While reading Jenna Wortham’s luminous New York Times profile of African-American academic Christina Sharpe, a name popped out at me in the passage detailing her West Philadelphia roots — Van Buren Sharpe.
I knew I knew it. A little research confirmed what I suspected — Christina Sharpe’s paternal roots lie in Wilson and Edgecombe Counties.
On 26 December 1866, Sampson Sharpe married Nelly Hargrove in Edgecombe County. Wilson Sharpe was bondsman, and Irvin Thigpen, witness.
In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: farmer Samson Sharpe, 40; wife Nellie, 40; and children Mack, 11, Reuben, 8, Madison, 7, Cet, 6, Van, 4, Shepherd, 2, and Mattie, 7.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Sampson Sharpe, 57, and children Mary J., 19, Earnes, 17, Frankling, 15, and Eva, 13.
On 2 February 1901, Mack Sharpe, 31, married Katie Taylor, 19, in Wilson. Rev. J.W. Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of J.D. Reid, Albert Mitchell, and Olin Fenderson.
In the 1910 census of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania: hotel waiter Van Sharpe, 32; wife Marion, 22; and son Carlwood, 9 months.
In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: tobacco factory laborer Mack Sharpe, 43; wife Katie, 29, laundress; and children Harvey, 12, servant, Wilbur C., 10, Earnest, 8, Samson, 6, Nellie B., 3, and Elexander, 18 months.
Vanburen Sharpe was born 25 August 1913 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per his birth record, his parents were Vanburen Sharpe, 36, waiter, and Marion Sharpe, 27.
In 1918, Van Buren Sharp registered for the World War I draft in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per his registration card, he was born 29 April 1877; lived at 3921 Melon Street; worked as an oyster opener at Ridgway Hotel, Camden, New Jersey; and his nearest relative was wife Marion Sharp.
In the 1920 census of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania: at 3921 Melon Street, Vanburen Sharpe, 42; wife Marion, 31; and children Carlwood, 10, Alice, 8, Vanburen Jr., 6, Byron, 4, Roland, 1, and George, 10 months.
Mary Jane Barnes died 27 October 1920 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 6 April 1881 in Edgecombe County to Samptson Sharpe and Lillie [no maiden name listed]; was married to Jake Barnes; lived at 814 Nash Street; and worked as a domestic. She was buried in Wilson [most likely, Vick Cemetery.]
Eva Lucas died 14 November 1926 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 35 years old; was born in Wilson to Sampson and Mary Jane Sharpe; was married to Walter Lucas; and lived at 108 Vick Street. She was buried in Wilson, N.C. [most likely, in Vick Cemetery.]
In the 1930 census of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania: at 540 North Wanamaker, club waiter Van Buren Sharpe, 55; wife Marion, 44; and children Carlwood, 20, Alice, 19, Van Buren, 16, Byron, 14, Roland, 12, George, 11, Marion, 8, and Robert, 4.
Earnest Sharpe died 3 January 1931 in U.S. Marine Hospital, Norfolk, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 February 1882 in North Carolina to Sampson Sharpe and Milly Hargrove; was married to Martha Sharpe; lived at 754 Brewer Street, Norfolk; and worked as a waiter on table for the Merchant Marines.
In the 1940 census of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania: at 5942 Vine, waiter Van Buren Sharpe, 59; wife Marion, 54; and children Alice, 28, Van Buren Jr., 26, Byron, 24, Rowland, 22, George, 21, Marion, 18, and Robert, 14.
In 1942, Van Buren Sharpe registered for the World War II draft in Philadelphia. Per his registration card, he was born 25 August 1913 in Philadelphia; lived at 5942 Vine Street; his contact was father Van Buren Sharpe; and he worked as a classified laborer for Philadelphia Navy Yard, League Island, Philadelphia.
In the 1950 census of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania: at 5942 Vine, hotel waiter Van Buren Sharpe, 68; wife Marion, 63; and children Alice, 36, post office char woman, Marion, 28, department store stock girl, and Robert, 24.
Van Buren Sharpe died 14 August 1953 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per his death certificate, he was born 29 April 1880 in Wilson, N.C.; was married; and worked as a waiter.
Shepard Sharpe died 16 October 1959 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 January 1887 in Edgecombe County to Samson Sharpe and Nellie (?); lived at 135 Narroway Street; and worked as a cook. Naomi Sharpe was informant.