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Bush, John Edward (15 November 1856–11 December 1916), businessman and politician, was born a slave in Moscow, Tennessee. In 1862 his master moved him and his mother to Arkansas to keep them from being freed when the Union army moved into western Tennessee. His mother died when Bush was only seven years old. He was educated in the freedmen’s and public schools of Little Rock and was considered a good student by his teachers. He paid his school tuition by molding bricks. In 1876 he graduated from high school with honors and was immediately appointed principal of Capital Hill School, a public institution for African Americans in Little Rock. In 1878 he moved to Hot Springs, where he was named to head that city’s African-American high school....

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Cohen, Walter L. (22 January 1860–29 December 1930), businessman and politician, was born a free person of color in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Bernard Cohen and Amelia Bingaman, a free woman of color. Although Cohen’s father was Jewish, he was raised as and remained throughout his life a Roman Catholic. His parents died when he was in the fourth grade, whereupon he had to quit school, though he later attended Straight University in New Orleans for several years. As a boy Cohen became a cigar maker and later worked in a saloon. His entrée into the world of politics came during the post–Civil War period of Reconstruction, when he worked as a page in the state legislature, then meeting in New Orleans. In the legislature, Cohen became acquainted with several influential black Republicans, among them, ...

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George W. Perkins Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99094).

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Perkins, George Walbridge (31 January 1862–18 June 1920), banker and political leader, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of George W. Perkins, a prison official, and Sarah Louise Mills. In 1872 his father left prison work to run an agency of the New York Life Insurance Company. George had only a grammar school education. In 1877 he began working for his father as an office boy, and by 1886 he had become agency cashier at $100 a month. In that year the elder Perkins died. George hoped to take over the agency, but the company considered him too young for the position and offered him a job as salesman. He accepted reluctantly but was a phenomenal success. Between February 1887 and the end of the year he sold nearly $3 million in policies in Kansas and Colorado. The company then made him district supervisor in charge of business in the Southwest....