Crafting Lives: African American Artisans in New Bern, North Carolina, 1770-1900

By Catherine W. Bishir | Go to book overview

Appendix

Biographical Summaries

Note: The following biographical summaries encompass artisans for whom it has been possible to assemble substantial life stories beyond what is covered in the main text. I hope that further research will uncover more about the lives and careers of more of New Bern’s artisans of color.


Israel Braddock Abbott

Israel Braddock Abbott (May 11, 1843–May 6, 1887) was a freeborn black house carpenter in New Bern active in political life during and after the Civil War. He was the son of Grace Rue Braddock Brown Green, a freeborn woman of color, and the nephew of her brother, the noted house joiner and minister George A. Rue.

Israel Abbott reported in 1874 that his father (see below) “died before he had completed his first year, and he was left in the care of his mother and grandmother”— Grace Green and her mother Hannah Neale. He said he had attended school until he was ten, apprenticed at the carpenter’s trade for two years, and completed his training with his stepfather, Joseph Green. By 1870 Abbott owned $300 worth of real estate and $400 in personal property and headed a household that included his wife, Susan J., and their children, James E., Ann, Cora, Gracey, and Israel Abbott Jr.; by 1880 they lived on George Street between Queen and Cedar Streets.

Abbott entered political life at a young age. According to the account he gave to a biographer, early in the Civil War he was forced to work on Confederate forts, but he ran away, served briefly with a Confederate officer, escaped again in December 1861, and hid out in New Bern until the arrival of Union forces in March 1862. He “then made himself known, taking a leading part in all public meetings and enterprises among the colored people of his county, and soon became widely known and popular.” Just 21 in 1864, he became a leader in the Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass Equal Rights Leagues in 1864–65 and subsequently in the Republican Party.

In 1870 Abbott was chosen as lieutenant in the state militia company recruited to protect Raleigh against Klan attacks. In 1872 he was elected to the state legislature. A leader in improving local schools for blacks, he was a founder of the Young Men’s Intelligent and Enterprising Association and served as a delegate to the 1877 State Colored Education Convention in Raleigh. He was active in the Good Samaritans and founded and edited that organization’s newspaper, along with teacher and attorney George H. White. In 1881 Abbott and E. E. Tucker led a meeting in New Bern that organized a

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