Presentation on theme: "Forty Acres and Mule: The Politics of Land and Labor in the Post-Emancipation South AAS 101 December 7, 2004."— Presentation transcript:
Forty Acres and Mule: The Politics of Land and Labor in the Post-Emancipation South AAS 101 December 7, 2004
Themes Rehearsals for Reconstruction: Land Confiscation and Redistribution Schemes of the Civil War Era Free Labor Ideology and the Limits of Radical Republicanism The Ex-Slaves Make Their Case for “Reparations” Post-Emancipation Insurrection Anxieties: What Happens When the Ex-Slaves Discover that the Government is Not Going to Give them their ‘Forty Acres and a Mule’ as Promised? The Reorganization of Agricultural Labor (Wage Labor/Sharecropping/Tenancy) The Case of Burkley Bullock
During the Civil War, the federal government experimented with several land redistribution schemes designed primarily to keep black refugees employed. These so-called “Rehearsals for Reconstruction,” though limited in scope, demonstrated that the ex-slaves would seize opportunities to farm their own land while rejecting work conditions which, in their view, resembled slavery.
Rehearsals for Reconstruction I.Port Royal Experiment/ S.C. Sea Islands (1861) II.Davis Bend Experiment/Mississippi River (1863)Davis Bend Experiment/Mississippi River (1863) I.Sherman’s Field Order #15 (1865)Sherman’s Field Order #15 (1865)
The Ex-Slaves’ Desire for Land On the evening of January 1865, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Major-Gen. William T. Sherman African American ministers and church officers from Savannah, Georgia, met with to discuss matters relating to the freedmen of the State of Georgia. Stanton and Sherman posed a series of questions to the African American delegates regarding the meaning of slavery and emancipation. Question: State what you understand by Slavery and the freedom that was to be given by the President's proclamation. Answer: Slavery is, receiving by irresistible power the work of another man, and not by his consent. The freedom promised by the proclamation, is taking us from under the yoke of bondage, and placing us where we could reap the fruit of our own labor, take care of ourselves and assist the Government in maintaining our freedom. Question: State in what manner you think you can take care of yourselves, and how can you best assist the Government in maintaining your freedom. Answer: The way we can best take care of ourselves is to have land, and turn it and till it by our own labor--that is, by the labor of the women and children and old men; and we can soon maintain ourselves and have something to spare.
“Land was what the freedpeople craved more than anything else,” Armstead Robinson writes, “for they understood that ownership of land constituted the essential prerequisite for independence from coercive external influences.”
The Logic of Land Redistribution The logic of land redistribution seemed obvious to the freedmen, who believed that their past labor entitled them to at least a portion of the ex-masters’ estates. In 1865, when the U.S. Army evicted African Americans who had settled on abandoned land near Yorktown, Virginia, a freedman named Bayly Wyatt lodged a formal protest: “We have a right to the land where we are located. Why? I’ll tell you. Our wives, our children, our husbands, have been sold over and over again to purchase the lands we now locate upon; for that reason we have a divine right to the land. And then didn’t we clear the land, and raise the crops of corn, of cotton, of rice, of sugar, of everything? And then didn’t the large cities in the North grow up on the cotton and the sugar and the rice that we made? I say they have grown rich, and my people are poor.”
A. Warren Kelsey, a “cotton detective” sent by Northern textile manufacturers to investigate the prospects for the resumption of plantation agriculture in the South, described the aspirations of the freedmen this way: “The sole ambition of the freedmen at the present time appears to be to become the owner of a little piece of land, there to erect a humble home, and to dwell in peace and security at his own free will and pleasure. If he wishes, to cultivate the ground in cotton on his own account, to be able to do so without anyone to dictate the hourse or system of labor. If he wishes instead to plant corn or sweet potatoes -- to be able to do that free from any outside control.... That is their idea, their desire, and their hope.
