(by Student #15 AMH2010 1115)
My first document was from the California Prison and Correctional Records of 1851-1950. The document is for inmate Valena DeVaughn. It includes a mugshot of her, so I can see she is young, has brown skin, and short hair. I thought this file was interesting because she is only 19 years old but convicted of manslaughter which is a serious crime. She was received by the prison on April 25, 1928. The document states Valena DeVaughn is “dark” and “Negress” which is written in red ink. I hope to find out why she was charged for this crime and more about her background. Based on the time she lived in, I predict the charge was for performing an at-home abortion.
The next document I found, easily, after searching “Valena DeVaughn” on Ancestry.com. The Oakland California city directory of 1928 had DeVaughn’s address and occupation listed. Devaughn must’ve been a barber because the information matched in the first document (prison records, stated above) and the city directory. Her address was “1202 Adeline”. At this point I wondered if it Adeline was a street or avenue. More interestingly, I wondered if the home still existed.
So, I used Google Maps to search “1202 Adeline Street” and found the building in Figure 1. I think it is a “street” rather than an avenue, road or way because I searched those, as well, and they either did not exist or were in a different state. The address looks to be a modernly constructed, big house. I do not think it could be the exact house Devaughn lived in unless it’s been upkept or rebuilt and painted.
The next piece I discovered was Valena’s California State Prison Identification (ID) card from California Prison and Correcti6onal Records of 1851-1950 on Ancestry.com. Her ID card had mostly the same information as the first document: she was a barber from Alameda and convicted of manslaughter. Other matching data included her description. She was 5’1 and 135lbs. On the ID card, next to “build” it said, “small”. This data makes me wonder about her manslaughter conviction. If she killed someone it’s likely it was not someone big because that would be more difficult for her size. I saw “Negress” written in red ink; just like the first document it had all the data in black ink expect that word in red. I wondered if it was added at a different time or in red to stand out. A new piece of information was her sentencing of zero to ten years and that she had no previous record.
In the California Prison and Correctional Records of 1851-1950 on Ancestry, I found the Prison Registers of 1927-1930. It has all the same information that I found in the previous documents. A new addition, however, was Valena’s Nativity: Louisiana.
The next document I found on Ancestry.com was the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. This part of the census list those in San Quentin Prison. They are all female so it’s a women’s prison, I assume. It is also 1930 in this document so Valena has already been in prison two years. Under occupation it now says ironer, so she must’ve ironed clothes during some of her sentence. The census also states Valena can read and write but did not attend school. As well, her status is divorced!
After that, I found Valena’s voter registration card. I found it on Ancestry.com in the California Voter Registrations of 1900-1968. The data on this card confirmed that she lived on 1202 Adeline Street during 1926. She was part of the republican party. As well, it says “Mrs” in front of her name which also makes me think she was married.
After rummaging through more documents, I found another U.S. City (California) Directory on Ancestry but for the year 1925. Right next to her name it says, “Oscar W.” and above her name it says, “DeVaughn Mabel Mrs”. I’m not sure who Mabel or Oscar are until I see “Oscar W. DeVaughn” listed as her spouse. This information connects to the “Mrs.” In front of her name in the previous document. So, she was married but in the 1930 census it said she was divorced. I wonder how long she was married. Why did Oscar and Valena get divorced?
I then found Oscar W. DeVaughn’s voter registration card from 1924 on Ancestry. It has an address listed: 1608 7th street. To the right it reads, “physician”. Maybe this address is his residence or the location for his physician’s office. Mr. DeVaughn was also republican.
More intriguing, I found an additional marriage record for an Oscar Wilson Devaughn. I found it on Ancestry in the Index to Marriage Licenses and Certificates, Vol. 34. It is listed as his 2nd marriage which would make sense if Valena was his first marriage. Oscar and his new bride were married in Oakland May 29th of 1927. His new wife’s name is Eugenia Richmond Kennedy. Valena went to prison in 1928—after her ex-husband was already remarried to Eugenia. However, Valena still has his last name. I wonder why they got divorced if she was not in prison, yet.
I then searched Eugenia Richmond Kennedy on Ancestry and found her Voter’s Card (California Voter Registrations 1922). She was registered to vote in Alameda like Valena and Oscar. Mrs. Eugenia was Republican. Under occupation she has “none” listed. Other women on the same list near her name have “housewife” but she just has “none”. This was before she was married to Oscar as it was 1922 (she was married in 1927) so that is likely why she has no occupation, yet. Her mother’s name is Hannah Rose Borough and her father is George Kennedy.
Next, I found Eugenia Richmond Kennedy in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census which provided more details on her. She was black, was born around 1893 in South Carolina. Her parents were also from South Carolina. During this time (1920), she was single and living with William Kennedy and his wife. The other five people were listed as lodgers in their home, on eight street. Like Valena, Eugenia could read and write.
