Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

A bill concerning free papers.

N.C. Legislature. Senate.

Monday, Jan. 5. Mr. Myers, of Mecklenburg, by leave, introduced a bill to prevent the Clerks of the County Courts from fixing the county seal on the papers of free negroes.  [Vote 27-18 in favor.]

North Carolina Whig, Charlotte, 13 January 1857.

George Henry White.


GEORGE HENRY WHITE (December 18, 1852 – December 28, 1918) was an attorney, the Republican U.S. Congressman from North Carolina between 1897 and 1901, and a banker. He is considered the last African-American Congressman of the Jim Crow era, one of twenty to be elected in the late nineteenth century from the South.

White was born in Rosindale, Bladen County, North Carolina, where his natural mother may have been a slave.  His father Wiley Franklin White was a free person of color of Scots-Irish and African ancestry, who was a laborer in a turpentine camp. George had an older brother, John, and their father may have purchased their freedom.  In 1857 Wiley White married Mary Anna Spaulding, a granddaughter of Benjamin Spaulding. Born into slavery as the son of a white plantation owner, Spaulding had been freed as a young man and worked to acquire more than 2300 acres of pine woods, which he apportioned to his own large family.

White studied at Howard University. He graduated in 1877 and was hired as a principal at a school in New Bern. He studied law in the city as an apprentice under former Superior Court Judge William J. Clarke and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1879.

In 1880 White ran as a Republican candidate from New Bern and was elected to a single term in the North Carolina House of Representatives. He returned to politics in 1884, winning election to the North Carolina Senate from Craven County. In 1886, he was elected solicitor and prosecuting attorney for the second judicial district of North Carolina, a post he held for eight years. Though he considered running for Congress, he deferred to his brother-in-law Henry Plummer Cheatham, who was elected to the US House in 1890.

White was a delegate to the 1896 and 1900 Republican National Conventions. In 1896 he was elected to the U.S. Congress representing the predominantly black Second District from his residence in Tarboro, defeating white Democratic incumbent Frederick A. Woodard of Wilson. In 1898 White was re-elected in a three-way race. In a period of increasing disfranchisement of blacks in the South, he was the last of five African Americans in Congress during the Jim Crow era.

On January 20, 1900, White introduced the first bill in Congress to make lynching a federal crime to be prosecuted by federal courts; it died in committee. A month later, as the House was debating issues of territorial expansion, White defended his bill by giving examples of crimes in the South. Arguing that conditions in the region had to “provoke questions about …national and international policy,” he said, “Should not a nation be just to all her citizens, protect them alike in all their rights, on every foot of her soil, in a word, show herself capable of governing all within her domain before she undertakes to exercise sovereign authority over those of a foreign land—with foreign notions and habits not at all in harmony with our American system of government? Or, to be more explicit, should not charity first begin at home?”

White delivered his final speech in the House on January 29, 1901: “This is perhaps the Negroes’ temporary farewell to the American Congress, but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised and bleeding, but God-fearing people; faithful, industrious, loyal, rising people – full of potential force.”

After White left office, no other black American would serve in Congress until Oscar De Priest was elected in 1928. No African-American was elected to Congress from North Carolina until 1992.

Adapted from Wikipedia. Photo courtesy of

In the 1860 census of Columbus County: Willey F. White, 39, farmer, born Pitt County; wife M.A., 20, and children John W., 14, and W.F., 7, plus W.T. Freeman, 7.

[Sidenotes: (1) George H. White’s secretary during his Washington years was William S. Hagans, son of Napoleon Hagans and nephew of my great-great-grandmother Louvicey Artis Aldridge.  (2) My junior high school in Wilson NC was named after Frederick A. Woodard. — LYH]

“John Doctor,” minutely described.

Twenty-Five Dollars Reward.

