Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dates set!

I travelled to Raleigh yesterday to meet with the donors (Local Government Federal Credit Union) and the staff of the UNC's School of Government. We met to discuss various scenarios for unveiling the piece. It was decided that we would shoot for July 26. Why that date? It is the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. The actual lunch counter was turned into a Civil Rights Museum on February 1 of this year. Many recognize that date as the start of the sit-in but few know that the tactic was not deemed successful until 6 months later after much turmoil. We had initially planned to unveil the mural on February 1, but funding wasn't put in place in time so we had to decide on a later date and lo and behold, this one made itself known after some research. It actually works better for us on a couple fronts. Because the sit-in's were in Greensboro, the main focus was understandably centered there with the opening of the museum. Our little contribution would have been little more than a footnote on the events schedule. This way, we have a date unto ourselves and can extend the year long celebration. The date also fits better with the actual subject matter displayed in the painting which is based on the event but takes it in a slightly different direction and expands the theme to cover nearly 200 years of North Carolina history and the contributions made to it by more than just the Greensboro Four.

There was also further discussion on how to garner some media attention to the unveiling and whom to invite. I didn't know that Joseph McNeill (one of the Greensboro Four) lived in Wilmington, NC. The SOG plans on reaching out to him to see if he can attend the ceremony. I really hope he can attend as I would love to meet him. He is only one of three living people in the mural. They will also reach out to relatives of some of the subjects in the mural as well.

After the meeting I went to Chapel Hill to take a look at the space one more time and verify some measurements for the carpenter. We went over over the lighting plans and I decided on a final wall color which will be a dark shade of a purplish - brownish - plum color. I selected a color swatch and will put that in the mail to the SOG tomorrow. Below is a little Photoshop mock up with the selected color.

So that's about it. I have 3 months to complete this beast since I told them that I plan on having this painting hung over the July 4th holiday. Deadlines are a good thing for artists - without them we procrastinate! 

I took the day off today from painting. I felt a cold coming on starting on Sunday and tried to fight it off yesterday to no avail. I had a nasty cough and remembered that I still had a bottle of prescription cough medicine from my doctor. This was the good shit with codeine, not that flavored cough syrup crap off the shelf. Needless to say, the instructions called for a teaspoon every twelve hours but I took a NyQuil styled swig and found myself barely able to stand after a half hour. I spent the next 6 hours in a daze with my voice modulating in and out like a kid going through puberty. Thank God I wasn't driving. I'm going to take another hit (only a teaspoon this time) and shut down for the night. I hope the painting isn't pissed at me and I can get some work done tomorrow. In the past when I've left for two days there's been hell to pay. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Doctors

Dr. Milton Douglas Quigless, Sr.          (select to see larger image)         Dr. Charles DeWitt Watts

How much difference can one person make? Dr. Milton Douglas Quigless defied the odds and the conventions of his time to make medical care available to African Americans in Edgecombe County.

In 1936, just out of medical school, he arrived in the small town of Tarboro with $7 in his pocket and a desire to care for people. The need was certainly there. Tarboro’s only hospital was restricted to whites. Local white doctors did not usually treat African Americans, and the town’s only black physician had died years earlier. 

Denied privileges at the hospital, Dr. Quigless set up an office in an abandoned fish market. He struggled to provide adequate care and perform surgery, not only in his meager office but also in patients’ homes. Many were tenant farmers with no electricity and poor sanitary conditions that bred typhoid, dysentery and tuberculosis. To give the best care possible, Quigless consulted with specialists around the state. And, as most country doctors did in the days before penicillin, he improvised and occasionally used folk medical treatments he’d learned.

But local prejudices and segregation laws continued to frustrate Quigless.

In 1947, with his life savings and a $37,000 loan, he purchased and converted his office building into a 25-bed clinic. “All the patients I’d been seeing out in the country, a lot of them died, you know, before I built the place here,” he recalled. “From the day I started, it was filled up.”

