This Week in Black Business History

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In the week of March 3, the following events impact Black business history:

March 3

1859- The “Weeping Time”–the largest sale of human beings in the history in the United States–begins at a racetrack in Savannah, Georgia. During the rainy two-day auction, tears fall from both the heavens and the eyes of 436 African American men, women, and children as trustees sell Pierce Butler’s hereditary slaves to settle his debts. By the time the rains stopped, the estate had garnered $303,850 in proceeds. The highest price for one slave was $1,750. The lowest price for any individual slave was $250. Butler celebrated by popping champagne bottles and taking a trip to Europe before returning to his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

March 4

1877 – Garrett Augustus Morgan, inventor of the traffic light, the gas mask, and a hair straightening preparation, is born to former slaves in Paris, Kentucky. Morgan is famous for using his gas mask to heroically rescue workers trapped in a fume-filled tunnel system. He is also the first African American in Cleveland, Ohio to own an automobile.

March 5

1770 – Crispus Attucks, runaway slave, is the first person to die in America’s fight for independence. In a Boston Massacre, the British Army attacks colonists who demonstrate against “taxation without representation.”

March 6

1857 - The United States Supreme Court decides 7-to-2 that free-state resident Dred Scott is still a slave and therefore prohibited from suing in court. In the 54-page majority opinion, Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney argues that the U.S. Constitution never intended to protect African Americans because they were “so far inferior, that they had no rights, which the White man, was bound to respect.” Taney concludes that even free Blacks have no rights and can never be U.S. citizens.

The Dred Scott decision comes to symbolize the marginal social, economic, and political status of Blacks in America. Many historians mark the case as the impetus for the Civil War, the ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the end of slavery, and the beginning of civil rights for African Americans.

March 7

1796 - James Barbadoes, free man of color, barber, and strong voice in the New England Anti-Slavery Movement, is born in Barbados, Jamaica. Barbadoes dies of malaria in 1841 as he attempts to resettle his family from Boston to Jamaica.

March 8

1865 - Congress establishes the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to provide aid to 4,000,000 recently emancipated African Americans in their transition from slavery to freedom.

March 9

1892 – A White mob lynches three Black businessmen in Memphis, Tennessee. Journalist Ida Wells reports that she was the intended victim; however, at that time, she happened to be travelling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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