Friday, August 14, 2020

Flashback Friday: The Lady W/ the Sled

Today's edition of Flashback Friday honors a Black woman who walked the streets of Jackson a century ago.  Lacking in riches but rich in the Spirit, Nancy Hill was a Jackson icon.  She was the Junior League before there was a Junior League.  The midwife birthed over half of the babies in Jackson while raising over 100 orphans during her years.  It was a common sight to see her leading a mule pulling a sled, yes, a sled, filled with little tykes around town.  She could walk into the Governor's office uninvited - and did.  Complaints against her were laughed out of court.  When her life finally faded, she became the first Black to be buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Although a Jackson celebrity of sorts, make no mistake, Nancy Hill was a black woman in a segregationist Jackson.  Words of racism tarnish the accounts of her good deeds.  There are men and women who are called to serve.  They want to make the world better a better place.  Such people don't have grandiose schemes or PhD's next to their names.  They just roll up their sleeves, break out the elbow grease, and help those in most need.

 What little treasure Miss Nancy had she spent caring for her young charges.  Black or white, she didn't care.  A baby was a baby that needed a home.  She endured poverty, humiliations, snickers about the crazy lady with the sled, and of course, racism just so she could help anything living, great or small.  When the the population fled Jackson during a yellow fever epidemic, it was Nancy Hill who remained.  She rescued several white children who were left behind by their parents. 

The whites at the time probably considered her to be a "good Negro" who stayed in her place.  It would have been interesting to know what she really thought but time denies us that account.  She encouraged many a black woman to become an LPN when such avenues became available as midwifery fell out of favor. She was simply the woman in the parable who quietly gave all she had while others made a big show of their works.

This post was made in a sincere effort to honor her.  This Flashback Friday post could have omitted the original newspaper articles and simply retold the stories (as the current Clarion-Ledger is want to do) but the goal of Flashback Friday is to show all history - good and bad.  Miss Hill did a world of good in a world that was not always good to her and those of her color.  She deserves to be honored instead of left behind in a historical dust heap just because  it's a little uncomfortable to discuss her.

Miss Hill* first appeared in the Clarion-Ledger in a November 4, 1895 article.  The newspaper referred to her as Nancy Julespice.  However, her real name was Nancy Hill. She was a jack of all trades.  The newspaper said as a mid-wife, she probably delivered half of the babies in Jackson.  She once acted as attorney for a teen accused of stealing $5.  It's probably a safe bet that she was not a licensed attorney but she got her client acquitted.


A 1907 article reports she was charged with stealing 100 lbs of lead pipe.  The newspaper blamed the whole case on a judge "who is new to Jackson." and didn't know "Aunt Nancy."  The article states the prosecutor cried during the hearing.  There was not a chance she would be convicted.  The courtroom literally laughed at the Judge until he dismissed the case.   (The description of her in the article uses some strong racist language, not all directed at her.  Send an email if a copy is desired.). 

Miss Hill nearly died from of all things, a hunting accident in 1908.  She didn't believe in raising Mama's boys but instead allowed her young charges to to hunt. Unfortunately, one young lad accidentally shot her with a .22 rifle during a hunting excursion.  Miss Hill and the little sport model were hunting along the Pearl River when she pointed out a Yellowhammer.  The excited boy ran towards her, tripped, fell, and unfortunately discharged a round.  (Warning: The article is very derogatory although the reporter probably thought he was being kind at the time, especially in the last paragraph.)


 The Clarion-Ledger featured her in a 1912 article.  She lived in a shack by the Standard Oil building on North State Street.  Yes, some of the words can be tough to read and Ms. Hill probably didn't see herself in the same light as did the reporter.     Of course, the same white folks who looked down on her sure didn't hesitate to bring their sick babies to her for healing.


She rang the bell on the steps of the old Capitol all morning long after the armistice was signed in 1917.  She popped up again in 1924 in print when she paid an unannounced visit to the Governor.


 She suffered hardship again when her home burned down in 1926.  Jacksonians raised $300 to build her a new home ($4,300 today).


 She finally left this world in 1929.  She received in death the respect that she rarely received in life. She asked to be buried in the "white folks" cemetery.  Her wish was granted and she was laid to rest at Greenwood.  The Pastor of First Baptist Church conducted the services.  The pall-bearers were all white community leaders, Mayor Walter Scott among them.



