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Category: African American

Lakeport Legacies · From Mosaic Templars to Royal Circle of Friends: Identifying Arkansas’s African American Fraternal Headstones

From Mosaic Templars to Royal Circle of Friends: Identifying Arkansas’s African American Fraternal Headstones

presented by

Dr. Blake Wintory (Lakeport Plantation) 

Thursday, May 25

Refreshments & Conversation @ 5:30 pm
Program @ 6:00 pm

Organizations like the Knights and Daughters of Tabor (above), Mosaic Templars, and Supreme Royal Circle of Friends issued standard monuments to deceased members.

Arkansas’s African American cemeteries are dotted with monuments from fraternal organizations founded in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Membership was often social, but also came with desirable sickness and death benefits. Several Arkansas-based fraternal organizations, like the Mosaic Templars, Supreme Royal Circle of Friends, and Knights and Daughters of Tabor, provided standardized monuments as part of their benefits.

In this presentation you will learn about the rise and decline of these organizations and see examples African American fraternal monuments throughout Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta.

 

RSVP to this FREE Event
(by phone, email or online)
870.265.6031 · lakeport.ar@gmail.com

601 Hwy 142 · Lake Village, AR 71653



Lakeport Legacies · The Life and Wives of James Worthington Mason

The Life and Wives of James Worthington Mason

presented by

Dr. Blake Wintory (Lakeport Plantation)

Thursday, April 28

Refreshments & Conversation @ 5:30 pm
Program @ 6:00 pm

 

The Baths by Josephine Mason (1872-1952), daughter of James W. Mason. Courtesy of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford.

The Baths by Josephine Mason (1872-1952), daughter of James W. Mason. Courtesy of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford.

James Worthington Mason (1841-1874), a former slave turned Reconstruction politician, emerged as Chicot County’s “political boss” in the 1870s. Few, if any, Chicot County slaves had the advantages of Mason in the antebellum era: the son of the county’s wealthiest planter, Elisha Worthington, he and his sister were educated in the North and James continued his studies in France. While historians are aware of Mason’s important political career, little has been made of his personal life. The wives he chose and what became of his two daughters is a fascinating window into four African American women’s lives. Emerging from slavery and freedom, their lives extended to Lincoln’s White House, the American West, Liberia, Paris and London.

 

Please RSVP to this FREE Event
870.265.6031
lakeport.ar@gmail.com

Lakeport Legacies (LL) meets in the Dining Room of the Lakeport Plantation house. LL, held on one of the last Thursdays of the month at the Lakeport Plantation, features a history topic from the Delta. For more information, call 870.265.6031.



Southeast Arkansas’s African American Legislators, 1868-1893

Reconstruction gave black males (freed former slaves) the right to vote for the first time. This had enormous consequences for civil society.  During Reconstruction and in the following years, eighty-five black men were elected to represent Arkansas in the General Assembly. Of the eighty-five, fourteen were elected from southeast Arkansas. Active participants in the legislative process, black legislators engaged in debate, introduced bill, and voted. They tended to support civil rights, education, public improvements, and immigration into the state. Black legislators from the southeast included the wealthy son of Chicot County’s largest planter; a noted abolitionist from Illinois; a former slave who became a college president and physician; educators; ministers; as well as men who eked out their living as farm laborers into the early 20th century. Laws designed to disenfranchise black voters (poll taxes, complicated election procedures and ballots), ultimately ended the election of African Americans in the late 19th century.

Senate

  • James W. Mason, 1868, 1871   (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • Samuel H. Holland, 1873, 1874   (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • W. H. Logan, 1887, 1889   (Chicot, Desha)
  • George W. Bell, 1891, 1893 (Chicot, Desha)

House

  • Edward A. Fulton, 1871  (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • James A. Robinson, 1871, 1874-75  (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • John W. Webb, 1871  (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • John C. Rollins, 1873  (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • Isaac G. Bailey, 1885  (Desha) [born in Chicot]
  • Green Hill Jones, 1885, 1889 (Chicot)
  • Hugh L. Newsome, 1887 (Chicot)
  • Henry A. Johnson, 1891 (Chicot)
  • R. C. Weddington, 1891 (Desha)
  • Nathan E. Edwards, 1893 (Chicot) 
Legislator Term Party Birth Antebellum Status Occupations
Bailey, Isaac G. 1885 (H)  R

b. Chicot Co. (1846)

d. 1914

Slave Baptist Minister, Educator, son attended Howard University
Bell, George W. 1891 (S), 1893 (S)  R

b. MS/TN (ca 1855)

d. after 1927

Slave ? Teacher, Doctor, Southland College President, Insurance Salesman
Edwards, Nathan E. 1893 (H)  R

b. AL (1855)

d. 1900-1910

Slave ? Farmer, Farm Laborer; Minister
Fulton, Edward A. 1871 (H)  R

b. KY (1833)

d. St. Louis, MO (1906)

Slave (KY & MO) Abolitionist, U.S. Intelligence Officer, Farmer, Census Taker (1870), Tax Assessor, Editor, Farmer, Postmaster, Laborer (1900 Census)
Holland, Samuel H.

