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Edwin C. Berry, a Black businessman, was born on this date in 1854.
Berry was born in Oberlin, Ohio, and his parents took him to Albany, Ohio, where unusual school facilities were offered to black children at age two. When he was old enough, he was sent to the Albany public schools, and when the Albany Enterprise Academy, a school for Black children, was built, he could attend it for a short time.
Unfortunately, his father died in 1870, and young Berry was compelled, at the age of sixteen, to leave school and help provide for his family, in which there were eight children younger than himself. He walked 10 miles to Athens when he was 16 to get a job in a brickyard, where he made 50 cents a day. He was eventually promoted to earn $1.25 a day.
In 1878, he married his schoolmate, Miss Mattie Madry; Berry was often called the "Black Horatio Algier" of Athens. Berry bought a lot, 18 N. Court St., for $1,300 in 1880 and a loan of $2,000 to build his small restaurant, which became part of the Berry Hotel. In 1893, he joined the hotel business. He built a 22-room hotel, Hotel Berry, one of the finest and most elegant hotels in Ohio in Athens. At his retirement in 1921, he was the most successful Black small-city hotel operator in the U.S. (1892).
Berry was a National Negro Business League member and a Trustee of Wilberforce University. Edwin Berry died in 1931.
Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History
Volume 1, ISBN #0-02-897345-3, Pg 175
Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, Cornel West