Economics

The first line of defense is on the home front.

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Wilson Daily Times, 27 December 1941.

Negro Home Agent Jane Amos Boyd highlighted the efforts of homemaker Henrietta Ruffin to insure an ample food supply for her family and community. Ruffin canned 674 quarts of fruits, vegetables, and meats; bought 460 baby chicks; and sold more than eighty dollars worth of surplus eggs and chickens at a curb market.

Though Ruffin had a Pitt County address, she lived between Saratoga and the Wilson-Pitt County line.

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In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Howards Path, farmer Jesse Ward, 26; wife Arey, 32; and children William, 14, Walton, 10, Henrietta, 10, Susan, 6, Kizie, 5, and Juanita, 1 month.

Charlie Ruffin, 21, of Saratoga, son of Ida Ruffin, married Henretta Moore, 18, of Saratoga, daughter of Ara Moore, on 25 January 1920 in Saratoga township. Washington Littles, a Disciples minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of William Dupree, Henry Stewart, and Arluster McNair, all of Saratoga.

In the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Fountain Road, farmer Charles Ruffin, 19; wife Henrietta, 19; mother Ida, 50, widow; sister Daisy, 13; and niece Mary, 12.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Ruffin, 30; wife Henritta, 28; and children Bertha, 9, Charles Jr., 8, James R., 6, Juntia, 2, and Gladis L., 10 months.

In the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Charles Ruffin, 39; wife Henretta, 38; and children Bertha, 19, Charles, 17, James R., 16, Juanita, 12, Gladys Lee, 10, Christine, 8, Bruce, 7, Bertie Mae, 4, and Curtis, 10 months.

Henrietta Moore Ruffin died 29 November 2004.

An example worthy of following.

The Special Collections Research Center of North Carolina State Libraries has digitized several annual reports submitted to the state’s Cooperative Extension Service by Negro County Extension Agent Carter W. Foster. Below, part 1 of a series revealing the 1942 report.

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“… I have attempted to give you an insight of the major activities carried on by Negro farmers in the county during the year.” Foster credited farm families, county officials, home economics extension agent Jane A. Boyd, the extension staffs at North Carolina State A.&T. and North Carolina State Universities, and members of the Negro school systems for the year’s successes.

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Foster named Mark Sharpe the Outstanding Man of the Year.

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Sharpe was born and reared on the farm he was buying. His father, a life-long tenant farmer, lived with him. Their landlord had made a standing offer to sell the farm for $6000 years before. “Not being satisfied with the manner in which his father was living,” Sharpe decided to buy. He happened upon an article about Farm Security Administration loans for low-income tenants. Within days he was approved. The farm was on Highway 42 on the Wilson-Edgecombe border, and about 40 of its 51 acres were suitable for farming.

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The house was in fairly good condition at purchase, but was upgraded with screens, paint and a pump on the back porch, and Sharpe constructed a laying house, a smokehouse and an outhouse.

Sharpe was a young man — just 29 years old. He was the father of five, a member of the Negro Farmers Advisory Committee, and a Neighborhood Lender. “He is an example worthy of following by many tillers of the soil.”

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Paid by their former master.

Thomas L. Mann issued these three receipts to freedmen for work performed in 1865. I have been unable to locate Mann or the men he had formerly enslaved — Lewis, Jocks and Jim Mann. However, it was not unusual for freedmen to “try on” one or more surnames before making a permanent selection, often different from their former enslaver’s name.

Jany 6th 1866 Recd of Thos. L. Mann our Former Master Fifty Six Dollars in full For my Services  for the Year 1865. Lewis (X) Mann

Witness [signature illegible]

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Jany 6th 1866 Recd of Thos. L. Mann our Former Master Fifty four Dollars in full For my Services & Wife for the Year 1865. Jacks (X) Mann

Witness [signature illegible]

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Jany 6th 1866 Recd of Thos. L. Mann our Former Master Forty Six Dollars 25/100 in full For my Services and Wife Patsey for the Year 1865. Jim (X) Mann

Witness [signature illegible]

Wage Receipts, Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

 

Gratitude.

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THANK YOU.

I am humbled by the outpouring of donations to Freeman Round House and Museum made in response to my Facebook Birthday Fundraiser. I surpassed my first goal — $250 — in about an hour. I upped it to $400, and y’all blew past that one, too. Some of you grew up in Wilson and know intimately the people and places I blog about. More know Wilson only through the love letter that is Black Wide Awake.

Thank you for reading and following and commenting and encouraging my documentation of the community that raised me. Thank you for caring about the preservation of the history of a place you may never have seen. Thank you for the gift of money, so fundamental to the support of the little museum dedicated to telling the stories of Wilson’s African American community.

THANK YOU.

Totals.

This table reveals the stark disparities in wealth between whites and blacks in early twentieth century Wilson County.

The columns, representing tax categories and values, are Number of Polls; Number Acres Land; Value Land and Timber; Number Town Lots; Total Value Real Estate; Total Value Personal Property; Aggregate Value Real and Personal.

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[I am intrigued by the differences in land ownership among African-Americans in different townships. Some surely is attributable merely to population, but I wonder about additional causes of inequality. Why so few taxable individuals or landowners in Stantonsburg township? Why were African-Americans in Spring Hill township so much more prosperous? I have some theories, but I want to explore more. — LYH]

Report of the North Carolina Corporation Commission as a Board of State Tax Commissioners (1907).

Negro mystery man in court.

During our conversation in February, Samuel C. Lathan told me that Peter Lupe was the only black person “allowed” to sell beer on the 500 block of East Nash. This piece, floating somewhere between news and society column, supports Mr. Lathan’s observation.

Thomas’ first bit of “triviata” — Attorney George Tomlinson appeared at an alderman meeting on behalf of Willie Prince to complain that the police were showing favoritism toward Lupe while harassing Prince and others and that Prince’s on-premise wine license had been revoked, but Lupe remained free to pour. City tax collector Richard R. Smiley step up to resolve part of Prince’s complaint by revoking Lupe’s license on the spot.

The second item — One Saturday night, exactly five minutes after a “negro woman” was booked on a liquor charge, Lupe bonded her out.

The third — The police arrested James Patrick on a vagrancy charge and found his pockets full of “good luck negro charms.” (Again, “jo-mo.” Was this actually a local variant on “mojo”?) Patrick explained that, in exchange for rent, he had promised to get his landlady’s boyfriend to come back. [Sidenote: Vagrancy laws essentially criminalized joblessness and were wielded to harass poor people, especially those of color. After a number of constitutional challenges, in the 1960s most vagrancy laws were replaced by statutes prohibiting more specific behavior, such as public intoxication or disorderly conduct.]

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Wilson Daily Times, 9 September 1940.

Benefit for Mercy Hospital.

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“All receipts given to colored hospital,” Wilson Daily Times, 11 April 1930.

This advertisement touts a midnight variety show and movie screening to benefit Mercy Hospital. The institution, in continuous financial straits, had recently been sold at auction to businessman Wade H. Gardner.

Though the ad is not explicit, it seems to be directed at a white audience. James Edward Andrews, Carl S. Hinnant (described in the 1930 federal census of Wilson as an orchestra musician), Sidney Willoughby and Lester Rose were local white men, and a “black face comedy act” would not have had primary appeal to an African-American audience.