Skip to main content
Enslaved People in the Southeast

African American Self Sufficency post Civil War

African-American Soldiers’ Pension Application Ledger

African American Soldiers’ Pension Application Ledger for African American
troops who served the US Army and Navy during the Civil War. Image Courtesy of East Carolina University.

After Union forces gained control of sections of eastern North Carolina, African Americans were recruited into the US military service, often assigned to specially organized "colored" units. In both services, African Americans received assignments as cooks, stewards, and as menial laborers, along with assignments to combat units.

This ledger, volume 7 out of 11, consists of pension claims by African American veterans who served in the US Army and US Navy during the Civil War or their survivors. These ledgers were once the property of Frederick Douglass (no relation), a black lawyer, minister, and teacher of New Bern, North Carolina.

The claims request compensation for battlefield injuries such as gunshot wounds, injuries received from heavy manual labor, or diseases contracted, such as rheumatism, hemorrhoids, intestinal ailments, and smallpox.

In making claims, survivors had to prove their identities and relation to deceased veterans. Consequently, the ledgers are full of marriage and medical certificates along with genealogical information concerning marriages of enslaved people and births.

The Jackson Wagon Sun Flower Band: As they appeared at the Great Fairs of 1884<br />

Chromolithograph print showing six African-American men who made up The Jackson Wagon Sun Flower Band. Image Courtesy of L. Douglas Wilder Library, Virginia Union University.

A piece of promotional advertising for Jackson Wagon's, a company from Jackson, Michigan whose president, E. A. Webster, was African American. The Sun Flower Band played in state fairs around the US and their hallmark were costumes decorated with sunflowers and wagon wheels. A remembrance of the band was published in a 1922 volume of the American Florist:

"We visited the county fair that autumn and Jackson Wagons were among the exhibits. An amusing feature was the Sunflower Band, made up of Negro boys whose uniforms were decorated with huge sunflowers. They sang a song, the refrain being 'Perhaps some time in the sweet bye and bye, you'll want a Jackson Wagon'."

Central Barber Shop

Pamphlet advertising the Central Barber Shop in Edenton, North Carolina from
the late 19th or early 20th century. The Central Barber Shop was owned by
Josephine Napolean Leary, an African American businesswoman. Image Courtesy of David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Josephine Napoleon Leary owned and operated Central Barber Shop in Edenton, North Carolina, which remained in her family for generations. Born into slavery in 1856 in Williamston, North Carolina, and received her freedom at age nine, Leary, along with her husband and fellow barber, Sweety Archer Leary, married in 1873, moved to Edenton, and by 1881 purchased six properties in the Cheapside historic district. By 1894, all of her properties were razed in a fire in Edenton; yet, Leary rebuilt a number of these properties on Broad Street. Those rebuilt buildings still bear her mark of J.N. Leary 1894. By 1920, Leary had retired and her grandson, Percy Reeves, took over the ownership and management of Central Barber Shop. This brochure from the 1920s reflects the style of the period under Reeves’s tenure with its “boyish bobs”.

Self Sufficency