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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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David E. Paterson

harness maker, state legislator, community organizer, and barber, was born on James Spier's farm, the Hurricane Place, three and a half miles from Thomaston, Upson County, Georgia, the fourth child of Guilford Speer and Viney, two of Spier's slaves. Guilford and Viney separated soon after William was born, and Guilford moved to Thomaston to operate a harness and shoe shop. William probably spent his earliest years with his mother, his three elder brothers, and several younger half siblings on the Hurricane Place, but by the late 1850s William had undoubtedly moved to the village and was learning his father's trade of harness making. In 1863 a devastating fire destroyed three-quarters of downtown Thomaston, and thereafter William probably worked in a shop organized by his father in Barnesville, Pike County, sixteen miles away.

Sometime during the Civil War, William married Lourinda presumably a slave but ...

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Eric Gardner

activist and entrepreneur, was born to free parents in Washington, D.C. Nothing is known of his parents or his early life. However, although he trained as a barber, Hall reportedly spent two years at Oberlin College and considered the ministry before moving to New York in 1845, where he ran a restaurant called the “El Dorado” on Church Street, and became active in both black Masonic organizations and the fight for black suffrage. However, at the end of the decade, like many other Americans, Hall headed west to seek gold in California.

He had some success as both a miner and a merchant and returned to New York in late 1851. He married Sarah Lavina Bailey in New York City on 16 March 1852 in a ceremony whose “splendor,” according to an item copied in the 1 April 1852Frederick Douglass's Paper was without parallel in ...

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Theresa A. Hammond

consumer markets specialist and business school professor, was born in Chesterfield County, Virginia, to Thomas D. Harris Jr. and Georgia Laws Carter. Thomas Harris was a messenger for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and also worked as an embalmer, and Georgia Carter Harris was a homemaker. Thomas stressed the importance of education for his three children, tutoring them in math, anatomy, and English after dinner. Harris attended Kingsland Elementary School (one of the black primary and secondary schools funded by Sears, Roebuck philanthropist Julius Rosenwald to improve education for black southerners) in Chesterfield County, Virginia, and D. Webster Davis High School, the Virginia State College laboratory school, in Petersburg, Virginia. While in high school, Harris earned a certificate in barber practice and science. He cut soldiers' hair on the nearby Fort Lee army base to help pay for his education at Virginia State College.

Harris s education ...

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Charles Rosenberg

an enslaved barber in Yorktown, Virginia, who later was able to run his own business in Richmond, was born in Africa, captured and enslaved, transported across the Atlantic, sold in Virginia, and given the name of Caesar. He was first registered as a slave for tax purposes in York County on 17 August 1743 by Benjamin Catton, at which time his age was estimated as ten. He last owner of record was the widowed Susan or Susanna Riddell. He may or may not have been owned by others in between.

He learned and practiced skills as a barber for thirty years, before Riddell petitioned the Virginia legislature in 1779 to emancipate him submitting that he has set so good an Example to all in his circumstance and conducted himself with so much Industry Sobriety and Honesty as to engage the approbation of all who know him She may have ...

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Colleen Cyr

barber, orator, and activist, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of Mary Ann (Campbell) and George W. Jeffrey. George's father was one of the first trustees of the Cross Street African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church of Middletown that was formed in 1828. Middletown's small black activist community shaped the life and work of George S. Jeffrey. There were several intermarriages between the Jeffrey family and the family of the Reverend Jehiel C. Beman, Cross Street AME Zion's first minister. Jeffrey's maternal aunt Clarissa Marie Campbell Beman founded the Middletown Colored Female Anti-Slavery Society. Citizens of color of Middletown, including his grandparents, uncles, and father, petitioned the Connecticut state legislature seven times between 1838 and 1843 over such issues as repealing the “Canterbury Law” (which effectively restricted young women of color from attending the boarding school founded for them by Prudence Crandall ...

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R. Iset Anuakan

barber, entrepreneur, and inventor was born in Greene County, Alabama, the oldest of Holly and Olean (Jordan) Morrow's seven children. As a child, Willie worked on a farm planting corn and cotton. He worked in the fields before going to school, and he learned to cut hair by practicing on the children there. He became a barber at the age of seventeen when his mother took him to meet Jim Pierson, the owner of the Oak City Barber Shop in Tuscaloosa. Pierson employed him for three years and gave him a set of Oster clippers that replaced the rudimentary clippers he had used. Barbering became his lifelong vocation and would lead him into the beauty business—a world in which many African Americans had made their fortunes.

