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The Negro in IllinoisThe WPA Papers$
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Brian Dolinar

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037696

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037696.001.0001

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(p.98) 11. Business
The Negro in Illinois

Arna Bontemps

University of Illinois Press

This chapter focuses on Illinois Negroes who were engaged in business. In 1837, three of the seventy-seven included in Chicago's population of 4,170 were business men. Among them were Lewis Isabel, Abram Hall, John Johnson, Ambrose Jackson, and John Jones. In 1860, there were 1,500 Negroes in the city, and thirty-two of them were involved in business. There were sixteen hairdressers, five barbers, four draymen, three butchers, one hotel keeper, one blacksmith, and one whitewasher. Negro business suffered in the “panic” years of 1867, 1873, and 1876, with many ventures failing. One of the successful Negro businessmen of the following years was Charles H. Smiley, who arrived in 1885, and became one of the city's foremost caterers. Chicago's first Negro millionaire was William Henry Lee, a publisher who owned F. C. Laird. In 1885 there were 110 businesses in Chicago owned and operated by Negroes in twenty-seven fields.

Keywords:   business, Illinois, Negroes, Chicago, Charles H. Smiley, William Henry Lee, Negro businessmen

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