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Blake Wintory

physician, drug store owner, and investor, was born Napoleon Bonaparte Houser near Gastonia, in Gaston County, North Carolina, the son of William H. Houser, a brick mason and contractor, and Fannie Houser, a housekeeper. The elder Houser's $600 in real estate and $200 in personal property, according to the 1870 U.S. census, made him one of the wealthiest black businessmen in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area. The young Houser attended Charlotte public schools and worked as a farmhand on his father's farm from the age of nine until fourteen. At fourteen he began to work at his father's brick factory, and at age sixteen became his father's personal secretary.

In 1881 Houser entered the Presbyterian-affiliated Biddle University in Charlotte, and in 1887 attended the Leonard Medical School at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. After finishing medical school in 1891 he received his medical ...


John Stauffer

Among the most renowned American abolitionists, Gerrit Smith devoted his life and most of his great wealth to the cause of equal rights for all men and women. The immediate abolition of every sin was his most passionate desire, and he went to great lengths to effect it.

Smith was born into one of the wealthiest families in the country and grew up in the rural village of Peterboro in Madison County, part of the Burned-Over District of western New York. The young patrician had visions of becoming a man of letters, an eminent lawyer, a respected minister, or a statesman. However, immediately after graduating as valedictorian from Hamilton College in 1818 a series of incidents occurred that precipitated his turn to reform work the death of his mother the death of his new bride and the retirement of his father who requested that Gerrit manage his vast ...


Loren Schweninger

James P. Thomas was born in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. He was the son of Judge John Catron, one of the justices in Dred Scott v. Sandford case involving the constitutional rights of slaves, and a black slave named Sally. While Catron neglected his son, Sally earned enough money as a cleaning woman to purchase Thomas's freedom in 1834. Under Tennessee law, however, he was a slave as long as he remained in the state. He performed chores for his mother, mastered the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic in a drafty one-room school, and became an apprentice in 1841 in the barbershop of another slave, Frank Parrish. In 1846 he opened his own shop in the house where he was born while his mother still operated a laundry Located at 10 Deaderick Street within a few blocks of several banking houses the courthouse and ...


Julie Winch

entrepreneur and adventurer, was born into slavery in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of a slave, Sally Thomas, and a prominent white jurist, John Catron. Catron, who ended his career as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, did nothing for his son. It was left to Sally Thomas to free him. By taking in laundry she scraped together $350 of the four hundred dollars demanded for his freedom. A sympathetic planter, Ephraim Foster, who knew of her fear that her spendthrift master would sell Thomas, lent her the balance. She repaid him, but in order to circumvent Tennessee law, which required newly manumitted slaves to leave the state or forfeit their freedom, Foster agreed to retain legal ownership of Thomas. Foster made it clear, however, that he did not consider Thomas his property.

As a child Thomas helped his mother in her laundry and attended a school for ...