Jim Solomon

The recording and preservation of death records became more consistent in Sumter County midway through the pandemic. Perhaps this public health measure was a response to the wave of illness to hit the county, the country, and the world. Whereas only one death record exists for Sumter County in 1918, there are more than forty influenza-related death certificates for January, February, and March 1919. Jim Solomon (also spelled Sollomon), a fifteen-year-old African American child, was one of these victims.

Jim Solomon, death certificate, Georgia Archives.

Jim Solomon was born in Sumter County, Georgia on December 29, 1903 to Willis and Fannie (Edwards) Solomon. His family had lived in Southwest Georgia for at least a generation. His father came from Terrell County and his mother from Lee County. Both parents had been enslaved as children and became free during the U.S. Civil War. By 1910, a large extended family rented a home as sharecroppers in the southwestern part of Sumter County near Plains. Jim Solomon was the second-youngest child in a household of seven children. Their economic position was perilous under the exploitative system of sharecropping. All of the children over the age of eleven were wage laborers. Only sixteen-year-old Emma Solomon had attended school in the last year. She was the only one in the family who could both read and write. Ten years later, Willis and Fanny Solomon still lived in the district, but only of their children still lived with the parents. At least one, Jim, had died of influenza the year before.

Sharecroppers like the Solomons did not have access to the same healthcare as whites or even the Black middle class. Still, according to his death certificate, a physician in Plains did attend to the fifteen-year-old child on January 8, 1919. The physician saw Solomon again the next day and recoded his death on January 10. Undertaker Ross Dean buried Solomon at Bethlehem Cemetery near Plains, Georgia, two days later.