New Research Discoveries

Hi Everyone,

Last week at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, our team made an exciting discovery: we identified two women in a graduation photo who would have been living in the Freedmen’s colony during the Civil War. (Personally, I love following history through photographs!)
 Annice Jackson brought her two young daughters, Marie and Alice, to Roanoke Island in 1863, escaping enslavement. At this time, Roanoke was a safe haven for freedom seekers in the south as the Union had taken over the island from the Confederates. Marie, said in a newspaper report from November 11, 1949 that her mother was a folklore singer and quite savvy. While on their journey, they were captured by a boat that had intentions to return them to their enslaver in Elizabeth City. Jackson ripped a piece of her petty-coat and flagged down a Union gunboat, rescuing her and her children. After living in the Freedmen’s colony on Roanoke, we know that Jackson and her children made their way up to New York where Marie and Alice attended Hampton Institute. They were in the same graduating class with Booker T. Washington!

After a conversation between me and one of our lead researchers on the freedmen’s colony, the team’s interest was sparked. They began to investigate the records at Hampton Institute and a couple other threads, yielding some surprising results.
 Two photographs were found of the sisters. We were able to identify Alice by name in one photograph and then, from that, identified her in the graduation photo. Her posture and face are pretty clear in either photo and connects them as the same person. We are basically 100% sure that the identification is authentic.
We also determined which of the other young women in the graduation class is her sister, Marie. However, there is more room for speculation, given the quality of the photo and the lack of a name. Based on a photo of 92-year-old Marie, we tried to determine which one of the other women in the class photo is her. We noted similar face shapes (despite the age difference) and that her dress is reminiscent of Alice’s wardrobe. Specifically, her collar style and bodice mirrors Alice’s. This echo of style could mean that the sisters sewed their dresses together or had the same seamstress (either of which would make logical sense). Other than this hypothesis, there is no other evidence to identify Marie.
There was much enthusiasm in the office when our researchers found these photos and as we poured over the images, trying to identify each individual.

What makes these discoveries so exciting is that it is all new! This is the first time these historical connections are being made given that there has been very little work to source these histories into a cohesive narrative. Additionally, no archaeological or photographic evidence exists of the Freedmen’s Colony here on Roanoke. Piecing together who was here during the Civil War and following their stories after the war through physical evidence, especially as unique as these sisters, breathes new life into our understanding of Fort Raleigh history.

 

Take a look at the photographs and make your own connections 🙂
Until next time,

Pia

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