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Tue, 09.08.2009

Thomas Chester, Lawyer, and Politician born

On this date, we mark the birth of Thomas Chester in 1834, a Black lawyer and editor.

Thomas Morris Chester was from in Harrisburg, PA., the son of a slave woman who had escaped from Baltimore in 1825, and thus her son was born free.  His father was an oyster salesman and restaurant owner who was part of the inner circle of political and social functions of Harrisburg, including Tanner's Alley. Educated at Allegheny Institute, Chester became an abolitionist and anti-colonization advocate.

In 1853, he left for Liberia, returning to further his education at Thetford Academy, operated by the American Colonization Society in Vermont. Upon returning to Liberia, Chester became a school director and editor of the "Star of Liberia" newspaper. Between 1859 and 1862, he was politically involved in promoting colonization in that country. In 1864, the "Philadelphia Press" hired him as a war correspondent. He wrote many articles from the eastern theater of the American Civil War.

After the American Emancipation Proclamation, Chester assisted in recruiting Black troops in his home state and traveled abroad, giving pro-union speeches and raising money for the Freedmen’s Bureau. During this time, he studied law and was admitted to the bar. After returning to America, he relocated to Louisiana, where he began practicing law. In 1875, Chester was appointed district superintendent of education. He also held the position of brigadier general of the Louisiana state militia.

A supporter of the Kansas Exodus movement of 1879, he was also the president of a short-lived railroad organized by Black investors. Thomas Chester died in 1892, shortly after returning to Harrisburg.

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