Dr. Moore, Practitioner of Conjure
The convention of 1875 provided North Carolinians with hope that the nightmare of Northern occupation and Reconstruction would end, and order restored to their State and communities. Unfortunately, the invading army had brought many black refugees to eastern North Carolina as well as the Freedmen’s Bureau to feed them and the terrorist Union League to teach them to hate their white neighbors. With a majority black population after the war thanks to the influx of refugees who were herded to the polls with Republican ballots, Wilmington experienced a longer domination by an alien government. See www.1898wilmington.com for a review of corrupt Republican politics in that city, and its end in November 1898.
Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
The Constitutional Convention of 1875
The Constitutional Convention of 1875 may be likened, not inaptly, to the Mecklenburg Declaration. But the new assertion of independence did not need any Bill of Rights precedent to incorporate the causes of discontent in the hearts of North Carolinians or to catalogue the rights for which they yearned. It was a protest against actual wrongs inflicted; against malicious bonds fastened on a people held in the grip of unrestrained military power. The Resolves were to right wrongs and even those were expressed in moderate tone.
The Republicans were reinforced by a body of well-trained black voters, enfranchised ostensibly for freedom’s sake, really to keep a standing political army in the Southern electorate. Banking on the Negro disposition, the schemers in the Republican party planned to amuse them with baubles. Not even this was necessary. No colored man voted with a sure-enough white man. If he did, he was a son of Belial and an outcast from his color.
(At the convention were) Negroes of education and no education. A carpet-bag writer of agnostic pamphlets who believed in all the isms except the isms of the Bible. There was a particularly contentious radical Negro, a boaster of his mulatto blood. Another as black as the Duke of Hell’s boots, whose newspaper name was "Archives of Gravity." Also, there was a contest in Robeson County where the Republicans tried to overturn a Democratic victory by herding and voting a number of Negro laborers working on railroad construction. Then there was William H. Moore, a coal-black Negro from New Hanover County, conjure doctor. Think of the wealthiest constituency in the State having such a senator! But that is what Reconstruction meant.
When (Moore) left the senate he became what is called a conjure doctor and prospered sufficiently on the ignorance of his patients to maintain a handsome horse and buggy and many other comforts with which his victims had no acquaintance. On one occasion an unusually ignorant woman believed she had swallowed a spring lizard and that he could cure her. That was an easy matter. The next day after procuring a small lizard and bringing it along with him together with a harmless emetic, he threw her into a spasm of nausea and by an adroit bit of legerdemain produced the lizard which he had bought. This almost miraculous feat added greatly to his prestige and his pocketbook. I asked him if he were not ashamed to practice such deceptions. His answer was very frank.
"There was no way to deal with a fool who thought she had swallowed a lizard but by getting the lizard. I did it and she was cured. No other doctor could have done any more."
(Southern Exposure, Peter Mitchel Wilson, UNC Chapel Hill, 1927, pp. 97-110)