During the Whig Era of North Carolina politics in the 1830s, several groups, politicians, and citizens promoted anti-slavery sentiment. One such politician was North Carolina Supreme Court Justice William J. Gaston who wrote two opinions that favored both slaves and black freedmen in the 1830s. The two cases, State v. Will (1834) and State v. Manuel (1838), became hallmarks of the antebellum anti-slavery movement.
Subject: African American
The end of slavery in 1865 appeared to offer African Americans in North Carolina new and challenging opportunities. Some became landowners, educators, politicians, and businessmen. Yet by 1900 "jubilation" had become "Jim Crow," and African Americans once again found themselves treated as second-class citizens. During this period, however, leaders emerged, who dedicated themselves to improving African Americans’ status and quality of life. One such person was Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown.
In Simkins v. Cone (1963), the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that two Greensboro hospitals had discriminated against African American doctors and patients. Before the case, most North Carolina hospitals were segregated, and those designated solely for black patients offered only sub-optimal healthcare. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, and Simkins became the first time a federal court applied the Fourteenth Amendment to private racial discrimination.
Cole Manufacturing Company was the first black owned cotton mill in the United States in Concord, North Carolina. Its founder, Warren C Coleman became the wealthiest black man in North Carolina by the 1890s.
The Freedmen’s Conventions of 1865 and 1866 were the first statewide gatherings of blacks in North Carolina. Delegates such as James E. O’Hara and John Hyman delivered speeches and voiced their support for inclusion of blacks in the political and judicial arena. The Freedmen Convention met as a response to the all-white state Constitutional Convention that met in Raleigh in 1865.
James City emerged as a haven for free black men and women in eastern North Carolina during the Civil War. By 1865, approximately 3,000 blacks had migrated to the city, and the town thrived after the war. However, after the federal government allowed the original landowners sole ownership of James City, the black community started leaving the area. Today, nearly 700 black residents live in James City, and social organizations have sought to preserve the history of the region.
The first normal school for African Americans in North Carolina, Fayetteville State University (FSU) was established in 1867 as the Howard School. Although FSU was once a school strictly for the education of teachers, the school grew in the 1950s as new programs were added to the institution’s curricula. Today, over 6,300 students currently attend FSU and the institution offers a Freshman Year Initiative program to incoming students.
During the past legislative session, the General Assembly seriously debated whether to divert funds to compensate sterilization victims of North Carolina’s eugenics program. Long before many other organizations discussed the issue, John Locke Foundation staff penned commentaries in 2005 and 2007 and made presentations from 2008-10 about the history of the movement and called for compensating living victims.
At the southwest corner of Central School, now known as “East Side Homes,” is a marble stone that predates the 1926 construction of Asheboro’s oldest existing African American school. It reminds passersby about the first African American school in the Piedmont town.
A veteran of the U.S. Navy and one of the first African Americans to serve as a postmaster in North Carolina, McLaurin served one term in the N.C. House of Representatives as Republican from New Hanover County (1872-1874).