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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 ...

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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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Charles Rosenberg

organizer and lecturer for the Colored Farmers Alliance, farmer and author, owner of eight patents for agricultural implements, and U.S. congressman from South Carolina (1893–1897), was born in Sumter County, South Carolina, to enslaved parents whose names have never been established and who died before 1865. Murray took up farming during his teen years after the Civil War and by 1880 had acquired his own land: forty-nine acres tilled and fifteen acres of woodland, worth about $1500 including buildings and improvements, producing income of around $650 a year.

He made several attempts to obtain an education. Applying to a local school in 1871, he was instead appointed teacher. Classes were held three to four months a year. Even when school was in session, he worked his fields in the morning and evenings. In 1874 he entered the University of South Carolina temporarily filled with students ...

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Thomas C. Holt

Murray was born a slave in Sumter County near Rembert, South Carolina, on September 24, 1853. He attended the University of South Carolina from 1874 to 1876, after it had been opened to black students by the Republican state government. From 1876 to 1890 Murray taught in the public schools and operated a small farm in Sumter County. In February 1890 he was appointed inspector of customs in the Charleston Customs House.

Although he was active in local politics prior to his custom house appointment, Murray's political ambitions appear to have been focused on the national stage by this politically important position. A few months after his appointment, he became a candidate for the Republican Party nomination to the United States Congress. Running against the veteran politician Thomas E. Miller and the white collector of internal revenue E. M. Brayton Murray failed to get the nomination However ...

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Walter C. Rucker

inventor, blacksmith, and farmer, was born Anderson Augustus Redding in Juliette, Georgia, to Anderson and Jane Darden Redding, former slaves and sharecroppers. Though his parents had been slaves on the plantation of James P. Redding—the son of a Virginia planter who fought alongside George Washington at Yorktown—the young Redding managed to acquire his own plot of land in Juliette and was relatively wealthy by the time he turned forty-five. He created a lucrative set of operations that included a syrup mill, a blacksmith shop, and a series of distilleries. In addition, Redding grew a combination of sugarcane and corn on a sizable landholding. He could often be seen in a buggy pulled by his white stallion, George, in Juliette in the 1910s and 1920s—a rare sight indeed in the midst of the so-called Black Nadir.

Redding married a total of three times but his first ...