Women and Labor Movements

African-American Businesswomen in North Carolina, 1830s-1980s

Josephine Leary

The Josephine Napoleon Leary Papers (1873-1988) are the personal and business papers of Josephine Napoleon Leary, a woman born into slavery in Williamston, North Carolina around 1856 and freed at age 9. She acquired six properties in Edenton, North Carolina by 1881 in the “Cheapside” historic district, although her investments were destroyed in a fire in 1893. Financial papers, which contains bills and receipts, highlight her extensive involvement in her own barber business and the management of her properties. Correspondence includes letters between Leary and her daughter, husband and son on business matters and letters from lawyers. This collection has been digitized, and the documents and photographs may be viewed through the collection guide.


Clydie Scarborough was a manager of Scarborough Nursery School and a community activist in civic, religious, social organizations of Durham, N.C. The Clydie F. Scarborough Papers (1918-1984) document her family and professional life through correspondence, financial and legal papers, and writings and speeches. The collection includes many photographs of the African American children and teachers from the Scarborough Nursery School. Her work with the North Carolina Day Care Association and the United Fund Agency and other non-profit organizations is also represented.

Fannie B. Rosser was a native of Lynchburg, Virginia, born into a relatively affluent family. She moved to Durham, N.C. to work at the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company for thirty-two years. Correspondences in the Fannie B. Rosser Papers (circa 1860s-1973, 2012, bulk 1920s-1973) up to the 1950s highlight Rosser’s business ventures, maintenance of her property, personal loans made to family and friends, and her investments in government stocks and bonds. They often illustrate the personal nature of her business dealings and her financial acumen. Letters from her lifelong friend and business partner, Virginia Randolf, document the process of maintaining Rosser's rental property over the course of thirty years.

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