The Quigless Hospital developed an excellent reputation. During the 1950s, white patients began to come for treatment, too. Breaking tradition with most Southern hospitals of that time, Quigless provided one door and one waiting room for all patients, white and black.

In 1974, the hospital closed when Dr. Quigless joined the staff of the new Edgecombe County General Hospital and moved his patients there. But he maintained an office in the old hospital until shortly before his death in 1997. Today his son, Dr. Milton Quigless, Jr., is a well-known surgeon in Raleigh, keeping the Quigless name very much a part of North Carolina health care.

Dr. Charles DeWitt Watts was born in 1917. He was an African-American physician, surgeon, and activist for the poor.

From Atlanta, Georgia, Charles DeWitt Watts received a degree in mathematics from Morehouse College in 1939. He received his medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine in 1943 and completed his surgical residency in 1949 at the former Freedman's Hospital, under the tutelage of Dr. Charles Drew, who was the department head. From 1948 to 1950, Dr. Watts served as instructor of surgery at Howard. Dr. Watts and his wife Constance Merrick Watts left Howard in 1950 and moved to her home town of Durham.

He set up a private practice and became the director of student health at North Carolina Central University. He later was vice president and medical director for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co. In 1965, Dr. Watts became chief of surgery at the city's 150-bed Lincoln Hospital, one of the few American hospitals then that granted surgical privileges to black doctors. He also helped prepare the hospital's interns and residents for board certification. When Lincoln Hospital was slated to be closed in the 1970s, Dr. Watts led the effort to turn it into a community health center serving people regardless of their income.

In a 1986 Washington Post interview, Dr. Watts noted that in 1950, two-thirds of the certified black surgeons in the country had been trained at Howard and influenced by Dr. Drew, who pioneered blood collection and plasma processing. "He wanted black doctors to go out and establish themselves around the country," Watts said of Drew. "He succeeded far beyond his dream. We can point them out across the country this goes to California and back again. It was a trailblazing effort that really succeeded." In 1992, his daughter, Deborah Chase Watts Hill, died.

During his career, Dr. Watts also was on the surgical staff at Durham Regional Hospital and an adjunct clinical professor of surgery at Duke University Medical School. Dr. Watts was a member of Howard's Board of Trustees for 19 years, before retiring in 1993. He was then elected a trustee emeritus. In 2002, the Duke School of Medicine created the Charles Watts Travel Award, which funds student and faculty travel to study culturally specific medical issues.

North Carolina's First African American Surgeon Dr. Charles DeWitt Watts died on Jul. 12, 2004 in Durham, North Carolina addition to his wife survivors includes two other children, Winifred A. Watts Hemphill of Atlanta and Charles D. Watts Jr. of Durham; and nine grandchildren.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


As promised - here are the 'Anonymous Couple' who represent the scores of the unnamed and forgotten contributors to North Carolina history.
select to view larger image

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Harriet Jacobs and Anonymous Slave Woman

While meeting with the historians during the planning phase of the mural, Joseph Jordan, the Director of the Stone Center on the campus of UNC and an Associate Professor of History, made the point that he felt it was necessary to find a way to pay tribute to the many anonymous individuals (mostly slaves) that may have played a pivotal role throughout North Carolina history. It was decided amongst the assembled that we should make a symbolic reference to these unsung heroes by including an unnamed man and woman to represent them. I thought that this was a brilliant idea and immediately set about adding them to the assembled cast. I found an old picture of a slave woman, but needing a more detailed face, I actually photographed my mother and used her instead. Regardless of that fact, she will forever be labeled as 'anonymous' in homage to those who gave more than anyone should ever have had to give. I will complete her companion to the left tomorrow and post his image.

In some way I feel as though these two 'anonymous' images are the most important in the whole piece and wanted to ensure that their presence was seen as special. When the counter is completed, they will be the only seated people that will have a formal place setting in front of them along with a small display of Forget-me-not flowers to underscore their presence. 

