Black Home Owners of 1940: College Educated Women, part 1

Here’s all 5 of them from the 1940 Census: Mrs. Bertha M. Clark (53) of 35 Q St NW; Mrs. Clementine Plummer (50) of 1500 1st St NW; DC Native Miss. Eliza Matthews (60) of 1239 New Jersey Ave NW; another DC native, Mrs. Blanch Lewis (60) of 1225 New Jersey Ave NW; and Mrs. Lucille Powell (46) of 69 Hanover Place NW. According to the census, these women had 4 or 5 years of college education. Lewis and Plummer were listed as married, and considering my experience with Annie Newsome, I’d have to investigate that to believe it true. Clark and Powell were widows and the only two of the 5, who were listed as employed. Mrs. Clark was a teacher and Mrs. Powell a government clerk.

All of these women were born after the Civil War, so it is fair to assume they were either educated at a Black college or a Northern college that allowed African American students. There is a chance that the two DC natives, Mrs. Lewis and Miss. Matthews attended Howard, or another local college, but not knowing their occupations, I have no idea where to start or look, and with Lewis there is that name change problem with married women.

Starting with Mrs. Bertha Clark, who was married to Ray A. Clark, bought the house together in 1922 for $2,800. The Clarks may have owned other properties in DC, as Mr. Clark was a real Estate businessman, but I’m just going to focus on their life in Truxton Circle, or as known at the time Census tract 46. Ray A. Clark died October 28, 1933, so he shows up in the 1930 census, but is gone by 1940. Like the McKinney’s the Clarks are a dual income (no kids as far as I can tell) household, as Mrs. Clark worked as a teacher. It appears she sells the house in 1947. So like Mrs. McKinney, I should add Mrs. Clark to the list of inquiries for the Charles Sumner School Archive.

Clementine Kay Plummer bought  1500 1st St NW (Sq.554, lot 175) in March 1940 for $2,500. Her marital status is not mentioned, but she is clearly acting as a single entity in the purchase. Her estate sold her house in 1964. Apparently she was declared incompetent by the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Mental Health No. 361-64 if anyone wants to look that up. I’d guess she was suffering from dementia, if you consider her age. These things happen.

Ms. Plummer has a doppleganger, maybe, an African American woman also named Clementine Kay Plummer, also from North Carolina. I cannot tell if these are the same or different women. The Truxton Plummer (age unknown) lived at 130 Thomas Street NW , in Bloomingdale, in 1930 with Marie (20), Owen (14) and John (8) Plummer, as renters from a school nurse named Martella York, who owned that home. When Truxton Plumber is on 1st St, she is just living with her son, John, aged 17, which is just about right. Also in 1930 there is record of a Clementine K. Plummer a 39 year old woman living with her husband Dr. John L. Plummer (49), and children Marie K. (21) an office clerk, Owen Y. (15), and John L.  (7) in Raleigh, NC. That’s….. way too much of a coincidence. The widow of John Owen Plummer Sr., Clementine Kay Plummer of Raleigh, NC died September 3, 1969 in Enfield County, NC of what looks like senility? The cause of death is handwritten on her death certificate, so I can’t really tell. That and the DC court finding Mrs. Plummer incompetent in 1964, makes me think, same person. Her date of birth was 2/21/1885, about five years off the reported age of 1940 Truxton Clementine Kay Plummer.

I mentioned this to my spouse, the Help (aka Weedwackerman) who is also in the history field. It brings into question the accuracy of the US Census and the necessity there is to use more than one source. There is probably more to the story of Clementine Kay Plummer, and should I ever decide to dive into the court records, maybe I’ll look that up.

I’ll explore the lives of the other ladies in a later post.

 

Black Home Owners of 1940: Dr. Arthur B. McKinney

So I started looking for a woman. But the problem with women is that we sometimes change our last name and lie about our ages. Mrs. Annie Newsome (or Annie Newsone in the 1940 census) was listed as the head of household and married. She appears in the 1930 census with a different possible birthyear. So I gave up on her and decided to look at a professional man who might have more information about him.