Historical Precedent for Public Land Redistribution The Homestead Act of 1862 made public land available to white adult citizens, as well as white immigrants who had declared their intention to become citizens, so long as they had “never borne arms against the United States Government or given aid and comfort to its enemies."Homestead Act of 1862 African Americans were ineligible for homesteads under the act, as they were not – and could never become -- citizens of the United States according to the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott ruling.Dred Scott ruling
“reparations” defined Main Entry: rep·a·ra·tion Pronunciation: "re-p&-'rA-sh&n Function: noun Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Late Latin reparation-, reparatio, from Latin reparare Date: 14th century 1 a : a repairing or keeping in repair b plural : REPAIRS 2 a : the act of making amends, offering expiation, or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury b : something done or given as amends or satisfaction 3 : the payment of damages : INDEMNIFICATION; specifically : compensation in money or materials payable by a defeated nation for damages to or expenditures sustained by another nation as a result of hostilities with the defeated nation -- usually used in pluralREPAIRSINDEMNIFICATION
An Ex-Slave Make The Case for Reparations “We have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty- two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to.
An Ex-Slave Makes The Case for Reparations (cont’d) “Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.”
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen’s Bureau) est. March 1865 As one of its primary responsibilities, the Freedmen’s Bureau was granted the authority “to set apart, for the use of loyal refugees and freedmen, such tracts of land within the insurrectionary states as shall have been abandoned, or to which the United States shall have acquired title by confiscation or sale, or otherwise.”
Freedmen’s Bureau (cont’d) The Bureau was empowered to redistribute lands as follows: “To every male citizen, whether refugee or freedman, there shall be assigned not more than forty acres of such land, and the person to whom it was so assigned shall be protected in the use and enjoyment of the land for the term of three years at an annual rent not exceeding six per centum upon the value of such land, as it was appraised by the state authorities in the year eighteen hundred and sixty …”
Freedmen’s Bureau (cont’d) In July 1865, Freedman’s Bureau Commissioner O.O. Howard ordered Bureau agents to “set aside” forty-acre tracts for the freedmen as quickly as possible. Yet this policy was short-lived, as President Andrew Johnson ordered that lands abandoned by Confederate planters during the war -- included the Sea Island plantations redistributed among the former slaves under Sherman’s Field Order #15 – be restored to those former owners who had been granted presidential pardons.
Radical Republican Leader Thaddeus Stevens proposed confiscating Southern farms larger than 200 acres, dividing them into forty acre tracts and redistributing them among the freedmen, but his proposal failed to win support among moderate Republicans in the North. While many congressmen were willing to promote economic growth through protective tariffs and land grants to railroads, they opposed any direct governmental interference with property rights. They also worried that giving the slaves land or reparations of any kind would sap their initiative and undermine efforts to restore the Southern economy.
Southern Homestead Act (1866) Opened public lands in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Florida to settlement... gave African Americans the same opportunity to acquire land as white natives and immigrants already enjoyed under the Homestead Act of 1862.
As Eric Foner points out, however, “public land – swampy, timbered, far from transportation – was markedly inferior” to the abandoned and confiscated private lands originally promised to African Americans. “The freedmen, moreover, entirely lacked capital, and federal land offices were few and poorly managed. By 1869, only 4,000 black families had even attempted to take advantage of the act, three-quarters of them in sparsely populated Florida, and many of these subsequently lost their land. By far the largest acreage claimed under the law went to whites, often acting as agents for lumber companies.” Congress repealed the Southern Homestead Act in 1876 “in order to open public land in the South to exploitation by timber and mining companies.”
Although relatively few of the four million emancipated slaves managed to acquire land, we should not underestimate the social and political significance of those who did. By 1900, one in four African American farmers owned their own land. Many bought cheap land in sparsely populated areas with no stores and no railroads. And many had to rent extra land or hire themselves out to make ends meet. Still, these farmers represented the beginnings of a rural black landowning class that persists to this day.
As historian Armstead Robinson points out, “Both the numbers of landowners and the amount of acreage they held suggest that a significant number of freedmen managed to acquire and hold onto farms during an era when many white family farmers were losing their land.” Robinson argues that black land ownership may hold the key to understanding black social stratification and black political alliances in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Reorganization of Agricultural Labor after Slavery How was agricultural labor reorganized after slavery? What kinds of arrangements were made between the ex-planters, short of cash and desperate for labor, and ex-slaves, who owned little but themselves? Contract Wage Labor – workers committed themselves for a year in return for fixed wages; the Freedmen’s Bureau assumed the role of reviewing and enforcing these contracts. Not popular among ex-slaves, who did not want to work under supervision of an overseer. Sharecropping – small “squads” of laborers or families agree to farm a piece of the land for a fixed share of the crop, usually one half. Problem: planters supplied sharecroppers with “provisions” on credit, often at exorbitantly high interest rates; when the settlement came at the end of the year, the sharecroppers were sometimes left with little or nothing. Peonage. Tenancy – renting land from someone else for cash or a share of the crop Ownership – some planters sold portions of their land to the former slaves, either on credit or in exchange for labor.
