I worked for it.

by Lisa Y. Henderson


NAPOLEON HIGGINS, colored, sworn and examined. By Senator Vance:

Question: Where do you reside? – Answer. Near Goldsborough. I don’t stay in Goldsborough, but it is my county seat. I live fifteen miles from town.

Q. What is your occupation? – A. I am farming.

Q. Do you farm your own land? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. How much do you own? – A. Four hundred and eighty-five acres.

Q. How did you get it? – A. I worked for it.

Q. Were you formerly a slave? – A. No, sir; I was a free man before the war.

Q. What did you pay for it? – A. I believe I paid $5,500; and then I have got a little town lot there that I don’t count; but I think it is worth about $500.

Q. How much cotton do you raise? – A. I don’t raise as much as I ought to. I only raised fifty-eight bales last year.

Q. What is that worth? – A. I think I got $55 a bale.

Q. How many hands do you work yourself? – A. I generally rent my land. I only worked four last year, and paid the best hand, who fed the mules and tended around the house, ten dollars; and the others I paid ten, and eight, and seven. … I gave them rations; and to a man with a family I gave a garden patch and a house, and a place to raise potatoes.

Q. How did you start [your farm]? – A. I rented a farm and started on two government horses. I went to the tightest man I know and got him to help me. I rented from Mr. Exam out there.

Senate Report 693, 2nd Session, 46th Congress: Proceedings of the Select Committee of the United States Senate to Investigate the Causes of the Removal of the Negroes from the Southern States to the Northern States, Washington DC, beginning Tuesday, 9 March 1880.

Napoleon Hagans (not Higgins) testified before a Senate Select Committee investigating the migration of hundreds of “colored people” from the South to Indiana in the late 1870s.  Hagans testified about the source of his relative wealth (above), as well his opinion of the political climate for colored men in his part of North Carolina.

Napoleon Hagans, 6, was apprenticed in 1845 to William Thompson.  Apprenticeship Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives. In the 1850 census of  North of Neuse, Wayne County, Aaron Seaberry, 32 year-old black farmhand, with wife Louisa, [stepson] Napoleon [Hagans], daughter Frances, and 17 year-old Celia Seaberry. In a duplicate listing, also North of the Neuse: Leacy Hagans, 55, with probable grandson Napoleon Hagans, 10.