Dr. Arthur B. McKinney abducted from Freedmen's HospitalDr. Arthur B. McKinney abducted from Freedmen’s Hospital Sat, May 15, 1926 – Page 2 · The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.comSo I chose Dr. Arthur B. McKinney of 1519 1st St NW from the 1940 census. From the little clip above, Dr. McKinney was involved in some odd little caper in 1926 where his brothers abducted him from Freedmen’s Hospital and took him to his mother’s house at 1515 1st St NW. A Della A. McKinney, widow, is listed as a home owner in the 1930 census at that address.

Doing a quick search for Dr. McKinney, he sort of disappears towards the mid 20th Century. I found a 1942 draft card, when he was 52 years old, listing his wife Ethel T. McKinney, who in the census as a secretary. Dual income family! The last record is from a 1948 city directory listing he and his wife at 1519 First Street NW. By the 1954 city directory, Dr. McKinney is gone and only Mrs. Ethel T. McKinney remains, and her job description changed from secretary to Administrative Assistant for the District Board of Education. This is where I would call up the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives, for more information, but I don’t feel like it.

The newspaper article from the Pittsburgh Courier is, int-ter-rest-ing. Not really sure what the heck that’s all about. I have told many to put me in an Uber if we can avoid sending me to Howard University Hospital, the former Freedmen’s Hospital from which Dr. McKinney was spirited away from by his brothers. So I understand hiring a private eye and concocting some cockamamie scheme to unofficially discharge from the hospital.

Redlining, African American Home ownership and the TC

Distribution of Negro Population by Census, 1930If anyone can find or recreate the Washington DC redline map, that would be helpful, because no one seems to have it. There is a project to map restrictive racial covenants, but those seem to be a small amount of DC housing, rather than the majority. The image here is the distribution of African Americans or Negroes, in DC in 1930, so probably close enough to a redline map.

Considering the map, Truxton Circle or as it was known then, Census tract 46, was more than half AfAm. If it wasn’t a redlined area, it may have been yellow, “Definitely Declining.” The area that became Shaw, ranged from 35% to over 75% black, which may have been too many black people for the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) map makers.

Using data from my TruxtonCircle.org project, I just took a look at the 1930 and 1940 census data*. In 1930, of the heads of households, there were 1109 renters in the TC and 310 home owners. Of those who owned 237 were black. In 1940, there were 1442 renters, 269 home owners, and of those owners, 218 were black. So most people in the TC were renters and African American home owners were a majority of a minority of people.

So who were these Negro home owners? A lot were a variety of government workers (federal and DC schools), service workers (chauffeurs, Pullman workers, waiters) and professionals (doctors, ministers, lawyers) . I’d say the black middle class and prudent working class folks. The same people who’d engage in black flight in the 1970s and 1980s.

 

*I’m still cleaning up the data.

So Truxton? Shaw? Bloomingdale? Where the hell am I?

Commercial Building Map
Map of Shaw for 1970 Commercial Buildings

So this comes up way too often. So that’s why I decided with this re-boot (messy as it is) that I would call the In Shaw blog Truxton is in Shaw, because it is.

Here is the quick and dirty and maybe in later posts I’ll go deeper.

Bloomingdale is on the other side of Florida Ave, which used to be Boundary Street in the 18th century. Why Boundary Street? Because it was the boundary between the city of Washington and the county of Washington, in the District of Columbia. Bloomingdale, lovely as it is, was/is a suburban neighborhood, in the then county.

Shaw. I have yet, to find ANYTHING, anything calling the area we know as Shaw as “Shaw” prior to the late 1950s, and even then it was called the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area. See the map there? That is of the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area. Everything in it, is Shaw. The area known as U Street, you will see it, in Shaw. The portion known as Logan Circle, you can find it in the map, in Shaw.

Truxton Circle, look at the map, it is IN SHAW.