1873 (S),

1874 (S)

 R  b. OH (ca 1844) Free ? Sheriff, Jailer, Principal, Teacher
Johnson, Henry A. 1891 (H)  R  b. Jackson, MS (1856) Slave ? Farmer/Planter, Sheriff, Justice of the Peace, Graduate of Alcorn State University
Jones, Green Hill 1885 (H), 1889 (H)  R  b. TN/Chicot County (ca 1845) Slave ? Sharecropper, Farmer, Co. Treasurer
Logan, W. H. 1887 (S), 1889 (S)  R  b. OH (1850/55 Free ? Justice of the Peace, Preacher, Teacher, Farmer
Mason, James W.

1868 (S),

1871 (S)

 R

b. Chicot Co. (1841)

d. 1874 (Lake Village)

Slave, Free Planter, Postmaster, Sheriff, Judge
Newsome, Hugh L. 1887 (H)  R

b. Nashville, TN (1848)

d. 1900-1910 (Little Rock)

Slave ? Teacher, Postal Clerk, City Marshal (Little Rock)

Robinson, James A.

1871 (H) 1874-75 (H)

 R  b. AR (ca 1836) Slave Merchant

Rollins, John C.

1871 (H)

 R

b. GA (1812/1835)

d. before 1880

Slave ?

Farmer
Webb, John W.

1871 (H)

 R

b. KY (1824)

Slave ?

Justice of the Peace, Farmer, Farm Laborer

Weddington, R. C.

1891 (H)

 R

b. Rodney, MS (1866)

NA

Farmer, Teacher, Principal

Adapted from Wintory, Blake J. “African American Legislators in the Arkansas General Assembly, 1868-1893.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 65 (Winter 2006): 385-434.

 



WPA Slave Narratives for Chicot County

Between 1936 and 1938 the Federal Writers’ Project collected over 2,000 oral histories with former slaves. While Arkansas collected more histories than any other state, no interviews were collected in Chicot County. However, six narratives taken in cities across Arkansas are by former Chicot County slaves (or their children):  Fanny JohnsonNannie MaddenJames MorganLucretia AlexanderNannie Jones, and Mattie Nelson. A seventh narrative by a former Chicot County resident, William Lattimore, describes his move from Mississippi to Arkansas.

Fanny Johnson was 76 years old in 1936 when she was interviewed at her daughter’s house in Hot Springs. She recalled she was a 5 years old slave on the Woodfork Place near Grand Lake when the Civil War started. Her parents were born in Maryland and were brought to Nashville, TN by Woodfork, who owned several plantations throughout the South. Fortunate for her family, Woodfork “didn’t believe in separating families.” The overseer on their plantation was good to them “most of the time.” She recalled “Just once did anybody on the Woodfork place get whipped” unlike at the plantation next door. There the overseer could be mean with the whip. She stated “Why you could hear the sound of the strap…the ‘niggah drivah’ would stand and hit them with a wide strap…Some they whipped so hard they had to carry them in.”

Fanny was too young to work in the fields during slavery, but she helped her grandmother take care of babies while the women work in the fields.

After the war, they were taken (presumably by Federal troops) to the The Bend, Jefferson Davis’ former plantation near Vicksburg. She later returned to Arkansas, living and working in Jefferson County and in Oklahoma. She also worked as a cook in tourist towns like Eureka Springs and Hot Springs.

First page of Fanny Johnson's WPA Interview

First page of Fanny Johnson’s WPA Interview

Nannie Madden, interviewed in West Memphis at age 69, was born in Lake Village in 1867, just after slavery. It’s not clear from her narrative, where her parents were enslaved. Her father served in the Union Army, and after the war rented a farm at Red Leaf Plantation, then managed by Isaac M. Worthington. Her mother died there in 1876 and her father died in West Memphis at another daughter’s house at age 88. She stated, “I farmed and worked all my life.” Nannie recommended Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Booker T. Washington’s Own Story of His Life and Work,and a biography, The Master Mind of a Child of Slavery–Booker T. Washington by Frederick E. Drinker.

James Morganinterviewed in Little Rock, was born in Chicot County in 1873. His father, Aaron Morgan, was brought to Chicot County as a slave by his master, Charles McDermott. Morgan believed his father and mother were brought here from Georgia and South Carolina, but the 1880 Census shows Aaron and Rosa Morgan were both born in Louisiana–where Charles McDermott was from. His mother’s first husband was sold during slavery and Aaron and Rosa met after freedom. Once free, Aaron stayed on the McDermott plantation and sharecropped. Later, according to James, Aaron bought 160 acres of government land for $1.60, and “built a house and cleared it up.”

