‘Is the South the Best Home for the Negro?’

“Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore [in “Gender and Jim Crow”] recounts a debate on a summer night in 1901 in Charlotte, North Carolina, between two well-educated young women, Addie Sagers and Laura Arnold, on the topic ‘Is the South the Best Home for the Negro?’

“Sagers argued against going North, where, she said, the only jobs open to blacks were ‘bell boy, waiter, cook or house maid,’ and where Northern unions excluded blacks from their ranks. Arnold, her debate opponent, railed against the violence, segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks in the South. She agreed that ‘the unknown was frightening,’ but added, ‘if the Puritans could cross the oceans in small boats, surely North Carolina’s African-Americans could board northbound trains.’

“Gilmore notes that Arnold’s ‘received more points than any other speech that night.’ Two weeks later, Arnold ‘took her own advice and moved to Washington, D.C.’ ”

— From “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson (2010)


Campaign ploy: ‘numerous exposures of Negro insolence…’

“As Furnifold Simmons kicked off the [1898] campaign, his cohort Josephus Daniels used the Raleigh News and Observer to spread wildly exaggerated accounts of interracial clashes between average citizens on the streets of eastern North Carolina cities. Simmons recalled later that they ‘filled the papers… with portraits of Negro officers and candidates….The newspapers carried numerous exposures of Negro insolence and violence.

‘”At first some eastern North Carolinians laughed openly at the tactic. The New Berne Journal quipped: ‘The “outrage” editor  of the News and Observer is getting “slow.” He has not reported a case in Craven County in three days.’

“Simmons collected contributions from industrialists across the state to reprint Daniels’ article as broadsides….”

— From “Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920” by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore (1996)

‘The Help,’ 1919: Woman’s Club takes new look at problem

“If the activities of the white Charlotte Woman’s Club are any indication, interracial contact within public health campaigns had borne fruit. By 1919 white women had moved from the isolation of discussing racial issues with each other to interracial dialogue.

“That year, the Woman’s Club embarked upon a course of study to better understand the ‘perplexing and disquieting’ problem of race relations. The white women… kicked off the year by discussing the well-worn servant problem, but this time the lecture’s title reveals a twist: ‘Service in the Home — Workers’ Viewpoint’….

“The white women did not simply argue among themselves; they reserved time for discussion with ‘Negro race leaders.’ This activity drew a mild reproach from the editors of the Charlotte News, who suggested that the real danger to society lay in the [increasing opportunity] of black women to  find employment outside white homes.”

— From “Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920″ by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore (1996)


A most untraditional Confederate ‘colonel’

“Through the agency of a white lawyer, the Petteys purchased a resort in rural Alexander County, North Carolina, across the mountain from the Wilkes County homeplace where Charles Pettey had been born in slavery in 1849…. The Petteys now owned All Healing Spring, a premier ‘Health Resort and Pleasure Retreat’….  The resort’s patrons had always been and would remain white — always….

“The surrounding community discovered that the Petteys were the new owners in short order. A local white woman dutifully recorded each of the spring’s proprietors in her scrap book from 1892 until 1912. Next to Charles Pettey’s name, she wrote ‘Col.’

“What was clear to contemporaries became shrouded in legend in subsequent years, and local folklore transformed Pettey from an African American into a white Confederate colonel.”

— From “Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920″ by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore (1996)