Leidesdorff, William Alexander
- Elizabeth Zoe Vicary
Leidesdorff, William Alexander (1810– May 1848), pioneer, diplomat, and businessman, was born in St. Croix in the Danish Virgin Islands, the son of William Leidesdorff, a Danish planter, and Anna Marie Sparks, an Afro-Caribbean slave. He was educated by his owner, who reportedly treated him more as a son than as a slave. As a young man he was sent to New Orleans to work for his uncle’s cotton business as a master of ships sailing between New York and New Orleans. Both his father and uncle died soon after, leaving Leidesdorff a sizable inheritance. His newly acquired wealth allowed him to propose to a woman he had been courting, Hortense, who accepted. The engagement ended painfully shortly before the marriage date when Leidesdorff told his fiancée that through his mother he was of African descent. She called off the wedding, and he, heartbroken, left New Orleans....