Exodus to Mississippi.

A lesser studied migration took African-American farm families from North Carolina to Mississippi in the last decade of the nineteenth century. A recent post about Sharpsburg Cemetery evoked a reader response that revealed one such family. Robert Cooper, his wife, and children set out for the Delta around 1890, settling in Sunflower County, about 50 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee (and home of Charley Patton, Howlin’ Wolf, and Pop Staples.)


In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Samuel Cooper, 40, farm laborer, and children Trecy, 23, Jordan, 18, Nancy, 17, Robert, 8, Silas, 7, Ellis, 4, and Robbin, 3.

In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: farmer Sam Cooper, 51; wife Frona, 40; and children Robert, 20, Silas, 19, Robin, 13, Polly, 8, Amey, 7, and Tempey, 3.

On 10 November 1885, Robert Cooper, 24, married Rutha Ann Lassiter, 18, at Silas Lassiter‘s, Wilson County.

In the 1900 census of Sunflower County, Mississippi: day laborer Robert Cooper, age unknown, widower; children S.P., 11,  and David B. Hill Cooper, 7; and “part” [partner?] Richard Dodd, 36, and Lizzie Reed, age unknown. Robert and S.P. were born in North Carolina; David in Mississippi.

In the 1910 census of Sunflower County, Mississippi: farmer Robert Cooper, 44, widower, and sons S.P., 20, and Robert, 17.

Jordan Cooper died 21 November 1914 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was about 60 years old; was the son of Sam Cooper and Fronie [no maiden name given]; was a widower; and a tenant farmer. He was buried in Sharpsburg Cemetery, and Josh Armstrong was informant.

Robert Cooper registered for the World War I in Sunflower County, Mississippi, in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born in November 1874; lived in Lombardy, Sunflower County; farmed for W.L. May; and his nearest relative was Della Cooper.

In the 1920 census of Sunflower County, Mississippi: farmer S.P. Cooper, 30, widower.

Silas Cooper died 11 September 1920 in [illegible], Halifax County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was 60 years old; was born in Elm City to Sam Cooper and Frony Jones; was a farmer; and was buried in Enfield, N.C.

Nancy Lucas died 6 February 1922 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 65 years old; was the daughter of Samuel and Flona Cooper; was the widow of Offie Lucas; and was buried in Elm City. George Cooper was informant.

Ammie Winstead died 17 October 1928 in Coopers township, Nash County, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was 55 years old; was born in Nash County to Samuel Cooper and Froanie Coley; was married; and worked as a farmer. Samuel Winstead was informant.

In the 1930 census of Bolivar County, Mississippi: farmer Samuel P. Cooper, 40; wife Savanna, 26; children Arthur, 7, T.K., 6, Willie, 4, and Cornelius, 1; and stepdaughter Callie Cay, 9.

In the 1930 census of Sunflower County, Mississippi: farmer David Cooper, 36; wife Genora, 20; children Percy, 6, and Willie M., 3; and mother-in-law Mary Williams, 47, widow.

In the 1940 census of Sunflower County, Mississippi: farmer Dave Cooper, 40; wife Genora, 31; Mary Williams, 50; and stepson Percy J. Stewart, 15.

Map courtesy of Wikipedia.


  1. Lisa, you are such a blessing and have filled in the blanks to so many questions. I had no idea who Robert’s wife was. My mother has always been lighter-skinned, and seeing the hyperlink for Gerusha/Rutha Ann—Milly Ann favors my mother, sister, and niece. I found her records on Ancestry. The Lassiter’s genes are strong lol. I don’t know how to thank you!

    1. The Lassiters were a large family of free people of color who settled near Toisnot Swamp in Edgecombe (later Wilson) County by the early 1800s. I’ve blogged quite a bit about various members of this family.

      1. I will definitely be looking into all of them. You have helped so much to advance my research!

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