Burkley Bullock’s Journey from Slavery to Freedom
On September 1, 1868, just two months after the Fourteenth Amendment extended full citizenship to African Americans, Burkley Bullock and another ex-slave purchased 243 acres of land in Albemarle County, Virginia, for three thousand dollars, to be paid over the course of three years. How did Bullock manage – against all odds -- to acquire land and stake a claim for himself and his family in the new social order of the postemancipation South? How did he acquire the skills necessary to compete – and thrive – as a free man of color in a “white man’s country,” first as a farmer in Albemarle County, then later as land speculator and pioneering businessman in Charlottesville ? What advantages did Bullock have – or make for himself – coming out of slavery?
Burkley Bullock, 1830-1908 Burkley Bullock was born in Louisa County, Virginia, sometime around 1830. His parents, Abraham and Cynthia, were slaves. His mother was said to have been “half Indian,” the other “half” some mix of white and black. U.S. Census returns for 1870 and 1880 listed him as “mulatto,” the catch-all category for persons of mixed racial ancestry
The Bullocks were “owned” by Col. John R. Jones of Charlottesville, a wealthy financier and merchant. Biographical sketches of Jones, recorded by his nineteenth-century contemporaries, indicate that he made a name and a small fortune for himself in occupations remarkably similar to those pursued by Bullock after emancipation – i.e., merchant, banker, real estate broker.
Bullock’s owner, Col. Jones, carried on his mercantile business in the southern half of a brick building known as “No. Nothing,” located in the heart of Albemarle County’s Court Square business district. Latter-day occupants of No. Nothing “heard that the building was used as a slave auction room” before emancipation -- a claim supported by the discovery of an auction block at the curb outside the building, and the remnants of black lettering on the side of the building (BENSON AND BRO. AUCTION ROOMS) exposed by “a southern snow” in the 1940s. Burkley Bullock’s connection to “No. Nothing” Court Square, Charlottesville
Who taught Bullock to read and write? “Peter Faucett taught my father, Burkley Bullock, to read and write by light wood knots in the late hours of night when everyone was supposed to be asleep. They would steal away to a deserted cabin, over the hill from the big house, out of sight.” From Charles Bullock’s memoirs (1940s)
The Rev. Peter Fossett’s Recalls How He Learned to Read and Write – Then Taught Others (1898) “Mr. Jefferson allowed his grandson to teach any of his slaves who desired to learn, and Lewis Randolph first taught me how to read. When I was sold to Col. Jones I took my books along with me. One day I was kneeling before the fireplace spelling the word ‘baker,’ when Col. Jones opened the door, and I shall never forget the scene as long as I live. “ ‘What have you got there, sir?” were his words. I told him. ‘If I ever catch you with a book in your hands, thirty-and nine lashes on your bare back.’ He took the book and threw it into the fire, then called up his sons and told them that if they ever taught me they would receive the same punishment. But they helped me all they could, as did his daughter Ariadne.
Peter Fossett on Learning to Read and Write – and Teaching Others (cont’d) “Among my things was a copy-book that my father gave me, and which I kept hid in the bottom of my trunk. I used to get permission to take a bath, and by the dying embers I learned to write. The first copy was this sentence, ‘Art improves nature.’ “Col. Jones, when he bought me, promised my father to let him have me when he could raise the money, but in 1833 he refused to let him have me on any conditions. Mrs. Jones declared that she would sooner part with one of her own children. They had become very attached to me, and then I was a very valuable servant, notwithstanding that all the time I was teaching all the people around me to read and write, and even venturing to write free passes and sending slaves away from their masters. Of course they did not know this, or they would not have thought me so valuable.
Burkley Bullock is said to have run away on several occasions, once getting as far as the Ohio River. His bold effort to emancipate himself was preserved in oral tradition and later recorded for posterity when employees of the Virginia Writers’ Project interviewed several ex-slaves from the Charlottesville area in the late 1930s.
