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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 ...


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 ...


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 ...