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Corbett, Maurice Nathaniel

Corbett, Maurice Nathaniel

Male 1859 - Aft 1931  (~ 73 years)

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  • Name Corbett, Maurice Nathaniel  [1
    Birth Mar 1859  North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Male 
    Reference Number 40051 
    Death Aft 1931 
    Person ID I39285  Caswell County
    Last Modified 23 Sep 2023 

    Family Henderson, Elvira Gertrude,   b. Nov 1865, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Marriage 6 Apr 1885  Caswell County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Reference Number 606700 
    Children 
     1. Corbett, Chesley Elbert,   b. 31 Dec 1885, Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 5 Mar 1961, Oregon Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 75 years)  [Father: natural]  [Mother: natural]
     2. Corbett, Mary H.,   b. Apr 1886, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  [Father: natural]  [Mother: natural]
    +3. Corbett, Lillie Belle,   b. Abt 1901, New York, New York Find all individuals with events at this location  [Father: natural]  [Mother: natural]
    Family ID F14478  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 23 Sep 2023 

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBirth - Mar 1859 - North Carolina Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarriage - 6 Apr 1885 - Caswell County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    Maurice Nathaniel Corbett
    Maurice Nathaniel Corbett

    Documents
    Maverick Republican in the Old North State
    Maverick Republican in the Old North State

    Books
    The Harp of Ethiopia (Book Cover)
    The Harp of Ethiopia

    Newspapers
    Settle's Secretary, Maurice Nathaniel Corbett. Webster's Weekly (Reidsville, NC), 17 Sep 1896
    Settle's Secretary, Maurice Nathaniel Corbett. Webster's Weekly (Reidsville, NC), 17 Sep 1896

  • Notes 
    • Maurice Nathaniel Corbett (1859 - after 1931)

      Maurice N. Corbett

      Maverick Republican in the Old North State

      The Harp of Ethiopia

      (for larger image, click on photograph)
      _______________

      Influential nineteenth century black politician from Caswell County, North Carolina.

      In 1885, Maurice N. Corbett was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives from Caswell County, North Carolina. As a Democrat he defeated George N. Thompson. The election was contested, but the House found in favor of Corbett. Source: "The Wilmington Morning Star" (Wilmington, North Carolina), 5 March 1885.
      _______________

      "Mr. W. E. Christian, the versatile correspondent of the Raleigh News and Observer, has taken our young Congressman under his special care and is watching over him with the fidelity of a fond parent. Mr. Christian declares most emphatically that Settle has appointed a Caswell County negro named Corbett his private secretary. Mr. Settle declares there is 'nothing in it' (the report) but Mr. Christian offers to prove it by sworn testimony. All of which is of some interest to Mr. Settle's 20,000 constituents."

      The Reidsville Review (Reidsville, NC), 7 February 1896.

      Thomas Settle III (10 Mar. 1865-20 Jan. 1919) was born in Rockingham County, educated at Georgetown College in Washington, D.C., passed the bar in 1885, and began practicing law in Wentworth. He was solicitor of the Seventh Judicial District (1886-94), a Republican congressman for two terms (1893-97), and an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1912. He later resided in Asheville but was buried in Wilmington, the home of his wife, Eliza Potter.

      Source: Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, William S. Powell, Editor. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press (1994).
      _______________

      Corbett, Maurice N. The Harp of Ethiopia. Nashville: National Baptist Publishing Board, 1914. 1st Edition. Bound in dark red cloth with gilt decoration and printing, the book is clean, straight & tight. Pages are browned and rather fragile, there are two or three pages with tiny edge tears. Light rubbing and wear at the corners and spine ends. On the front endpage, there is an inscription by the author's child, it is unknow whether it was a boy or girl as initials are used for the first name. The inscription reads "To Dr. & Mrs........ of Muskogee, Okla. Complements of .. Corbett, Works of My late Father Maurice N. Corbett of Washington, D.C. This is a very uncommon book, the only one published by this African-American author -- it is a 7,500 line poem on the black man in America. 8" x 5 1/2"; 276 pages.
      _______________

      "The county Republican convention was held in the courthouse on September 23, 1888. The Caswell News three days later reported that James W. Poe (a black) was made chairman, the Rev. A. L. Johnston, secretary, and the Hon. M. N. Corbett, assistant secretary. A caucus was held and votes taken to determine the strength of various candidates for office. On the floor of the convention Wilson Carey was nominated for the House of Representatives by a vote of 14 to 13 for Corbett. Felix Roan was nominated for Register of Deeds and George O. Wilson for county treasurer. An attempt was made to nominate J. T. Donoho for sheriff by acclamation, but failed and no nomination was made. B. S. Graves, the incumbent, was heavily favored, however. The newspaper reported that the convention adjourned in confusion."

