“Standing by your old ni**er, are you?”

b Woodard 1 31 1908

News & Observer (Raleigh), 31 January 1908.

This nasty bit of “news” is a sample of the gratuitous racism that permeated Josephus DanielsNews & Observer in the Jim Crow era. Daniels had grown up in and gotten his journalistic start in Wilson and undoubtedly knew all the involved parties well.

Benjamin Woodard, a notorious folk doctor in Wilson County, had been arrested on unclear charges (probably involving bootlegging liquor) and hauled into federal court in Raleigh. Several notable white Wilsonians showed up to serve as counsel and character witnesses, including brothers and law partners Frederick A. Woodard (a former United States Congressman) and Sidney A. Woodard (a state congressman). The Woodards were described as Ben Woodard’s former owners, though F.A. had been a child and S.A. an infant at war’s end. Ben’s owner, then, had been their father, Dr. Stephen Woodard of Black Creek, Wilson County. F.A. requested a nolle prosequi (“nol. pros.”), which is odd, as this is generally a motion made by a prosecutor who wishes to drop charges. The District Attorney here politely indicated his unwillingness to make such a request, but the judge cheerfully entered it anyway. Thus Dr. Ben benefitted from ties forged in slavery and earned an insulting article in the state’s newspaper of record.


  1. Amazing! Thanks for this! One of your previous posts led me to find that my great-great grandpa Ben was owned by Stephen Woodard. This article confirms it. Thanks again for your great work.

      1. I’m so sorry it took 3 years to respond! I never checked back. Yes, this is my great-great grandpa Ben. (Was the pic removed?) My grandparents (Sylvester Woodard and Bettie Powell Woodard) had his picture at their home and most of their 12 kids have a reproduction. His existence and profession of being a root doctor was no mystery for us as his son, Frederick (and my dad’s namesake) lived with my grandparents in his old age. We have the benefit of knowing our history thanks to my Grandma Bettie living to 100 years old, passing away in 2005.

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