• Contact

    Have a question? Email Me!
  • Get Social

  • Categories

  • Blog Archives

  • Header Photo Credit

    The Jubilee Singers. (1875). Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.
  • Advertisements

National Negro Business League

Today, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History posted a picture of the National Negro Business League in 1900 to their Facebook page.  Booker T. Washington, seated 2nd from left, was the 1st president. Lo and behold, who is that to the left of him? Why, it’s James Carroll Napier.  Napier served as President of the League from 1915-1919.

National Negro Business League - 1900


Napier wins Councilman position

Tom Wood, writer of Nashville history over at NashvillePost.com sent me the following article from the September 29, 1878 issue of the Colored Councilman. 



J.C. Napier, the councilman elect from the fourth ward, is considered by the colored people to be one of the most creditable representatives of their race, and this great popularity was exhibited yesterday, in his defeat of Mr. Chas. H. Saunders, one of the most popular young men in the city.  Councilman Napier is about twenty-four years of age, a bright mulatto, and is a graduate of the law department of Howard University, Washington D.C.  He left last night for Washington City where he will be united in marriage at the Congregational church in that city, next Wednesday, to Nettie, the only daughter of Hon. John M. Langston, colored, the United States Minister to the Replic of Hayti.  Nashville has not had a colored man in her city council since the days of Alden rule.

Mrs. Napier Visits Home

While browsing newspapers on the Library of Congress; Chronicling America website, I just happened across a news item of Nashville citizen, Nettie Langston Napier.

Washington Bee newspaper of Washington, DC
August 6, 1910; pg. 5

“Mrs. Nettie Langston Napier, of Nashville, Tenn., is the guest of her mother and brother at the old homestead.”

Nettie’s mom was Caroline Wall Langston of North Carolina.  In the 1910 census, her mom is enumerated with Frank, Nettie’s brother in Washington DC.  Living with the family is also a niece of Nettie’s that is named after her.  At the time, she was 13 years old.   Nettie’s father was John Mercer Langston.

Video: Sheryll Cashin

Sheryl Cashin, a law professor at Georgetown University and author of the book, The Agitator’s Daughter, was recently in Nashville to discuss her book.  A descendant of Herschel Cashin, Sheryl’s extended family tree includes some people mentioned here on this blog. Several of her family members (including both of her parents) were Fiskites her aunt Minnie V. Cashin married the nephew of James Carroll Napier

Despite the fact that I work at Vanderbilt, I was not able to attend the lecture, but a video is now available online.  Check it out!

Descendants of W.T. Hightower

Tonight I was contacted by another descendant of W.T. Hightower, a merchant from Nashville. This is the second descendant in the past six months.  I love it!

With that, I decided to look again at the family of William Thomas Hightower Sr. and I found a couple of more census records to add to their tree

With some more online searching, I located a reference to W.T. in the book Evidence of Progress Among Colored People by G.F. Richings, published in 2005.  In the book, it mentions that “W.T. Hightower started a business as a dealer in old rags and iron with a capital of 25 cents.  He now owns a large brick building and a beautiful home.”

Many others from Nashville are also mentioned in the book, including J.C. Napier, Preston A. Taylor,  Dr. R.F. Boyd, and others. I’ll have to look at this more closely.

Black Political Leaders in Tennessee, 1864-1865

I recently added the book, Slavery’s End in Tennessee, 1861-1865 to the bibliography list.  I perused this book once during a visit to the TN State Archives as I was looking for information about the Napier family.  The book is a good resource for understanding the broader picture of blacks after slavery in Tennesse.  For those interested, Table 7 on pages 111-112 presents a table of black political leaders.

