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John Gilmore

Politician, born in Jamaica into a family of wealthy plantation owners. Sent to England in 1723, he was educated at Westminster School and Oxford. He later studied medicine at Leiden in Holland, but broke off his course there when the death of his father obliged him to return to Jamaica in 1735. When his elder brother died in 1737, he inherited most of the family properties and continued to add to them by inheritance and purchase over the next 30 years. At the time of his death he was sole owner of thirteen sugar plantations in Jamaica, together with other real estate and about 3,000 slaves.

In 1737William Beckford became a member of the Jamaican House of Assembly, but by 1744 he had left Jamaica for Britain where he settled in London as a West India merchant selling the produce of his own estates ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

real estate developer, publisher, insurance broker, architect, and philanthropist, was born in Stock Township, Harrison County, Ohio, the son of William Blue and Adeline L. Blue, who married in Ohio in 1863. His father, a farm laborer, was born in Virginia in 1843 and may have been at one time enslaved to Thomas Blue in Hampshire County. He may also have been related to Thomas Fountain Blue, an acclaimed librarian in Louisville, Kentucky. Blue's mother was born in Ohio in 1845, to parents also born in Virginia. He had an older brother, William Benjamin, born in 1864, and a younger brother, Richard J., born in 1871. During the 1870s the family moved to New Philadelphia in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, where William Blue worked as a teamster.

Welcome T. Blue found work in Canton Ohio around 1889 where he lived ...

Article

Rashauna R. Johnson

banker, real estate magnate, activist, and philanthropist, considered the first southern African American millionaire. Robert Reed “Bob” Church was born in 1839 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, to an enslaved mother, Emmeline, and a white steamboat captain, Charles B. Church. His mother, a seamstress, died when Robert was twelve years old, and he spent much of his childhood on the Mississippi River with his father. Because of his closeness to his father, Robert enjoyed privileges not generally associated with slavery. While working on a steamboat during the Civil War, however, Union troops captured him, and he soon settled as a freedman in Memphis, Tennessee.

Church entered into business in postwar Memphis, but success did not shield him from the violence of Reconstruction. During the 1866 Memphis riot in which white mobs attacked freedmen vigilantes ransacked Church s saloon and shot him Church survived and ...

Article

Rayvon David Fouché

inventor, was born to Shelby Jeames and Amelia Scott Davidson in Lexington, Kentucky. He attended public school in his hometown of Lexington and then attended college in Louisville to study education. This school's program did not challenge Davidson or adequately prepare him for a career. So in the fall of 1887 he enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C. However, his previous academic training was not sufficient to gain admission to Howard University's college department. He spent his first two years completing the preparatory program and finally received a degree in 1896. That same year he began to study law, and by June 1896 he had completed standard readings in the law curriculum under the direction of William A. Cook.

In 1893 while Davidson completed his education he found employment as an unclassified laborer for the Treasury Department making $600 per year He secured this position through ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

building engineer, real estate investor, chairman and majority owner of a bank, was born in Panama City, Florida, the only son of Jacoby D. Dickens, Sr. and Marie Dickens, who may also have been known as Lessie Mae. The latter name is recorded in the 1940 census, but Marie is the name Dickens gave in a 1999 interview for The History Makers Digital Archive.

Dickens had two older sisters and three younger ones. His father was a longshoreman, loading and unloading ocean vessels. In Florida he attended a racially segregated two-room schoolhouse, with two teachers each handling four grades. He had a job after school in a grocery store for $1.50 a week. After his parents divorced, he moved with his father and sisters to Chicago in 1946 where Dickens held a part time job at Goldblatt Brothers and graduated from Wendell Phillips High School ...

Article

Maria Elena Raymond

, Underground Railroad conductor, barber, and businessman, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, the son of a Mr. Darington (given name unknown), a slaveholder and plantation owner, and Phoebe (surname unknown), one of Darington's slaves. Called “Barney” at birth, he adopted the name Barney Launcelot Ford as an adult to please his soon-to-be wife and to provide himself with a “complete” name.

