Reading Primary Sources

I am teaching PPS 302D, Value Choice for Policy Conflict (the Sanford Schools course in practical ethics) for the second time, and have come to understand the value of exposing students to primary sources. I have framed the course around the competing American ideas of Freedom (“all men are created equal”) and Hierarchy of Human Value (Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution provides a literal formula for differential ‘counting’ just 11 years after the Declaration of Independence).

The class then considers the clash of these two ideals in variety of contexts, including Race. The recent “public discussion” about the phrase “Critical Race Theory” has been all heat and no light. One thing about understanding the role of Race in the United States is you do not need any theories to proceed–just a commitment to getting to a fuller telling of the history of the United States. I am going to start posting some primary sources from time to time. This post looks at Greene County, North Carolina, where my people are from. I have been working on a book that is a memoir of Race framed around a biography of my grandfather P.L. Barrow, Jr. and Silas “Jack” Hill, both farmers whose lives were very similar except for their Race. Jack Hill’s farm was taken in a slow motion land theft, even though he was the grandson of one of the richest men in Greene County in 1850, but his Grandmother Eliza was enslaved by his Grandfather. In the 1920s, his lineage no longer protected him, while it seems to have protected him family for several decades after the Civil War. I am looking for primary sources that help provide the context for how this land theft was enabled.

Here is the certification of the vote in Greene County, NC–it carried by a vote of 1,571 in favor v. 666 opposed. Charles B. Aycock, from nearby Goldsboro NC was elected Governor in this same election and was a staunch proponent of the Amendment. He carried Greene County, NC 1,474 to 774 for the Republican candidate, Spencer Abrams. Aycock got 58% of the statewide vote and his election was the first of 18 straight wins by the Democratic Party’s Gubernatorial candidate (until 1972).

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

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