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Mon, 06.09.1845

James Napier, Businessman born

James C. Napier

*James C. Napier was born on this date in 1845. He was a Black businessman and politician.

From Nashville, Tennessee his father William Carroll was a free hack driver, and overseer. Young Napier attended the free Blacks' school on Line and High Street (now Sixth Avenue) until white vigilantes forced the classes to close in 1856.  Also, the December of 1856 race riot caused a temporary end to Black education in Nashville until the Union occupation in February of 1862. After the riot, the Napier family and several other moderately wealthy free Black families either moved or sent their children to Ohio to continue their education under free Black teacher Rufus Conrad.

After returning to Nashville, Napier became involved in Republican Party politics.  John Mercer Langston, an Ohio free Black who became a powerful Republican politician and congressman, spoke in Nashville on December 30, 1864, to 10,000 Black Union troops who had taken part in the recent and victorious Battle of Nashville and to address the second Emancipation Day Celebration. He later invited Napier to attend the newly opened Law School at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

After receiving his law degree in 1872, Napier returned to practice in Nashville, and in 1873 he married Langston's daughter, Nettie.  This wedding was the biggest social event in nineteenth-century Black Washington. Between 1872 and 1913, James C. Napier became one of Black Nashville's most powerful politicians.  Between 1878 and 1886, he served on the Nashville City Council and was the first Black to preside over the council. He was instrumental in the hiring of Black teachers for the colored public schools, the hiring of Black "detectives," and the organization of the Black Fire-engine Company during the 1880s.

Napier also was a successful businessman and a personal friend of Booker T. Washington. He was elected president of the National Negro Business League, founder, and cashier (manager) of the One Cent (now Citizens) Savings Bank organized in 1904. He helped organize the 1905 Negro streetcar strike and the Black Union Transportation Company's streetcar lines. He presided over the powerful Nashville Negro Board of Trade and was on the boards of Fisk and Howard Universities.

His greatest political accomplishment was his service as President William H. Taft's Register of the United States Treasury from 1911 to 1913. James Carroll Napier died on April 21, 1940.

The African American Atlas
Black History & Culture an Illustrated Reference
by Molefi K. Asanta and Mark T. Mattson
Macmillam USA, Simon & Schuster, New York
ISBN 0-02-864984-2

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