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Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

Union army officer and politician, was born in New Orleans, the son of a West Indian midwife and a free black soldier who had served in the Corps d'Afrique with General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. His parents' names are not recorded. Family lore had it that Caesar's maternal grandfather, an African chief, had been enslaved and taken to America and that his paternal grandmother, Rose Antoine, had earned enough money from her work as a midwife to purchase her freedom. Rose Antoine also left each of her seven sons twenty thousand dollars in her will.

As a free black child in New Orleans Antoine attended private schools the public schools of the city were closed to blacks and became fluent in both English and French Upon leaving school as a teenager in the early 1850s he then apprenticed and worked as a barber one of ...

Article

James Edward Ford

city commissioner, entrepreneur, state representative, and prison reformer, was born a slave in Washington, North Carolina. Little information has been found concerning his early life and his parents. But it is agreed that Ellison was apprenticed to a local carpenter at a young age. By 1852 Stewart was working in Raleigh, North Carolina, on commercial construction projects. There is little information on his life during the Civil War. However, after the war he did open a grocery store, continued his work in construction, and became a building contractor, working with the Freedmen's Bureau to erect facilities for the newly freed men and women of Raleigh. Ellison occasionally attended night school, but he was mainly self-educated.

Ellison's political career began in the late 1860s when opportunities for blacks were opened up by Reconstruction. In early October 1866 he attended the State Equal Rights League Convention of ...

Article

Linda Przybyszewski

businessman and politician, was born a slave in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, the son of a slave woman of mixed race. His father was reputedly his owner, James Harlan (1800–1863), a white lawyer, Kentucky politician, and the father of the first justice John Marshall Harlan (1833–1911). However, modern DNA analysis of male descendants from both families revealed no match. While still young, Robert Harlan arrived in Kentucky, where he began attending the public schools that were closed to black children. It seems that the boy's mixed-race heritage was not readily apparent, but he was expelled when the authorities learned of it. He continued his education at home, where James Harlan's older sons tutored him in their lessons despite his status as one of several slaves owned by James Harlan.

Robert Harlan began his business career as either a barber or a shopkeeper in Harrodsburg Kentucky He ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

businessman, public official, and state legislator, was born in North Carolina, the oldest of at least six children born to Rev. George W. Price, Sr., and Eliza Price. The exact date and location of his birth are not certain, nor is his birth status as free or enslaved. Little is known of his early life or education before the Civil War, although unconfirmed accounts list him as a sailor in the Union navy during the conflict.

Price's father was a popular Methodist clergyman in Wilmington, North Carolina, a presiding elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church who abruptly left that denomination in 1871 for the newly formed Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, taking his Wilmington congregation and several other churches with him. As early as 1865 the younger Price had also moved to Wilmington where he served as an organizer of the ...

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 ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

leather worker, lawyer, and politician, was born Edward Garrison Walker in Boston to David Walker, a radical abolitionist and writer, and Eliza Butler, whose occupation is unknown. Although sometimes referred to as Edward G. Walker and E. G. Walker, he most commonly appears in the historical record as Edwin G. Walker. There is some dispute as to his date of birth, which one obituary gives as 26 September 1835, five years after David's death. Most sources suggest, however, that Edwin was, indeed, the son of the author of Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829), probably born several months after David's death in Boston in August 1830. His middle name may have been given in honor of the white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who founded the abolitionist newspaper the Liberator in Boston in January 1831 ...