Yes, I know of a case of runaway slave, Berkeley Bullock, an’ he has two sons living here now. One day we was drivin’ up de road an’ he showed me de very road he used when he fust ‘scaped. Dis road led to Bath County. He said he traveled at night by de moonshine. Said he would feel ’round de trees an’ whichever side de moss grew on, he knoed dat was de north direction. Den he said he boarded a stage dat went as far as de Ohio River. He aimed to get ’cross. He paid his fare as other passengers an’ continued his journey. The stage was crowded. Being of yellow complexion, he had an ole cap pulled over his eyes; he gave de man his ticket, an’ kept on walkin’ to de back jes’ like you do on de street car today. Anyway de stage made a stop, an’ he was scared again. Finally de ole stage stopped again an’ dis time a drunk man got on. De man sat by him asleep; so he pulled out som Mason’s blackin’ an blacked him up so looked like a nigger man. So when de stage got to de place where Bullock was ’sposed to get off, dey put dis drunk man off, thinkin’ dat he were de nigger. When de man went in de front do’ of the tavern, he looked up an’ seed a lookin’ glass; he looked in an’ didn’t know hisse’f at fust. Den he yelled an’ yelled at de driver, “Hol’ on dere! Hol’ on dere! you done put off de wrong man!” But de driver never stopped. Bullock was still on de stage when it go to de Ohio River. Dey caught him dere fo’ he could make it cross de river.” Burkley Bullock’s Escape, as recounted by Horace Tonsler of Charlottesville in his WPA Narrative
Family tradition indicates that Berkeley Bullock secured freedom for himself and his mother, Cynthia, sometime before emancipation came in 1865. “Somehow he was freed first and then bought his mother for a few dollars because she pretended to be feeble and not able to work for a so-called master,” his granddaughter, Fanny Bowles Leach, recalled in her memoirs. Unfortunately, the story of his life as a free man in a slave society -- brief though it may have been -- has not been well- documented. We must pick up his story after emancipation, in the era of Reconstruction.
Just how Burkley Bullock acquired the financial backing necessary to buy land and establish himself as a farmer in 1868 remains a mystery. It seems plausible, however, that he acquired some detailed knowledge of land acquisition and financial management through his long association with Col. Jones. Bullock undoubtedly capitalized on the experience he gained and the connections he made as an enslaved “apprentice” to Jones. Local Knowledge/Capital Gains
The size and location of Bullock’s landholdings in Albemarle County varied over time. It appears that he sold his share in the original lot that he purchased with William Brown, though the transaction does not show up in public records. His family did not remain propertyless for long. In December 1871, Bullock purchased a thirty- five-acre Albemarle County lot from John Shackleford, a 74-year-old white farmer, for $435.50.
Family Labor Burkley Bullock relied on a large extended family to work the land that he bought in Albemarle County. The 1870 U.S. Census listed him as the head of a household that included his wife, Mary, and nine children -- 17-year-old Susan, 15-year-old William, 13-year-old Ella, 11-year-old Fannie, 9-year-old Louisa, 7-year-old Alice, 5-year-old Berkeley Jr., and 1-year-old Albert. Mother Cynthia Bullock, listed as 70 but possibly older, lived nearby, as did brother John and his five children -- 16-year-old twins Annie and Mary, 10-year-old Robert, 9-year-old Ida, and 6-year-old Mattie.
Ten years later, the 1880 U.S. Census recorded the changing face of the Bullock household. Four grown children, Susan, William, Fannie, and Louisa, had struck out on their own during the preceding decade, making room for four newcomers: 10-year-old Isabella, 8-year-old Mary, 6-year-old Charles, and 2-year-old Jennie. Sixteen-year-old Alice, 15-year-old Berkeley Jr., and 13-year-old Albert -- were still living at home and attending school.
Hugh Carr and the Ivy Creek Natural Area The Life and Legacy of Hugh Carr & River View Farm http://avenue.org/icf/history.html http://avenue.org/icf/history.html http://monticello.avenue.org/Community/Agencies/IvyCreek/FamilyHistory.html The Bullocks lived in the same general vicinity as Hugh Carr, who today is considered the founder of the African-American settlement known as Ivy Creek. Carr’s property has been preserved as a natural area, with educational exhibits and hiking trails; the site was recently nominated for inclusion on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s African American Heritage Trail.
Union Ridge Baptist Church (founded 1869) Burkley Bullock’s stature as a community leader rivaled Carr’s. He is credited with founding the Ivy Creek (later Union Ridge) Baptist Church (above), which still stands on Hydraulic Road today.