Anonymous Slave Woman and Harriet Ann Jacobs
Harriet Ann Jacobs was born into slavery in Edenton, North Carolina in 1815. She was the daughter of slaves, Delilah and Daniel Jacobs. Harriet Jacobs is best known for her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, edited by white abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, and published in 1852. Using the pseudonym “Linda Brent,” Jacobs tells the story of her life as a slave of a “Dr. Flint,” to whom she was willed as a young girl after her mistress died.  At this point in her young life, Harriet encountered unceasing sexual advances from Flint. She escaped Flint’s household in 1835, but remained nearby, living in an attic for several years in order to stay near her son. She made her final escape in 1842 and was able to reunite with her children. She settled in Rochester, New York, where she joined the network of abolitionists. At the urging of white abolitionist Amy Post, Jacobs wrote her autobiography. Still pursued by slave catchers, Jacobs fled to Massachusetts.

During the Civil War, Jacobs and her daughter, Louisa, worked with the New England Freedman’s Aid society, which supported her effort to travel to Virginia to provide emergency health care and establish a school for black children.

While living in Boston, Jacobs joined the New England women’s club movement and supported herself by running a boarding house for Harvard students and faculty. She and Louisa later moved to Washington, D.C., where she died in 1897. She was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Invisible Man

I love listening to audiobooks while I paint - usually in the morning - before switching to music in the later hours. I'm usually a fan of the political thrillers and detective stories (the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum read by Scott Brick were fantastic). In my previous post on the 'Precious' essay by Darryl Washington, he referenced the novel 'The Invisible Man' by Ralph Ellison. It's one of those books that I had always intended to read but never got around to. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and downloaded the audiobook which was read by the actor Joe Morton. I have to tell you that it was by far the best audiobook that I have listened to in a long time. Joe Morton's ability to bring to life a myriad of characters was phenomenal. He vocally painted a picture and infused the dialogue with so much emotion that you felt as though you were a part of the narrative and watching it being constructed in front of your eyes. I was so impressed with his treatment of the material that I plan to see what other books he has read and download them for future listening.

On the painting front, I am currently working on five more individuals and will post the progress in a day or two. This weekend I have to make a report to the School of Government on my progress. I spoke with Ann Simpson a couple days ago and she mentioned that they plan to have a meeting with the Federal credit Union officials to begin discussions on plans for the unveiling. The meeting will be on the 29th and I'm planning to attend. I need to head back to Chapel Hill and take a look at the wall where the painting will hang to verify a couple measurements and determine what color it should be. They had a museum expert come in and advise them on the proper lighting for the piece based on the location and dimensions. I yielded to his advice since such things are beyond my periphery. What I am most concerned with at this time is the physical construction of the wall (surface material, stud location, etc.). I need to gather as much information for the carpenter (Jim Hale) who I will be calling in soon to begin building the frame and figuring out the mounting process. This is one of those one shot deals that I need to go as smooth as possible after transporting the painting and stretching it on location.  

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fear...the Great Motivator

If there was one portrait in this whole mural that made me take a deep breath and move carefully it was that of John Hope Franklin. He was the last name added to the list of participants because at the time when I first met with the selection committee, he was still alive. Due to legal issues the historians would not allow anyone still living to be in the mural and actually preferred they be deceased at least 25 years. I'm not a lawyer but I think it has something to do with ownership of image - ask a copyright lawyer. The only reason I was allowed to include the Greensboro Four is because they are basically in the public domain - I think - ask a lawyer. Dr. Franklin unfortunately passed away a couple months before I started planning the mural and was immediately added to the mix. 