Morgan worked 35 years on the Missouri Pacific Railroad; 22 years as a foreman. He retired in 1932 and received a pension from the government for his work on the railroad.

Lucretia Alexander, interviewed in Little Rock at age 89, was a 12 year old slave on the Rossmere Plantation in Chicot County when the Civil War began. She was born in Copiah County near Hazelhurst, Mississippi and arrived at Rossmere when she was “six or eight years old.” She remembered the plantation’s four overseers by name. The last overseer, Tom Phipps, was “mean…mean as he could be.” She recalled, “I’ve seen him take them down and whip them till the blood run out of them.” Once, he whipped her and “aimed to kill.” Protected by her mistress, Susan Chapman [Read], Phipps was run off the plantation.

Lucretia’s mother and father were both born in Virginia. Her mother, Agnes Toliver, “was treated well during slavery times”; but her father was sold five times, because he “would take nothin’.” Later, Lucretia’s mistress purchased him for $1500 without ever seeing him.

During the Civil War her mother stayed on the plantation because her children had been “refugeed…off to different places to keep them from the Yankees.” Lucretia’s brother returned in 1865, but she did not see her sister until 1869.

When freedom came they were told “You’re free as I am” by a Union soldier.  She recalled, “old colored folks…that was on sticks, throwed them sticks away and shouted.”

After the Civil War, Lucretia stayed on the Rossmere Plantation for about 4 years and was paid $12 per month, plus food and cloth. Next she worked in the fields, making more money. Around 1923, she moved to Little Rock. She stated, “I have been a widow for thirty years. I washed and ironed and plowed and hoed–everything. Now I am gittin’ so I ain’t able to do nothin’ and the Relief keeps me alive…I used to take a little boy and make ten bales of cotton. I can’t do it now. I used to be a woman in my day. I am my mother’s seventh child.”

Nannie Jones was 81 years old when interviewed at her home in Pine Bluff. Living at Dr. Gaines’ Plantation, she was only 4 years old when the Civil War started. She remembered being a cute little girl around the house…”a pet.” But when freedom came, she recalled people “jumped up and down and carried on.” Her mother was sold down river from Kentucky, but died when Jones was small. Her father likely fought for the Union Army for a short time. As an adult she worked “in the field and anywhere. I worked like man.”

Nannie Jones: “My father went to war on one side but he didn’t stay very long.”

Mattie Nelson was 72 years old when she was interviewed in Pine Bluff. She was born around 1865 during her family’s “emigration” from Texas. Her unnamed parents were enslaved by the Chapmans — Johnson and Elizabeth Chapman. The Chapmans, like many slaveholders in Arkansas trying to protect their property, took slaves to Texas in 1863. Mattie remembered “I member when I was a child mistress used to be so good to us. After surrender my parents stayed on there with the Chapmans…til they died.”

While her parents were illiterate, Mattie went to school. But still work called. Mattie began working at age six, rolling logs and cleaning up new ground.

Without her maiden name or her parents’ names, it was difficult to find more about her. However in the 1940 Census, she is still living in Pine Bluff.  The 75 year old is a widow and taking care of her grandson, Fred Burt, age 9.

William Lattimore, 78 years old when interviewed in Pine Bluff, likely only spent a few years in Chicot County. He was born in Canton, Mississippi in 1859. He remembered Yankees soldiers’ arrival in Canton during the siege of Jackson in 1863. His father joined Col Ziegler’s 52nd US Colored Infantry that year.

After the Civil War, the family moved to Vicksburg and shunned an opportunity to return to their old plantation. He remembered “Mr. Lattimore [old master] came and wanted my father to live with him…before the surrender old master whipped my father over the head with a walking stick…and I was afraid he would whip him again.”

William went to school after freedom and went until he married. It’s difficult to piece together a concise timeline. However, he moved to Arkansas, first Chicot County and then Jefferson County. He became a school director at 18 and was elected justice of the peace (probably in Jefferson County).

There were three men with the last name Lattimore in Company G of the 52nd USCI–Reuben, Hilliard, and William. In the 1930 Census, a 65 year old William Latimer [sic] of Pine Bluff lists his father’s birthplace as Virginia. According to service records, Hilliard Lattimore was born in Virginia. However, in the 1900 Census a William Latimore in Chicot County, born in Mississippi in 1852, lists his father as born in Tennessee. The William Lattimore that served was born in Davidson, Tennessee. Further research into the soliders’ pension files would lead to more information.

The full text of most of the WPA slave narratives are available on the Library of Congress’s Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938.



Recent Media


A few items related to Lakeport and history in general appeared in the media recently.


First, the Log Cabin Democrat (Conway, AR) published a little story about the restoration of our piano back on June 29.