I searched Oscar, Valena’s ex-husband, again on Ancestry to see if I could find more of his documents or their marriage license. Instead, I found him in the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index for 1936-2007. I affirm this is the same Oscar Wilson DeVaughn as the previous documents because the full name, race, birth year and birth place match. The new information uncovered was his social security number and his parents’ names. His mother was Mary J. Swanson and his Father was Sandie DeVaughn. I cannot find any license or record that Valena and Oscar were officially married. I assume they just considered each other spouses when during the time they were together. They must have because her status was “divorced” in the 1930 Census.
I also found Oscar’s World War II Draft Registration Card on Ancestry. It was from 1942 when he was 59 years old. He still lived in Oakland California by this time.
I found another marriage record for Oscar DeVaughn, but his wife is neither Eugenia nor Valena in this document. The marriage date was December 31, 1920 with Lily M. Willis. The birth year was a little off for Oscar in this document. It was 1888 while most of his other documents say 1883-85. But, all the other information, like birthplace, matched. If this is the same Oscar DeVaughn, he was married to Lilly then Valena then Eugenia within about 7 years.
I then looked on Ancestry for the 1920 U.S. Federal Census and it also said “Lily DeVaughn” was his spouse. He was black and lived in California. He was born in Georgia and his occupation said physician. Differently again his birth year was 1886 so I guess it’s just a little off. I think it might be off because the census was in 1920 and it only list age (not exact birthdate) so whomever just subtracted his age from the year to result in 1886. The census said Lily’s race was black and she was from Georgia. She was born around 1894 and could read and write.
I then found Mrs. Lily DeVaughn’s Voter Registration on Ancestry from 1920-1926. She was republican, too. Her occupation was teaching.
After searching for Lily more, I found a Lily Willis born in Georgia, in the U.S. 1900 Federal Census. Her race was black, and she was only ten years old at the time which adds up if she got married to Oscar in 1920. Her household consisted of her parents Addie and Simon Willis and her six siblings.
One of the last documents I found was the 1940 U.S. Census for Mr. Oscar Devaughn. This document showed me that Eugenia was still his wife. He was 55 years old and she was 51, now. The couple has four roomers living with them.
Oscar Wilson DeVaughn died in Alameda on June 11th, 1942 (California Death Index, Ancestry).
I think Valena DeVaughn was convicted for manslaughter for performing an abortion at home before Roe vs Wade. She was no longer married to her husband Oscar DeVaughn in 1928 when she committed the crime. So, maybe someone else, possibly an unwanted person, got her pregnant and/or she did not want the baby while unmarried. She also had a small build, so it might be difficult for her to commit manslaughter on an adult that would likely be bigger. All three in the love entanglement I found (Valena, Oscar, Eugenia and Lily) were black and republican. This fits into historical context because the republican party at that time supported black people, an example being Abraham Lincoln. This was before the so-called party switch. Both women have voter’s cards which fits because it is after 1920 which was when the 19th amendment was passed which allowed women to vote. The 15th amendment prevented denying voting rights based on race but that only meant black men not women. Another part of history that might be shown by these four people was slavery. Each of their birthplaces and most of their parents’ birthplaces were from the south, such as Georgia or Louisiana. The south was slavery heavy due to the type of work needed and economy that the south thrived on at the time. Thus, their ancestors could’ve been slaves. Although, Valena could read and write she did not attend school, at least it did not say so in any of her documents on ancestry. In historical context, she probably did not attend school because she was a black. She could go to school, but it was not until 1954 in the Brown V. Board of Education case that school segregation was stopped. Unfortunately, I did not find out as much about Valena as Oscar. He was married 3 times and a War veteran, so he had more documentation. Many men were drafted during World War II, so it is not surprising that Oscar was drafted although he was about 50 years old already. Only 1 of his 3 wives had a job. Lily who had a job was a teacher. Both circumstances were common for this era. Modernly many women want to have a career but in Valena’s days it was more common to stay home or have a pink-collar job. Two of the Censuses I found 9 (one from 1920 and one from 1940) revealed that households had “lodgers” or “roomers”. These were people that did not have to be related to the family but rented rooms. This was also fairly common in the late 1800s to early 1900’s. During the great depression in the 1930’s many people lodged because it was more affordable than having your own place. As well, it was a way for families to make money.
In conclusion, I started with Valena DeVaughn’s prison record. That took me to find her and two other women who all shared a last name from the same man, Oscar DeVaughn. It seemed they were each the man’s spouse at different times. I did not find out exactly what happened with Valena’s charge. I just know that she ironed during her time in prison for manslaughter. I discovered some of the parents and siblings of the wives and Mr. Devaughn. The man of the era, Oscar, was also a World War II veteran.
My research has showed me that we all live through history. Although we do not realize it during our lifetime when we look back we’ve all experienced important events in history. For Valena she lived through Jim Crow laws, Brown V. Board of Education, the Great Depression and possibly up to World War II.