Within the first few weeks of the Digital Durham course, I have begun to realize the vast amount of history I do not know regarding this town and its development since the 1880s. Since delving into the course material, I have been thinking about what questions I have regarding Durham. I consider Raleigh my home, and a large part of my identity while growing up rested upon my Jewish religion in a majority-Christian area. Looking at the resources that Duke and the Rubenstein Library have, I want to investigate the beginnings of the Jewish community in Durham starting with the first arrival of Jews in the 1880s. Working at Beth El Synagogue, I know that this place of worship has existed in the Durham community for around a century and a half, and I believe that this project will give me the opportunity to know more about a synagogue that helped to define the vibrant Jewish community that exists today. Specifically, I want to concentrate on the role (or lack thereof) of women during the development of the Jewish community in Durham, as I think that this connection is less researched when talking about the expansion of Judaism in this town. Were women given any responsibilities with the synagogue? Could women lead prayers and services during the formation of Beth El? I seek to find out the origins of this strong community and attribute it to the work of women during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I know that the Rubenstein Library houses archives on the foundation of Beth El Synagogue. I would plan to combine this primary resource with secondary sources describing the role of women during this era in the South. I hope to create a link between the advanced role of Jewish women in Durham during this time with the general trend of increased feminist work and Jewish expansion in the United States.
All his old teachers of the Colored Graded School have just been reelected including yourself. The Committee added $5 for worth to your ruling meeting $40 for worth instead of $35 as _____. Hoping you will indicate at will — you as a planner of his position the ______ session.
Yours very ___
Mr. A. Guthrie
Professor Whitted, I regret today is still great? ___ ok. of his health ___ for you will have to take his place as principal.
In class we looked at an 1875 tax list of the residents of Orange County. One prominent component of the tax list, that I would not have even thought about, was the idea of animals as property. Today, animals are seen as pets for the most part; however, in 1875, animals were a large portion of the property that residents were taxed on. If we have a chance to look at the tax list again, it would be interesting to see if certain animals were taxed more than others. If so, I wonder if the differences had to do with the expense of maintaining an animal or the value of the products that the animal produced. Southern Crossing explains how prevalent farmers rights were during the late 1800s, as many farmers felt that their taxes were unfair and too high, especially in comparison to other business owners. Southern Crossing mentions that this added to political tensions, as the Democrats played off of the farmers’ frustration by offering to “roll back” taxes in an attempt to gain the support of farmers. Another element of Durham during 1875 that the tax list revealed is that the majority of the people on the list were men. If there were women listed, it was often because they were widows. This says a lot about the gender roles during that time. While today, many women have their own property and finances even when they get married, back then it was clear that the men were the financial leaders of ay household. Southern Crossing also touches a bit on the different gender roles that were in play. It explains that on the railroad, in particular, there were two “classes” of cars. The first class car was reserved for white men and women who did not use tobacco, while the “second-class car” was for men who used tobacco, men traveling without women companions. The second class car was also much cheaper, as the atmosphere allowed behaviors that were not acceptable in the first car. While these rules do not explicitly state different gender roles, it is clear that it was more acceptable for men to travel without women companions, but that those men were not to be trusted around other women, and it was more acceptable for men to use tobacco. While this tax list opened my eyes to many characteristics and societal norms of Durham during that time period, it also left me with many questions. For one, I wonder if there were some people who did not pay taxes or who the tax list “missed,” whether that be someone who moved around often or ran businesses that were somewhat secretive. I also wonder how quickly a woman would be added to the tax list after her spouse passed away or when a woman who did not get married would be “separated” from her father’s financials and property. One thing that I do not remember noticing was whether there was jewelry, art and other more personal belongings on the tax list. While they might have been there, these items were clearly not the key component of the tax list. Finally, the tax rate today can vary depending on ones’ income, however I did not notice if there was a difference in how people were taxed on the 1875 tax list.
Personally, when I was looking at the Digital Durham website I focused on the maps and photographs rather than the letters because I tend to be a more visual learner when it comes to history. I looked at the 1914 map of Durham and the suburbs as well as the 1983 map of Durham. In my analysis of the 1914 map, I discussed how it might relate to education. However, in class it was pointed out that while roads and highways were the focus of the 1983 map, railroads were the focus of the 1914 map. After reading about the significance of the railroads and the importance they played in the South in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it seems more fitting that the the railroads were the key component of this map rather than the location of schools. If I were to analyze this map again, I would focus on the relationship between where the railroads are located in relation to the business districts versus the residential and suburban areas of Durham. Today, suburban areas and business areas tend to be split. In my town, the “downtown” is where the train stops, most of the restaurants and stores are while the neighborhoods usually only have schools and homes. There are some apartments above businesses and some houses surrounding the downtown, but these are not the prime locations to live in town. These maps, however, reveal that the city was truly built around the train station and there was more intermixing of business and living areas. While having a train near your house often devalues ones’ property, we discussed in class how the wealthiest families often used to live near the train.