Second, that story was picked up by the AP and republished in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (behind pay wall) on Sunday in the Little Rock edition and today (Monday, July 12) in the state edition. The stories are essentially the same, with some minor editing by the AP. The one thing they didn’t fix is the wrong date for the construction of Lakeport. It’s 1858/1859, people. That time frame is based on historical documents and dendrochronology of the large beams in the attic. I have not idea where they got the 1856 date.

Third, the Sunday Democrat-Gazette (paywall, but see link to text in the bibliography) published an interesting guest column titled “‘Historical truths’ not always based in fact” by Elliott West, a Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas. The column is a response to a July 6 column by Mike Masterson, opinion editor of the NW Arkansas edition, titled “Deconstructing history.” The issue on the table for Masterson is the historical relationship between African Americans and the Democratic Party. Masterson recites arguments based on “historical facts” he heard recited by a speaker at the Arkansas African American GOP Caucus. The issue for West is Masterson’s understanding of history and “facts” and not checking if they are true or not. West writes, “The majority of the ‘historical truths’ in Masterson’s column are, to borrow his own opening words about what he has been taught, ‘incomplete, inadequate and just plain wrong’.”

Masterson’s agenda is to paint Democrats consistently on the wrong side of slavery and African American Civil Rights throughout history. Oversimplified political rhetoric like that does not make for good history. West, a world-class historian, catalogs Materson’s errors, half-truths and omissions. For instance, Masterson claims that the Missouri Compromise “reversed earlier abolition and allowed slavery in much of the federal territory.” West points out there was no government effort to end slavery, but the Compromise did forbid slavery in western federal territories north of Arkansas. Masterson’s errors of omission are just a egregious; while he notes the first African Americans elected to Congress were Republicans, he fails to mention “that Republicans almost wholly abandoned the interests of former slaves, and in the 1930s…the Democrats found it useful…to step up on their behalf…and most African Americas switched parties.”

The historical complexity of politics and racial allegiance applies to Arkansas as well. Of the 85 African Americans elected to Arkansas General Assembly in the 19th Century, only a handful were not Republicans–two Democrats and at least four Greenbackers. In 1874, Democrats “Redeemed” state government and ended Reconstruction, but blacks were still in representative government until the passage of the Election Law of 1891. The bill, passed largely on party lines, helped suppress black Republican votes and rural third parties like the Agricultural Wheel. After 1893 there were no African Americans elected to the General Assembly until the 1970s, when they were elected as Democrats.

The shift to the Democratic party began in the late 1920s with the formation of the Arkansas Negro Democratic Association. In the early 1920s, the Republican Party’s Lily White movement (which also reared it head in the 1890s) tried to force out black Republicans like Scipio Jones from the Arkansas Republican Convention. The exclusion of black delegates in 1920 led black Republicans to nominated their own gubernatorial candidate, John H. Blount, a Forrest City educator and former slave.

The founder of the Arkansas Negro Democratic Association, Dr. John M. Robinson, acknowledged his own ties to the Republican Party—his grandfather was a Republican and Robinson voted Republican all his life; however, Robinson, according to an Arkansas Gazette account, “expressed the opinion that after 60 years of proof of gratitude for ‘emancipation,’ the negroes of Arkansas now should be free to express their admiration for [Arkansas’s Democratic] Senator Joe T. Robinson.” The Preamble to the October 1928 Constitution and By-Laws and Order of Incorporation of the Arkansas Negro Democratic Association of Arkansas stated:


Based upon conclusions established by years of experience, it is the common understanding of the American people that government functions can be best promoted and maintained by or through political parities with well defined ideologies, and feelings that we have proved our loyalty and expressed our gratitude to the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln and that the day has arrived that the Negroes of this country must become more largely interested and integrated in all political faiths and creed, and feelings that those of who find ourselves in accord with political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson—the founder of the Democratic party—that shall take this method to declare our faith in and allegiance to the principle of the Democratic Party and in order to unite Negroes and promote continued service and activity, we have this day ordained and established this Constitution and By-Laws.


The ANDA’s 80 year old political rhetoric is a bit opaque, but it plays fewer games with facts and history than today’s rhetoric. Of course, the ANDA rhetoric was part of a larger political strategy to win back the right to vote and to do that within the only party that mattered in Post-Reconstruction Arkansas–the Democratic Party.

Parts of the history of the ANDA can be viewed at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center–a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage devoted to Arkansas African American History.

Bibliography

Dillard, Tom. “To the Back of the Elephant: Racial Conflict in the Republican Party,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 33 (Spring 1974), 11-12


Pulaski County Democratic Committee Scrapbooks, Book 4 in Arkansas History Commission.


Wintory, Blake J. “African American Legislators in the Arkansas General Assembly, 1868-1893,”
Arkansas Historical Quarterly 65 (Winter 2004): 385-434.


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