Sometime in the late 1880s, Berkeley Bullock gave up farming and moved with his family to the city of Charlottesville to explore new business opportunities. The 1888-89 Charlottesville City Directory lists him as the proprietor of a restaurant opposite the Virginia Midland railroad junction – about where the Wild Wings restaurant stands today. The restaurant catered to University students and those passing through Charlottesville on the railroad.
A biographical sketch in the 1889-90 U.Va. student yearbook, Corks and Curls, introduced “Berkeley Bullocks” – the editors misspelled his name -- as “one of the best known and most generally liked” of the “many odd and picturesque characters of the negro race that are to be met with everywhere around the University.” The students considered “the old man” -- he was then in his late 50s -- a friend and confidant, ever willing to engage them in “exasperating conversation” over fried chicken and soda biscuits.
From Corks and Curls of the Virginia University - Published by the Students No. 4, 1889-90, p. 132-3 "Sketch of Berkeley Bullocks"
From Corks and Curls Sketch of Burkley Bullock (1889) “No one that has ever come into contact with Berkeley can forget his appearance, his manner, and his habits. He is a medium-sized, weazened little man, of perhaps fifty, with bandy legs and stooping shoulders. His face is furrowed deep by the plough of time, not a little aided by care, in the shape of a large family and business much crippled by "that'ar new fangled rest'rant over thar." “But still from under his bushy eyebrows there gleam with unabated brilliancy a pair of furtive, restless eyes, which seem always on the alert for chance, gain or unexpected disaster at the hands of his, alas, too often, riotous customers. When not noiselessly gliding about among his chicken legs and apple pies, Berkeley stands in the corner suspiciously eyeing his customers with folded hands and a pitiable look of resigned dispair. It is evident that he is never certain of his pay and is always haunted with a gnawing fear that the frolicsome students may even make away with his house. But, nevertheless, Berkeley is a kind-hearted man, and when asked for credit -- after the meal has been consumed -- he acquiesces with a fair show of grace.”
From Corks and Curls Sketch of Burkley Bullock (1889) “Berkeley is a silent man and rarely speaks unless spoken to; but when he does become talkative, it is the talk of the good old ante-bellum darkey, not the polished small talk and chit-chat of the present generation of colored gentlemen. He is full of corn-field philosophy, reminiscences, folk-lore and quaint observations on men and things, all so well and pithily expressed that it is well worth one's while to listen with attention to one of our best surviving representatives of the old plantation hand. “
Of course the students saw only one side of Burkley Bullock -- the public side of a man well- schooled in the etiquette of race relations in the Jim Crow South. They knew little or nothing of his hopes and dreams, his heartaches and regrets. Certainly few were aware of the intricate financial dealings that had enabled him to acquire large tracts of land and to establish several small businesses in the heart of the city.
Over the years Burkley Bullock purchased more than a dozen properties, making him one of the most active land speculators in the city of Charlottesville. In May 1890, he purchased four lots that had been offered for sale at public auction. All of the sales were partly for cash and partly on credit. Over the course of the next several years, Bullock paid off the bonds, secured the deeds for each property, and sold several of the lots at a handsome profit.
Bullock’s success as a financier led him to conceive of a more broadly collaborative plan for promoting property ownership among African Americans. In April 1890, he and eight other African-American men from the Charlottesville area filed a certificate with the Corporation Court to form a joint stock company called the Piedmont Industrial and Land Improvement Company.
The company defined its purpose as follows: To engage in manufacturing operations; To purchase, hold, lease, rent, improve, sell, exchange, develop and otherwise deal in real estate; To negotiate loans; To buy and sell real estate on commission; To receive moneys on deposit; To borrow, lend and advance moneys, giving and receiving certificates, notes, bonds, and other proper evidence thereof To act as agent, attorney in fact and trustee for individuals, companies, and corporations and as commissioner and receiver under orders of courts; To extend aid and assistance, financial and otherwise, to persons of limited means in purchasing homes; Also to extend such aid and assistance to persons, companies and corporations engaged in manufacturing or other enterprises; To engage in any lawful business with other companies or persons; And to under take and conduct generally all business usually carried on by Land and Improvement Companies, except the construction of a turnpike beyond the limits of Albemarle County, Virginia, or of a railroad or canal, or to establish a bank of circulation.
