New Years Day

Heartbreak Day.

On 27 December 2019, Time magazine published Olivia B. Waxman’s sobering and insightful article on the hiring of slave labor, “The Dark History of New Year’s Day“:

“Americans are likely to think of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day as a time to celebrate the fresh start that a new year represents, but there is also a troubling side to the holiday’s history. In the years before the Civil War, the first day of the new year was often a heartbreaking one for enslaved people in the United States.

“In the African-American community, New Year’s Day used to be widely known as “Hiring Day” — or “Heartbreak Day,” as the African-American abolitionist journalist William Cooper Nell described it — because enslaved people spent New Year’s Eve waiting, wondering if their owners were going to rent them out to someone else, thus potentially splitting up their families. The renting out of slave labor was a relatively common practice in the antebellum South, and a profitable practice for white slave owners and hirers.”

Please read the article and revisit these blog posts:

Happy New Year!

My deep appreciation to all who supported Black Wide-Awake in 2019 through likes, comments, shares, tips, corrections, and other feedback. Looking forward to continuing this journey of discovery in 2020!


Some 2019 stats:

 583 posts

 94,174 views (an increase of 11% from 2018)

 36,618 visitors (from 94 countries)


Top 5 most popular posts:

You have never known the cruelties of these people.

507 Church Street.

Shotgun houses restored.

Dr. James A. Battle.

The state of Rountree cemetery.


Some of my favorite finds (not among the Top 5, and in no order):

Dark side of the campus.

An afternoon with Mr. Lathan.

Wilson’s Green Book hotel.

A big occasion in the history of the race in this city.

The brickmasons’ strike(s).

Below the railroad.

Crossing the tracks.

“Times were hard and a poor nigger had to live”: the death of George Taylor.

Lynching going on, and there are men trying to stand in with the white folks.

Anatomy of a logo.

Cemeteries No. 26: the Alex and Gracey Shaw Williamson cemetery.

Barbara Jones’ daughter Bethany Jones.

Anatomy of a bird’s eye view.

“It is good just to know where you came from.”


Wilson Advance, 3 January 1895.

It’s always hard to trust the ever-hating Wilson Advance. The crowd may have been small, but Wilson’s African-American community celebrated Emancipation Day on January 1st, the day the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863, into the 20th century.