top of page

The Original Black Elite

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

I was looking for something interesting to listen to. I feel guilty for feeding my mind so much meaningless info lately. I want to change that. So I was looking for an audio book and the title The Original Black Elite

jumped out at me. I loved learning about the black elite class in Black fortunes. I listened to the sample and I was sold. I might have a thing for cultural biographies. I intend to document my initial feelings and or reactions to what was happening around 1851 - 1925. My great grandma was alive during that time. It's crazy when I think of it like that because it makes puts into perspective how recent this history actually is. I wasn't alive during that time, but I grew up with someone who was. Yikes. It seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same. But my goal in reading this is to learn and observer what was happening. See what applies to now. Crazy ass 2020.

It's important to note that these elite black people were in DC. It's kinda cool being able to visualize where this was taking place.

"The rude awakening that they were going to be stigmatized with the rest of the race" - That was one thing that was taking place during the 1890's. I relate that to Jay on Story of OJ saying "still nigga". Even he was judged and stigmatized despite his achievement in status.

Something I find interesting: Back then (1850s), Maryland was a slave owning state, but 90% of the Black Baltimorians were free. Yes. I be makin words up. deal wit it. That was about 25,000+ people.

Wilberforce University. The first black owned and operated university in America.

In 1863 they tested the emancipation of slaves in DC.

Canada was a safe haven for black american slaves back then. Oberlin was a place that had a proud history, at the time, of never having returned a slave. That history was threatened one day, by the law. "The Oberlin Wellington Rescue". John Price, an escaped slave, was arrested in Oberlin, Ohio, under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, and taken to Wellington by the US Marshal. Rescuers took him by force from the marshals and back to Oberlin, then to freedom in Canada. John Copeland was one of the rescuer.

The Rescuers got arrested. 14 men. They produced a satirical news paper, while fighting boredom in jail. During that time, the men who kidnapped them. They got out after 83 days. The case undermined the law that got them arrested them. They celebrated the big win!

John Brown a seasoned abolitionist whose name also appeared in the book Black Fortunes. I took notes on that book as well. Mary Ellen Pleasant used her Gold Rush wealth to further the cause of abolitionist John Brown . This book goes into detail about a story I was curious about while reading Black Fortunes. He planned a slave rebellion. He was drawn to the Oberlin-Wellington story. John Brown and John Copeland (25 years old) met through their shared passion of freeing black people. Only 21 men showed up for the rebellion. 5 were black. They were unsuccessful. Copeland was captured and sentenced to death. He was hanged. John Copeland "I had rather die, than be a slave." Copland said these words before they hung him. The family wanted his body so they sent a white man to go get it, but the body had been stolen by white medical students who used it for research. Assholes. The raid did not successfully free the slaves, but it kicked off the Civil War, so it was hugely significant.

The story of John Brown's rebellion, and others just like it, is the reason I don't buy into the whole "I'm not my ancestors, I will fuck you up" quote. Our ancestors were fighting against much more, so watch your mouth while you talkin that shit. You damn right you ain't your ancestors. But not because they were docile.

The Black Elite

To be continued After the Civil War, DC was known as a "negro's heaven". There were many black people doing well around here. I find this interesting because when I'm asked do I like this area. I say yes because I like seeing and being around a lot of black people doing well.

The richest of the black elite were light skinned folk. Does that matter? Idk but it sticks out

Were elite black churches: Metropolitan AME 19st Presbyterian

There was a black aristocracy and it was very exclusive. The black elite was never larger than 100 families. Well educated, refined, prosperous, enjoyed socializing. Besides a few exceptions, they were significantly lighter in complexion than the poor black folk.

  • George FT Cook & John F Cook Jr: educated at Oberlin College.

  • James Wormly: owned boarding houses and stables. Owned the Wormly Hotel. Clientele was mostly white and prestigious. The Wormley Agreement

  • John Mercer Langston: Father left him inheritance when he died

  • Dr Charles B Pervous: Born to abolitionists. Surgeon. On the medical faculty at Howard. Dr at a hospital near Howard

  • Senator Blanch Bruce: Born in slavery. Father was the master, momma was a slave. Self made. Very ambitious. He married up. His home was a center of social life. First black Harvard grad. Law degree from dean of Howard Law.

  • Richard T Greener:

Despite the allure of DC, there was only a limited amount of opportunity for black entrepreneurs. The black aristocracy was very protective of their class. It was hard to get in. You weren't allowed in unless you were light and rich. Most importantly "who are your people?"

I notice that not much has changed. The most elite black families had a head start. They were light skinned because a lot of them were decedents of white men. Sometimes their whit dad's claimed them and arranged for them to get the same education as white people. All of the black elite had at least 2 streams of income. Real estate, construction, ...

Progress depended on some kind of white patronage. There weren't enough black people doing well. It's different today.

They faced criticism from the "lower class" black people. They were class conscious and they knew it. They didn't care. They wanted to "distinguish" themselves. They didn't want to be lumped in with the error and crimes of the lower class. This hasn't changed. They avoided gaudy and "classes" things.

Daniel Murray: Cultured and refined. married to Anna

Murray was known as a "very intelligent colored man, who is well up on all matter relating to the welfare of his race. Social and political" in newspapers of that time. He was very knowledgeable because he read lots of book while working at the library of congress. He learned German, French, and Spanish.

The black elites used to throw extravagant balls. A few were at the Murray's house. You weren't elite unless you had a house that you could host parties in. Reminds me of Diddy.

One way they separated themselves from the lower class was through exclusive clubs, like the Musicals clubs {Glee club), literary clubs (The Bethel Literary and Historical Association). Many clubs were for charity and social issues.

  • The Diamond Back Club-Ultra exclusive. Conspicuous in black DC. Notable for the social and political status of their club. Also know for the gatherings, catering, and ... at the gatherings. Makes me think of the Roc Nation Brunch. Murray was one of the 12 members.

"Our people have been wedded to the Republican Party.The time is coming where they will act for ourselves and become independents." Daniel Murray, back when Cleveland was president. Over 100 years has passed, and we still haven't come together and made this happen. I think it's what's best for us, since neither party cares for our needs.

To be continued (this book was long as hell and I didn't finish it, but maybe I will at a later date. I got kids...sorry lol)

4 views0 comments


bottom of page