Upward mobility : a historical narrative, the John W. Jacobs story.

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Jones, Rosalyn
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Middle Tennessee State University
This narrative is a result of a folklore research project which was conducted in southeastern North Carolina in the predominantly African-American rural community of Armour. Oral sources are used both to document local history and to preserve the culture of this particular ethnic group between 1852 and 1925. The family stories are about the Jacobs family and cluster around the legendary figure of John William Jacobs, who was a local teacher, principal, justice of the peace, surveyor, preacher, and farmer. He was also the father of nineteen children.
The information was derived primarily from oral interviews and informal conversations with local people. Official documents such as land deeds, marriage records, and census reports were also used to achieve the full narrative.
Specifically for the Armour community, this narrative documents and records the story of the founding of Armour school. Generally, it denotes African-American education within Columbus County, North Carolina, and America. Traditional occupations of this era such as justice of the peace, surveyor, and local preacher are examined, and it is shown how important these occupations were to the community.
In the stories dealing with the Jacobs family, the direct bloodline is established between them and the Lumbee Indians and the notorious folk hero of the Indian people, Henry Berry Lowry. Lowry and his gang of outlaws terrorized Robeson County for over a decade, and his mysterious disappearance makes him a unique part of North Carolina history. The family narrative, anecdote, and rhyme are critically analyzed in the final chapter to reveal their literary characteristics. The "holistic" culture of the community is observed through the recording of certain family customs and folk architecture.
This folklore project documents the culture and history of this specific ethnic group. With a thorough examination of this culture, certain dominant trends may be denoted that run through the current of American life. The residents remember this particular era of American history as consisting of "hard times." Through these oral interviews the residents of the community and the members of the family tell their own story in their own words, and their story has transferred life into art.