Runaway from the Subscriber on the night of 24th ult. a Negro Man by the name of BEN, commonly called BEN THORN; he is about 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, between 30 and 40 years old, perhaps might weigh between 145 and 160 pounds; is of a bright complexion, neither black nor mulatto; is well made, stands a little wide, and springs back in his knees; has a round head, middling long neck; long face, flat jaws, high nose, inclined to be Roman, and somewhat sharp; his eyes is rather large, white and glaring when thrown open, his mouth projects out, and is tolerable large, with a very good set of teeth; speaks broad and quick, and endeavors to speak proper language; his arms is rather long, and short fingers, he has thick, short hair, and inclined to be square across his forehead; fine grained skin, &c. He is a little ruptured, or what is called bursting, in consequence of which he commonly wears a truss. He had when he went away, a furred or knapped hat, considerably worn; a blue broad cloth coat, worn out at the elbows and cuffs; a homespun jacket, blue grounded, with small white streaks, the stripes went round; a pair of white homespun pantaloons; a pair of mixed do.; a black velvet cravat, and what is called a white comforter, with some colouring at the ends, and perhaps some other old cloathing. He can read and write, so as he can be understood, is very intelligent, being acquainted with a number of the States, sea-port towns, and other noted places. It is presumed that he has an instrument of writing, and will endeavor to pass as a free man; having made the attempt and was apprehended with a free pass in the town of Edenton, on the 16th of Feb. 1816, where he went by the name of John Doctor, and was imprisoned for about three months, and taken out of jail by me. His intentions were at that time, and I make no doubt are now, to get on board some vessel and escape to some of the Northern States, where slavery is not tolerated. It is presumed he will alter his name, and change his features (if possible.) All masters and owners of vessels are hereby forwarned from taking the said Negro on board. The above reward will be given to any person who will apprehend said Negro, and confine him in any jail, and give me information so that I get him again.  ALEXANDER SORSBY, Nash county, N.C.  March 16.

Norfolk & Portsmouth Herald, 6 April 1818.

Fugitive, with a bold look.

State of North Carolina.

$300 REWARD.


By his Excellency JONATHAN WORTH, Governor of North Carolina:

Whereas, it has been represented to me that HENRY BERRY LOWRY, a free negro, late of the county of Robeson, in said State, stands charged with the murder of James P. Barnes, of said county, and other crimes, and that the said Lowry is a fugitive from justice:

Now, THEREFORE, in order that the said Henry Berry Lowry may be arrested and brought to trial for said alleged crimes, I, JONATHAN WORTH, Governor of said State, do issue this, my proclamation, offering the reward of


For his arrest and delivery to the Sheriff of the said county of Robeson.

In witness whereof, His Excellency, JONATHAN WORTH, Governor of said State, has hereunto set his hand and caused the Great Seal of the State to be affixed.

Done at the city of Raleigh, this the 11th day of December, A.D., 1866.

By the Governor:   JONATHAN WORTH.

Wm. H. Bagley, Private Secretary.

Description. – Henry Berry Lowry is five feet eight or nine inches high, heavy built, copper color, long, coarse, bushy hair, Indian like, black eyes, high nose, with a bold look; has a scar under one of his eyes.

Dec. 13.

The Daily Journal, Wilmington, 28 December 1866.

First patrolman of his race.

Wiley G. Overton.

The First Full Fledged Patrolman of His Race Appointed on Brooklyn’s Police Force.

Wiley Granda Overton is a successful undertaker, whom Commissioner Hayden has appointed as patrolman and assigned to the First Precinct, in the most popular and business part of Brooklyn, under Capt. Campbell. Mr. Overton is originally from North Carolina. He was born in Elizabeth City, Oct. 20, 1859, of free parentage. He spent his early days attending school, until his graduation from the normal school. While yet quite a young man he passed a good examination before the county commissioners and obtained a position as a teacher in the public schools. With his parents he came North fourteen years ago and settled in Brooklyn. Through his energy and push he was not long in obtaining a good situation [illegible] wholesale firm in New York City [illegible] Taylor & Co. Entering as a porter he rose to the important position of stock clerk, which he held for seven years. While in this position he spend all of his leisure moments in private study and improved his education. After leaving his New York situation he engaged with a well known undertaker, Moses Genung, and after sufficient training he started out in business for himself at 75 Lawrence street. His business has grown rapidly, and he will turn it over to his cousin, R.D. Overton.

Immediately after his business venture, it came to his mind that he would like to become one of the guardians of the city and he entered the civil service examinations …. He attained 76 ½ percentage, standing 58 on a list of 164 eligibles. It was thought that Mr. Overton’s color would be a barrier to his appointment …. Commissioner Hayden, however, … said: “He passed a good examination, and, as the law makes no distinction in regard to color, I do not see why there should be any question as to my duty in the matter.”

Mr. Overton is nearly six feet high, of fine athletic build and of dark complexion. He has been assigned to Post 5 of the First Precinct, bounded by Pierpont, Joralemon, and Clinton streets and Columbia Heights. … Mr. Overton is a devoted member of Bridge Street A.M.E Church and has been been a member of the Trustee Board for several years. He has a charming wife and two beautiful daughters to cheer him at his fireside.

In the 1860 census of Pasquotank County: Jeffry Overton, 62, farmer, Juley, 31, Jeffry, 29, Haywood, 18, Ruben, 10, Margaret, 9, Mary, 6, John, 4, George, 2, and Wiley, 8 months.

The New York Age, 21 March 1891.