      Source: When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977, William S. Powell (1977) at 261.
      _______________

      1900 United States Federal Census
      Name: Maurice N Corbett
      Home in 1900: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia
      Age: 41
      Birth Date: Mar 1859
      Birthplace: North Carolina
      Race: Black
      Ethnicity: American
      Gender: Male
      Relationship to Head of House: Head
      Father's Birthplace: North Carolina
      Mother's Birthplace: North Carolina
      Spouse's Name: Elvira G
      Marriage year: 1885
      Marital Status: Married
      Years Married: 15
      Residence : Washington City, Washington, District of Columbia
      Occupation: Government Laborer
      Household Members: Name Age
      Maurice N Corbett 41
      Elvira G Corbett 35
      Elbert C Corbett 14
      Mary H Corbett 15
      Bryan W Thorpe 44

      1910 United States Federal Census
      Name: Maurice N Corbett
      Age in 1910: 51
      Estimated Birth Year: abt 1859
      Birthplace: North Carolina
      Relation to Head of House: Head
      Father's Birth Place: North Carolina
      Mother's Birth Place: North Carolina
      Spouse's Name: Elvira G
      Home in 1910: Precinct 9, Washington, District of Columbia
      Marital Status: Married
      Race: Black
      Gender: Male
      Occupation: Electrician's Helper (Printing Office)
      Household Members: Name Age
      Maurice N Corbett 51
      Elvira G Corbett 44
      Lillie B Corbett 9
      Katie B Gunn 50
      James T Kendall 32
      J Langston Kendall 11

      1920 United States Federal Census
      Name: Maurice N Corbett
      Home in 1920: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia
      Age: 60 years
      Estimated Birth Year: abt 1860
      Birthplace: North Carolina
      Relation to Head of House: Head
      Spouse's Name: Elvira G
      Father's Birth Place: North Carolina
      Mother's Birth Place: North Carolina
      Marital Status: Married
      Race: Black
      Sex: Male
      Home owned: Rent
      Able to read: Yes
      Able to Write: Yes
      Occupation: Painter's Helper in Government Printing Office
      Household Members: Name Age
      Maurice N Corbett 60
      Elvira G Corbett 54
      Lilie Belle Corbett 19
      Pollie S Hensley 22
      Eugenia N Hensley 14

      U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989
      Name: Maurice N Corbett
      Gender: Male
      Spouse: Elvira G Corbett
      Publication Title: Washington, District of Columbia, City Directory, 1928

      U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989
      Name: Maurice Corbett
      Gender: Male
      Spouse: Elvira G Corbett
      Publication Title: Washington, District of Columbia, City Directory, 1931

      U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989
      Name: Maurice Corbett
      Gender: Male
      Spouse: Elvira G Corbett
      Publication Title: Washington, District of Columbia, City Directory, 1934
      _______________

      Black American Writers Past and Present. A biographical and bibliographical dictionary. Two volumes. By Theressa Gunnels Rush, Carol Fairbanks Myers, and Esther Spring Arata. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1975. (BlkAWP) In Black and White. A guide to magazine articles, newspaper articles, and books concerning Black individuals and groups. Third edition. Two volumes. Edited by Mary Mace Spradling. Detroit: Gale Research, 1980. (InB&W 3) In Black and White. A guide to magazine articles, newspaper articles, and books concerning Black individuals and groups. Third edition, Supplement. Edited by Mary Mace Spradling. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. (InB&W 3S).

      Long Memory: The Black Experience in America: Book by Mary Frances Berry, John W. Blassingame; Oxford University Press, 1982.
      _______________

      The following was posted to the Caswell County Historical Association Message Board by Priscilla Caris 29 August 2009:

      My grandmother was Ruth Poteat Bender, daughter of James and Emily Moore Poteat. In her papers were six small typed onionskin copies that were about a Maurice N. Corbett. I do not know for certain who the writer was, but it probably was my grandmother. It is prefaced with this paragraph:

      The letter and poem were written by Maurice N. Corbett, whose mother was a slave and owned by my grandfather, Captain James Poteat, of Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina, and in the poem he is referring to my father, James Preston Poteat, my uncles, Dr. William Louis Poteat, of Wake Forest College, Dr. Edwin M. Poteat, of Furman University and my aunts, Linnie and Ida Poteat. Aunt Linnie died in early womanhood and Aunt Ida was the head of the Art Department of Meridith College from its opening until her death, February 1, 1940.

      What follows is a letter from Maurice N. Corbett to Ida Poteat:

      653 Acker Street
      Washington, D.C.
      May 22, 1908

      Dear Miss Ida:

      I heard that your mother was somewhere in the Mountains and was sorely afflicted with paralysis.

      I have been meditating upon the duty of each member of a well reared family and I have concluded that I have been derelict both in the performance and of the true conception of said duty.

