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Sat, 08.14.1858

Andrew Hilyer, Businessman born

Andrew Hilyer

*The birth of Andrew Hilyer in 1858 is marked on this date. He was a Black businessman, inventor, lawyer and activist. Andrew F. Hilyer was born a slave in Georgia, and grew up in Nebraska and Minnesota.

In 1882 he was the first Black graduate from the University of Minnesota. During his time at the University, Hilyer worked as an associate editor at the St. Paul Review.  After his landmark graduation, at which he gave the salutatory address in Latin, Hilyer moved to Washington, D.C., to study law.

He married Mamie Nichols a pianist in 1886, the couple had two children. By 1895 he had received two law degrees from Howard University. He worked as a clerk in the Treasury Department.

He also became a successful real estate investor and inventor, receiving patents for home heating devices. Hilyer worked to promote liberal education in addition to industrial education.  He was particularly active in stimulating Black business development while at the same time urging Blacks to seek jobs within white businesses and to patronize those businesses that hired them. He encouraged Blacks who worked in white businesses to learn from the experience and then start their own enterprises.

He was a leader in the drive to advance the economic, cultural, political, and educational development of Washington D.C.'s Black community.  Hilyer was one of the founders of the Union League of the District of Columbia, established in 1892.   They combated racism through a public information campaign and to promote the “moral, material, and financial interests” of Blacks.  As part of this effort, Hilyer edited the Union League Directory a catalogue of Black businesses, organizations, and churches that includes a biographical directory of leaders. The Directory was published in 1892, 1894, and 1901. He also published A Historical, Biographical and Statistical Study of Colored Washington in 1901.

In 1923, he married Amanda Gray.  Andrew Hilyer died in 1925. His home is part of the Howard University campus and is used for administrative offices.

Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston,
Dictionary of American Negro Biography
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1983)

Michael Andrew Fitzpatrick,
“‘A Great Agitation for Business': Black Economic Development in Shaw,”
Washington History 2-2
(fall/winter 1990-91): 58-63

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