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Roland Barksdale-Hall

inventor, was born in Jefferson County, Alabama, the son of Milton Beard and Creasey Tatum, both former slaves on the Beard family plantation. He adopted the name of his former master at age fifteen after he was liberated by Union forces. A year later, he married Edie Beard, about whom nothing else is known. The couple raised three children: John, Jack, and Andrew Jr.; the latter died following graduation from high school. Like most former slaves, however, Beard was illiterate and remained so throughout his life.

After the Civil War, Beard worked as a sharecropper on his former master's farm until he was about eighteen years old and then moved to St. Clair County, Alabama. In 1872 he made a three week journey from Birmingham to Montgomery on an oxcart that carried fifty bushels of apples which he sold for approximately two hundred dollars He eventually ...

Article

John N. Ingham

businessman, banker, and real estate investor, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Robert Binga Jr., a barber, and Adelphia Powers, a builder and real estate owner. Nearly all sources cite William W. Binga as Jesse Binga's father, but all are based on a December 1927 article by Inez V. Cantley in Crisis, which may not be reliable. A family member, Anthony J. Binga Sr., after conducting research in the census records from the Courts of Records of the Dominion of Canada, claimed that Jesse Binga's father was Robert Binga Jr.Who's Who in Colored America (1928–1929) also names Robert Binga as Jesse Binga's father.

The Binga family owned and managed real estate properties and according to a number of sources it was Adelphia Binga who possessed most of the family s business acumen As a youngster Jesse helped his mother collect rents on ...

Article

Donald Yacovone

abolitionist and businessman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to John and Mary Coburn. Nothing is known about his upbringing and little about his parents and family. During the 1820s Coburn labored as a housewright and by 1830 had established a clothing business, probably with his white father, on Brattle Street. He married Emeline Gray, a New Hampshire native, and joined with his brother-in-law Ira S. Gray, a well-known light-skinned gambler, to establish a successful gaming parlor. Coburn remained in the clothing business into the mid 1860s, when he changed the name of his company to W. T. Coburn Clothing Store, after his adopted son, Wendell T. By the early 1850s he had acquired substantial real estate holdings in the city—with one house worth four thousand dollars and another valued at three thousand dollars—and possessed one thousand dollars of personal property.

As one of the most successful African Americans ...

Article

Maria Elena Raymond

, Underground Railroad conductor, barber, and businessman, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, the son of a Mr. Darington (given name unknown), a slaveholder and plantation owner, and Phoebe (surname unknown), one of Darington's slaves. Called “Barney” at birth, he adopted the name Barney Launcelot Ford as an adult to please his soon-to-be wife and to provide himself with a “complete” name.

Ford spent the first quarter-century of his life enslaved. His mother is said to have planted the seeds of education in him as a child by secreting him out of camp at night to meet with sympathetic people who taught him the basics of reading and writing. She may have put herself in mortal danger on many occasions by smuggling in a section of newspaper or a Bible page so that he could practice his studies. Upon his mother's death around 1837 Ford was enslaved on a ...

Article

Andrew W. Kahrl

real estate developer, general contractor, philanthropist, and shipping and excursion steamboat owner, was born in Orange, Virginia.

Jefferson spent his youth in Washington, D.C. In 1881, at the age of fifteen, Jefferson enlisted in the Navy after falsifying his age. He traveled around the world working as a coal heaver. During his service, Jefferson secured connections with wealthy, influential whites, including Canadian shipping magnate Sir Hugh Allen, from whom Jefferson received a significant bequest after his death in 1882 Following his service Jefferson returned to Washington and started a small business that furnished manure and other fertilizers to city lawns and gardens and collected and shipped it out of town His wealth grew as a result of real estate investments Partnerships and friendships with influential whites in the city s business community helped to mitigate the effects of discrimination and protect him from ...

Article

Clifton H. Johnson

real estate broker and philanthropist, was born free in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Modeste Foucher, a woman of Haitian descent. His father may have been Pierre Laralde, who might have been a Caucasian born in France or a free person of color born in Louisiana. Although Lafon was a devout Roman Catholic, no baptismal record has been found, and there is no birth record. He probably took the name Lafon from Barthélémy Lafon, a prominent architect, engineer, and city planner, who was born in Villepinte, France, and took up permanent residence in New Orleans in 1789 or 1790. The connection between Thomy Lafon and Barthélémy Lafon is still unclear; there was a relationship, however, between the elder Lafon and Thomy Lafon's mother.

Most of what has been written about the early life of Thomy Lafon is based on hearsay and conjecture He was ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

businessman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of George McKinlay and Mary E. Weston. His father, a free black man, had purchased a house on Meeting Street in Charleston in 1848; his grandfather, Anthony Weston, was a well-known mixed-race millwright and slave owner in antebellum South Carolina. After the Civil War McKinlay studied at Avery Institute in Charleston, and in 1874 he enrolled at the University of South Carolina, where he remained for three years, until blacks were excluded after the Democrats came to power. After teaching school in South Carolina, he matriculated at Iowa College in Grinnell, Iowa, where he remained until 1881. By the age of twenty-nine, McKinlay could boast of a very strong education.

Although the profession of teaching was open to a person of his talents McKinlay moved to Washington D C and found a job in the Government ...

Article

Marisa J. Fuentes

one of the first successful female hoteliers of color in late-eighteenth-century Bridgetown, Barbados, was born Rachael Lauder. Although no records of her birth exist, scholars have concluded that Polgreen was born enslaved to a white schoolmaster, William Lauder, and an African woman he owned, around 1753. At her death in 1791, Polgreen herself owned thirty-eight slaves and a considerable amount of real estate, including the notorious “Royal Navy Hotel.” Polgreen’s status as a propertied free woman of color was both remarkable and common to the experiences of free women of color in port towns throughout the eighteenth-century Caribbean. Many free women of color owned slaves and maintained close ties to white society. Yet Polgreen stands out among her peers in the unusual archive she and others left behind, including a lithograph of her image, several newspaper advertisements, and stories of her encounters with significant white men.

Polgreen s ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

barber, real estate agent, accomplished debater and public speaker, leader of the pre and post civil war African American community in Philadelphia, was born free in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Josiah C. and Julia Wears. Josiah Wears was born in Virginia, where his father had been enslaved but purchased his own freedom and his wife's. The family moved to Philadelphia when Isaiah Wears was still a child, joining Mother Bethel AME church. Toward the end of his life, his birth year was estimated as 1822, but 1850 and 1870 census records give his age as thirty‐one and fifty‐one.

In the early 1840s, Wears married a woman from Delaware named Lydia. He was elected in 1846, shortly after the birth of their first daughter, Mary, to a delegation from Philadelphia for the Pennsylvania State Negro Suffrage Convention. As a delegate in 1854 to the National Negro ...