 She was remembered several more times on the pages of the Clarion-Ledger.  A November 4, 1936 edition published a poem dedicated to her and of course, the editor couldn't help but return to using her nickname she detested.



 Miss Hill was no fool as one old fool discovered.  A "gentleman" on South State Street had a sick mule he was going to kill.  Miss Hill bought the mule for a dollar.  Naturally, she nursed that mule back to health and he was kicking around in no time.  The previous owner tried to get his mule back but as they say, a deal's a deal.


She was remembered again, 25 years after her death on the pages of the newspaper.





*The newspaper referred to her as "Aunt Nancy" but she will be called "Miss Nancy" in this post.  The use of "Aunt" towards black women back then was considered a derogatory term in the black community.  


24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing !

Devoting one's life to others is the true meaning of service.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.

This is a great story that I had never heard until now.

One of the saddest things about this, is the entire history of Greenwood Cemetery, Cedar Lawn and many other historic cemeteries are being lost due the current administration's failure to maintain basic upkeep.

Nancy Hill and everyone else that "rests" in those grounds deserve more respect than what's being shown by the 2020 City "Father's".





Anonymous said...

Now this is history. The lack of this type of information is what many people have complained about. History as currently taught has been told from one perpesctive and only focused on certian individuals. Soceity has evolved due to contributions from many different individuals. Should we tear down the statues, no. Should we add more pages to the history books to tell of individuals from all walks of life who have make great contributions to our society...yes.

Side note: If this article was about something that could be percieved as a wrongdoing by Judge Green, there would be quotes all down the wall. An interest historical article about a black female that made great contributions to our society, you can hear silence. Those same people who refused to acknowledge this article will complain about the disrepect to their own heritage.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I love local history like this. And I miss Parisian.

Anonymous said...

It is just wrong to take a cheap shot at Judge Green in the comments to this delightful piece. I am a white attorney, and I have the utmost respect for Judge Green. She has ruled for my client and against my client, but she always treats me with respect and tries her best to rule according to the facts and the law.

Now, I've seem white and black male attorneys talk down to her and treat her disrespectfully. And then they wonder why they got their ass handed to them.

Anonymous said...

Kingfish the great white hope. Thank you for protecting us from the mean words of white people 100 years ago. Your post truly enshrined the collective guilt we should all feel. And the truth is evident that Jackson is doing great with all the modern equality and wise black leadership. God Bless You!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the story of Nancy Hill, however she wasn’t the first Black buried in Greenwood Cemetery. As the city’s original burying ground, all residents were eligible to be buried there. There are 100 monuments to Blacks, the earliest dated 1865, and the current list of Blacks in Greenwood has over 600 names, and research continues. To obtain a copy of the list, email greenwoodcemeteryjackson@gmail.com For more information about this historic place and efforts to preserve and restore it, visit the website www.greenwoodcemeteryjackson.org. An article about Nancy Hill is in the July 2018 newsletter.
Executive Director, Greenwood Cemetery Association

Anonymous said...

Serious question. What did jewspice or juicepeace mean? Was that a given name. A slur? Seems that is what Mr fish is saying. Just trying to learn. Thanks for the great articles fish.

Anonymous said...

So it sounds like the railroad had the right of way where her shack was at Court Street and North State Street. She wouldn't move so they burned her shack down. Damn, the railroads don't play.

Anonymous said...

Not much new info, but some:

caba.ms/articles/features/memorable-character-from-another-time

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Thank you for this article.

I think a ground sled was not an uncommon conveyance back then. Much cheaper to build than a wagon. I'm only 44 but I remember riding on one as a child behind the horse that my dad used at least one year to plow a garden. My grandfather still had a few horses and the implements and tack from when they worked with horses and mules.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting, Kingfish, she was a very interesting lady.
Thanks 8:48 for the article. I had been trying to figure out where her house was. It was nice to have my guess confirmed.

Anonymous said...

An angel.

Anonymous said...

A good post, KF, except maybe for some of your commentary added.

On what do you base the comment that the use of "Aunt" was derogatory 'to some' in the black community 'back then'?