The table presents names, Legal Status and Occupation. From Nashville are listed:

  • James Caffreey – Free – Farmer
  • Anderson Cheatham – Free – Grocer & liquor dealer
  • Ben J. Hadley – Slave – Liquor dealer
  • Henry Harding – Slave – Construction contractor, liquor dealer, hotel keeper
  • Wade Hickman – Slave – Liquor dealer
  • Daniel Lapsly – ? – Barber
  • Peter Lowery – Free – Disciples of Christ preacher, livery stable operator, general business agent
  • Samuel Lowery  – Free – Disciples of Christ missionary
  • John McGowen – Free – Barber
  • H.J. Maxwell – Free Northener – Sergeant
  • Alfred Menifee – Free – Grocer
  • Napoleon Merry – Free – Methodist preacher, stone mason
  • Nelson Merry – Free – Baptist minister
  • William C. Napier – Free – Hack driver
  • Frank Parrish – Free – Barber
  • Hardy Perry – Free – Hack line operator
  • George Scott – Free – Shoemaker or pressman
  • William B. Scott – Free – Editor of Nashville Colored Tennessean
  • Abraham Smith – Slave – Porter at the state capitol building
  • Jerry Stothart – Free – Hack driver
  • George Sumner – Free – Hack driver
  • James Sumner – Free – Hack driver
  • W. Alex Sumner – Free – Livery stable operator, liquor dealer, grocer
  • Andrew Tate – Free – Boatman
  • Daniel Wadkins – Free – Disciples of Christ preacher, teacher, farm laborer
  • Nelson Walker – Free – Barber

Merchant Of Venice Cast Members

In follow-up to the story from the Nashville Globe on the cast members of the Merchant of Venice, I took a look at the Fisk Catalog from 1912 to find out more on these students and where they ended up. Those from the cast listed in the catalog include these from the Class of 1908:

  • Duke of Venice — Matthew Vergil Boutte, B.S., Ph. G., Pharmaceutical Department, University of Illinois, 1911.  Teacher of Chemistry, Meharry Medical College, 639 Wetmore St., Nashville.
  • Bassanio — William Arthur MacIntyre, B.A., Student, Harvard Law School; 40 Holyoke Street, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Salario – Holcombe Sinclair Croswait, B.A., Railroad Service, 402 Rondo Street, St. Paul, Minn.
  • Salarino – Franklin Benjamin Murphy, B.S., Teacher Phillips University, Tyler Texas
  • Gratiano – St. Elmo Brady, B.A., Teacher, Tuskegee Institute, Ala.
  • Lorenzo – James Gillespie Brown, B.A., Student, University of Wisconsin, 821 Milton Street, Madison, Wis.
  • Shylock – Charles Campbell, B.A., Student, Law Department, University of Michigan; 1017 E. Catherine St., C.C.,  Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • Tubal – William Biddle Merrill, B.A., Railroad Services, 4510 Lawrence Avenue, Chicago, Ill.
  • Balthazaar – William Sylvester White, B.A., Ph. G, Pharmaceutical Department, University of Illinois, 1911, Clerk, Post Office, 644 Vincennes Avenue, Chicago, Ill.
  • Norissa – Lilian Emmette Cashin, B.A., 509 Madison St., Decatur, Ala.
  • Jessica – Gertrude Sadie Glenn, B.A., Teacher, Howard Normal School (A.M.A.), Box 101, Cuthbert, Ga.

On my visit to Fisk recently, I learned about St. Elmo Brady – one of the buildings on campus is co-named after him. He was the first African-American to earn a PhD in chemistry.   Then, from my previous work on James C. Napier’s tree, I’d already learned about Lillian Cashin, she was a sister of the wife of JC’s nephew.

Trip to Greenwood Cemetery

This past weekend I took a trip to Greenwood Cemetery – a black cemetery here in town. I went looking for the grave sites of the Napier family whom I’ve been researching. I knew there to be at least 12 members of the family there so I wanted to go take pictures of their graves as only three of them were previously on FindAGrave. In tow with me were both Kalonji & Kaleya. Kaleya pretty much has no choice 🙂 but I’m pleasantly surprised whenever Kalonji says he wants to go – i mean really, how many people really like to go hang out in cemeteries!

It was quite an experience. By walking around looking for the Napiers, it was like a who’s who in black Nashville history. The first noticeable grave when you drive into the cemetery is that of Rev. Preston Taylor, the founder of the cemetery who had a big funeral business and was accomplished in many other things as well. I saw the headstone of others I’ve come across in my study of Nashville as well – Bishop Evans Tyree and his wife, Dr. Charles Spurgeon, Dr. Arthur Townsend, Arna Bontemps, both of the Boyds and their families. I also found others that I’ve not yet gotten very familiar with, but make good candidates for the future.