Anyone familiar with Dr. Franklin knows that he had quite the distinguished career. He is a literal legend in North Carolina - read his bio (below) and you'll see why. If there was anyone that would be easily recognizable in the whole painting, it is he. In other words, don't screw this one up!
Dr. John Hope Franklin (select for larger view)
John Hope Franklin was the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History, and for seven years was Professor of Legal History in the Law School at Duke University. He was a native of Oklahoma and a graduate of Fisk University. He received the A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in history from Harvard University. He has taught at a number of institutions, including Fisk University, St. Augustine's College, North Carolina Central University, and Howard University. In 1956 he went to Brooklyn College as Chairman of the Department of History; and in 1964, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago, serving as Chairman of the Department of History from 1967 to 1970. At Chicago, he was the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor from 1969 to 1982, when he became Professor Emeritus.

Professor Franklin's numerous publications include The Emancipation Proclamation, The Militant South, The Free Negro in North Carolina, Reconstruction After the Civil War, and A Southern Odyssey: Travelers in the Ante-bellum North. Perhaps his best known book is From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans, now in its seventh edition. His Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities for 1976 was published in 1985 and received the Clarence L. Holte Literary Prize for that year. In 1990, a collection of essays covering a teaching and writing career of fifty years, was published under the title, Race and History: Selected Essays, 1938-1988. In 1993, he published The Color Line: Legacy for the Twenty-first Century. Professor Franklin's most recent book, My Life and an Era: The Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin, is an autobiography of his father that he edited with his son, John Whittington Franklin. His research at the time of his death dealt with "Dissidents on the Plantation: Runaway Slaves."

Essay on the movie Precious

Darryl Lorenzo Washington is not only a friend but one of the most powerful essayist's I have ever read. In this issue of Dissent Magazine he turns his lens on the movie Precious.
Sex, Race, and Precious
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington - March 6, 2010

“IN THE beginning was not the shadow, but the act.” Ralph Ellison’s cause and effect dictum is applicable to any cinematic adaptation of a literary work: Before there was the movie, there was the book. But today—given the power of film, publicity, and celebrity—the cinematic shadow often takes precedence. The very title of Lee Daniels’s film Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire points viewers toward the original novel, but the great majority of viewers will never take the opportunity to compare film and text. They will never fully appreciate what was lost, gained, or rearranged, and they will never grasp where the narration has become dialogue or monologue. If the film is a major success, the cinematic visualization may become so dominant that the reader of the novel will lose the capacity to imagine the story. Staring at the written word, you will see the screen adaptation.

This will certainly be the case with Daniels’s visualization of the lead character of Sapphire’s novel—Claireece Precious Jones, who is portrayed (unforgettably) by Gabourey Sidibe. Harking back to the tradition of neorealist filmmakers like Vittorio De Sica (whose film Two Women is knowingly snippetted in Precious), Daniels cast an unknown with no professional acting experience. But Sidibe is more than an unfamiliar face. She mumbles, reluctantly makes eye contact, displays little expression and even less vocal dexterity. Sidibe doesn’t “portray” a character as much as embody her. Her performance isn’t an amazing piece of acting; it’s amazing for precisely giving the impression that she isn’t acting at all.

Gabourey Sidibe is surely one of the unlikeliest personages in American movie history. Call her big-boned, ample, bodacious, or plain fat, but her lead role in a major motion picture is in itself a critique of the one-dimensionality of Hollywood body images—which have become a parade of beautiful and handsome stars supposedly portraying alcoholics, drug addicts, or ordinary people. Precious is a depressed and abused sixteen years old, and Sidbe looks the part.

