Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Summer/105/Section 10/Henry Bayamore
|Residence||39 Suia Street, Montgomery, Alabama|
|Occupation||Farmer, Fortuneteller, Healer,|
|Children||Supposedly 2 Daughters (Unproven)|
Overview[edit | edit source]
Henry Bayamore was a fortune originally from Texas. The details of Bayamore's life were retrieved from an interview conducted by journalist Adelaide Rogers sometime within the years 1936-1940. Bayamore lived through four periods of war as well as the great depression without going bankrupt or being drafted once.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Henry Bayamore[edit | edit source]
Uncle Henry Bayamore was a fortuneteller based in Montgomery, Alabama. He was a dark-skinned black man with bright grey eyebrows who wore his natural hair grown out. Bayamore was 74 at the time of the interview 1936-1940 and lived alone in his Montgomery home. He claimed to have two daughters and planned to leave his property and wealth with the oldest. Bayamore had an interest in preaching early in his carrier, but he later found himself not cut-out for the work. Before his success as a fortuneteller, Bayamore lived in Texas and was the floorman (Head worker) on a farm. While working the farm in Texas, Bayamore suggested that a passing “Gipsy Chief” should use roots and herbs to heal his wounded leg.1 The chief was grateful that Bayamore helped him and expressed his gratitude by teaching Bayamore how to fortune tell- This marked the start of Bayamore’s carrier as a fortuneteller.
Fortune Telling[edit | edit source]
Bayamore opened a shop specializing in herbs, fortunetelling and conjuring, soon after departing Texas with the knowledge he had received from the chief. Bayamore used an assortment of good luck powders, crystal balls, and conjuring’s to bring luck or misfortune to the enemies or allies of his customers. Bayamore charged no less than 10 dollars per fortune and averaged a profit of 100 dollars each month in fortunes alone. The powders and herbs were far more popular amongst colored customers. He profited predominately from white customers with fortunetelling and conjuring.
Social & Economic Marketing Strategies[edit | edit source]
Success as a fortuneteller sprang from one’s his ability to understand his/her clientele’s psyche in accordance with their motive for visiting. The knowledge of people and circumstances allowed fortunetellers to profit from various different audiences in a plethora of ways. Bayamore understood this well and targeted specific audiences with different offerings: Widows and young woman would be given fortunes of their future marriages and lifestyles, meanwhile, white men were given advice regarding wealth and prosperity.2
Bayamore was exceptional at sparking hope in hopeless people and making his clients feel like his messages and methods were real. In a time of sorrow and hopelessness, a fortuneteller suddenly becomes one of the only potential glimpses of hope for poverty/sorrow ridden people. People around the world still appreciate and even rely on fortunetellers today. Fortunetellers can be found “in any town or village”3 in Lebanon and a young Lebanese woman goes as far to describe fortunetelling as “a remedy for living in such a politically unpredictable place. [They] find the clues to the future comforting.”4
Bayamore was far more intelligent than his clientele realized. He understood that many of his white customers took him for a joke and believed he was an idiotic black man, nonetheless, Bayamore knew he could profit from their misconceptions. Interviewer Rogers Adelaide described Bayamore as being “particularly adept at evading any query designed to reveal certain past activities of his own.”5 Bayamore would pretend to misunderstand those who interrogated him about his practices while acting clueless; When further pressured, Bayamore would act as if he was disabled and failed to remember the details of his practices or how he executes them.6
Social Issues[edit | edit source]
Stigmas Against Fortunetelling[edit | edit source]
In the 19th and 20th century, Fortunetellers were categorized in the same box as soothsayers, spiritualists, prophets, healers, root workers, conjurers, black magic workers, witches, etc.7 The biases and stigmas against titles within this group varied by each person and city; Some were fearful of Fortunetellers, many were entertained, and there were even people who found the practices to be as practical and essential as spiritual and religious teachings.8
Post war Periods & The Great Depression[edit | edit source]
both the post war periods as well as the great depression brought about people that were more willing and able to express interests in fortunetelling and practices of similar nature. Southern widowhood in post war periods of time created massive changes in the “character and meaning of southern marriage” as well as changes to traditional gender roles.9 Women were less enclosed in their gender roles/norms and were freer to seek their own path. Similarly, there was a “real type of shift in how people captured stories and ideas of what real meant during the great depression.”10 With unemployment rates reaching all time highs and businesses falling apart- everyone had a story to tell and hopes to be fulfilled.
Portrayals of Black People in the 19th & 20th Century[edit | edit source]
African Americans could easily put on facades because it wasn’t uncommon for white people (particularly Northerners) to have misconceptions regarding the intellect and lifestyles of African Americans in the south. African American Cartoonist Jay Paul Jackson drew the cartoon “Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us” in the early 20th century in order to highlight the cruel preconceived notions that white people held of southern African Americans.11 The comic became popular not for its satirical activism, but as a comedy piece that reinforced the offensive opinions of racists. Black people often had to master a double consciousness where they understood when to display their intellect and when to act in accordance with how white people perceived them.
References[edit | edit source]
Henry Bayamore, interviewed by Rogers Adelaide, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Southern Historical Collection, series 1, folder 72, UNC Libraries.
Ruth Sherlock, “Fortunetelling Is A Sort Of Therapy For Stressed-Out Lebanese,” NPR, (October 2, 2018).
 Henry Bayamore, interviewed by Rogers Adelaide, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Southern Historical Collection, series 1, folder 72, UNC Libraries.
“Fortune Tellers in Kentucky, Early 1900s,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database. (May 5, 2020)
 David Hacker, Libra Hilde, James Jones, “The Effect of the Civil War on Southern Marriage Patterns,” Southern Historical Association Vol. 76, No 1. (February 2010): pp. 39-70
 Courtney Rivard, “Stories, Crisis, + Survival,” Southern Futures.
Kim Gallon, “Black Migrant Women and Sexual pleasure during the Great Depression,” The journal of African American History 105, no. 3 (Summer 2020).
Work Cited[edit | edit source]
Bayamore Henry, interviewed by Adelaide Rogers, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Southern Historical Collection, series 1, folder 72, UNC Libraries.
https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/03709/id/891/rec/1 (Accessed July 14, 2021).
“Fortune Tellers in Kentucky, Early 1900s,” Notable Kentucky African American database. (May 29, 2020):
https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/300004099 (Accessed July 14, 2021)
Gallon Kim, “Black Migrant Women and Sexual pleasure during the Great Depression.” The Journal of African American History 105, no. 3 (Summer 2020):
uchicago-edu.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/doi/full/10.1086/709025#_i3 (Accessed July 14, 2021).
Hecker David, Hilde Libra, Jones James, “The Effect of the Civil War on Southern Marriage Patterns.” Southern Historical Association 76, No 1. (February 2010): 39-70.
https://www-jstor-org.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/stable/pdf/27779204.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Aab9fa90cb6adc07969952ad59fe08627 (Accessed July 14, 2021).
Rivard Courtney, “Stories, Crisis, + Survival,” Southern Futures.
https://southernfutures.unc.edu/courtney-rivard/ (Accessed July 14, 2021).
Sherlock Ruth, “Fortunetelling Is A Sort Of Therapy For Stressed-Out Lebanese,” NPR, (October 2, 2018):
https://www-proquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/docview/2115467647 (Accessed July 14, 2021).