Thousandaires.

For the first time in 1940, the federal census recorded income. As reported in column 32, “Amount of money wages or salary received (including commissions),” these 27 men and women had the highest incomes among African-Americans in the city:

  • Joseph Cowan, $2355, medical doctor
  • Jasper McClain, $2200, bricklayer
  • Edward M. Barnes, $1720, principal — high school
  • Alex A. Morisey, $1600, newspaper reporter
  • Rufus Hilliard, $1300, power plant fireman — City of Wilson
  • Benjamin Mincey, $1280, plumber — City of Wilson
  • Luther Hamonds, $1274, fireman — light plant
  • Richard Foster, $1200, minister — Saint John Methodist
  • Aaron Pittman, $1200, brickmason
  • James Speight, $1200, janitor — post office
  • M.D. Williams, $1200, teacher — public school
  • Jeff Russell, $1190, bricklayer
  • James Sellers, $1170, brickmason
  • Cecil Spellman, $1140, farm demonstration — County of Wilson
  • Jesse Holden, $1100, brickmason
  • Flora Bethel, $1088, school teacher — Darden High School
  • Ruth Coppedge, $1078, school teacher — county school
  • Florence Whitley, $1078, school teacher — city graded school
  • Chester McNeal, $1066, porter — railroad station
  • Ike Collins, $1040, cook — cafe
  • Branch Hines, $1040, W.P.A. laborer
  • Roderick Taylor, $1040, barber
  • Fred Wingate, $1029, fireman — oil mill
  • Ned Brown, $1000, odd jobs laborer
  • Alberta Daniels, $1000, school teacher — private school
  • Tom Little, $1000, cement finisher — building contractor
  • Willie Reid, $1000, barber — own shop

Notes:

  • Only four women earned a thousand or more dollars a year, all of them teachers. (At what “private school” did Alberta Daniels teach?)
  • Dr. Joseph F. Cowan reported the highest salary of any African-American in town. However, other doctors and dentists in East Wilson, including Boisey O. Barnes, George K. Butterfield Sr., and William A. Mitchner, reported no wages or salary at all, perhaps because their income derived not from self-paid salaries, but from practice or business profits or investments.)
  • The (presumably) wealthiest businessmen and real estate developers in East Wilson, such as Samuel H. VickWilliam Hines, Walter Hines, Camillus L. Darden and O. Nestus Freeman, also reported no income to the census enumerator.
  • Brickmasonry was far and away the most remunerative skilled construction trade.
  • Factory firemen, who stoked the enormous boilers that powered plants, were also relatively well-paid.

10 comments

  1. Such insightful use of the grand database that is the census! Similarly, starting 1861, Scotland asked for #rooms with 1 or more windows. I posted on that regards my family, over many decades and saw a decline in their circumstances. That question was asked for a different reason though, and asking for income for sure, will be more effective, for your purpose. Great post. Imagine the interest, when later censuses become available to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a fascinating post. Interesting that masons and teachers were then at the top of the scale (excluding the physician and the entrepreneurs). Did this directory report Oliver Nestus Freeman’s income, or that of his wife Willie Mae or brother Julius, Jr.?

    Like

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