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The Fabled Doctor Jim Jordan

A Story of Conjure

 By F. Roy Johnson




But James Spurgeon (Jim) Jordan, one of the more successful conjure doctors of the past century, said he never joined forces with “Ole Satan;” instead, “walked beside de Lord” rendering help to people in the measure needed.

This man gained nationwide repute among conjure clientele; spent his entire life in Maney’s Neck Township, Hertford Country, North Carolina . . . 90 years . . .  June 3, 1871, to January 28, 1962.

His life may never be quite duplicated; no one, develop so great a depth of conjure understanding. For it was a growth from vivid experiences by intimate contact with people of the Old South and the area’s transition to greater educational, social and economic maturity.

While he possessed a kind disposition masses of people of his Como village-community and neighboring areas, seemingly harboring dark fear of the mysterious workings of the spirit world, would not abandon suspicion he abstained completely from black magic. They insisted he at times had crossed up folks the same as the Devil and witches. more bio 

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Racism: A History, the 2007 BBC 3-part documentary explores the impact of racism on a global scale. It was part of the season of programs on the BBC marking the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. It’s divided into 3 parts.

The first, The Colour of Money . . . Racism: A History [2007]—1/3

Begins the series by assessing the implications of the relationship between Europe, Africa and the Americas in the 15th century. It considers how racist ideas and practices developed in key religious and secular institutions, and how they showed up in writings by European philosophers Aristotle and Immanuel Kant.

The second, Fatal Impact . . . Racism: A History [2007] – 2/3

Examines the idea of scientific racism, an ideology invented during the 19th century that drew on now discredited practices such as phrenology and provided an ideological justification for racism and slavery. The episode shows how these theories ultimately led to eugenics and Nazi racial policies of the master race.

And the 3rd, A Savage Legacy . . .  Racism: A History [2007] – 3/3

Examines the impact of racism in the 20th century. By 1900 European colonial expansion had reached deep into the heart of Africa. Under the rule of King Leopold II, the Belgian Congo was turned into a vast rubber plantation. Men, women and children who failed to gather their latex quotas would have their limbs dismembered. The country became the scene of one of the century’s greatest racial genocides, as an estimated 10 million Africans perished under colonial rule.


Table of Contents

From the Shadows————————————————————————— 1

Conjure in the Old South———————————————————————- 8

Slave Parents———————————————————————————10

Enlightenment Trail Begins——————————————————————–17

Enemy of El Ole Satan Rises—————————————————————– 19

Conjureman – Churchman——————————————————————–33

Herb Remedies—————————————————————————- 36

Early Manhood —————————————————————————- 41

Hard Twenty Years ————————————————————————44

Full Time Practice —————————————————————————————-54

Moves on Highway————————————————————————-58

Favorable Image—————————————————————————– 67

Investigated———————————————————————————- 79

Straighten Folks With the Law—————————————————————-81

No Problems too Difficult——————————————————————– 85

Mends Broken Marriages——————————————————————– 95

Conjure Miracles————————————————————————- 102

Goofer Practice —————————————————————————110

Credited With Crossing  ——————————————————————–114

Farmer – Businessman —————————————————————— 117

Doctor’s Eagles Play Ball——————————————————————- 121

Weakness With Strength —————————————————————–125

The Angels Come—————————————————————————130

Reflections———————————————————————————  134

Supplemental Sources———————————————————————- 136


Why was Doctor James Spurgeon Jordan an extraordinary success in conjure practice? You should have a rather clear idea at this point.

In review—More than a quarter of a century this question stood in the fore among people of his native Hertford County. Most of the answers were vague and unsatisfactory. Imaginations often illuminated the uncertainties and made him a much storied and fabled man.

The parade of people to his door and the large flow of money through his hands stood out prominently as a spectacular result of his power without revealing the fullness of its reason.

So when the weather wasn’t too dry or wet, hot or cold; the crops not thirsting or drowning; or daily events too attention compelling, one could always strike up a conversation on Doctor Jordan and hedge towards the answer in a contest as exciting as a good game of checkers at a country store.

Dr. L. M. Futrell of Murfreesboro, the conjure doctor’s personal physician over forty years, explains accurately yet in a general way, “Jim was a man with a strong mind” capable of setting minds of some people straight.