While looking through different things in the Digital Durham Archives, I was particularly interested in a map I saw. I chose a map because most other times, I would have chosen a photo, or letter but I wanted to see what a map (something I seldom use) can reveal about a city I didn’t know much about.
The map was made by Durham, (N.C.). Department of Public Works in 1930. The map’s target audience seems to be developers, and public officials who would benefit from this information provided on the map. The map is detailed in the names of the streets, as well as the size of the sewage lines across the city.
The map itself and how it was constructed was very interesting. The two main focal points of the map were street names, and sewage (size and location). So, the legend focused on these two things, outlining the names and locations of the streets, as well as a key outlining how different color signified a different size sewage. The map shows signs of edits and corrections as the city developed and new roads and sewage systems needed to be added. Interestingly, the larger sewage systems are found more on the outskirts of the city (more specifically towards the NE part of the city). I found it interesting that the larger sewage lines were clustered in certain locations because this may reveal something about the reason to which this was a thing. Unfortunately, I found it hard to match the map from 1930 to the current map of Durham due to how much the city has developed since then.
But a few of the streets that remain with the same name were Yearby, Erwin and Lewis which are all familiar streets on campus. Using that as an anchor point, and using a ‘financial’ map of Durham, I tried to make a comparison between socioeconomic development of certain parts of the city today, and the sewage sizes in 1930. Not surprisingly, there were many correlations. Although this is nothing conclusive, this really sparked my interest in how much technical documents can actually show. Overlaying this one technical map with maps that show current Durham’s development, wealth distribution, racial classification and education system, one could learn a lot about how the city came to be within the context of history, law and other factors that still continue to affect the city.
I enjoyed looking through the Orange County Tax List and was surprised how much information could be gleaned from a seemingly routine document used for book-keeping.
Skimming through the entire document allows me to estimate that roughly 30% of individuals in Durham between the ages of 21 and 50 were black, while around 70% were white. It first struck me as odd that races were distinguished in this tax document – the poll tax was $1.20 for both white and black individuals, so why would one create separate columns in a spreadsheet that was meant to keep track of taxes? This allows us to look at this document like a census sheet and a finance sheet instead of only the latter. After I read the Southern Crossing chapters, particularly Chapter Five “In Black and White,” this decision made sense in light of the race relations of the day.
I thought the marks made for the poll tax were tallies, because I could only find 1s, until on page 138 I came across a 2 in the white polls column. The name looks like Rawls and contains 4 letters after it that appear to be L C S A. They have no town lots, land, or animals, but they own stocks in merchandise and have highly valued personal property. This could potentially be a company.
In class, we looked at Washington Duke’s tax records. I wanted to see what I could learn about Pauli Murray’s family. Although she was born in 1910 in Baltimore, she moved in with her grandparents in Durham at the age of 3, so I hoped to find information on Robert and Cornelia Fitzgerald. However, I could not find their names. The Fitzgeralds had lived in the Durham-Chapel Hill area since 1869, but they may have been listed under Goldsboro or Hillsborough for taxes. As I continued to search through the document, I found a woman named Mildred Cameron who had a land evaluation at a staggering $7500. She was the daughter of Duncan Cameron, who was a lawyer who gained a fortune while investing heavily in land and buying stock in banks. After his death, she likely inherited much of her father’s land.
I am curious how much of the transcription process could be automated. There have been advances in handwriting recognition through optical character recognition programs, but cursive has always proved a challenge – particularly the style seen in this document. If not the names of individuals, the writing in other columns could potentially be read by a computer, as the numbers are extremely clear. However, the occasional spots of ink throughout the document (and places where a 1 is crossed out with a dash) might prove to be a problem.
I first noticed that the Orange County List 1875 is preserved in a relatively good condition. Unlike some counties that have suffered from many court house fire and as a result lost track of their tax records, this tax list is maintained in a good condition – it’s easy to read the headline, column headings and contents in each column.
