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40 Newspaper Titles, Blind Boy Fuller on DigitalNC

Headmast from the May 25, 1887 issue of Winston's The Friend of Home

This week we have another 40 newspaper titles and thousands of issues up on DigitalNC, including over 1,000 issues from The Messenger and Intelligencer from Wadesboro, the birthplace of Piedmont blues musician Blind Boy Fuller (read a brief biography about Fuller here). In this post we have some interesting new information regarding the blues legend’s birth!

Blind Boy Fuller dressed in a suit and hat, looking to the right, sitting on a bench holding a guitar.

Via John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (PF-20001), Southern Folklife Collection, Wilson Library

Blind Boy Fuller was born Fulton Allen to parents Calvin Allen and Mary Jane Walker in Wadesboro, North Carolina, but the actual date of his birth is very much up for debate. The date of July 10 seems to be generally agreed upon, but the actual year tends to differ. While there are some sources that put it at 1904, folklorist Bruce Bastin puts Allen’s date of birth at July 10, 1907 based on statements from the North Carolina State Commission for the Blind, the Social Security Board, and the Durham County Welfare records. However, his 1941 death certificate states that he was 32 years old when he died, putting the year of his birth at 1908.

Newspaper notice that reads: Forbidden to Harbor. My son, Fulton Allen, left my home on Friday night, July 22nd. He is barely 16. All persons are hereby forbidden to hire him, to feed or clothe him, or in any way to harbor him or give him help. This notice is given and those who do not heed it will be duly prosecuted. CALVIN ALLEN, Colored

Rockingham Post-Dispatch, July 28, 1921

What we found makes things a little interesting. After the family relocated to Rockingham sometime in the early 1900s, his father posted a notice in the July 28, 1921 issue of the Rockingham Post-Dispatch that would suggest that none of these are accurate. The notice supports the idea of a July birthday but implies that, being 16 years old, he would have actually been born in 1905.

Bruce Bastin is the author of Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast and Early Masters of American Blues Guitar: Blind Boy Fuller with Stefan Grossman. The Bruce Bastin and Stefan Grossman Collections are housed here at UNC as part of the Southern Folklife Collection.

Over the next year, we’ll be adding millions of newspaper images to DigitalNC. These images were originally digitized a number of years ago in a partnership with Newspapers.com. That project focused on scanning microfilmed papers published before 1923 held by the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Special Collections Library. While you can currently search all of those pre-1923 issues on Newspapers.com, over the next year we will also make them available in our newspaper database as well. This will allow you to search that content alongside the 2 million pages already on our site – all completely open access and free to use.

This week’s additions include:

Charlotte

Edenton

Greensboro

High Point

Lexington

Milton

New Bern

Raleigh

Rocky Mount

Salem

Salisbury

Wadesboro

Wilmington

Winston

Winston-Salem

If you want to see all of the newspapers we have available on DigitalNC, you can find them here. Thanks to UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries for permission to and support for adding all of this content as well as the content to come. We also thank the North Caroliniana Society for providing funding to support staff working on this project.

 


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This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features the latest news and highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from organizations across North Carolina.

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