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Part of the Oral History of Agriculture in Edgecombe County Project. Solomon Douglas, Sr., of Battleboro, is a life-long sharecropper. An African American, he was born in 1917 in Halifax County. He had to stop his schooling in the fifth grade to help his mother on the farm. As a child he attended the End Street Baptist Church in Halifax County, then became a member of New Hope Baptist Church in Edgecombe County, where he remains active. He was his mother’s only son, and has three sisters. Except for one year in which he worked as a planer at a saw mill and lived with a friend, Douglas has spent all his life farming as a sharecropper with his family on various owners’ farms. As a boy he worked three days a week and went to school two days a week, but eventually fell so far behind that he quit at age nine to do farmwork full time. He has been married twice: his first wife died within the first year of his marriage, and he subsequently married his current wife and had ten children. All his children finished high school and three finished college. He and his wife have 17 grandchildren. For some years his mother lived with them. Douglas and his family were first tenants on the farm of Dr. J. A. White. In later years they went to live and work on the farms of Frank Hardy, Dan Howard, and R. R. Burk. He went to work on Mr. Burk’s land in 1945 and has stayed there ever since. He speaks very highly of Mr. Burk. Everywhere he has farmed he’s grown cotton, tobacco, corn, peanuts, and soybeans, and estimates that the Burk farm consists of about 500 acres of cotton, 300 acres of peanuts, 300 acres of corn, 200 acres of soybeans, and 75-78 acres of tobacco. In recent years, as he’s aged and his health has failed, Douglas has switched to hourly employment for Mr. Burk, driving an air-conditioned closed-cab tractor and supervising other farm workers. Details he goes into include the mechanics of plowing, cultivating, sowing, and the equipment involved; how years ago he continued plowing a field, behind a mule, during what was probably a hurricane; a terrible gas fire accident in which he nearly died and for which he had to spend seven weeks in the hospital; the number and type of machines, vehicles, and other agricultural equipment on the Burk farm; and the good fellowship and community-improvement activities of his church-related social group the Dunbar Community Club.

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