I did not take a lot of pictures, but most of the ones I did take I have added to Find A Grave – here is a link to the listing there. Adding to FindAGrave is wonderful way to contribute to the genealogy online community. I highly encourage others to do it. I am planning to go back out there in a few more weeks to take more pictures.

But, back to the reason I went there – the Napiers. I found everyone I was expecting to find. James Carroll Napier (who I call JC), his wife, Nettie and their adoptive daughter/biological niece Carye were there and already in FindAGrave. This week, I’ve added the most of the rest of their family buried in the family plot-I am realizing now I missed at least one person. The links will take to each person’s FindAGrave page.

Carroll Napier Langston, Jr.

Over on my genealogy blog, I’ve just posted some information on my overall impressions of FootNote.com and some of the potential I see with it. As I was exploring the site, I decided to do a search for information on Carroll Napier Langston, Jr. His paternal grandmother, Ida M. Napier Langston, was a sister to James Carroll Napier.

One of the collections I noticed in FootNote was one titled, Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) of the U.S. Army Air Forces, 1941-1948. In the course of my research, I knew that Carroll N. Langston Jr. had gone missing during WWII and his body was found a couple of weeks after he went missing. Wanting to see if I could find him in this resource, I did a search. His name is rather unique, so I was able to readily identify him in the results. I am deeply moved by what I found.

A report from September 19, 1944 provides an account from the person that found his body, Captain Samuel R. Center. While he was on reconnaissance with 5 others, he found a body that had washed up to the beach of the Adriatic Sea near Pineta, Italy on June 26, 1944. The account describes everything that they found on his body, information about how they buried him and a detailed description of where they buried him. On his person were items such as his ID tags, his pilot wings, a metal cigarette case, and his watch. They buried him “…about 750 feet south of railroad flag station no. 331, 200 feet from railroad track towards sea; 65 feet towards sea from second concrete post of barbed wire fence. Wow.

There were witnesses to the incident. — Lts. Maurice V. Easters, Ulysses S. Taylor, and Harold E. Sawyer. Lt. Sawyer reported that Carroll called in saying that he had engine trouble. Carroll was unable to keep up in flight, so Saywer left his route to fly with Carroll. Carroll was not able to keep the plane up, so decided to bail out, but something went wrong with his chute. It did not inflate all the way and Sawyer saw Carroll hanging on to the side of the plane. Sawyer could not stay with him because of low fuel, but notified Air Rescue. Carroll’s plane crashed about 10 miles off the coast of San Benedetti, Italy. The paperwork even includes a hand-drawn map of where his plane went down.

I really feel like I need a moment of silence after reading through all of this. Can you imagine finding this level of detail for a relative? These documents were previously confidential – I am so glad they have been opened up for public use.

If you have a FootNote account, you can view the images here.

Beautifully Appointed Dinner

Nashville Globe
February 22, 1907

Beautifully Appointed Dinner — Mr. and Mrs. Richard Pointer, of 1051 Edgehill avenue, passed a very pleasant evening on the 17th inst., at their home with a large number of friends.  All enjoyed themselves to the utmost, the host and hostess doing all in their power to render the occasion one of enjoyment.  The house looked well in its neat and rich dress of flowers and ferns, while the table decorations made a picture long to be remembered.  At four o’clock dinner was served and was in keeping with the richness and beauty of surroundings of the occasion.  Those present were Mr. and Mrs. Jackson Norman; Mr. Will Norma, Mr. Nelson Napier; Mr. and Mrs. Will Thompson, Mr. Archie Pointer, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Pointer; Mr. Edward Williams, Mr. Walker, Mrs. Jeff Rhodes, Mrs. Clara Hill, Mrs. Henderson, Mr. and Mrs. James McCullough.  After the delightful repast, Mr. Ed Williams entertained the guests with his graphophone.