and other details. These can supplement county records such as deeds, wills, and court minutes and can provide valuable insights not found elsewhere. The examples below represent the facsimiles in the exhibit and the accompanying captions.

Note of Permission from William Ezell, Sr. for Slave, James, to Marry, Signed July 24, 1825
Note of Permission from William Ezell, Sr. for Slave, James, to Marry, Signed July 24, 1825

In this note of permission, William Ezell, Sr., advises Col. E. Peete that his slave James, who wishes to marry one of Peete’s slaves, is “as well Disposed as common as fair [sic] as I know or believe.” No county is listed, but during the first half of the 19th century there were men named William Ezell in counties including Camden Duplin, Granville, and Richmond. Note: Help solve the mystery. We welcome confirmation of the county where the Ezell and Peete plantations were located.

From Slave Collection. PC.1629. Box 1, Folder 4.

Deed: Marriage Contract of Bennett T. Blake & Scheherazade Mial, Wake County, N.C., 16 Feb. 1837 (two excerpts from longer document)
Deed: Marriage Contract of Bennett T. Blake & Scheherazade Mial, Wake County, N.C., 16 Feb. 1837 (two excerpts from longer document)
Deed: Marriage Contract of Bennett T. Blake & Scheherazade Mial, Wake County, N.C., 16 Feb. 1837 (two excerpts from longer document)

Oaky Grove Plantation, southeastern Wake County, was owned first by Thomas Price, then Bennett T. Blake. Blake had married a Price daughter, Fetna, who died in 1836, then married her sister, Scheherazade, widow of Thomas Alonzo Mial III, who had died in 1830. The slaves named in the marriage contract between Scheherazade and Blake, were part of the Mial estate. Thomas Price was also one of the county’s largest slaveholders. Note the juxtaposition: in addition to enslaved men, women, and children, Scheherezade’s contract secured physical properties, such as a four-wheel carriage and harness.

From the Alonzo T. & Millard Mial Papers, PC.132. Box 25, Folder 3.

Bill of Sale, 1845: George W. Styron of Carteret County, N.C., Sells Two Slave Children, Harriet and Hannah, to William Jones, a Free Mulatto of Jones County, N.C.
Bill of Sale, 1845: George W. Styron of Carteret County, N.C., Sells Two Slave Children, Harriet and Hannah, to William Jones, a Free Mulatto of Jones County, N.C.

This bill of sale, dated 22 July 1845, documents the sale by George W. Styron, Carteret County, to William Jones, Jones County, of five-year-old-Harriet and nine-year-old Hannah. In 1860, the same William Jones was still living and farming in the Beaver Creek District, Jones County, where he died in 1868. The collection and public records shed little if any additional light on the life journey of these two girls. The Rumley papers, however, do contain other materials and types of document on slaves and freedmen. For additional information see the State Archives blog, History for All the People, for a post written by Elizabeth Crowder and entitled “The Rumley Family Papers: A New Collection Featuring Resources for Researchers Seeking Information About Enslaved Ancestors.

From Rumley Family Papers, PC.1969, Box 2, Folder 51.

Promissory Note for Hire of a Negro boy, Simon, Wake County, 27 Dec. 1847
Promissory Note for Hire of a Negro boy, Simon, Wake County, 27 Dec. 1847


“Twelve months after date we promise to pay Thomas F. Grice Ex. [Executor] of Hugh Lee, Dec’d, on order Twenty Seven Dollars for the hire of a negro Boy named Simon [.] Said negro to have the following clothes [:]Two suits of cotton clothes and one of woolen, one pair of Double soled shoes, one pair of stockings, one good Blanket, one wool Hat for value received on this 27 Dec. 1847.”
Signed by A. T. Mial (Also, C. Bryan; A. Montague, Witnesses)

From the Alonzo T. & Millard Mial Papers, PC.132. Box 25, Folder 4-B.

Deeds of Gift Bequeathing Peter and Ailsey, Robeson County, 1851
Deeds of Gift Bequeathing Peter and Ailsey, Robeson County, 1851

Peter and Ailsey, a man of forty-five and a girl of fifteen, the subjects of these deeds of gift, were enslaved by the McKay family of Robeson County. In 1851, “for the love and affection” Christian McKay Galbreath had for her two nephews, Duncan and Dougald McKay, she sold Peter and Ailsey to them for a dollar each. Peter died in 1896. Ailsey’s descendants continued to live on the McKay farm into the 20th century.

McKay, McPherson, McNeill Family Papers, PC.2144.3 McKay Family Papers, 1790–1984, Box 3, Folder 01.