There she goes—in a movie poster that achieves a certain shock effect merely by brandishing Sidibie’s unfamiliar presence: sulky, head lowered, sneakers oversized. Sidibe’s physique is an image that beauty-conscious America works against. Her character seems to carry the burden of the extent to which society has belittled her. In the background of the poster hover a pair of butterfly wings, and a glorious imaginary crown tops Sidibe’s head. The earliest advertisements were captioned Life is Precious. Sentimental, yes, but a little is okay for a story that is so brutal and deadly.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Price and Spaulding

Joseph Price and Charles Spaulding
Joseph Charles Price, founder and first president of Livingston College, in North Carolina, was born free on February 10, 1854 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His mother, a free black woman named Emily Paulin, moved with her son to New Bern, North Carolina which was then occupied by Union forces, to escape the violence of the Civil War. Shortly after, she married David Price and Joseph took his stepfather's name.  In New Bern Joseph Price studied at St. Cyprian Episcopal School founded for the children of ex-slaves by Boston educators.  He later attended Shaw University in Raleigh in 1873 but transferred to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1875.  Price graduated as valedictorian in 1879 after winning several oratorical prizes.  Impressed with the young Price, Bishop James Walker Hood of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church appointed him to its delegation to the World Ecumenical Conference meeting in London, England.

In London, Price amazed audiences with his powerful speaking.  Called "The World's Orator" by the British press, Price was encouraged by the delegation to stay in England and raise funds for the reestablishment of Zion Wesley Institute, later to be Livingston College.  The original school was founded in 1870 as a seminary for training A.M.E. Zion ministers, but closed after only three years in operations.  Over the next year, Price was able to raise $10,000 for the school, and returned to North Carolina in 1882.  The town of Salisbury offered the school $1,000 and 40 acres called "Delta Grove" belonging to J.M. Gray.  The school opened later that year with 28-year-old Joseph Price as its president.

For the next ten years Price served as president of Livingston College. In 1890 he became involved in the Afro-American League and was elected president of the National Protective Association.  That same year he was voted one of the "Ten Greatest Negroes Who Ever Lived." Price advocated education to help ameliorate the damages done by generations of slavery and discrimination for whites as well as blacks. He died in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1893.

Charles Clinton Spaulding, an African-American business leader, was born in 1874. He built the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company into the nation's largest black-owned business by the time of his death in 1952, when it was worth about $40 million.

Spaulding was born in Columbus County, North Carolina, and left his father's farm at the age of 20. He moved to Durham, N.C.,, where in 1898, he completed what was equivalent to a high school education and became the manager of a black-owned grocery store. In 1899, the recently established North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association hired him as a part-time agent. The following year, he was promoted to full-time general manager, the companies’ only full-time position.

Spaulding was an early proponent of saturation advertising, inundating local businesses with promotional items bearing his company's name. In the first decade of the century, the company prospered, establishing subsidiaries and supporting a variety of local businesses. Spaulding was elevated to vice president in 1908, and then to secretary-treasurer in 1919, when the firm officially changed its name to the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. By 1920, the company had over 1,000 employees and several offices along the East Coast. In 1923, Spaulding became president, a position he held until his death in 1952. North Carolina Mutual continued to grow and to establish more black-operated subsidiaries in the 1920s. His financial reorganization of the company insured its survival during the economic depression of the 1930s.

Although he was best noted for his business leadership, Spaulding was also involved in political and educational issues. As national chairman of the Urban League's Emergency Advisory Council in the 1930s, he campaigned to secure New Deal jobs for African-Americans. As chairman of the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs, he engaged in voter registration efforts and convinced city officials to hire black police officers. Spaulding also supported education for blacks while serving as a trustee for Howard University, Shaw University, and North Carolina College. He died in 1952.

This is where I am right now.

select to view larger

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

I am always amazed how long it takes for me to get back into a painting after leaving for a couple days. I got back in town late Friday night and tried to paint on Saturday and Sunday but the canvas wasn't having any of it. It took until Monday afternoon for the paint to start to flow right. Yeesh. I'm sorry, I'll stay home from now on. I'm chilling some Champagne for this weekend. Three more faces and hands to complete and I'm at the halfway point. I'm shooting for Friday night with some clean-up on Saturday and mimosa's to celebrate half-way on the porch Sunday afternoon (It better be a beautiful day). Feel free to join me.

Today's line-up include Dr. Aaron Moore and Reginald Hawkins, Sr. 

