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John Garst

bootblack, barber, porter, actor, singer, and politician, was born William Henry Harrison Duncan in Columbia, Missouri, to former slaves. A close friend, Henry Massey, persuaded him to come to St. Louis, where he was a “sport, a jolly fellow, a swell dresser, a ladies' favorite, but, above all, he was a magnificent singer.” As a member of Massey's Climax Quartet Duncan gained fame for his low, smooth, rich, sure, bass voice. He was also an actor and performed regularly at the London Theatre in St. Louis.

In Clayton, Missouri, west of St. Louis, Duncan was hanged for the murder of an Irish American policeman named James Brady in Charles Starkes's saloon at 715 N. 11th Street. A popular ballad complex (“Duncan and Brady,” “Brady and Duncan,” “Brady,” “King Brady”) arose after the murder.

At about 8:30 p.m. on 6 October 1890 ...

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Charles Rosenberg

barber, lawyer, and Cleveland's first city-council member of known African descent, was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania, to Thomas and Lavina Green Fleming. By 1880 Thomas Fleming had died, and his widow was raising seven-year-old daughter Larah, six-year-old Thomas, and four-year-old Ida on her own.

Men of African descent had a prominent role in civic life in Meadville during Fleming's childhood. At the age of six, he transferred from a racially segregated school to a school open to students from all local families. He had a job at a bakery when he was eleven. The bakery owner, also of African descent, was elected to the city council. A year later he quit school to work as a barber, helping support his mother and two sisters.

Fleming moved to Cleveland in 1893, opening his own barber shop within a year. On 9 July 1894 he married Mary Ingels Thompson like ...

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Nina Davis Howland

government official, was born in New York City, the daughter of James S. Watson, the first black elected judge in New York, and Violet Lopez. After receiving her BA from Barnard College in 1943, she served as an interviewer with the United Seaman's Service in New York from 1943 to 1946; as owner and executive director of Barbara Watson Models, a modeling agency, from1946 to1956; as a research assistant for the New York State Democratic Committee, from 1952 to 1953; as a clerk at the Christophers, a nonprofit Catholic organization in New York, from 1956 to 1957; and as foreign student adviser at Hampton Institute in Virginia, from 1958 to 1959.

Watson, who was honored as “the most outstanding law student in the City of New York,” received an LLB from New York Law School in 1962 graduating third highest in ...