In 1959 Morrow took a train to San Diego, California, to work with his uncle, barber Spurgeon Morrow and to ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

influential barber and longtime Republican Party leader in Ohio, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the oldest of three children of Isaac Myers, a prominent shipyard owner and labor activist in Baltimore, and his first wife, Emma Virginia Myers, who died when George was nine. Educated initially in the preparatory division of Pennsylvania's Lincoln University, George returned home to complete his education in Baltimore's public schools after his father married Sarah Elizabeth Deaver.

Barred from attending the racially segregated Baltimore City College High School, and unwilling to study medicine elsewhere, as his father wished, George Myers first moved briefly to Washington, DC, to work as a housepainter. He soon returned to Baltimore to undergo training as a barber, and in 1879, moved to Cleveland, Ohio.

George Myers was married twice. In 1884 he married Annie E. Deans a Baltimore schoolteacher and they had ...

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Felix James

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 5, 1859, George A. Myers was the eldest of Isaac Myers and Emma V. Myers's three children. In May 1868 his mother died. Two years later Myers enrolled in the preparatory department of Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania. After his father married Sarah E. Deaver, he returned to Baltimore, where he graduated from the city's first grammar school for African American children. Because of the racial practices in that city, however, Myers was denied admission to Baltimore City College.

Myers left Baltimore in 1875 and worked as an apprentice to Thomas James, a veteran painter in Washington, D.C. Not liking the trade, he returned to Baltimore and studied the barber trade under Thomas Gamble and George S. Ridgeway He pursued this trade against the will of his father who had wanted him to enroll in Cornell Medical ...

Article

civic leader, politician, and barber, was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He claimed, in an autobiographical sketch published shortly before his death, to be the son of Streshley Simmons, a black veteran of the War of 1812, and Rosetta Waring (Historical Hand, 33). A tradition among Robert's descendants, however, held that his actual father was “a master” (white plantation owner). Certainly Simmons's facial features appeared mulatto, and he is listed as such in three federal censuses. No documentation is known for the earliest period of Simmons's life. However, it is known that in April 1841 he immigrated to Parkersburg, (West) Virginia, on the Ohio River and successfully established himself as a barber, which would remain his lifelong vocation. On 19 January 1843, he married Susan King. By 1858, the couple had become parents of nine children.

Simmons s rise to ...

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Loren Schweninger

former slave and wealthy North Carolina planter, was born a slave in Craven County, North Carolina, the son of an African Ibo woman who had been brought to America on a vessel owned by the merchant-shipper John Wright Stanly in the decade prior to the American Revolution. Described as a “dark-skinned mulatto,” he was almost certainly the son of John Wright Stanly, although his apparent father did not acknowledge paternity. As a young boy he was turned over to Alexander Stewart, who captained the ship that brought his mother from Africa, and Stewart's wife, Lydia Carruthers Stewart, who taught Stanly to read and write and arranged for him to open a barbershop in New Bern as a teenager. Intelligent, gracious, and personable, Stanly quickly became a success, and as New Bern expanded commercially, he earned a good livelihood, even as a slave. In 1795 the Stewarts petitioned ...

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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 ...

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 ...

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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 ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

business owner, barber, and local church leader, stands out for his success in running a Main Street business in a small town in Mississippi during the most virulent years of Jim Crow. His mother, Mary Ollie Shuler, was a domestic worker who managed in 1883 to purchase a small home in Starkville, Mississippi, where Wier was born.

He attended a grade school designated for “colored” students from the age of 6 to 14, but spent a year after completing 8th grade recovering from an accidental sling shot wound to his eye. Wier never went back to school. He worked at construction jobs, as a water carrier, and shining shoes, until he was taught the basic skills of cutting hair by H. M. Carpenter, a barber classified by the laws of Mississippi as “white.” Carpenter advised Wier to gain some experience in the trade, so starting in 1904 ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

barber, newspaper editor, public official, and six-term state legislator, was born in Covington, Georgia, the son of James Williamson, a slave, and an unknown mother. Little is known of his childhood, although he reportedly taught himself to read against the wishes of his owner, who hired him out to reduce his free time. The determined youth responded by borrowing his white playmates' schoolbooks at night, then tutoring them each morning.

His parents were owned by General John N. Williamson, a wealthy white attorney. In 1858 John Hendrick Williamson moved to Louisburg, North Carolina, with his widowed mistress Temperance Perry Williamson. By the end of the Civil War, he had become a skilled and popular barber, and in 1865 he became a delegate to the first statewide Freedmen's Convention. Two years later he was appointed a Franklin County voter registrar by the controversial general Daniel ...