Dr. Aaron Moore and Reginald Hawkins, Sr. (select to enlarge)
Dr. Aaron Moore was the first African-American physician in Durham. Born in 1863 to free African-American, land-owning parents in Elkton, NC, he came to Durham in 1888, after graduation from Medical School at Shaw University in Raleigh. He was a preeminent force in building the foundations of Hayti and a strong African-American community in Durham.

Moore was the principal mover behind the establishment of Lincoln Hospital. When George Watts considered adding a wing for African-Americans to the Watts Hospital in the late 1890s , Moore evidently persuaded Watts that the African-American community needed its own hospital, where African-American physicians could minister to their patients. Watts conveyed Moore's sentiments to the Duke family, who agreed to fund the construction of a hospital at the corner of Cozart Street/Alley and Proctor Street. The cornerstone of the original Lincoln Hospital was laid on July 4, 1901.

Moore was superintendent of the hospital, as well as treasurer and medical director of North Carolina Mutual.

In 1913, Moore founded a Sunday School library at
White Rock Baptist Church which would, in 1919, become the "Durham Colored Library", later the Stanford Warren Library. Moore also co-founded the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1898; founded North Carolina’s second black library (today known as the Stanford L. Warren Library) in 1913; and helped establish Mechanics and Farmers Bank, the Merrick-Moore-Spaulding Real Estate Company, the Durham Drug Company, and the Durham Textile Mill.

Reginald Hawkins, Sr. was as an obstreperous and often confrontational desegregation activist of the 1950s and 60s. His passionate avocation for racial equality propelled him to the national civil rights spotlight and helped to dismantle segregation in North Carolina and the South. In 1968, Hawkins ran on the Democratic ticket in the North Carolina gubernatorial election making him the first African American to run for a Southern statewide office since Reconstruction. He was also an ordained minister.  Though misunderstood, nearly forgotten, and labeled by some as, “militant,” Hawkins’s endeavors to end racial injustices and his ability to inspire others to join the cause place him as one of North Carolina’s most significant leaders of the Civil Rights Era.

Following his studies at Howard University, Hawkins opened a dental practice and dedicated himself to civil rights.  Wanting to actively participate in desegregation, Hawkins joined the Charlotte chapter of the NAACP to work alongside Kelly Alexander, a man whose leadership helped lay the foundation for the landmark ruling in 
Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971).  During the Korean Conflict, Hawkins’s pursuits were interrupted when he was drafted into the U.S. Army to serve as a dentist at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  After Hawkins’s return, he learned that NAACP leaders disagreed strongly regarding protest strategies--in particular, the means to end school segregation.  Kelly Alexander favored suing the city of Charlotte over civil injustices--a method that was often interminable, if successful at all.  Hawkins, on the other hand, desired a confrontational approach that used media coverage to highlight injustices so that discontented black Charlotteans might be mobilized and abrupt, immediate change might be realized.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

John Adams Hyman

This will be the last posting of the week. I will be in Charlotte for the next couple days and may have another portrait ready to post by Sunday night. Next week after I finish this current grouping of individuals, I will post an updated image of the entire mural.

select for larger view
John Adams Hyman was born into slavery on July 23, 1840 in Warren County, North Carolina. Hyman's thirst for knowledge resulted in him being sold away from his family for attempting to read a spelling book that was given to him by a sympathetic white jeweler. He continued to seek knowledge at his new residence in Alabama and was sold again for fear that he would influence other slaves. Hyman was sold eight more times for his attempts to educate himself.  

At the age of 25 Hyman was freed by the Thirteenth Amendment and returned to his family in North Carolina. He quickly enrolled in school where he received an elementary education. Hyman also became a landowner and merchant.  Hyman, a Mason, soon emerged as a leader of the post-Civil War North Carolina black community.  

