Frederick C. Douglass Papers

1873-1958, 1887-1901
Manuscript Collection #323
Creator(s)
Douglass, Frederick C.
Physical description
1.115 Cubic Feet, 25 items, 11 volumes , including Civil War pension affidavit ledgers, pension certificate ledgers, correspondence, pamphlets, daybooks, and miscellany.
Preferred Citation
Frederick C. Douglass Papers (#323), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
Repository
ECU Manuscript Collection
Access
No restrictions

Papers (1873-[1887-1901]-1958) of a Black lawyer, minister and teacher, in New Bern, N.C., who handled pension applications for many African Americans who served in the Union Army and Navy during the Civil War or their widows, consisting of pension affidavit ledgers, pension certificate ledgers, correspondence, pamphlets, daybooks, photographs, poetry, essays, application forms, tax receipts, etc.


Biographical/historical information

Frederick Douglass was a black lawyer, minister, and teacher of New Bern, North Carolina. During the 1880s and 1890s he handled the pension applications of many blacks who served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy during the Civil War.


Scope and arrangement

Most of the collection consists of ledgers (1887–1897) that contain affidavits supporting these applications. For a detailed discussion of the nature of the applications, see the narrative description for collection #248, which reflects nearly identical material.

Among the most important references in the applications are details of the Dennis Wordsworth case, mentioned in collection #248 (#323.1.c, pp. 168–171; #323.1.d, pp.22–24, 44–46); the explosion of a gun aboard USSLenape at Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1867 (#323.1.b, p.32); the murder of Andrew Beasley by Zacharia Woodard (or Woods) (#323.1.c, pp. 163–166, 172–173); the disposition of the Lettice McLoud claim, mentioned in collection #248 (#323.1.c, p. 216); murders by the Ku Klux Klan (#323.1.c, p. 177); the arrest of Dennis Wordsworth for sending a letter to General Benjamin Butler (#323.1.c, pp. 168–171; #323.1.d, pp. 22–24, 44–46); and a mutiny and riot in the 37th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops at Camp Hilton, near Wilmington, N.C., in 1865 (#323.1.a, pp. 179–180).

The majority of the claims were filed during the 1890s; consequently, most of the applications were made by widows. Others reflect the progressively increasing disability of surviving veterans. References of a medical nature include the consumption of raw liver for the improvement of eyesight (#323.1.c, p. 218); the injury of John Roberts, mentioned in collection #248 (#323.1.d, p. 260); and a diagnosis of Windsor Granger by Dr. Thomas M. Jordan referring to "bone scurvy," neuralgia, and rheumatic dialysis. It is interesting to note that a larger percentage of claims from men in Granger's unit (2nd Regiment, U.S. Colored Cavalry) mention bone scurvy as part of their debility.

The collection contains several additional volumes. One ledger consists of copies of pension award certificates, indexed by letter groups (1889–1891). Another (not indexed) is a combination of estate records, pension claim affidavits, and pension award certificates (1890–1903). The estate papers pertain to the estates of Martha Pate of Craven County (1890–1891) and Phoebe Parson of Jones County (1892–1893). A roll book for the Pleasant Hill School in Craven County (December 1873–April 1880) contains the name and attendance record of each student. Also included are two daybooks reflecting purchases of groceries and other products by a variety of individuals, including Frederick Douglass (1910–1911) and Douglass's bank book (1892–1894).

Also in the collection are a fragment of History of the 37th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry (1866); a copy of The Planet (1916), yearbook of the West Street Graded School in New Bern, which includes lists of graduates (1904–1916), photographs, poetry, and essays on tuberculosis, mosquitoes, and houseflies; scattered correspondence (1886–1958, undated), which includes a letter concerning the need for female domestic servants from New Bern in Orange, New Jersey; forms pertaining to pension applications; and Pamlico County tax receipts (1883–1900).


Administrative information
Custodial History

December 7, 1976, 8 volumes; Civil War pension application ledgers (1890-1893). Gift of Mr. Thomas A. Johnson, Tuxedo, New York.

June 5, 2018, 0.025 cu.ft.; Pension ledger (1898-1901) for African Americans who served in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War, especially the regiments formed in North Carolina (35th, 36th, 37th, 14th, 2nd) but also the 38th, 40th, and 4th. The pension applications are mainly for the widows of soldiers and are being applied for in New Bern, North Carolina. Applications also include affidavits from doctors and soldiers who had served with the applicants' husbands. Frederick C. Douglass of New Bern is listed as Notary Public throughout the ledger. The ledger does have condition issues and sections (pp. 15-38, 41-74, past 102) are missing, but there is still a lot of good information present. Purchased with state funds from Battleground Antiques, New Bern, N.C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mr. Thomas A. Johnson

Purchase from Battleground Antiques

Processing information

Processed by J. Reedy, May 1982

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.


Related material

Richard E. Rogers Jr. Collection (#248), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

William L. Horner Collection: Frederick C. Douglass Papers (#265-001), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

37th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment History (#MF0040), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.


Key terms
Personal Names
Douglass, Frederick C., active 1889-1897
Corporate Names
Ku Klux Klan (19th century)
Topical
African American lawyers--North Carolina--New Bern
African American veterans
African Americans--Education--North Carolina--Craven County
Military pensions--United States
Places
United States--Armed Forces--African Americans
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Claims
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, African American
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Regimental histories

Container list
Box 2a Folder a Pension application ledger, 1894-1896, 1897. [Ledger contains index. Indexed by letter groups but not alphabetized within letter groups. Check for multiple entries.]