An investor could purchase one share for fifty dollars, paid in monthly installments of one dollar. “If you take one share in the company,” the sales pitch went, “at the end of fifty months you will have fifty dollars and all that fifty dollars have accumulated.” The company paid interest and dividends based on its income from the rental and sale of properties, many of them located in and around the central business district
The Piedmont Company was more than just a business -- it was a mutual aid society, dedicated to the principles of thrift, uplift, and the dignity of work. The company could proudly boast that it had made loans, built houses, assumed debts, and lifted mortgages for its stockholders amounting to more than $2,000.
With the sale of its last fifty shares, the company reached full maturity and joined the established businesses of Charlottesville in sponsoring social and cultural events. In October 1891, the Piedmont Industrial and Land Improvement Company of Charlottesville organized what was touted in the Richmond Planet as the first “county fair” ever sponsored by African-Americans. “Pedestrians by the hundreds and a variety of vehicles indescribable” made their way to the fairgrounds on Brenham’s Farm. The president and directors of the Piedmont land company -- Berkely Bullock included -- joined the mile- long grand procession, riding on horseback.
“The fair was a grand success financially and numerically,” the Rev. J. Francis Robinson reported. “It was a credit to Charlottesville and a great boom for the Piedmont Industrial and Land Improvement Company, and a proof positive that the Afro-American is ‘HERE TO STAY,’ and share in the benefits accruing from a land of plenty and abundant prosperity.... God grant that the race here may continue on her upward and onward march.”
Burkley Bullock’s influence extended well beyond the segregated world of black neighborhoods and black businesses. His entrepreneurial spirit helped to transform Charlottesville from a sleepy railroad depot into a thriving commercial entrepot.
When Burkley Bullock died in 1908, the Charlottesville Daily Progress published the news on page one. The newspaper identified him as a “worthy colored man” and “one of the pioneer business men of the city.”
Review Questions How did Bullock manage – against all odds -- to acquire land and stake a claim for himself and his family in the new social order of the postemancipation South? How did he acquire the skills necessary to compete – and thrive – as a free man of color in a “white man’s country,” first as a farmer in Albemarle County, then later as land speculator and pioneering businessman in Charlottesville ? What advantages did Bullock have – or make for himself – coming out of slavery?
The Secrets of Burkley Bullock’s Success We know he was literate – both the census and oral tradition confirm that he could read and white. We know that he attained his freedom sometime before emancipation, giving him a head start over those held in bondage until 1865. We know that he very quickly acquired land for himself and his family after slavery – probably with the knowledge and connections that he acquired as an enslaved apprentice to Col. Jones, a local real estate speculator and financier
The Secrets of Burkley Bullock’s Success We know that he was of mixed racial ancestry – a decided advantage in a society that valued whiteness. We know, from the biographical sketch written by students at U.Va. and published in the 1890 Corks and Curls yearbook, that he had mastered the arts of racial etiquette so crucial to survival in the New South. “He well knows his place, and is never pushing,” the students wrote. He “is a silent man,” they added, “and rarely speaks unless spoken to.” Born into slavery, Bullock knew how to wear the “mask of obedience” while, in the words of historian Gilbert Osofsky, “putting on ole massa.” The students considered him a representative of a dying breed of Old Negro, “the good old ante-bellum darkey,” never realizing that Bullock shared all the dreams and aspirations of the so-called New Negro.
The Secrets of Burkley Bullock’s Success It’s worth noting that residential segregation laws, designed to restrict black settlement to designated areas, were not adopted in Charlottesville and other Virginia municipalities until after Bullock died in 1908. Under those laws, Bullock would have been limited to buying property in increasingly crowded black neighborhoods, as defined by law. It’s highly unlikely that he or the black-owned Piedmont Land and Industrial Improvement Company would have prospered to the degree that they did under such a system. Finally, Bullock had the good fortune to be born in this part of the South, in the shadow of the University, where a commitment to “black uplift” and “good race relations” – within the parameters of Jim Crow -- generally prevailed. Successful black businessmen in other parts of the South, as historian Leon Litwack points out, risked violent reprisals from whites who considered black economic mobility an affront to white supremacy.
How did Bullock, who enjoyed the friendship and patronage of whites in this area, maintain his ties to the black community from which he sprang? He was active in the church throughout his life. He founded the Ivy Creek Baptist Church in the 1860s, and later became a member and deacon of Charlottesville’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. He formed strong social ties with other African Americans, joining the Odd Fellows fraternal order and serving on the board of the Piedmont Industrial and Land Improvement Company.