If it is in this map, it is in Shaw, which kinda stopped being a thing sometime after Home Rule and wards were a thing.

Truxton Circle- People and a lost traffic circle

If you haven’t seen it arleady Left for LeDroit has a post on the Truxton Circle and how you can still find it’s outline today.
And I think I can say I can now start the writing portion of Truxton Circle 1900. I cleaned up a lot of data, deleted addresses that you’d think were in the study area, but aren’t and tracked down people for whom some enumerators were too drunk to write down their addresses. When I started out whites outnumbered black residents by a smidgen. With the data clean-up and address removal, blacks outnumber whites by a smidgen and I still have 4 Chinese guys.
There was this one fellow, Paul Pearson, of 218 N Street. He was a white DC born Druggist, who lived with his Maryland born wife, Emma, and owned his home free and clear. According to the 1899 city directory he worked at 500 New Jersey Avenue NW. The National Association of Realtors building sits where his workplace sat. Considering where his home and work were located he must of had a pretty good commute. And if memory serves me right there was a streetcar nearby that could have taken him straight there.

SQUEEEE!!!! Census data

Ah, the best use of an unemployed college graduate and a spare room. I hired my cousin to do some data entry on the 1900 census and she has just completed enumeration district 64, which is the northern part of the TC. Enumeration District 64 (ED64)goes from the 1400 block (odd #) of NJ to the 1700 block, Florida and Rhode Island Aves, 1st St, to Q and O Streets. I immediately tossed the Excel worksheet into an Access database and created a query about working women. Now I’m still getting used to the updated MS Access program and can’t seem to figure out how to exclude women “at school”. Women over the age of 15, 595 of them had some occupation. Of those 595 women, 473 were black. In 1900 the TC north African American women were laundresses, nurses (child and sick), house servants, and cooks. White working women were saleswomen, teachers, house keepers, landladies, office workers, and seamstresses.

Disclaimer-
To clarify, my census project is sponsored personally by me. I get moral and other minimal support from my employer, as it sort of falls under professional development. Secondly, this is NOT a building or house history project. Things like houses are secondary, people are more interesting. I have no intention of putting the raw data on-line. For one, it’s too much. ED 64 is over 2,500 names alone, and there are 3 other EDs to go. I do hope to go on to census years 1910-1930. However the rate we’re going I’ll probably get through to 1910 or 1920.

Ten Days of Truxtun- The End

Day 10. I’ve been trying to figure out at what point Tom Truxtun went from Captain Truxtun to Commodore Truxtun. Apparently some time between 1800-1801, when he took command of the President and before he quit the US Navy all together because of some ranking spat, that wasn’t entirely Truxtun’s fault. In 1801 the fake war with France ended and there wasn’t much of a need for a wartime naval force. And it appears through some letters sent in 1802 about a meeting with the Secretary of the Navy, because he caught a cold failed to dine with the Secretary, who apparently wasn’t that keen on him in the 1st place, who then failed to provide Truxtun with the requested personnel needed. It seems that Truxtun decided if he was going to get no respect he may as well quit. So he did and from 1803-1822 lived life as a gentleman living off of prize money won in earlier years. He had a farm, a couple for a while, but settled at Wood Lawn, a farm not far from Philadelphia. He served as a High Sheriff from 1816-1819. In 1822 he died, his wife a year later.

Ten Days of Truxtun:
Day 1- The Name-The Hood
Day 2- Slavery
Day 3- Commodore’s background
Day 4- What I did During the American Revolution
Day 5- Continuing the Revolutionary War
Day 6- Going for broke
Day 7- In the Navy
Day 8- Not the British Navy
Day 9- Fake French War

Resources- Commodore Thomas Truxtun 1755-1822 by Eugene S. Ferguson. The free Library of Philadelphia, 1947.
Truxtun of the Constellation: The Life of Commodor Thomas Truxtun, US Navy, 1755-1822, by Eugene S. Ferguson. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Ten Days of Truxtun- What I did During the American Revolution