Receipt for sale of Catey, and her three children, Mary, Richard, and Sally (Wilmington, N.C.) 1853
Receipt for sale of Catey, and her three children, Mary, Richard, and Sally (Wilmington, N.C.) 1853

Slave receipt/bill of sale, with one for Catey, and her three children, Mary, Richard, and Sally; and the other for Cloey, a girl. The documents are dated 4 May 1853 and 5 March 1862, respectively. The receipt shown was given at Wilmington, New Hanover County, N.C. by Ansley Davis to Speir [Spier] Walters, in the amount of $1,000 for Catey, a slave woman and children, Mary, Richard, and Sally. Receipt attests that all are healthy, but the child Mary is “marked with burns.”

From the Bill of Sale of Catey and Children [and one other bill of sale] Collection, PC.2094.

Impressment of John, Slave of A. T. Mial, for Service as a Teamster, Supposedly for Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, 15 March 1864
Impressment of John, Slave of A. T. Mial, for Service as a Teamster, Supposedly for Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, 15 March 1864


“E O. Wake Co. Raleigh, N.C. March 15 [1864] This day received of A. T. Mial one negro Slave named John aged 26 years for duty as teamster in Genrl. Johnson’s army.” Signed by E. Porter, Capt. E.O. Wake County. The slaveholder referred to was probably Alonzo Thomas Rush Mial, Sr. (1823–1897), the son of Thomas Alonzo Mial (1799–1830) and Scheherazade Price Mial Blake (1805–1853).

Note: Teamsters loaded and drove supply trains/wagons, often returning in dangerous terrain to the march or to the camp. The Confederate government had passed a slave impressment law on March 26, 1863. Slaves were used extensively, though the effort was not as successful as the generals had hoped.

From the Alonzo T. & Millard Mial Papers, PC.132. Box 25, Folder 18.

Page from Joseph & William Peace Account Book, Wake County: Slave Birth and Death Dates, 1852–1864
Page from Joseph & William Peace Account Book, Wake County: Slave Birth and Death Dates, 1852–1864

The J. & W. Peace general store was located on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh, from approximately 1798 until 1832, when the store burned. Before and after the building’s demise, the proprietors used the store ledger to keep a record of slaves owned by them and other family members, with slave birth and death dates ranging from 1784 to 1864. Example shown is one of six pages of entries.

Page Section and Scrap from Joseph & William Peace Account Book, Wake County: Slave Births and Death Dates, 1852–1864
Page Section and Scrap from Joseph & William Peace Account Book, Wake County: Slave Births and Death Dates, 1852–1864

The note written on a piece of scrap paper (bottom of photo) recorded names and birth dates temporarily until they could be entered permanently into the account book (top of photo):

Matilda (daughter of Mary) born 4th March 1864.
Patsey (daughter of Harriet) born 22nd April 1864.

Both document photos above from the Joseph & William Peace Account Book, 1784–1864, Wake County. Page 297. PC.AB.132.

In summary, researchers of enslaved populations and freedmen in North Carolina may find a variety of resources, both in public and private records. County records contain deeds, wills, and court minutes, and some counties have a miscellaneous series that contains slave records. While these can be rich sources, private collections and account books surely supplement public records in ways that have often been overlooked.

Welcome Our New State Records Intern

“Start unknown, finish unforgettable.”

This quote from Misty Copeland, the first African American performer to be appointed as a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, inspires me to push forward toward my goal of becoming the first African American woman to be attorney general for the state of North Carolina. Before I do that, I’ll need to complete my internship this summer with the State Archives of North Carolina.

My name is Eyricka Johnson and I am from Wake Forest, North Carolina. I am currently a senior graduating December 2019 at Elizabeth City State University with a major in History and a minor in Public History. After graduation, I plan on attending North Carolina Central University to earn a Master of History degree along with my Juris Doctorate.

This is my second summer interning with the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.  Last year, while interning at the Museum of the Albemarle, I worked on conserving objects that were later used in the river bridge, memorable sands and craftsman fair exhibits.  I also led summer educational camps for a variety of age groups

This summer I am interning at the State Records Center.  I will be analyzing a group of records from the Bureau of Work Among Negroes.  In 1925 the Bureau of Work Among Negroes, an agency under Public Welfare, was created to assist the welfare of African Americans. My task is to identify ways that the Bureau assisted African Americans, create a display in the Search Room, and look at other state agencies to identify services they too may have provided for African Americans prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

With my enthusiasm for African American history and my love for researching, I am very excited about working with this group of materials.  I am thrilled about working another year with the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to get a better understanding of the department’s contribution in making North Carolina the great state that it is.  Be on the lookout for my next blog post on the 25 most interesting documents I’ve found so far.

If you have any questions about my project, feel free to email me

Dive into DOC

The Discover Online Catalog, or DOC, went online today, July 1, 2019. Some links to MARS will linger in old blog posts or within documents and PDFs available on our website, but we have updated website links and blog pages to point to the new catalog. If you have MARS bookmarked, those links will continue to work for a few days, but eventually our IT staff will completely remove online access to MARS.