To be sure, Doctor Jordan’s strong mind set him apart from the ordinary conjure doctor; but that was not all. While long years of experience made him sensitive to the patient’s physical distress and relief need the same as other diagnosticians, the achievement that added stature was attainment of extraordinary understanding of stresses that disturb a person’s spiritual life. He came to know the elusive “inner soul,” its longing, fears and cares … of the Negro race in particular, white people almost as well.

The doctor strengthened his image of greatness by standing the public at bay with suspense. One of his many admirers was afraid “he mought know something I don’t.”

His understanding came slowly and was born of hard travail. He was past fifty years of age before he began to attain success in his profession.

Personal and cultural backgrounds were favorable. He had intelligent ex-slave parents and was exposed to ante-bellum folk lore while it was still fearfully realistic. As a young man he lived recklessly and then settled down to raising a big hungry-family by hard physical labor. Conjure relatives acquainted him with their art while we was obtaining wisdom that only “belonging to” and long years of experience teach.

Although he eventually prospered and spent money lavishly he was not basically mercenary. He had learned to win a living by hard work. He was capable of empathy for his patients, and medical doctors confirm he was conscientious in his practice.

Some of his more remarkable faith healing cases indicate he reached his patient’s mind by exercising compassion to console his disturbed spirit. He knew how to administer solace when he heard sick hearts cry.

Some cases required his skill at treating with root and herb remedies and patent medicines. He proved his high ethics by recommending appropriate treatment to those he could not help.

Another conjure man may never be quite like him. The physical and cultural forces that gave him strength were dying long before his death.

Appreciation is extended to the many people who contributed to Doctor Jordan’s story. They have revealed that folk lore continues to be born where there is a mystery that resists solution. Also they made possible inclusion of some of the customs and beliefs that unquestionably helped shape the doctor’s life.

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Supplemental Sources


An Account of the Inhabitants and Commodities in Virginia, 1587—Thomas Hariot.

Lawson’s History of North Carolina—John Lawson.

Moore’s History of Hertford County—John Wheeler Moore.

The Colonial and State Political History of Hertford County, N.C.—Benj. B. Winborne.

Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro—N. N. Puckett.

Negro Folk Rhymes—T. W. Talley.

The Negro in Africa and America—A. J. Tillinghast.

Slave Songs of the United States—W. F. Allen.

Uncle Remus—J. C. Harris.

Social History of the American Negro—B. Brawley.

Tales from Guilford County, N.C.—E. C. Parsons.

Folk Lore of the Southern States—T. P. Cross.

The Book of Witches—O. M. Heuffer.

The Albemarle Enquirer, 1877–78.

The Patron and Gleaner.

The Roanoke-Chowan Times.

The Hertford County Herald.

The Daily Roanoke-Chowan News.

The Raleigh Times.

The News and Observer.

The Norfolk Virginian Pilot.

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Source: F. Roy Johnson • The Fabled Doctor Jim Jordan • © Copyright 1963 •Johnson Publishing Co.• Murfreesboro, N. C.

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You might check out the work of F. Roy Johnson (1902-1988), an amateur historian and folklorist from Murfreesboro, N.C. He gathered stories from residents of Tidewater Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. His self-published books include The Tuscaroras, Vols. 1 and 2; Tales from Old Carolina; Legends and Myths of North Carolina’s Roanoke-Chowan Area; The Fabled Doctor Jim Jordan; and The Nat Turner Story. His papers and some tape-recorded interviews are available at the North Carolina State Archives. Scot French University of Virginia


Johnson, F. Roy. The Fabled Dr. Jim Jordan, A Story of Conjure. Johnson Publishing Co., 1963; revised ed. 1968. [Note: Author was a European-American small-town journalist who wrote and published books about the South, including several on Native American and African-American culture (he published the Bernice Harris book cited above, for instance); this book is in essence a lengthy obituary for the locally famed African-American root doctor Jim  Jordan of Como, North Carolina (practicing circa 1905-1962), it contains contributions from his family members, several of whom were also professional root workers; it includes the family’s herb lists, as well as a list of occult books Jim Jordan owned, consulted, and sold in the general store / conjure shop he operated from 1927-1962.]


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Related files:

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Conjuring & Doctoring

Death and Dying in the African Context 

Doubting Thomas 

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posted 14 May 2006

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

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From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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updated 23 June 2008