Saturday, July 14, 2012

Diving Into. . .

File Box 1, File No. 1.3:
Farlow, Gale. "Black Craftsmen in North Carolina," in North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal, Volume XI, No. 1, February 1985, pp. 2-13; continued in Volume XI, No. 2, May 1985, pp. 91-103.


I had hoped that this article might discuss the various crafts in which African Americans were engaged in the period pre-1850; however, it served as a synopsis of other researchers' investigations. The author states that
Four factors were considered necessary for identification of black craftsmen working before 1850: name, trade, location by town or county, and at least one documented date. This method necessarily eliminated any referenced not having all four criteria . . . . would seem to indicate that the list of those identified is only a small part of the total number who were working in North Carolina before 1850. . . . Of the 291 craftsmen identified, 159 were free persons and 132 of them were cited as apprentices. The slaves numbered 132 with 94 of them runaways. Forty-four counties were represented, twenty of them east of Raleigh and classified as Eastern, and nineteen were located in the Piedmont area (p. 8).
Farlow cites John Hope Franklin's The Free Negro in North Carolina as the source for this information. On the next page are two tables:

  • Table 1: Black Craftsmen Listed By Trade
  • Table 2: Black Craftsmen Located By Counties
Table 2 records fifty-seven black craftsmen in Craven County (p.9).

The remainder of the article is a compiled list of names and notations extracted from apprenticeship bonds, newspaper advertisements, and various other sources. Three of our Carters are listed on page 11:
  1. CARTER, George. A free black, aged eleven years, who was apprenticed as a turner to Thomas IVES of Craven County in 1788. (Craig, p. 355);
  2. CARTER, Isaac. Aged five years he was apprenticed as a cooper to William PHYSICO of Craven County in 1811. (Boykin, p. 19);
  3. CARTER, William. Aged fourteen years, he was apprenticed as a cooper to William PHYSICO of Craven County in 1811. His younger brother (see above) and his two sisters were apprenticed to be trained as coopers at the same time to the same man. (Boykin, p. 19).
Cited Sources:

Craig, James H. The Arts and Crafts in North Carolina 1699-1840. Winston-Salem: Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, 1965.

Available at Abe Books
The Boykin source was not cited in the footnotes; but, a little searching of my own revealed the book: 
Boykin, James H. The Negro in North Carolina Prior to 1861. New York: Pageant Press, 1958.

Criticism:
At this point I cannot impress enough how important it is to follow the research trail back to the original primary documentation, for the apprenticeship bonds and Minutes of the Craven County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions reveals that there was more to the Carter apprenticeships than given here. . . and the sisters of William Carter were not apprenticed as coopers as were their brothers, but as spinsters. Also, it does not mention that four years later, the Carter siblings were removed from the Physioc household and placed in the households of Isaac Perkins, their maternal uncle, and to John Marchmont. Isaac Carter was then to be trained as a shoemaker. His brother William was apprenticed to be a blacksmith; and the girls continued as spinsters.

In Conclusion:
For this reason, and as proven by various other sources I have read, it is absolutely imperative to work with primary documentation. I wish the National Endowment for the Humanities would recognize this when determining the merits of independent scholarship. If authors rely heavily on second- and third-hand information, historical truth becomes a distortion at best, or a fabrication at its extreme. If we are to know how our ancestors lived within the context of time, location and society, we must endeavor to get to the heart of truth.




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