Screenshot of the “Welcome to the Discover Online Catalog” page on the State Archives website

If you haven’t already visited the new catalog, here’s what you’ll find:

  • Welcome to the Discover Online Catalog – The homepage for the new catalog and the place where we will link to tutorials and other help documentation once its available.
  • Search DOC – The actual search page for DOC. See previous blog posts for some new features available through the updated catalog.
  • Online Catalog FAQ – Do you have questions about searching the catalog, what the advanced search options mean, how to move between levels, or what to do once you find a record you want to see? Visit the new online catalog’s Frequently Asked Questions page for more information. How do we have a Frequently Asked Questions page when the DOC just launched today? We based the questions on feedback we received from user testing with researchers and staff. As we receive more feedback now that the catalog is live, we’ll update the FAQ with more information.

Launching the catalog doesn’t mean we are done making changes. Staff at the State Archives, Outer Banks History Center, and Western Regional Archives are restructuring data and updating information to reflect the latest national standards. Materials that weren’t described in MARS are being added to DOC, and we’ve moved to a new stylesheet for our finding aids, which are now available through DOC as well as the Archives website. Keep an eye on this blog and our other social media for more updates and news as we continue to improve this resource.

Searching in DOC

[This blog post was written by Anna Henrichsen, Information Management Archivist in the Digital Services Section.]

Searching for North Carolina history in the State Archives has never been easier than in our new system, Discover Online Catalog (DOC). There are several ways to begin looking through our catalog. The easiest way is to type a keyword in the search bar at the top of the page. DOC will search for your keyword in all the fields used to describe our collections and return the most relevant results for you to explore.

Screenshot of the basic search bar in the Discover Online Catalog

Fig. 1: Just type a keyword in the search bar and press enter to begin looking for records!

If you have something specific in mind, use the advanced search options to narrow down your results. Search by combinations of subject, date, record creator, and more with DOC’s advanced search. In the following example, we conducted an advanced search for wills from Swain county.

Screenshot of the advance search fields with "wills' in the title field and "swain county" in the creator field. Below is a single result for Swain County Wills.

Fig. 2: Using advanced search options makes finding the records you want easy.

You can see that DOC immediately found what we are looking for and presented it without extra clutter. You can click the result to learn more information about this series and see our holdings. Searching our catalog is a good first step to take when determining if the State Archives has the records you are looking for. As always, you can also reach out to our amazing team of reference archivists who will be happy to help you out.

Stay tuned for further posts about DOC, including information about finding aids, bibliographic records, and more. We are very excited about this new system and we hope you are too!

New Online Catalog Launches July 2019

screenshot of a search in the new online catalog for 'Wake County'

Screenshot of a search for “Wake County” in the Discover Online Catalog (DOC).

The online catalog MARS has had a lot of different looks since it was created in 1985. But whether it was online or only available on terminals in the Archives and Library building, the catalog’s functionality has remained pretty much unchanged since that initial launch. It’s been an invaluable tool for both staff and the public but doesn’t provide a lot of functionality that most people expect from an online tool in 2019.

That’s why we will be replacing MARS with something new in July 2019. The new system, which we’re calling the Discover Online Catalog or DOC, will give researchers a lot of searching options, while also being faster and more user-friendly than MARS. Over the next few weeks, we’ll provide a series of short blog posts from Archives staff giving you a preview of the new system. After DOC is launched, we’ll start creating online tutorials, a Frequently Asked Questions document, and a guide to help you learn more about how this new tool can help you find what you need in our collections.

Stay tuned!

Lillian Exum Clement Stafford: Worthy of “She Changed the World: North Carolina Women Breaking Barriers”–– A Program of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist, Private Collections of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]


Exum with a group of other legislators, on grounds of the State Capitol, Raleigh, N.C., early 1921. (Photo from PC.2084_Phots_B5_F1_A)

This blog is based, with some modifications, on one published in March of 2018 as part of Women’s History Month and to announce the availability in the State Archives of the Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers (PC.2084). She remains worthy of additional highlighting as North Carolina begins a campaign to recognize women breaking barriers and to celebrate the upcoming 100th anniversary, 2020, of women’s suffrage. A member of the North Carolina Bar and a practicing attorney, L. Exum Clement (as she signed her official portrait) chose to run for the state legislature even before women gained the vote, through ratification of the 19th Amendment in August of 1919.

As the story goes and newspaper articles show, the Buncombe County Democratic party, in a remarkable show of support, had placed Exum’s name on the ballot for the June primary. Such gumption was characteristic of L. Exum Clement (hereafter referred to as Exum).  She went on to beat two male contenders, winning in the November election to become the first woman lawmaker in her own state and in the entire South.  Exum’s accomplishments did not stop there, and she continued to show exceptional drive and courage as a freshman legislator. Exum’s papers in the State Archives contain a remarkable letter of January 11, 1920, from her father who wrote these telling words, “I was glad to see in the papers that you were appointed on an important committee. Your friends here are talking of running you for Congress in the next election.”

Continue reading