Day 4 of looking at the man for whom the neighborhood gets its name.
In my last post about Tom Truxtun I mistakenly said he was captain of the Chance, I was wrong. After losing his first ship he captained to the British, he was just a prize lieutenant on the privateering ship the Chance. Not because he lost a ship in the Caribbean but because he got to the investors too late and they had already chosen captains.
So in Spring 1776 he sailed out from Philadelphia on the Chance heading for the Caribbean to stick up British merchant ships. Which by the way was a very profitable enterprise during the Revolutionary War. Investors would get half the spoils, and the rest were divided amongst officers and crew…. once it got through the court system. The Chance did well taking unarmed and out gunned British ships.
In the Summer of 1776 Tom Truxtun teamed up with a New York investor by the name of Issac Sears. Sears made Tom the captain of a 70 ton sloop called the Independence at the age of 21. Apparently the British were holding New York’s bay at the time so he had to sneak his ship out by going down the East River.
Somewhere in southern waters he managed to capture a ship that got separated from its convoy. In capturing that ship he got a hold of the signals the convoy was using. So he joined the convoy, showing all the right signals, blending in. At night he came close to a ship he thought was holding the greatest bounty, took it over and separated it from the convoy. His adventure with the Independence led in the capture of 2 brigs and two ships, though one did get recaptured by the British.
I’ll continue with Tom Truxtun in 1777 as captain of the Mars.

Ten Days of Truxton- Commodore’s Background

Okay day 3.
Who was Thomas Truxtun?
He’s a boy from Long Island, 20 miles from the “town” of New York. Born in February 17, 1755 son of a barrister who was working on his second family. His father had left the first set in Jamaica, West Indies. Tom Truxtun had about two years of formal schooling before he was sent off to sea at the age of 12. Though this reminds me of a Dicken’s plot, his mother had died and his father was working on family #3 and poor Tom gets apprenticed to the Pitt. The Pitt was a Bristol ship and Tom was to be cabin boy. At the age of 16 he was pressed into His Majesty’s Royal Navy (remember America was still a colony) during some international flap between England and Spain. After England and Spain settled peacefully Tom Truxton, went back to merchant seamanship on the London.
When he was 20 years old he became captain of the Charming Polly and married a 15 year old girl named Mary in 1775. He was captured in that same year, due to hostilities between the British and the American Colonies, lost his ship (of which he’d owned ½) when overtaken by the Brits in the Caribbean. When he got back to America he became a privateer as captain of the Chance exacting his revenge on British ships in the Caribbean.
Next- Ten Days of Truxton- What I did During the American Revolution

Ten Days of Truxton- Slavery

I’ve heard of an objection to Truxton’s name because he was a slaveholder. The whole city is named for a big old slaveholder. Worse yet, we’ve got a big phallic symbol on the Mall in honor of Washington, not far from that other memorial from another slaveholder, Jefferson, who also owned a number of humans.
The big biography by Eugene S. Furguson has very little to say about Commodore Thomas Truxton and slavery. Just one paragraph speaking of a period of then Captain Truxtun’s life when he was a on financially shaky ground and his family was growing with 6 girls and two boys. And the family seemed to split their time between Cranbury, New Jersey and Philadelphia:

Their Negro servant, Hannah, was still with the family; but Captain Truxtun, influenced by his late friend Franklin’s stand on slavery, had set her free on condition that he never be called upon to support her, should she leave his employ. Apparently she had chosen to stay on.

The Franklin mentioned is Benjamin Franklin.
Then the question is why did Hannah choose to stay. A couple factors might explain, she’s a woman, possibly alone with no family, possibly no supportive Afro-American community in Cranbury, her age may’ve played a factor, and it’s 1794-95.
So Truxtun’s sin was owning at least one woman who didn’t leave when the opportunity to do so was presented. For some that’s unforgivable and puts him in the same league as worse transgressors such as Washington and Jefferson. Others may not count it against him in light of what he has given to fledgling US Navy.

Next Ten Days of Truxton- Commodore’s Background