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Collection Number: 04177

Collection Title: Fitzgerald Family Papers, 1864-1954

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


This collection was processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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Size 1 reel of microfilm
Abstract The collection includes diaries, 1864 and 1867-1871, and a sketchbook of Robert G. Fitzgerald (1840-1919); copies of his pension record and marriage certificate and of the manumission certificate of Thomas Fitzgerald (father of Robert G.); two letters; and articles about members of the Fitzgerald family, including Fitzgerald's granddaughter, Pauli Murray. Fitzgerald's diary, 1864, describes his trip from Boston to Virginia; life in the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment; war news, especially the activities of other black regiments; and his feelings about the war and the future of blacks. His later diary describes his work in freedmen's schools in Amelia County, Va., and in Hillsborough, Orange County, N.C.; church affairs and social life; and his political activities, including a description, 31 July-2 August 1867, of the Virginia state Republican convention, to which he was a delegate. Some entries in 1867 describe Fitzgerald's studies at Lincoln University (originally Ashmun Institute), life at the college, and church and social life. Entries, 1868-1871, describe in detail Fizgerald's school in North Carolina; the Ku-Klux Klan; Republican politics; the Union League; Fitzgerald's tanning business; a brick kiln established with his brother; building his house; and his farm and family life, including his new wife, Cornelia Smith. Fitzgerald's undated sketchbook includes portraits of soldiers, a sketch of Ashmun Institute (later Lincoln University), and other scenes.
Creator Fitzgerald family.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Fitzgerald Family Papers #4177, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Lent for filming by Pauli Murray of Washington, D.C., in May 1979.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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Robert George Fitzgerald was born in 1840 in Newcastle County, Del., the son of Thomas Fitzgerald (b. 1808), a freed slave. In 1859, he enrolled in Ashmun Institute, which became Lincoln University. Fitzgerald served in the union navy aboard the North Carolina, William G. Anderson, and Ohio from July 1863 until January 1864, when he enlisted in the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry. He served with the army around Richmond, Va., until he was discharged in October 1864 because of illness.

In August 1866, Fitzgerald moved to Amelia County, Va., where he conducted a school for freedmen until September 1867, when he returned to school at Lincoln University. In November of that year, he decided to return to the South and, in January 1868, moved to Hillsborough, Orange County, N.C., where he again conducted a school for freedmen. Later, he also operated a tannery, established a brick kiln in partnership with his brother, and began farming. In both Virginia and North Carolina, Fitzgerald was active in the Union League and the Republican party.

In 1869, Robert G. Fitzgerald married Cornelia Smith (1844-1924) of Chapel Hill, N.C. He died near Durham, N.C., in 1919.

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This microfilm, made by Recordak Corporation from manuscripts owned by Dr. Pauli Murray, a descendant of Robert G. Fitzgerald, includes diaries and a sketchbook of Robert G. Fitzgerald; copies of his pension record and marriage certificate and of his father's manumission certificate; two letters, 1866 and 1952; and articles about members of the Fitzgerald family.

Robert G. Fitzgerald's diary, May-September 1864, includes brief daily entries about the weather; his trip from Boston to Virginia; life in the regiment and other developments in the war, especially the activities of other black regiments; and his feelings about the war and the future of blacks. There are also scattered pencil sketches of soldiers.

The letter, 26 August 1866, from Fitzgerald in Amelia Court House, Va., to J. N. Randall at Lincoln University describes Fitzgerald's arrival at Amelia Court House; the blacks in the area; his work in a nearby freedmen's school and Sunday school; and his own plans for further education.

Fitzgerald's diary, June 1867-December 1871, opens with daily entries about his work at the Virginia school, including a list of new students, February 1867, and an account of graduation exercises, August 1867; church affairs and social life in the community; the feelings and opinions of the local black community; and his political activities, including a description, 31 July-2 August 1867, of the state Republican convention to which he was a delegate.

From September to November 1867, Fitzgerald attended Lincoln University; the entries for this period cover his studies, life at college, and church and social life.

In January 1868, Fitzgerald moved to Hillsborough, Orange County, N.C. His diary describes in detail his school there, including problems of financing, housing, and staffing the school; life of the black community; the attitude of the white community; the Ku-Klux Klan; and his involvement in Republican politics and the Union League. Later, he also wrote of his tanning business; the brick kiln established with his brother, including accounts for supplies and labor; and building his own house, of which there is a sketch dated June 1870. After 1870, he wrote little of school and more of his farm and his family life, including visits from his parents and siblings and his new wife, Cornelia Smith.

Fitzgerald's undated sketchbook includes portraits of soldiers and a sketch of Ashmun Institute (Lincoln University) and other scenes.

Also included is a copy of the manumission certificate, 1832, of Thomas Fitzgerald, signed by George Lodge, Brandywine, Del., and copies of Fitzgerald's military and pension records, including accounts of his army career by several colleagues, his own account of his naval service, and a copy of his marriage certificate. These military records include other family data.

There is also a letter, 1952, from Horace Mann Bond, Lincoln University, to Pauli Murray, about Fitzgerald's work at Ashmun; an article, 1920, about Robert Fitzgerald from The Crisis; an article, 1886, about Mary Ruffin Smith from the University Magazine; an article about Amos Burton; and an article, 1954, from the Howard Alumni Journal about Pauli Murray.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Fitzgerald Family Papers, 1864-1954.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Suzanne Ruffing, August 1996

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

This collection was processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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