Frankly, I think that may be the claim that some folks in the WOKE community might say now - that they today find it derogatory, but your statement about it back then is off base.

I think to most it was an honorary term and used as a compliment -- and taken as such.

And I don't know what you are trying to sell (or who you are trying to sell to) with some of your added commentary -- "...the whites at the time probably considered her to be a "good Negro" who stayed in her place", or that you found "...Words of racism tarnish the accounts of her good deeds", something that were evidently missing in the copy that I could read from the CL articles you posted.

It was a good Flashback Friday, a good story that many in Jackson have probably never heard - just a shame that you tried to embellish it with your assumptions and colorings.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed.

Anonymous said...

Why would anybody (that includes YOU, Mr. attorney) attempt to make this about Tomie Green.

Anonymous said...

How can any of you people condemn Kingfish for this thoughtful presentation. He has neither engaged in derision nor condemnation but has gone to great lengths to praise her accomplishments and her valiant efforts (against great odds).

If there is no street, park or institution named for this woman, there should be one of each.

Anonymous said...

I also have always been under the impression that the terms "Aunt" and "Uncle" for a long time were terms of affection for old black people used by whites. As the newspaper clippings show, there was real affection between the races before the civil rights movement. Now, for many whites, there are good relations between individuals, but anger and resentment in both directions between the races as a whole.

This lady surely earned her place in heaven, if it exists. There ought to be a historical marker for her at her house location.

Anonymous said...

7:35 the term "uncle" and "aunt" applied to Black men and women of that time by whites meant high acceptance of a negro as a quasi family member, to Black people it was not complimentary but quite shameful as it indicated acceptance of an inferior status as a pet or slave of white folks. Like most historical interpretations are taught in our schools, the Black position is relegated to insignificance and as you said "I have always been under the impression.." It is not your fault. Those impressions were never based on actual experiences of Black people. Hopefully things will change.

Micah Gober said...

love reading and hearing about Mississippi history.

Don Drane said...

10:07 - Would you care to reveal where you got all that assumption nonsense? My paternal grandmother, now deceased, would be 130 years old. I once asked her why she called Aunt Idie 'aunt' when she was not our aunt. My grandmother said it was a name of affection and love for a person who worked for the family, tirelessly, over decades. (she was paid good wages)

I asked my other grandmother why Sylvester was called Uncle Syl. I was told he was considered everybody's uncle, a member of the family. He also sat at the thanksgiving table at her house.

Peddle your nonsensical garbage somewhere else.

Renee Shakespeare said...

If there was ever a post with the potential to open up "honest dialogue", this is it. I've read with interest the comments of those who would decry Kingfish' handling of this story and his so-called assumptions about how Blacks viewed the terms Aunt and Uncle. I've also read with amusement the regurgitation of the rationale provided for use of the term.

While I'm sure whites of that era did indeed believe these were terms of endearment, I assure you they were not received as such by the black persons upon whom they were conferred. The reason I am certain is for the same reason @5:41 was certain they are. MY GRANDMOTHER TOLD ME. MY BLACK GRANDMOTHER. MY BLACK GRANDMOTHER BORN IN 1900. My black grandmother who not only found the title offensive but had to pretend she was honored to have titles conferred upon her which she knew demeaned her. My black grandmother who became part of the first class of African American LPN's RIGHT HERE IN JACKSON. The woman who raised me, told me with her own lips how she felt. For any who wish to know my Black Grandmother's name was Lucille HILL. She took care of little white babies like Ross Barnett Jr. She cooked and cleaned for his father. So I am inclined to believe a black woman who told me personally how such things made her feel.

Did the whites of that time believe they were being racist when they applied those titles? I'm certain they did not but make no mistake; the distinction was dubious at best.

All of us filter history through the lenses of our own experiences and childhood training. Refusing to see another persons' experience through the lenses they must use to navigate the world is disrespectful. Disrespect may not be intentional but nevertheless, it is the result when one simply dismisses another perspective because it doesn't fit the narrative already playing on loop in their mind.

Kingfish, congratulations. You have managed to tell this story in a way which indicates; at least to this reader, great care and thought were put into presenting the actual unvarnished history with commentary that acknowledges how things were without attempting to change the history to protect the reputation of outdated and inhumane ideas.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

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Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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