By 1868 John Hyman was an active member of the Republican Party. Despite intimidation attempts by the Ku Klux Klan, Hyman and 132 other Republicans were elected to a constitutional convention which crafted a new constitution for the state of North Carolina. The Constitution called for public education available to all students and voting rights for African-American men.   

Following the 1868 Constitutional Convention Hyman was elected to the North Carolina State Senate from Warren County. He served in the State Senate until 1874. In 1872, Hyman was unsuccessful in a bid to become North Carolina’s first black congressman when he campaigned in the state’s heavily African American Second Congressional District.  He ran again in 1874, winning against a white Democrat. Hyman was the only Republican elected to Congress from North Carolina that year. The election was contested, however, and Hyman’s term ended before he was officially seated. Hyman ran again in 1876 and 1878.  Both times he was unsuccessful partly because of accusations of corruption.

While in Congress, Hyman proposed federal funding for Civil War-related damages in his district. He also called for the reimbursement of the freedmen and women who had lost money in the Federally Chartered Freedman's Bank. However, because his seat was challenged his entire term, Hyman was unable to fully make his presence felt in Congress.   

In 1878 Hyman returned to North Carolina to farm and run a grocery and liquor store in Warrenton. He continued to attract controversy. When members of the Warrenton Colored Methodist Church accused him of embezzling church funds, he assaulted the church’s minister and was arrested and fined for assault.  As he was increasingly ostracized by the local community, Hyman left Warrenton and returned to Washington D.C. where he obtained a series of minor appointive posts including special deputy collector of internal revenue, the U.S. Post Office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. John Adams Hyman died at age 51 on September 14, 1891.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Henry Plummer Cheatham

Born into slavery in Henderson, North Carolina, Henry Cheatham was the child of an enslaved domestic worker about who little is known. An adolescent after the American Civil War, Cheatham benefited from country’s short-lived commitment to provide educational opportunities to all children. He attended public school where he excelled in his studies. After high school Cheatham was admitted to Shaw University, founded for the children of freedmen, graduating with honors in 1882. He earned a masters degree from the same institution in 1887.

During his senior year of college, Cheatham helped to found a home for African American orphans.  In 1883, Cheatham was hired as the Principal of the State Normal School for African Americans, at Plymouth, North Carolina. He held the position for a year when his career as an educator gave way to his desire to enter state politics.  Cheatham ran a successful campaign for the office of Registrar of Deeds at Vance County, North Carolina in 1884, and he served the county for four years.  He also studied law during his first term in office, with an eye toward national politics. In 1888 Henry Cheatham ran for Congress as a Republican in North Carolina’s Second Congressional District. He defeated his white Democratic opponent, Furnifold M. Simmons.
Cheatham entered the Fifty-first U.S. Congress and would be returned to office again in 1890.  As a United States Congressman, Cheatham supported Henry Cabot Lodge’s Federal Elections Bill sponsored by representatives who wished to end election violence against African American voters.  Although Cheatham’s efforts helped the measure pass in the House of Representatives, the Lodge bill was killed in the U.S. Senate. Later, Cheatham sponsored an unsuccessful bill requiring Congress to appropriate funds for African American participation at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.  Cheatham wanted the fair’s visitors to see the demonstrable progress African Americans had made since the end of slavery.
More effective at winning political concessions outside of the halls of Congress, Cheatham used his political clout to win federal posts for Republicans. In all he secured over eighty jobs for members of his party. His efforts were controversial, however, as African Americans and whites alike, complained that too many positions went to the “opposite” race. Cheatham ran for Congress for a third time in 1892 but lost. In 1897 he accepted a position as Recorder of Deeds for Washington D.C.  In 1907, Cheatham returned to North Carolina where he served as the superintendent of the African American orphanage that he had co-founded two decades earlier. Henry Plummer Cheatham died on November 29th, 1935 in North Carolina. He was survived by his six children, three from his first marriage to Louise Cherry Cheatham, and three from his marriage to Laura Joyner Cheatham.