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Johnson, William (1809–17 June 1851), diarist and entrepreneur, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, the son of William Johnson, a slaveholder, and Amy Johnson, a slave. When William was five years old his mother was emancipated and established her household in Natchez. In 1820 the eleven-year-old William was freed by the Mississippi legislature at the request of his owner. Once emancipated, he apprenticed with his brother-in-law, James Miller, in his barber business in Natchez. Johnson became proprietor of the business—reportedly the most popular barber shop in Natchez—when Miller moved to New Orleans in 1830. Johnson and his African-American staff ran the shop, which served a predominantly white clientele. Johnson’s barbers not only offered haircuts and shaves, they also fitted wigs, sold fancy soaps and oils, and, beginning in 1834, operated a bathhouse at the Main Street location....

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Napier, James Carroll (09 June 1845–21 April 1940), politician, attorney, and businessman, was born on the western outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee. His parents, William C. Napier and Jane E., were slaves at the time of his birth but were freed in 1848. After manumission and a brief residency in Ohio, William Napier moved his family to Nashville, where he established a livery stable business. James attended the black elementary and secondary schools of Nashville before entering Wilberforce University (1864–1866) and Oberlin College (1866–1868), both in Ohio....

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Phillips, John (27 December 1719–21 April 1795), merchant-banker, judge, and school benefactor, was born in Andover, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Samuel Phillips and Hannah White. His father, who had graduated from Harvard in 1708, prepared him for the college, which he entered when he was only eleven years old, in 1731. As an undergraduate, John was awarded the William Browne and the Hollis scholarships, received the Hopkins Prize for outstanding scholarly achievement, and was selected to deliver an oration at his class of 1735 commencement. After graduation, Phillips taught school in Andover and took the M.A. degree at Harvard in 1738....