Hi everyone! My name is Victoria. I am a sophomore studying computer science here at Duke. I am from Miami, where I have lived my entire life. On campus I am involved in GANO, a volunteer program that teaches English to Native Spanish speakers. In addition, I am also a member of the web design team for The Standard. I am excited to learn more about Durham’s history as well as incorporating my interest in technology throughout this course.
Through these tax records, we can learn about the general work culture and positions of wealth in Durham in 1875. There are many categories included in this list that that allow the archivist to understand the working conditions during this era. A majority of the recorded data refers to the number of animals owned by each person. Instead of having a more general category that covers all animals owned, the tax record makes a deliberate effort to specify which animals are owned. This directly relates to an agriculture-based economy in Durham during these times. While discussing the ownership of animals by each recorded person, it is also important to acknowledge that a large majority of those who were able to own animals are men. This era strictly followed gender stereotypes, and this extends itself into the ability to act as an owner of property and material goods. Women are seldom recorded on this list, and I would infer that this would only result from a situation where she was a widow.
This record displays the varying level of socioeconomic status of Durham citizens in 1875. It is very apparent who was wealthy and who was not. This can be understood by analyzing the data from the chart. Someone like John M. Smith would be considered wealthy due to the 70 acres of land in his possession along with three horses. However, on the same page, P. Sonitho owns no property, placing him in a poorer category. In those days, wealthy was measured primarily through the land and animals one owned. Today, we could equate this to owning a number of houses around the world or having successful investments in a variety of companies. Also, the amount of tax dollars collected during these days is fascinating to analyze. For example, Jefoe Miller paid a total of $5.27 of county taxes which would convert to about $110 today (http://www.in2013dollars.com/1875-dollars-in-2018?amount=5.27). It would be interesting to research if there were descriptions as to what percentage of the taxes went to which specific funds (education, infrastructure, etc) in 1875 to compare how the money was dispersed back then and where our tax dollars go today. Since analyzing this document, I have asked many more questions about the Durham culture in 1875 that I would like to explore in further depth. Understanding the emphasis on property and money during this era also allows us to analyze the types of jobs and environment that people experienced in Durham during this time.
While I know this archival document speaks volumes to the everyday life of an agrarian-based society in Durham, I am mostly curious about the way this information was recorded. Our discussion in class of Friday has challenged me to ask questions about what exactly gets preserved and how we choose to preserve it. Obviously there were no computers and smartphones during the late 19th century, so collecting this information through a handwritten document makes the most sense. However, I wonder how Durham chose who would have the opportunity to write the notes. Did they require everyone in Durham to go to the town hall to make sure this information was recorded? Were censuses dropped off at every house? I noticed that within this extensive tax record, the town of Hillsborough is spelled both “Hillsborough” and “Hillsboro.” The handwriting stays consistent throughout, but there are multiple versions of spelling this town. I would infer that these handwritten records took days to complete and that every sheet required attention and patience. I am wondering what would make the scribe vary in his/her spelling of this local town.
One last observation surrounds the process of analyzing these tax records. Seeing how pristine the primary source was in person made looking at the tax records digitally more difficult. I am not an expert at reading cursive anyways, but having to zoom in and out of the images to read names and numbers made this process much more frustrating than expected. Also, having two scanned pages for every person was difficult because I could not analyze the second page based on a specific person. It was too hard to count lines and ensure that I was reading the correct information regarding the correct person. The ability to scan this type of document and make it publicly accessible is an incredible resource, but I also think it is important to recognize the pros and cons of this type of research. I am now much more excited to see more documents in person so I can really spend time connecting with them!
Hi! My name is Helen Healey and I’m a sophomore from Princeton, New Jersey. I have not declared my major yet, but I think I am going to study Visual Media Studies and History with a minor in Education. It has taken me a lot of time to figure out this combination, fortunately though, I am feeling pretty good about it still, so that’s good!
Since coming to Duke, I have absolutely loved getting to know Durham. I was part of the Knowledge in the Service of Society Focus cluster and had the opportunity to work off campus in schools and retirement homes very often! Durham is such a great city and once I saw this Bass Connections group, I knew I wanted to apply. I am looking forward to diving deep into the archives on Durham’s history and making it more accessible to the public. My favorite part about studying history is connecting it to the present and that is what I think is the best part of this project.
Outside of the classroom, I am involved in a variety of programs. I am a tour guide and love showing Duke to prospective students. I am a big fan of sports and love going to the Duke Football and Basketball games as much as possible. I am part of GateKeepers, a club that promotes student attendance at the football games. I am also a member of a sorority on campus. I love taking documentary photography and filmmaking classes and am just in general very excited for this semester!