Blog Post 2

During last class we spent time looking tax lists from 1875. The first thing that struck me was that the majority of white men were those who owned land. This was clearly highlighted by the first column of the table which tallied the Number of White Polls. However  I quickly remembered that Edward L. Ayers’s Southern Crossing discussed how nearly 200,000 black farmers managed to purchase their own land. (Ayers pg. 508 of Southern Crossing e-book).  In addition, Ayers also discussed how the increase in black land ownership was one of the characteristics of the era which he describes as the “New South.” Although land ownership does not guarantee an easy life, the statistic from the Tax List of 1875 of the number of black men who owned land makes me question if blacks had the same opportunities in Durham as they did in other places throughout the region.  Another thing discussed in class that caught my attention, was that those who had the highest value for their personal property usually tended to live closer to railroads. Once again, when thinking back on Southern Crossing I realized why this made sense. Ayers spends a great portion of chapter one discussing how the railroad completely transformed the region. He describes the railroad station as the main feature of the town and states how nine out of ten southerners lived in a railroad county (Edwards pg. 948 of Southern Crossing e-book).  This also explains why in the maps on Digital Durham, the railroads were often in the center of the town. This contrasts with today’s society as railroads are no longer the main mode of transportation and those wealthiest in the town tend to live further away from the railroad lines. Finally, the last thing that struck me from the tax list was how animals were taxed. Animals such as horses, mules, and jacks were considered property of a landowner. In addition I found that the more animals the land owner possessed, the wealthier he tended to be.  This fact also stresses the idea that the South was still fairly agricultural during the New South era despite having made some advancements toward diversifying their economy.

One Reply to “Blog Post 2”

  1. Victoria, I really like how you incorporated Ayers into your reading of the archival documents. I support your interest in the relationship between race and ownership/wealth, and between railroads and urbanization. Your perspective that compares across those relationships across different times is also useful for developing historical readings out of archival materials (and help us to historicize present Durham).

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