Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Richmond Free Black Barber and John Brown's Raiders

Way way back I shared Lebanon, Kentucky free black barber Abraham Meaux's letter to Governor Magoffin. It was a fascinating look at his thoughts about John Brown and what he considered the trouble Brown had brought the free people of color in Kentucky.

While browsing through the 1859 issue of the Richmond, Virginia Daily Dispatch that I shared yesterday, I found the above short article. It focuses its attention on a free black barber in the state's capital city, who while shaving a patron, in this case the city's mayor, offered to go to Charlestown, where John Brown was being held in jail awaiting execution, mentioned he sought to have a "brush with the invaders." The barber allegedly offered to muster a company to go and "shear the ears from some abolitionist heads." Although not accepted, apparently the mayor appreciated Lomax's offer to defend Virginia against abolitionist threats.

Was Smith just boasting for his notable white patron? It appears from the information in the article that Smith had long been a respected barber in the community, as it mentions that he had apparently shaved Lafayette when he visited Richmond in 1824. Perhaps Smith had adopted the politics of his white patrons as it appears Meaux had done in Kentucky. After all, deferring and agreeing with one's benefactors was good for business, but making waves was a sure way to lose customers and find one's self in hot water.


  1. Thanks for posting this! Interesting, and it adds another piece to the puzzle of the life of the abolitionist George DeBaptiste (on whom I'm about teach a class!) a one-time apprentice of Lomax Smith.

  2. Seth,
    I would be interested in learning more about Geo. DeBaptiste's apprenticeship to Lomax Smith if you could point me in a direction or have some sources I could check out.