How James City, North Carolina Rose to become a Destination for Free Blacks

hcsp.jpgRelative to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War Battle of New Bern is the marking of 149 years since the establishment of the James City community, a product of that battle. 


An African American family in early James City, founded in 1863.

It was first known as the Trent River Settlement after Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnsides captured New Bern in 1862.
In a 2010 program on the history of James City — which has never incorporated — historian Ben Watford said, “Burnsides declared the slaves spoils of war. Though the Emancipation Proclamation had not been passed, the Union Army took the slaves from their masters and basically freed them to live in the Trent River Settlement. Soon slaves from as far away as 100 miles were living there.”
Unlike many African American communities and neighborhoods, which have little formal written history, James City is well-documented.
Notably, there is the 1981 work of research historian Joe Mobley, who penned “James City — A Black Community in North Carolina 1863-1900.” It was produced by the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, through a grant from the Kellenberger Historical Foundation.
Among the James City residents cited for major contributions were James C. Delemar and Isaac Long.
Mobley said the community was cohesive throughout the era from the war’s end until the turn of the century.
“Their primary goal throughout this period was to obtain permanent ownership of the land on which they resided as tenants,” he wrote. It eventually became a court battle.
“When they failed to win their case in 1893, their community began to dissolve,” Mobley added.
Source: Sun Journal | Charlie Hall