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Rochell Isaac

pastor, educator, and entrepreneur, was born a slave in Christian Country, Kentucky. Clark never knew his biological father. While Clark was still a baby, his father escaped from slavery. His mother, Mary Clark, subsequently married Jerry Clark, who would join the Union army in 1860. Charles Henry Clark remained a slave for a total of nine years, and it was at the age of seven that the overseer's wife took him as her servant. She taught Clark to spell and initiated his path to literacy, but the outbreak of the Civil War would separate Clark from his teacher. During this period, Clark's mother moved from Kentucky to New Providence, Tennessee, to await her husband, Jerry Clark, who was returning from the army. Mary Clark had difficulty financially supporting her family, since her only income at this time came from her eldest son, George W. Clark As ...

Article

Connor Killian

social reformer, teacher, and businessman, was born a slave in Durham, North Carolina, to George Pearson and Cynthia Pearson (maiden name unknown). By the time he was old enough to attend school, the Civil War was over and the slaves had been freed. Pearson attended public school six months out of the year, and taught himself in his free time.

When Pearson was twenty-one, he enrolled in Shaw University, a historically black university in Raleigh, North Carolina, and earned a B.S. in 1886 and an honorary M.A. in 1890. While there he joined the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, even earning “The Laurel Leaf,” a national award within the fraternity in appreciation of his “[contributing] to the fraternity every possible favor.” Pearson also won the Orator's medal at Shaw in 1883 He was later awarded an honorary Ph D from Kittrell College in North Carolina ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

businessman, teacher, banker, philanthropist, and state legislator, was born in Craven County, North Carolina, the son of Thomas and Harriet Smith. His birth status is uncertain; he may have been born a slave, but was educated at an early age by a benevolent white family, who helped arrange for him to attend the private Saint Augustine's College in Raleigh, North Carolina, after the Civil War.

Smith began his career as a schoolteacher in New Bern, the Craven County seat, but his relentless energy and business acumen soon propelled him into the world of residential and commercial real estate, in which he accumulated a substantial personal fortune. By the time of his death, his worth was estimated to exceed $100,000, much of it in land, buildings, and stores he owned in the so-called Smithtown section of New Bern.

Smith began buying selling and renting these ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, businessman, banker, Republican Party activist, and longtime U.S. postmaster of Wilson, North Carolina, was born a slave near Castalia in Nash County, North Carolina, during the Civil War. The oldest son of five children born to carpenter Daniel Vick and Fannie (Blount) Vick, Samuel received his early education at Wilson Academy in Wilson, where the Vick family moved shortly after the war's end in 1865.

A gifted student, Vick excelled at his studies, and in 1880 he was admitted to Lincoln University (then the Ashmun Institute, after Jehudi Ashmun, leader of 1820s Liberia) in Pennsylvania, from which he received both a bachelor's and a master's degree in 1884 While his father helped finance his education Vick insisted on paying as much of his own expenses as possible by teaching school during summer vacations His philosophy of pragmatic independence guided his life thereafter ...

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Donald Yacovone

educator, reformer, abolitionist, and businessman, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of ten children of Elizabeth Miller White, a seamstress, and Jacob Clement White Sr. (1806–1872). His father, a prominent abolitionist, barber, dentist, free produce storekeeper, and successful businessman, became one of the city's wealthiest African Americans. He invested in real estate in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and became president of the Benezet Joint Stock Association and owner of Mount Lebanon Cemetery, the foundation of the family's wealth. White's father was greatly respected by the city's black community and became active in the Moral Reform Society and executive secretary of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee—his wife founded a female auxiliary to help raise funds for the committee. Jacob Jr. regularly saw his parents assist fugitive slaves, many passing through his Philadelphia home.

White grew up a prominent member of the city s black elite groomed ...

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Donald Yacovone

abolitionist leader, educator, boot maker, and freedman's bank administrator, was born near Shrewsbury on the New Jersey coast where his family operated an oyster boat. In the late 1830s Shrewsbury, located near the Revolutionary War battlefield at Red Bank, had a total population of 5,166, with 441 free blacks and twenty-five slaves. Wilson had attended a small common school that had white and black students, but nothing else is known about his life until he moved to New York City, probably in 1837, and opened a boot-making shop. The same year that he began advertising his shop, he married Mary Ann Garret Marshall, a black New Yorker.

Shortly after moving to New York, Wilson became involved in the fight for black suffrage and remained at the head of the effort until the 1860s. In 1837 he began serving on a black suffrage ward committee and ...