Thriving Within the Lowest Caste: The Financial Activities of James P. Thomas in the Nineteenth-Century South

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Loren L. Schweninger, Emeritus Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Yet, even in slavery James Thomas had laid the foundation for his later financial success, learning the values of frugality, hard work, and business enterprise. At the age of fourteen, in Nashville, Tennessee, he was hired out as an apprentice barber, working for Frank Parrish, a slave who had earlier established a barber shop on the public square.11 He quickly learned the trade. "James has the character of a good barber, so a Gentleman told me," a free Negro observer wrote in 1843. Well thought of by members of the upper class, "James has manners to please almost anyone who do not let their prejudice go far on account of color." 12 Earning $12 a month, he worked for Parrish until 1846, when he opened his own barber shop in a house on the corner of Deaderick and Cherry streets in the downtown business district.13 The location proved ideal.14 Within a few steps of several banking houses, newspaper buildings, and law firms, as well as the county court house, Market Square, and the Capitol, "the place on Deaderick," he explained, "[is] convenient to bankers, merchants, editors, lawyers, politicians, and other professional men."15 Soon he boasted a prosperous trade, counting among his customers ex-governor William Carroll, future governor William (Parson) Brownlow, and Whig politician Ephraim Foster, who was Thomas' legal owner.

Additional Information

Journal of Negro History 63 (Fall 1978):353-364
Language: English
Date: 1978
Business, Freed slaves,

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