      Of course you remember that I was adopted by your sainted father to be the "Black Sheep" of the family, as he had reared a family free from the blighting influences which tend to destroy the moral fabric upon which upright lives are erected. I send to you a poem composed by me, and which bespeaks my sentiments and will be a reminder to you that I have always held the family to be superior to all of the descendants of father Adam. I also send an invitation to the graduating exercises of the Howard University Law School, when my son will take his degree and don the gown and hood of the L.L.B.

      Please remember me to every member of the family. I am so very interested in everything you do.

      Aunt Kate is with me and she is always speaking of "Miss July and the babes." I wish it was possible for her to spend her last days near your mother because she cares more for her than she does for her own old mistress.

      Will someone answer this that I may know it is received in the spirit it is sent.

      (Signed) Maurice N. Corbett

      Copy of the original letter, written by Maurice N. Corbett to Miss Ida Poteat.
      _______________

      Note: Aunt Kate referred to in the foregoing letter is thought to be Kate B. (Katie) Gunn, who is identified in the 1910 US Federal Census (District of Columbia) as a 50-year-old aunt of Maurice N. Corbett (widowed, female, mulatto, born in North Carolina).
      _______________

      The Columbia History of American Poetry
      _______________

      The following is placed here for research purposes only. Note that the birth date precludes this person from being the Maurice Nathaniel Corbett born March 1859:

      1900 United States Federal Census
      Name: Maurice Corbett
      Home in 1900: Yanceyville, Caswell, North Carolina
      Age: 14
      Estimated Birth Year: abt 1886
      Birthplace: North Carolina
      Relationship to head-of-house: Boarder
      Race: Black
      Household Members: Name Age
      Ed Mebane 42
      Arnie J Mebane 35
      Bessie L Mebane 15
      Maurice Corbett 14
      Alice Bigelow 14
      Cardice Bigelow 9
      Bettie Bigelow 1
      _______________

      The Columbia History of American Poetry, Jay Parini, Brett Candlish Miller
      _______________

      Dear Group:

      I wonder if anyone knows anything about a man named Maurice N. Corbett, born roughly in 1860 in Caswell County. He was an African-American, taught schools in Yanceyville, was an organizer for the Republican Party, was elected to the state legislature, and then worked in Washington D.C. first for Congressman Tom Settle and then for the printing office. He also wrote a book of poems called The Harp of Ethiopia, which was published in the 1910s in a small run.

      I am an historian and am writing a scholarly book on North Carolina politics in the 19th century and have become interested in Corbett first through his letters to Settle, preserved in the Settle Papers at UNC, and then through his book of poetry and a few colorful mentions in state newspapers (when Settle named Corbett his private secretary, it caused a stir in the press since he replaced a white man.)

      If any one knows anything about Corbett or has connections to any of his descendants (if they still live in the area) I would be very grateful. I would love to get just a little more background on him and to share what I know with anyone connected to him.

      Thank you for your time and attention.

      Sincerely,

      Gregory Downs
      Assistant Professor of History
      The City College of New York
      gregorydowns1@juno.com

      27 May 2008
      _______________

      Caswe ll County Historical Association Weblog: Maurice N. Corbett

      < frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="border:0px" src="http://books.google.com/books?id=NCLH3BKTXngC&lpg=PA9&ots=ZPV5GjA ZQc&dq=Maurice%20Corbett%20Shaw%20University&pg=PA9&output=embed" width=500 height=500>
      _______________

      The schism in the Afro-American community reflected both the rifts among white Republicans and the philosophical differences among Negro leaders. In general these leaders were professional men or tradesmen who belonged to the black middle class and took an active role in black social organizations. In varying degrees they displayed a sense of race pride. During the campaign of 1892, Maurice N. Corbett, a black politician from Caswell County, explained to Thomas Settle that the Negro community could no longer afford to support candidates opposed to "Afro American political equality." Blacks could not quietly follow the GOP when their "brethren" were being lynched with "no howl against it. . . . We have followed blindly the leadership of Mott and Judge Russell," complained Corbett, "and now we find them the worst enemies the negro has had in the state, having used their utmost influence against the appointment of any colored men . . . to positions in the state."

      This was in a July 22, 1892 letter from Corbett to Settle.

      Source: Crow, Jeffrey J. and Durden, Robert Franklin. Maverick Republican in the Old North State: A Political Biography of Daniel L. Russell. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1977.
      _______________

      Dear Mr. Frederick: I found bits and pieces here and there but nothing that substantial. The book I was working on--out in 2011 from UNC Press--took different turns so Corbett comes up but only on a few pages. I suspect there is more to the story if someone were committed to it. His letters to Thomas Settle Jr. are quite remarkable; his book of poems perhaps less so but still interesting. Sincerely, Greg

      ---------- Original Message ----------
      Gregory Downs
      Assistant Professor of History
      The City College of New York

      Did you ever learn more about Maurice Nathaniel Corbett?

      Rick Frederick
      Archivist and Webmaster
      Caswell County Historical Association

  • Sources 
    1. Details: 1900 US Federal Census (District of Columbia).