Slapping black women was epidemic in Wilson in the first few decades of the 20th century. Here, W.D. Ruffin was ordered into court for slapping a “colored girl,” known only by her surname Reid, who allegedly pushed ahead of him in a line at the post office. Clerk W.O. Flowers complained that “the older colored people are more respectful and will wait their turn but that a number of negro boys and girls make themselves obnoxious by endeavoring to shove their way ahead of some one else.” He claimed he was waiting in line when Reid pushed in. He told her he was in front; she argued that she had a right to be there. Ruffin: “Be quiet.” Reid stood her ground, and Ruffin “brushed her cheek with his hand.”
The story is not only astounding for the audacity of Henry Barefoot‘s stand in his own defense, but also for the even-handedness of justice meted out to the juvenile, even if it left the judge indignant.
(Meanwhile, undertaker Columbus E. Artis and Lemore Hannah appeared before the bench on charges of operating an unlicensed taxi.)
Henry Barefoot — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 308 Lane Street, presser Linwood Barefoot, 43; wife Bertha, 38, laundress; and sons John, 18, hospital kitchen helper, Stanley, 15, Norris, 13, Henry, 12, Curtis, 12, Jerome, 8, and Marvin, 5. (It is worthwhile to note that Henry left Wilson sometime after this incident. When he registered for the World War II draft at age 18, he was living in Baltimore, Maryland.)