Ford spent the first quarter-century of his life enslaved. His mother is said to have planted the seeds of education in him as a child by secreting him out of camp at night to meet with sympathetic people who taught him the basics of reading and writing. She may have put herself in mortal danger on many occasions by smuggling in a section of newspaper or a Bible page so that he could practice his studies. Upon his mother's death around 1837 Ford was enslaved on a ...

Article

Melissa Nicole Stuckey

cofounder of Boley, Oklahoma, the largest all-black town in the United States, was the eldest child of Matthew and Dottie Haynes and was born in Red River County, Texas. Very little is known about Haynes's childhood and young adulthood. He was the eldest of more than twelve brothers and sisters, grew up on a farm, and had very little education during his formative years. By 1900 his parents had moved to Paris, Texas, a small city, which increased the educational opportunities available to Haynes's younger siblings, but whether the move took place early enough to allow Haynes to attend city schools is unknown. In the late 1880s or early 1890s, Haynes married and started a family. In 1899, shortly after his wife, whose name is unknown, passed away, he moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Territory, to begin anew. He was soon joined by his daughters, Winnie and George ...

Article

Andrew W. Kahrl

real estate developer, general contractor, philanthropist, and shipping and excursion steamboat owner, was born in Orange, Virginia.

Jefferson spent his youth in Washington, D.C. In 1881, at the age of fifteen, Jefferson enlisted in the Navy after falsifying his age. He traveled around the world working as a coal heaver. During his service, Jefferson secured connections with wealthy, influential whites, including Canadian shipping magnate Sir Hugh Allen, from whom Jefferson received a significant bequest after his death in 1882 Following his service Jefferson returned to Washington and started a small business that furnished manure and other fertilizers to city lawns and gardens and collected and shipped it out of town His wealth grew as a result of real estate investments Partnerships and friendships with influential whites in the city s business community helped to mitigate the effects of discrimination and protect him from ...

Article

Clifton H. Johnson

Thomy Lafon was born a free person of color in New Orleans, the son of Modeste Foucher (of Haitian descent) and perhaps Pierre Laralde, who might have been a Caucasian born in France or a free person of color born in Louisiana. Although Thomy Lafon was a devout Roman Catholic, no baptismal record has been found, and there is no birth record. He probably took the name Lafon from Barthélémy Lafon, a prominent architect, engineer, and city planner, who was born in Villepinte, France, and took up permanent residence in New Orleans in 1789 or 1790. The connection between Thomy Lafon and Barthélémy Lafon is still unclear; there was a relationship, however, between the elder Lafon and Thomy Lafon's mother.

Most of what has been written about the early life of Thomy Lafon is based on hearsay and conjecture He was fluent in French Spanish and ...

Article

Clifton H. Johnson

real estate broker and philanthropist, was born free in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Modeste Foucher, a woman of Haitian descent. His father may have been Pierre Laralde, who might have been a Caucasian born in France or a free person of color born in Louisiana. Although Lafon was a devout Roman Catholic, no baptismal record has been found, and there is no birth record. He probably took the name Lafon from Barthélémy Lafon, a prominent architect, engineer, and city planner, who was born in Villepinte, France, and took up permanent residence in New Orleans in 1789 or 1790. The connection between Thomy Lafon and Barthélémy Lafon is still unclear; there was a relationship, however, between the elder Lafon and Thomy Lafon's mother.

Most of what has been written about the early life of Thomy Lafon is based on hearsay and conjecture He was ...

Article

Kit Candlin

was born to a freed slave woman called Nanoe and an unknown white father in 1715. Nanoe and her two eldest children, Charlo and Maria, were freed sometime in the first decade of the eighteenth century. Charlo went on to become a successful carpenter, and he paid for the manumission of his six other siblings. Elisabeth, however, was born after her mother’s manumission and was therefore not only the youngest child but also the only child of Nanoe born free. Soon thereafter she went to live with her older half-sister Maria, who was residing with a wealthy Swiss merchant. Upon his death, the two girls would go and live with a wealthy German planter. As she grew up, both men taught Elisabeth to read and write and to conduct herself in business affairs.

By the time she was 19 Elisabeth had begun to accumulate property backed by her sister ...

Article

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 ...