Tag Archives: African American History

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

Transcription:

“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

Transcription:

“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.

The Rumley Family Papers: A New Collection Featuring Resources for Researchers Seeking Enslaved Ancestors

[This blog post was written by Elizabeth Crowder, contract archivist with Private Collections of the Special Collections Branch. This position is overseen by Fran Tracy-Walls and is supported by funds bequeathed to the North Carolina Genealogical Society by the estate of the late Frances Holloway Wynne.]

Private manuscript collections, part of the State Archives’ Special Collections Section, can provide useful source material for researchers seeking information about enslaved ancestors. In many cases, these collections organize records concerning slaves and freedmen into dedicated series. The accompanying finding aids often identify those slaves who can be tentatively traced in federal census records dating from 1870 and later. Such is the case with the Rumley Family Papers (PC.1969). This collection contains correspondence, bills of sale, promissory notes, mortgages, receipts, and a warrant concerning enslaved and free African Americans.

Among these documents is an 1837 bill of sale for William, an approximately fifty-year-old slave whom Gibbons Bell (1807–1875) sold to his brother-in-law William Jones (1807–1850) in Carteret County, N.C. In attempting to find more information about the slave named William, I worked from three assumptions: that he was born around 1787 and lived at least until 1860, that he called himself either William Bell or William Jones after emancipation and the Civil War, and that he settled in Carteret County or an adjacent county once he was free. William might well have died earlier, used an entirely different name, and/or moved elsewhere. However, I needed a starting point for my search.

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Documenting the World of Outlander #3: The Records of Enslaved Persons

[This post was written by Alison Thurman and Josh Hager, Reference Archivists]

This blog is intended as a “bonus feature” for fans of Outlander who want to explore the world of Jamie and Claire through original documents housed at the State Archives of North Carolina. SPOILERS for the second episode of Season 4!

Outlander, the hit series from Starz, has officially arrived in colonial North Carolina. This season, Jamie and Claire will traverse the state from Wilmington to the mountains. The State Archives of North Carolina will join them on this journey as we showcase documents that provide a window into their world. Welcome to our biweekly series, Documenting the World of Outlander, wherein each new entry in our series will focus on one topic that appears on screen in Outlander.

This week, we tackle the most tragic aspect of the colony to which Jamie and Claire have migrated—slavery. In the second episode of Season 2, Jamie and Claire arrive at River Run, a plantation in Cross Creek (modern day Fayetteville) owned by Jamie’s aunt, Jocasta. At first, Jamie intends on manumitting the over 120 enslaved persons owned by Jocasta when he inherits River Run, but he finds out that granting sweeping manumission is rather difficult in North Carolina. The most tragic moments of this episode arrive when Jamie and Claire become involved in a dispute where an enslaved man named Rufus struck his overseer. Rufus is “sentenced” to death without a trial. Jamie and Claire try to rescue Rufus from his unjust fate, but their rescue attempt becomes moot when white residents of River Run fatally assault Rufus. This episode captures a part of the tragedy that was the institution of slavery in colonial North Carolina. In this entry, we want to show where in our records you can find out more about enslaved persons and their stories.

Before we begin in earnest, we want to make a quick caveat. In most official, i.e. government-created, archival records both in North Carolina and elsewhere in the US, the experiences of enslaved persons show up through what slaveowners and people in positions of power documented about those enslaved persons. It is one of the many tragic elements of the institution of slavery that the stories of so many people are lost to history because enslaved persons, lacking the legal designation of personhood, could not create their own official records. The existence of diaries, letters, and other writings from enslaved and formerly enslaved persons provide a rare but immeasurably valuable counterbalance on the preponderance of the archival record.

We will examine records from State Agency collections that speak to the experiences of enslaved persons. The County Records hold a great deal of material as well, but we’ll save those records for another spotlight down the road. We’ll first focus on the North Carolina General Assembly. Jamie’s frustration that manumission was difficult in North Carolina stems from strict laws passed by the General Assembly to prevent the practice of anti-slavery persons from buying enslaved persons expressly to then free all of them. The General Assembly did occasionally consider petitions for manumission from slaveowners, particularly if an enslaved person (in the eyes of the slaveowner) demonstrated merit through extraordinary actions. One of the earliest examples of such a petition in the General Assembly Session Records appears after statehood in the 1790 session, wherein George Merrick of New Hanover County asked for permission to manumit Richard, Dolly, and Nathan. The result of the petition is unknown, but at least one member of the House of Commons wrote to the Speaker to express his opposition to manumission. If Jamie and Claire had tried to manumit the enslaved persons at River Run, the petition included here would have represented the start of a cumbersome process designed to bury the applicants and enslaved persons in a bureaucratic rigamarole and ultimately deter the applicant from proceeding any further.

General Assembly Session Records

General Assembly Session Records. Session of November-December 1790. Box 3. Senate Bill. Bill to Permit George Merrick to Emancipate Certain Slaves (Petition and Messages only). November 22.

