Irritated by Salisbury’s ‘Bath-Tub Aristocracy’

“[Southern] towns prided themselves on their new water works and sewers….When a new water system came to Salisbury, North Carolina, in the late [1880s], Hope Chamberlain recalled, ‘Some of the younger married folks put in bathrooms. We girls called them “The Bath-Tub Aristocracy.” ‘ Those ‘aristocrats’ mentioned their new conveniences as often as possible, deeply irritating those ‘who had not yet graduated from the class with the tin-tub-on-the-back-fence, to be brought in with cold water and warm, in pails for the semi-weekly rite.’ ”

— From The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction by Edward L. Ayers (2007)


Why North Carolina didn’t have more lynchings

“Lynchings were far more likely to occur in some regions of the South than others, and those patterns call into question easy assumptions about the forces behind lynching…. Although North Carolina witnessed the greatest amount of racial conflict in the political realm of any Southern state, including the brutal white supremacy campaign and Wilmington riot of 1898, the heavily black part of the state registered a remarkably low rate of lynching…..

“[Regions that did have high rates of lynching] shared a particular demography. [They] had an extremely low rural population density [and] in the last two decades of the 19th century they experienced tremendous rates of black population increase.”

— From “The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction” by Edward L. Ayers (2007)

Some readers may struggle with the distinction between lynchings and the bloody coup d’etat in Wilmington.

Black job-seekers’ exodus from N.C., circa 1890

“Communities in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia watched as huge crowds of local blacks gathered at railroad stations to await transportation to the Mississippi Delta, the Louisiana rice or sugar fields, or the turpentine camps of the piney woods.

” ‘At the depot an interesting spectacle presented itself in the huge mass of luggage piled on the platform,’ a New Bern, North Carolina, newspaper reported in 1889. ‘Old meat boxes, various other boxes, barrels, trunks of all shapes and sizes, were piled 10 feet high. The train could not accommodate all who wanted to go.’

” ‘The negro exodus now amounts to a stampede,’ David Schenck of Greensboro wrote in his diary in 1890. ‘Nineteen passenger coaches filled to the doors, nine cars filled with baggage, 1,400 negroes… on their way to Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.’ ”

— From “The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction” by Edward L. Ayers (2007)

Ayers writes that states of the Upper South such as North Carolina suffered the greatest relative loss of blacks in search of work. Despite the awestruck accounts from  New Bern and Greensboro, most headed north rather than west.