Franklin County, North Carolina: Reclaiming self, the case of Alfred Collins Harris

Alfred Collins Harris, Raleigh, North Carolina. Date unknown. Photo courtesy: rejoice06

Alfred Collins Harris was born enslaved on February 22, 1849, near Louisburg, Franklin County, North Carolina. He was the son of William D. Harris (1815-1862), white, and Chloe Cope, African American, who was born enslaved, date unknown. On October 29, 1891, Alfred filed a petition in Franklin County Court, North Carolina, to legally change his surname to that of his biological father, William D. Harris.

Savannah, Georgia: 1st Sgt. Samuel Gordon Morse, 33rd U. S. Colored Infantry

Grave of 1st Sgt. Samuel Gordon Morse, Laurel Grove South Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, December 13, 2014. All rights reserved.

1st Sgt. Samuel Gordon Morse was born enslaved on July 25, 1832, in Harris Neck, McIntosh County, Georgia. He was the son of Richard Morse, also born enslaved. The family was owned by William H. Bennett (ca. 1824-1884), a prominent planter in McIntosh County, Georgia.1

Brooklyn, New York: Seeking freedom, Robert M. Phinney of Weeksville

Map showing the location of Weeksville and Crow Hill, early 19th-century African American communities in Brooklyn, New York. Source: Sidney’s map of twelve miles around New-York : with the names of property holders, &c., from entirely new & original surveys (1849). New York Public Library

Robert M. Phinney (alias Finney), was born enslaved, about 1818, in Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina. In the 1840s, he escaped slavery via the maritime Underground Railroad, and eventually settled in Weeksville, Brooklyn, New York. Weeksville was established shortly after New York abolished slavery in 1827. The community was named after James Weeks, a longshoreman and one of the earliest African American landowners in the area. Weeksville has been featured in recent publications, as longterm efforts to preserve the history of the site are threatened by a lack of funding and other resources.1

Raleigh, North Carolina: The Death of Thomas H. Williams, Oberlin Cemetery

Thomas H. Willliams

(1830-1898)

Mr. Thomas H. Williams, who was born October 10, 1830, in Pittsboro, N. C., died at his residence in Oberlin on January 11, 1898. He came to Raleigh in 1866 and in the fall of the same year moved to Oberlin, where he resided until his death. He was a carpenter, and for about thirty years was in the employ of the late Mr. Thomas H. Briggs. He enjoyed the confidence and respect of all of our citizens. His was a Christian life. He leaves a wife, six sons, two daughters and twelve grandchildren to mourn his loss. His funeral, which was largely attended by people of both races, was preached at the M. E. Church in Oberlin Wednesday of last week by Rev. R. H. W. Leak, assisted by Revs. McDonald and Nunn. He was an old and honored member of Excelsior Lodge of F. and A. Masons, and was buried with Masonic honors by the fraternity, M. W., James H. Young, Grand Master, at the request of the W. M., J. J. Worlds, officiating. We extend our sympathy to the bereaved ones. – The Gazette, January 22, 1898.