Post #4 – Searching: So Far, So Good

The search for secondary sources to support my paper on Richard Fitzgerald and his particular ability to succeed as a black man in the New South, immediately after Reconstruction, has been interesting and fruitful. Primary sources are a bit more elusive.

Fitzgerald Brothers

Secondary resources include materials on the culture of free persons of color and overall societal views of free persons and specifically mulattos or blacks who more resembled whites in facial features and skin tone. I’ll list those momentarily. There is first the search for materials specifically referencing R.B. Fitzgerald and his role in building Durham and Durham’s elite black class. My top three secondary sources in this pursuit are: 1) Leslie Brown’s The Upbuilding of Black Durham: Gender Class and Black Community Development in the Jim Crow South, 2) Jean Bradley Anderson’s Durham County: A History of Durham County, and 3) Robert Kenzer’s Enterprising Southerners.

Richard Fitzgerald is a key figure in Brown’s work. Her prologue centers around the Fitzgerald family. Brown asks if freeborn blacks and blacks with white blood line were given special allowances by whites and thereby given greater odds at success? What political and business dogma motivate powerful white leaders in Durham to support blacks like Fitzgerald? What roles do Carr and Duke specifically play in building a black elite class, if any? Concerning sources used by Brown; what sources does she not use? Brown’s research is thorough and her observation on what other researchers have surmised is thoughtful. Her primary sources include Carr’s papers, Duke’s papers, Shepard’s papers, Pearson’s papers, Hunter’s Papers, Durham Morning Herald news articles, articles written by W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington, personal interviews with educators, union members and others. Her secondary sources include Weare’s Black Business in the New South (which I have – makes me feel I’m on the right track), Woodward’s Strange Career of Jim Crow, Ayers’ The Promise of the New South, Wells’ “The Southern Middle Class” and Frazier’s “Durham: The Capital of the Black Middle Class.”

Kenzer uses many of the some of the same primary and secondary sources as Brown. However in addition to his analytical offerings, Kenzer uses a great deal of data, census and other numbers to create a fact-based outlook on the topic. Kenzer asks what were the demographics? What were the numbers? How did these demographic figures help or hurt black success in Durham? What other factors besides hard cold numbers may have played a part in the journey of Durham’s black elite? He has taken painstaking time and care to research, analyze and record empirical data.

Anderson was the first source to give me much-needed bearing on Durham’s history and the major historical players, including Fitzgerald. This is an essential primary source which uses and leads to other primary sources. Again, many of these sources are also used in Brown’s book. Anderson is asking what did Durham look like before the Civil War? How did it change and prosper after? Who prospered and how? What were the resulting social and cultural and social tensions? How were these tensions handled, if at all? How did Carr and Duke figure into the picture for whites and blacks in Durham?

As for secondary sources, beyond searches specifically about Fitzgerald and Durham’s black elite class, I decided to search terms like “manumission,” ‘free blacks/coloreds/negroes,” “mulatto,” “freeborn,” “freedman and slaves,” and “wills and property and free slaves.” These searches have led to numerous secondary sources which can help formulate my suggestion, as others have suggested, that being freeborn and/or mulatto likely assisted Fitzgerald (along with hard work and character) with climbing to a high degree of status in Durham, during a time when few blacks had the opportunity to do so.

About Melody Hunter-Pillion

Duke graduate student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program. Former broadcast journalist, media relations professional. North Carolina native.
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2 Responses to Post #4 – Searching: So Far, So Good

  1. Julie Beauvais-Rassel says:

    I’m so glad you posted the picture of the Fitgerald brothers! I loved Proud Shoes, and found myself wondering what they actually looked like.

    • Melody Hunter-Pillion says:

      Yes, seeing them brings their story to life. Doesn’t it? Plus, they’re a handsome group of fellas. Melody

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