If you would like to examine the early General Assembly records for yourself, you’re in luck. All the surviving General Assembly Session Records from 1709 through 1799 are now available on our Digital Collections site. Among the collection you’ll find other petitions for manumission as well as laws relating to slavery, claims for monetary value from owners looking to redress a financial grievance involving enslaved persons, and other miscellaneous records relating to enslaved persons. These records are not typically catalogued at the name level, so we encourage you to browse through the records to see if you find any items that interest you.

Looking beyond the General Assembly records, there are several other state agency record groups where you can find further documentation of enslaved persons. In the District Superior Court Record Group, for example, you can find estate files from large land owners that often contain listings of enslaved persons as part of the inventory of the decedent’s property. We will focus here on a rarely-utilized portion of the Secretary of State Record Group—the records of the Magistrates and Freeholders Court. The records of this court consist of only one box and spans from 1740 to 1789. The Magistrates and Freeholders Court had the explicit function of trying enslaved persons in capital cases. Far from a trial by jury, a legal right first afforded to enslaved persons in 1791, the Magistrates and Freeholders Court consisted of several slaveowners who acted as judges of guilt and handed down death sentences as a matter of course. As Outlander demonstrated, not all enslaved persons suspected of a “crime” went before the Magistrates and Freeholders Court; some slaveowners conducted summary executions without any legal actions, although taking the law into their own hands was not technically legal. In the example provided below, John MacKenzie of New Hanover County has taken an enslaved person named Peter to the Magistrates and Freeholders Court on charges of burglary on March 15, 1757. Peter was found guilty and sentenced to hang. Note that the relatively sparse record of this hearing also demonstrates that the Magistrates and Freeholders made sure to compensate Mr. MacKenzie eighty pounds for the loss of property.

Secretary of State

Secretary of State Record Group. Series XVIII: Recordkeeping, Courts, Box 1. Magistrates and Freeholders Courts, 1740-1789. Sentencing of Peter of New Hanover County, March 15, 1757.

Jamie and Claire are repulsed by what transpires at River Run with just cause, as the historical record demonstrates the horrible situations that enslaved persons faced every day in Colonial North Carolina and up until emancipation in 1865. While Jamie and Claire left River Run and embarked further into the colony, their experiences with slavery would persist with them throughout the course of their adventures in the colony. We should also keep this context in mind when experiencing the ups and downs of Colonial North Carolina over the course of their story.

JUNETEENTH IN NORTH CAROLINA: SEARCH ROOM EXHIBIT AND RELATED RESOURCES

by Alex Dowrey

This month, the exhibit case in our search room features records related to emancipation and Juneteenth celebrations in North Carolina. Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of Texas slaves on June 19, 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger arrived to occupy Galveston, Texas and issued General Order Number Three. This occurred almost two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and is “considered the date when the last enslaved Americans were notified of their new legal status” as free Americans.[1] Although Juneteenth started as a Texas holiday, the celebration spread to other states including North Carolina.

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African American Education Spotlight Series: Charlotte Hawkins Brown

This month we are highlighting our African American Education Digital Collection in celebration of Black History Month. Currently, this collection contains materials from the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum as well as materials from the Division of Negro Education of the Department of Public Instruction.

Today’s post features Charlotte Hawkins Brown. As an educator, civic leader, and founder of the Palmer Memorial Institute, she was a pioneer in education and demonstrated unwavering dedication to helping her students reach their greatest potential.

Five_Palmer_Institute_Teachers

Charlotte Hawkins Brown, top center, is seen photographed with four other Palmer Memorial Institute faculty members, ca. 1902. Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum. African American Education Digital Collection. State Archives of NC. [source]

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African American Education Spotlight Series: James Henry Harris

This month we are highlighting our African American Education Digital Collection in celebration of Black History Month. Currently, this collection contains materials from the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum as well as materials from the Division of Negro Education of the Department of Public Instruction.

Today’s post features James Henry Harris, an eloquent spokesman for a variety of causes, including equal access to education for African Americans and an end to legal discrimination—in North Carolina and beyond.

pc1319_18650831_001

The New England Freedman’s Aid Society appointed James Henry Harris “a teacher of freed people in North Carolina” on August 31, 1865. James Henry Harris Papers. Private Collections. Civil War Digital Collection. State Archives of NC.

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African American Education Spotlight Series: Joseph Charles Price

This month we are highlighting our African American Education Digital Collection in celebration of Black History Month. Currently, this collection contains materials from the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum as well as materials from the Division of Negro Education of the Department of Public Instruction.

Today’s post features Joseph Charles Price: black educator, orator, and civil rights leader. Price established Livingstone College in 1882 (originally established as Zion Wesley Institute) in Salisbury, North Carolina and served as its first president.

Price School

A photograph of Salisbury’s J. C. Price High School. This photo was taken for the Sesquicentennial International Exposition in 1926. The school was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. Division of Negro Education. Public Instruction Records. State Archives of North Carolina.


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